Here it is the 18th and my last post was July 13th.
When I decided to blog on a book about polarization I had no idea that our country would be as polarized as it is.
I have been writing about the idea that some people will not make it to heaven due to their different religious beliefs, and I have addressed the Jewish faith, the Hindu faith and have posted twice on the Muslim faith.
And then I stop and think.
I am not an idiot. Hundreds of people do not read this blog so why do I care about the tenor of my thoughts?
I care because in my own miniscule way I don’t want to pour any more gasoline on the fires that are burning today.
I have seen our country torn apart before; the 1968 democratic convention, the resignation of a sitting president, the assassinations of great leaders like John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the unrest of the Vietnam War era, and the riots of Watts in Los Angeles.
All tough times, scary times, times when a person could imagine that the fabric of our country was being torn apart. But it wasn’t torn apart permanently. We eventually came back together again.
We’ll get through these tough times again.
But I have to admit, we have challenges now that we did not have in those earlier crises.
The twenty-four hour news channels put so much “news” on the television. They expose every problem to the max. They have their biases, despite their claim that they are not biased. It is my fear that millions of people are watching these channels and swallowing the opinions that are presented as news and letting the bias become unexamined personal “factual” opinion. This will not help with the divisiveness that we are experiencing in this country.
Today, due to technology, we have this attitude that what we say matters and it does, but sometimes people do not take time to temper their language. They write comments online using language that is not appropriate for public consumption. My guess is that it is very easy to hide behind a computer. It is very different when you try to say some of these things face to face. The problem is that divisive language is divisive language whether it is a comment on a Facebook post or a response to a You Tube video.
When people do come face-to-face, they struggle to find a way to express themselves in a manner that allows discussion. Instead of expressing ideas in a way that invites opposing opinions and those opinions allow for thorough civil discussion and learning to occur, the language is so strident that feelings are hurt, anger is expressed, hatred gets aired and sometimes all this results in violence.
We have been discussing conflict in my Sunday School class and I talked about one of the most disappointing places to be in the world, the return merchandise line at a “big box store.” I am so disappointed by the language that people use when they get to the counter and they express their dissatisfaction. The first words that often come out are confrontational words [often curse words]. The poor returns clerk is going to take the product back and give the shopper a new product, a money refund or an instore credit card. They want your future business. That does not matter. Impatient people resort to incendiary words as an initial communication anyhow.
As Christians, how do we function in this world? We are called to function even though the world’s standard is not our standard. We have problems like everyone else but our response to those problems is very important. Other people look to us and judge our God by how we react. If we spew some of the hatred we hear on 24 hour news channels, if we fire off a response to some media that is less than appropriate or engage another human being in a verbal fire fight, what are we representing?
The book that I have been using [Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White] as my springboard has been a wonderful starting point to discuss the divisiveness in society today, but I just did not anticipate the divisiveness that we would experience before I picked the book. I write a post and some radicalized Muslim kills 80 people in France with his truck. I write a post and an extremely disgruntled African-American man kills three law enforcement officers. I write a post and a politician ignites a fire-storm by expressing attention-getting extreme statements.
It is no wonder my dear mother warns me that I may be getting an angry phone call or an angry visitor to my door.
But if I do, it is for the wrong reason. My goal is not to divide people; I invite unity.
I take my words and ideas very seriously and even though they are not read by many, I want them to promote peace, learning and open discussion.
I was recently so pleased to hear the music director at my church select the hymn “Let There Be Peace of Earth” after one of our recent turbulent weeks. I quote the lyrics from this song and humbly ask that you read them, think about them, live them, for they are [in my opinion] the Christian response to what we see today in our world.
“Let There Be Peace on Earth and let it begin with me.
Let There Be Peace on Earth, the peace that was meant to be!
With God as our Father, brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me. Let this be the moment now.
With ev’ry breath I take, let this be my solemn vow;
To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally!
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!”