Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Papering over differences

Some years ago I was having a strained online discussion on a left-leaning Christian blog with an extremely conservative man named Mick when he told me about a black friend of his named Charlie who, he said, had never had issues with race. When I asked Mick if they’d ever talked about the issue, he said they hadn’t. So how do you know what Charlie thinks, I asked.

Mick never responded to the question.

One concern that I’ve had for a while and especially since November’s election is the notion that people should simply paper over their differences and work together. It sounds noble at first, but if you get below the surface, it’s really, really arrogant.

Arrogant because it devalues the differing views of others that may come from their history or experience and assumes that there’s only one way to think — yours.

I occasionally have gotten flak for my outright rejection of the right-wing worldview despite having a strong church background and my actual coming to Christ just before graduating high school. But the person who spurred my interest in the Scriptures in the first place was Martin Luther King Jr., the civil-rights leader who, by today’s standards, would be considered extremely left-wing. (This is also the reason that most African-Americans, even those of us who follow Jesus Christ and read the Bible, generally vote Democratic.)

Which leads to my ultimate point: It’s been my observation that many conservatives simply want to think, vote and act the way they do without regard for others not like themselves who don’t share those views and, in extreme cases, even openly oppose them. Occasionally, if the person is a Christian, his or her faith is questioned.

That certainly isn’t fair, especially now since the most polarizing election in my lifetime — and that’s saying something — has ended, further exacerbating the division that has existed since the 1970s (yes, that long; I became aware of it in 1980). How do we overcome it? By being real with each other and willing to confront over things that could, and sometimes do, cause pain — and not just saying, “Get over it.” It’s the “do unto others” principle that Jesus taught.

A member of my church choir once said that he previously couldn’t understand why any believer would vote for a Democrat, but after getting to know folks who did he came to accept that, well, some actually did for what they felt were legitimate reasons. As a result he’s learned not to conflate his ideological views with the Word of God. Moreover, people are truly mourning right now and gloating will make — indeed, has already made — things worse. And that doesn’t help the necessary healing.

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