“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”
Perhaps like many of you, I have become increasingly concerned about the continual disappearance of civility in our political and social discourse, and the growing division within our nation that is tearing at the very fabric of our society.
Untethered discrimination, rampant racism, and the open demeaning of fellow human beings; not to mention the constant spinning of lies seems to have embolden some and numbed the rest. The questions that keep coming up for me are: How are we to respond to this? How do we live as Christians in the face of this overwhelming challenge?
What also makes this even more difficult is the fact that the division growing in our social and political arenas is also deeply embedded in our faith communities as well.
John Blake a writer for CNN offers an analysis on President Trump’s recent racist attack targeting Democratic congresswomen of color by saying that “ there’s a sobering truth to Trumps racist tweets that we don’t like to admit.” He goes on to describe that there are essentially two Americas in conflict with one another.
Blake writes: “In one America, people react with shock when a President issues vile racist tweets against women lawmakers. In the other America, people say nothing.
In one America, people speak out in protest after a President claims that African, Haitian, and Salvadoran immigrants come from "sh**hole" countries. In the other America, people nod in agreement.
In one America, people become outraged when administration officials snatch migrant children from their mothers' arms and detain them for weeks in filthy conditions with no repercussions. In the other America, people remain silent.
And in one America, people condemn a President for describing protestors alongside neo-Nazis as "very fine people." In the other America, people shrug.
It's been said that Trump's comments about immigrants reveal that he really doesn't understand America. The U.S. was built on the concept of a melting pot, and immigrants are making the nation stronger, some say.
But Trump's recent tweets could show that he understands America better than his critics realize. These two Americas have long co-existed. One is the country represented by the Statue of Liberty, and its invitation to poor and tired immigrants "yearning to breathe free."
The other is the one that virtually wiped out Native Americans, enslaved Africans, excluded Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century and put Japanese Americans in concentration camps.”
If this is true, where do we go from here? How do we bridge this growing chasm dividing our country? How do we as people of faith become bridge builders? How do we bring healing to a broken and fractured community?
Particularly as Disciples of Christ, we say, “we are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.” What does that mean in todays conflicted society?
I remember attending a lecture many years ago where the speaker was Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners, and he was talking about the divisions within both our political communities as well as our religious communities. He said the battle often focuses on trying to find common ground. However, he said, that often neither side wishes to give up ground and so the battle continues. Then he said something that has stuck with me and I have not forgotten. He said what we need to do to bridge the impasse is to seek higher ground.
It is so easy to get sucked into the battle of the divisions and incivility that we are currently embroiled in that we can lose our call to seek higher ground. I sometimes cringe when I hear or read disparaging words being hurtled at others regardless of which “side” we see ourselves on. It often feels like we are only digging our heels in on whatever position we hold rather than making an effort to listen or understand one another. I know I have found myself in that place.
I believe Jim Wallis was right, the only way out is to seek higher ground. To call one another back to our true humanity with grace, forgiveness and a deep understanding of the fear that drives us to these places of brokenness, violence and division.
To do this, at least for us as followers of the way of Jesus, we must continually immerse ourselves in his teachings, his attitude, and his way of living with much prayer and study.
While he was in prison, Paul’s letter to the Philippians which was concerned about divisions within the fledging church because of false teachings, can serve as a reminder for us of what we can do today in light of the challenges we face. Paul writes:
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” ~ Philippians 2:1-4
Let me finish with this story. A newly arrived missionary at a post in China asked a little girl who had been an orphan and cared for in the mission whether she had heard the gospel. “No,” she replied, “but I have seen it.” I pray that those around us will not only hear the gospel message but also see it in us.
Together on the journey,
Don and Susan