Article Jul 11, 2016

Whatever our differences, love one another

Easy comes the belief that, "all is well," as long as there are no disadvantages or harms levied against my family, my party, my tribe, my faith, my community. So long as those we love are not in harm's way, we tend to downplay and ignore the challenge and plight of others. But when we see unfair treatment and inconsistently applied rules and expectations against someone in our own family, party, tribe, faith, and community, we are aggrieved and provoked.

We tend to live in self-cloistered, narrowly defined communities and social circles. We filter our news, social media, friends, and information resources to provide only those that reinforce or justify our perspective. Increasingly, those sources have stoked division, and civility has given way to the loudest, angriest, (often the most obnoxious) voice in the room, on the screen, and on the platform. But as long as our position isn't challenged, as long as our boat isn't rocked, we row merrily along, demanding others to move on and get over it. Which leads to further division, greater frustration, and headlines like those we have read this bloody week.

A large part of our problem is that we don't know one another and don't bother to try to know each other. And as long as we personally don't know someone from another tribe, we can ignore them. Worse, we can dismiss them and their community's unique histories, challenges, and experiences.

While I don't have the answers, I am convinced that we can take a step in the right direction if we will invest time in getting to know each other. At the very least, we expand our understanding as we acknowledge each other's experiences and stories.  More than likely, friendships will begin that foster mutual respect. When we know someone, hard-line divisions become increasingly difficult to maintain.

My oldest son was named after a dear friend whose politics are diametrically opposed to my own. I belong to a church predominantly not of my own race, and I've observed and grown sensitive to how many in my church face genuine struggles and challenges with which I am not forced to deal. A couple who I genuinely love are on the opposite side of the issue of traditional marriage, yet I would put myself in harm's way to protect them. One of my very favorite friends does not share my view on guns, but that is secondary to our friendship.

We've all decided that whatever our differences may be, we are going to love each other. Sincerely held convictions and deeply held beliefs can be maintained, but angry discourse and violent actions are relegated to the margins once we get to know each other and start communicating. Once we seek to understand instead of score debate points, once we determine that we actually like or even love someone from another community or tribe, we discover the ability to disagree yet love anyway. But it started with simply getting to know one another.

Until we take the time to step out of our own comfort zones and make an effort to genuinely know each other, we allow power-seeking political operatives, self-serving spokespersons, ratings seeking media outlets, and the loudest, angriest voices in the room to manipulate and keep us divided.

ERLC2018