One of today’s tragedies is our nation’s deep and bitter divide. We think it’s political, but actually it’s a spiritual divide. We’re not separated simply by our partisan positions. There’s spiritual “flaw” in us.
The Bible in general, and Jesus in particular, call for serious dialogue between sides on important matters. Unfortunately too many of us retreat to views we vow never to change and/or (worse yet) will not discuss.
Our entrenchment against conscientious engagement with other views is seen in various ways. Note how many people get their news virtually exclusively from Fox News – or from MSNBC on the other side. Note how easily some avoid serious analysis of circumstances, and call perspectives they don’t like “fake news.”
Some try to dismiss our President by casting aspersions on his mental stability. Trump supporters defend his many inconsistencies by saying, “He’s just shaking things up.”
Why can’t Democrats acknowledge some of the good things Trump has done, instead of only pointing to his gaffs and limitations. Why do Republicans avoid consideration of the current President’s faults by claiming, “He’s doing what he promised.”
Yes. Such comparisons are imperfect. However, they point to the lack of honest dialogue across party lines — in Washington or on Main Street. We seem unwilling, or afraid, to discuss our nation’s crucial issues. Apparently we don’t know how to engage in the give and take of frank and honest discussion.
It appears we’d rather live in our respective worlds of half-truths, rather than risk finding the rest of the truth from opposing ideas. Such stubbornness violates this significant affirmation. “It’s better to debate an issue without resolving it, than resolve it without debate.”
We’d rather avoid debate that might change our thinking than be serious about an issue(s) that forces us to see weakness in our thinking and/or see the need to admit the wisdom from our “adversaries.”
That’s the spiritual failing in us. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he was confronting people with ideas and perspectives that made them uncomfortable. Throughout the Bible there are calls for those of differing ideas to sit down and talk. The entire Judeo-Christian experience is one of maturing insights and awareness. Today’s stubborn partisanship, the unwillingness to give a serious ear to the other, is the antithesis of that.
Our Biblical perspective begins with this from Ephesians 4:25, “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.” There should be no mistake about our Christian responsibility in those words. The Bible condemns our all too common avoidance of clear and honest dialogue. Note this denunciation of that in Isaiah 59:14: “The truth stumbles in the public square.”
In contrast to that, the Bible puts its concerns in positive terms about how we’re to related to our sisters and brothers with whom we disagree. Isaiah 1:18: “Come let us reason together.” Leviticus 19:17: “You shall reason with your neighbor.” James 3:17: “Wisdom from above is open to reason.”
As one read’s about Jesus’ ministry, one can’t miss how often he worked through issues by reasoned discourse with his disciples and others. He was always ready to explain a parable to those who were troubled by what he said. He gently chided Peter on occasions when Peter tried to advance some superficial concept. On the Road to Emmaus, he patiently discussed the Bible until the two travelers were able to see and accept God’s hand in all that had happened.
Yes, it’s challenging to talk issues with others. However, as Christians we need understand that to ignore the differences, and those who hold them, is contrary to the spirit of reason and truth throughout the Bible.
McCartney is a retired minister and professor at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio.