When I originally wrote this , it was six years ago. Much has happened since then. The climate has changed. The polarization has become more severe. The contrasts have become more remarkable and pronounced. Some issues may transcend my concern for mutual understanding. However, for sustainability and transformation, I think we must still
find meeting "places" where hearts and minds can convene and common ground can be cultivated.
There is much talk about the rift in American life - left and right - blue and red - on and on.
I was watching a report from a major news source where the commentators were suggesting that it is irreparable and deep. Furthermore, according to them, it goes to our deepest values so that we have no more shared values, principles, and worldview.
Right AND wrong.
In one sense, it has always been so. Jesus Himself said that the good news of His kingdom was divisive - but that is not what is dividing America at the moment. This is no God versus the world thing. The division between light and darkness has always been present -- but there is light on both sides of this rift. There is also darkness.
This is a division of perceptions, political philosophies, and priorities. Some are profound. Some are vital. Some are not. Some breaches can be mended. Some can be tolerated. Some can be celebrated. Some must be endured.
It is not accurate to say that we are divided on every crucial concern. Since the rift in American political philosophy cuts across religious convictions (perhaps not evenly, but nevertheless, genuinely), it is not an ultimate rift. One cannot identify God's Kingdom with either "side" of this division. At least I cannot.
Who says we are two Americas? I have dear friends who are Democrats and dear friends who are Republicans. We can talk. We agree on many, many important things. We all love our families. Many of us love God and embrace the same moral values. We all value honesty, integrity, kindness, concern for broken people, and many other things.
We may differ in implementation or perspective, but we differ without being all that different.
I have valued friendships across the lines of faith and non-faith. While my faith is an ultimate value in my life - actually THE ultimate value in my life, it touches to commonalities of humanity that I share with all humans. From my perspective, each of us is made in the image of God and thereby reflect common questions and yearnings. From the perspective of my non-believing friends, the cause for our commonality is described differently, but acknowledged nevertheless.
Why can most of us get along with people who differ in opinions from ours and our leaders find it so difficult - at least publicly?
While I believe that common folk drive culture in our world (or should), leaders have the high profile positions that enable them to set the pace by setting examples.
I probably cannot influence representatives of an opposing party as well as those of my own, but I can influence whatever party with which I affiliate. So, here is my challenge:
Forget the nastiness, unfairness, and unwillingness of the other side for a while and reach out. Insist that your representatives in Congress and Senate, those of your own party, reach out to the other side in friendship.
Reach out and keep reaching out. Reach out when the reach is rejected. Reach out when the criticism is unfair. Reach out when the issues are deep, divisive, and bitter. Reach out when the other side is perceived as uncooperative, unbending, and ruthless. Reach out and don't stop reaching out. Make friends with your opponents.
Don't look for the speck in your neighbor's eye. Look for planks in your own.
Make friends with your opponents "on the way to court."
Jesus said to do it.
You can do it, as He did, without backing down from principle, without compromising truth, and without losing your negotiating edge.
Here's where I would start if I were king of the legislative universe: Reorganize the seats! End this custom of parties sitting together. Mix and match. How ridiculous to institutionalize a divide like that. There are no parties in the Constitution. We should not be organizing the seats that way.
I expect our leaders to set an example to heal this artificial divide. If they don't, we'll start moving into red and blue neighborhoods and shopping at red and blue stores.
If we can be friends on Facebook, Congress can make friends in Washington!
Let's insist on it.