I read somewhere in the last few years that American society is more divided than it ever has been. It is somewhat hard for me to believe knowing our history of divisions: the Civil War, Desegregation, Women’s Rights and on and on. What does seem to be true is that we have increasingly become divided on more and more issues. Perhaps that is what the article I read meant.
More and more it does seem that Americans have fallen into a “False Dichotomy Way of Life”, that is, “You are either with me (us) or against me (us)!”
This is, in my opinion, one of the biggest sources of drivel today. The growing trend of “If you’re this then you’re automatically that” and “You’re either with us or you’re against us” nomenclature can be seen daily in our news, our politics, our homes, and workplaces.
These are emotional responses invoked by everyone from elected officials and lobbyists, to movie heroes and villains, to friends and relatives, and they happen on a regular basis. While they are effective moves in politics, movies, and sometimes business, make no mistake, they are emotional and passionate renderings that are directly opposed to the Gospel of Jesus. But, we are human after all. Usually, this sort of emotional response is motivated by fear. That is not to say that these emotional responses aren’t reality for folks, only that they have allowed fear to rule rather than hope and sometimes plain ole’ common sense. To create a false dichotomy when there are clearly other choices is to intentionally tear the fabric of our lives.
In many places, this sort of proliferation of stereotypes has worked its way into our pews and pulpits. We are human after all. And, if you believe in the everyday sacredness of life there is no way to “keep politics out of church”. If our lives are lived according to what we say we believe as “Followers of the Way” - as those who claim Jesus Christ as the Messiah - then we cannot separate by terms of secular and sacred. Our lives - and all that they encompass - are sacred because God made us - because we are made in God’s image and likeness - because we live in a world that God created out of love. Our existence is proof that life is sacred.
All of this to say, or ask, How do we stop it? More practically and theologically stated; How do we become the beloved community God has called us to be? How do we as followers of Jesus speak truth in the face of untruth and intentionally divisive speech and action?
It seems that we have lost the ability to listen. To God. To each other. We have isolated ourselves in groups and clans and parties and neighborhoods and churches. We have chosen only to listen to those who espouse the same ideas or ideologies that we support. We have quit listening. Dare I say that we are trying to make God in our image rather than be in God’s. We are human after all.
The result is malpractice of God’s command to love our neighbors. The result is not hearing God’s call to be the beloved community. The result is allowing the temptation of fear of the other to take hold - and fear is hard to shake.
Make no mistake, we are called to be the beloved community. We are called, especially during this season of Lent to reconcile with God and with each other. How are we prepared to do this? Are we willing to be redeemed?
To borrow from the Presiding Bishop’s call this past Advent, “To Become the Beloved Community” perhaps it is appropriate rather than asking “How?” to ask “Why?”
“Why is becoming beloved community important for you at this time? Stated differently, why would your spiritual journey of formation and transformation call you into pursuing right relationship with others who may be quite different from you?”
Asking “Why?” allows us to move beyond fear and emotional response. It reminds us that we were created out of hope and love and that we are called to return to that place for right relationship with God and each other. Asking “Why?” allows us to get past “What” and draws our focus on being transformed by our Creator.
Fr. Will +