America the Divided


America is deeply divided.

This past election cycle has only deepened and widened the chasm between the Left and Right, conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat. The Church, unfortunately, is caught in the crosshairs with both sides claiming they alone possess THE truth, God’s favor and the right path for the church’s future.

In reality, we’re following a similar trajectory as the Civil War churches (1860-1865). Back then, both northern and southern churches claimed they alone were doing God’s Will (casting aspersion towards brothers and sisters on the other side). Both northern and southern preachers taught God was on their side. Both northern and southern believers advocated their positions were biblical, true and righteous. Our eyes have seen the glory…and God’s marching with us.

Today, the new battlefields of the Culture War aren’t called Gettysburg or Antietam, Shiloh or Bull Run. They’re called Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Every day, Americans draw their weapons of mass instruction to trumpet their “truths” and advance their agendas. We bomb each other with memes. We rattle the Sword of God’s Word and then righteously puncture, slice and wound those who post against us. We slaughter brothers and sisters in Christ with words of angry argument and strident slander. We gloriously push our brand, often unknowingly reposting fake news and doctored evidence.

The question is WHY? Why is America so divided? And why is the Church a reflection of wider culture’s tendency toward hate and hubris?  Is it merely political, religious, philosophical or personal ideologies that separate us? Is it our chosen lifestyles, beliefs and values that drive the wedge? Is it, as some claim, a Satanic conspiracy to infiltrate the Church or an “end time” prophetic plan to usher in Jesus’ Second Coming?

Maybe. But I actually think it’s something much deeper.

I think the real reason America is divided (including the Church) is a natural tension every human carries between our need for LOVE and our desire for JUSTICE. With every choice, preference and attitude we either decide to LOVE or we choose to JUDGE. The deeper the LOVE or JUDGEMENT, the greater the resulting tension. From this tension a side is preferred, an argument is accepted and a narrative is created. When our narratives solidify into “our truth” then divisions emerge.

Every political post on Facebook reflects this tension of LOVE (“can’t we all just get along?”) or JUSTICE (“wrong is always wrong”). And if you’re on the “wrong” side of the issue, then pox be upon you. You’re ignorant, unstable, loony, uninformed or bigoted. The Left labels the Right as racist, homophobic, misogynist, hateful and evil. The Right labels the Left as socialist, anarchist, hedonist, hateful and evil.

It’s just our narratives speaking, reflecting our desire for LOVE or passion for JUSTICE.

Think about it.

LOVE is the answer and all we need is love, right? It’s true. But authentic LOVE also carries consequence, responsibility or accountability. Are we free to love anyone (or thing) we choose? Certainly. But that doesn’t negate responsibility and consequences (especially if our choice is outside of God’s desired Will). Love the wrong person (or thing) and you can suffer, even die. You see, there really is no such thing as “free love.” Even the Grace of Christ cost Jesus His very life.

JUSTICE is also desired. The truth is we’re all prejudiced to some degree. We all carry bias from which we JUDGE the world around us. We all believe our own press and suckle from sources that support, enable and promote our prejudices. There really is no such thing as “objectivity.” We all see through rose-colored glasses with biased shades.

Let me cite a couple controversial examples:

  1. Many liberal and progressive Christians today feel that being gay is okay. We should be able to love anyone (of any sex) we choose. Besides, culture has evolved and ancient biblical passages no longer apply. Conservative Christians believe homosexuality is a detestable sin that God forbids. Culture may have evolved but God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and hasn’t changed His mind. In both cases there is LOVE and JUSTICE happening. The gay Christian believes he was born homosexual and a LOVING God wants him or her to be happy (gay). Therefore, it’s divinely JUST to lift the stigma on homosexuality and cease the bigotry.  On the other hand, traditional Christians choose to LOVE the sinner but hate the sin, and a JUST God will not be mocked. Consequently, homosexuality is not right and the most LOVING (and biblical) response is to help the homosexual out of the bondage.

2. During the Brett Kavanaugh hearings a sense of JUSTICE emerged. The Left argued that Kavanaugh was not qualified for the Supreme Court due to his past “partying” indiscretions, including sexual predation upon women. The Right saw these midnight charges as fabricated and false, an injustice and travesty to the long legal career of Judge Kavanaugh. Both sides wanted justice. Both sides felt an injustice was happening. But, ultimately, only one side was justified.

It’s always about LOVE or JUSTICE.

One side says LOVE while the other side says JUDGE. One side feels distressed, oppressed and suppressed (by the judgments) while the other side feels emboldened, ecstatic and enthused (by their affections). It’s why Christians, for example, can be deeply divided left or right, conservative or liberal, pro-life or pro-choice, anti-gay or gay pride, capitalist or socialist, Tea Party or anarchist, Trump or Never Trump. It’s why Christians can look at the same Bible (or situations) and walk away with completely different conclusions: our LOVES or our JUDGEMENTS drive our prejudiced interpretations and conclusions.

It’s something to consider because America has been in a culture war since the 1960s. We’ve now come to the place where everyone has taken a side. Everyone has their narrative. There’s little middle ground with neutral opinions. Furthermore, this culture war could be far more costly, ugly and bloody than the Civil War. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ve seen the worse.

All I know is JESUS CHRIST and authentic Christianity resolves this tension between LOVE and JUDGEMENT through attitudes and acts of GRACE. And this Grace is messy, nonsensical, strange, glorious and beautiful. Jesus felt this tension in his humanity but executed flawless love and justice. With tax collectors, zealots, whores and adulterous women, Jesus showed LOVE, but with religious conservatives (Pharisees) and liberals (Sadducees), he expressed indignation and JUDGEMENT (see Matthew 23). Jesus gives us a model to follow, even if we follow it imperfectly at times.

Civil (or cultural) wars rarely end well.

America has been here before and it took decades to recover.

America the Divided again? Yes.

And may God shed His Grace on thee!

About rickchromey

Dr. Rick Chromey is a theologian, philosopher, historian and cultural expert. He has empowered leaders to lead, teachers to teach and parents to parent since 1985.

Posted on November 9, 2018, in America, American church, Biblical Interpretation, Christianity, Culture and Christianity and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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