One hundred and fifty years ago our nation was so divided that we engaged in a Civil War that wrecked more damage on our population than any other war. It also fundamentally changed how we viewed one another and made us reconsider (in a good way) the words of our constitution that all people are created equal. So, while we aimed for unity, good came out of the division. We took a step forward in seeing all of our neighbors as ourselves.
We again live in a divided age. But it doesn’t fit into a cleanly defined geographic area such as states. We tend to have different views depending on whether we live in the urban northeast, midwest, and west coast versus rural areas and the south. These divisions are so imprecise as to make some states almost evenly divided within themselves such the state of Ohio where my family and I last lived. Today we divide over politics, religion, sexuality, and marriage. We divide over gun rights. We divide over abortion. We divide over how much, or how little, power our government and corporations should have. We divide over immigration, criminal justice, ecology, and the economy.
The challenge for Christians is that no matter what opinion we hold, or someone else holds, on any or all of the above issues – we are called to love them. We are called to love our neighbors – all our neighbors – as ourselves. There is no qualification in the Bible over this. We are particularly called to love our Christian brothers and sisters and care for them.
Our American Christian ancestors failed at this one hundred and fifty years ago when they took up arms against one another. Our southern ancestors particularly failed at this. They fell into an error that we are all prone to do – and that is to see some of our neighbors as not full people. For those fighting for the south, most of them did not view African Americans as fully human. They thought of them as incapable of being equals in society. Unfortunately, we still do this today (not with African Americans but with any group that sees the world differently than we do). One simple example of this is in this War on Terror, we track American war deaths and injuries only. There are far fewer reports on collateral deaths and injuries. And little to no reports are offered on enemies killed or injured.
All the time in person and on social media, I encounter people denigrating groups of people as somehow less than their group. Those “liberals”. Those “conservatives.” Those “Republicans”. Those “Democrats.” Those “Rich”. Those “Poor”. “Those Muslims”. “Those Christians”. “Those atheists”. “Those Catholics” “Those Protestants”. And we can keep going.
If we truly want to grow into our potential as we approach this nation’s 237th birthday, let us appreciate all the groups of people (even those we disagree with). “We the people” inherently means that we are gathering with people who sometimes will see the world differently and even come from different places than we do. This is not to say we should all vote the same. This is not to say we should all agree. That is not to say we should all worship the same. People still can be wrong about something and yet be fully human people we are called to love – people who are equal to us in the eyes of God. We should try to stand for what is right, as we see it, in our world. At the same time we need to remember that all these ways we divide ourselves here on Earth probably will mean little to nothing in Heaven.
So let us stand for what we view as right. But, beyond that, let us stand together and appreciate all the people gathered under our flag (and beyond) on this 4th of July are of value.
What do you think?
Until next time,