Christians can be terrible at encountering others. So often we are the ones who play into the proverbial culture wars. You are either a traditionalist who sees the reforms of Vatican II and Pope Francis as the beginning demise of the Church or a social justice minded progressive who is loose with Church teaching.
This religious polarization plays into our politics as well. Being a traditionalist is to be an All Lives Matter Republican who wants to #MAGA while being a progressive Christian is to be a pro-abortion Democrat who sees 45 as #notmypresident. Our political affiliations then also influence how we understand our faith. We choose the versions of Christianity that suit our political leanings. With everyone picking and choosing, it seems only natural that we choose ours and everything that comes with it. We write off the other because we stand on the side of Truth—Jesus is always with us, never with them.
This polarization should make you uncomfortable because regardless of which side we choose, our continued demonization of the other side comes out of our own fear. The Jedi Master Yoda warns us: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” We fear the other side because it is easier to fear them than it is to confront our own insecurities. It is this very fear of the other that leads to our own suffering because we spend our time fearing instead of encountering, angry instead of understanding, hating instead of loving.
Given the recent racial turmoil and reactions on this campus, Mother Teresa’s words have never rung so true, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to one another.” What would it look like if we were to leave behind the lines that we draw amongst ourselves? What would it look like if we dropped our façades long enough to realize that I am loved and you are loved, and that we are meant for love?
What if our deepest desire is simultaneously our greatest fear? Pulling ourselves out of our political and religious dichotomies is scary because we are confronted with the shocking possibility that Love might be greater than us, great enough to include people on the other side.
If this makes you feel unsettled, you should be. Heck, it even makes me uncomfortable! This is not to say that our disagreements don’t matter, nor that we should rush to forgive those who hurt us. Ronald Reagan once said that “Peace is not an absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” Additionally, Bernie Sanders said, “Let us understand that when we stand together, we will always win. When men and women stand together for justice, we win. When black, white, and Hispanic people stand together for justice, we win.”
What would it look like if we were to allow ourselves to win together? Is that not the reason Jesus was born? He says “I came so that all might have life, and had it abundantly” (John 10:10).
If you are reading this and think that I am trying to get across an All Lives Matter sort of message, you are wrong. If you are reading this and think that I am trying to preach liberal propaganda, you are also wrong. If you are reading this and feel uncomfortable, you get it.
I will leave you with this: “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:11-12).