I am saddened by the polarities that have arisen in the United States. When the Left and the Right demonize the other side and refuse to engage in conversation, we all lose. When those in the church read and listen to only one side of any issue, then we are not being wise. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22). I’m seeing a very disturbing trend: people on the Right are exclusively buying right-leaning magazines, reading right-wing columnists, listening to right-wing radio, and watching Fox News. People on the Left are exclusively buying left-leaning magazines, reading left-wing columnists, listening to left-leaning radio, and watching left-leaning news. We surround ourselves with “yes-men” who simply affirm what we already want to believe. We are not being challenged to think in new ways, to find moderating positions, to seek the truth in love. And worse, we convince ourselves that the one-sided position is the godly position. We are not listening to “many advisers,” and therefore we lack good counsel.
I just received the latest issue of Sojourners (Jim Wallis’ magazine on faith, culture, and politics). The cover story is called “A Bridge Far Enough? How would Jesus address the issues of our day?” by Brian McLaren (read it here). Readers of my blog and website know how highly I think of Brian McLaren, one of the principal voices in the “emerging church conversation,” and one of the leaders of Emergent.
Following the lead of the Apostle Paul, who became “all things to all people” (1 Cor 9:22) and who tells us that God “gave us the ministry of reconciliation”(2 Cor 5:18), McLaren writes in this article about how Christians are called to “build bridges” to connect people of opposing polarities in our contentious political climate in the United States.
He identifies four bridges: (1) The Religious Right and the Secular Left; (2) The Religious Right and the Religious Left; (3) The Secular Right and the Religious Left; and (4) The Secular Right and the Secular Left. He writes, “So, for starters, if we want to be communication bridge people, we need to realize that there aren’t just two kinds of people out there, or one kind of polarization. Becoming all things to all people doesn’t simply mean becoming two things to two kinds of people.”
Then he gives seven pointers for bridge-building conversation, based on the principle that “We must teach what Jesus taught in the manner that Jesus taught it.” (1) We must stop answering questions that are framed badly; (2)We must start raising new questions and issues that need to be raised; (3) We must answer questions with questions; (4) We must go cleverly deeper; (5) We must agree with people whenever we can; (6) We must speak through action, not just words; (7) We must tell stories.
How great would it be if Christians were the ones who did not feed INTO the polarization of American politics but were the RECONCILERS of American politics?