Building bridges in a polarized world
“I can’t be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t hold my views.” I’m paraphrasing a quote from a Christian friend with what many would consider progressive and inclusive positions on theological questions and various social issues relevant to our time. I remember being taken aback, but it didn’t strike me until later that evening when I returned home. I wondered how many others would utter the same statement but find themselves on the opposite end.
Divisiveness, polarization, and the anger and hate that fuels them are diametrically opposed to what we, as Christians, hold as a fundamental pillar of our faith. Love your neighbor as yourself. Fierce division isn’t a new disease in Christianity. Paul preached at length to various Christian communities through his letters, urging them to rise above the petty things that kept them at each other’s throats and to see their unity in Christ. Break out your Bible and reference 1 Corinthians 12:12:31 for just one of the many examples where Paul preaches against division in the Church.
As the election season ramps up and media outlets fire off opinion articles by the tens of thousands, we will find ourselves in the midst of passionate divisive language, postures, and opinions. As these next nine months leading up to the election unfold, my prayer for all of us is that we maintain our focus on the way of Jesus, whose prophetic message hinged on this one idea: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. When we do this, when we desire to listen to each other, and when we try to walk in each other’s shoes, we participate in the work Jesus left for us to continue, and we become part of a force that works to depolarize.
So, over these next nine months, we’re wise and committed to following Jesus when we commit to loving people. We will encounter others who think differently than us or hold different views, and that’s okay. We can be in a relationship with other people with whom we disagree because whether we’re right or left, traditional or progressive, as Christian people, that’s not what binds us together. Ultimately, our identity in and commitment to Christ forms us into one body as brothers and sisters. So, let’s heed the words of Paul and Jesus and join in making peace in a time when divisions run rampant.