Polarization. In my
opinion, this is becoming the cultural and political problem
in our country and the national church. That's a pretty sweeping
statement, but it's intended to spark some thought and dialog on faith
So, what do I mean by polarization?
No, I'm not talking about making them colder - well, actually, maybe I
am, but not that way. I would define polarization as the driving
of people to concentrate into two opposing positions (polar opposite) on
important issues. It is the loss of the middle ground, the
loss of an ability to compromise in order to accomplish shared goals
and objectives. It is the abandonment of shared core values,
justified by "the times we're in." Polarization is further increased
by those leaders who would manipulate the masses by pandering to their
fears (rather than using their leadership positions to lift us up above
That middle ground is so important,
because it is exactly in that middle place where we find those issues vital
to our existence and mission, those things which make our endeavors worthy
of our efforts of value to the world and the
Kingdom of God. When we are forced
to live on the sidelines, we find ourselves afraid and unable to care for
anyone but ourselves. The principles our nation was founded on, like
those principles on which we can build that fabled "city upon a hill" (from
John Winthrop's 1630 "A Model of Christian Charity" essay/sermon,
quoted by nearly every president and candidate since then, including Adams,
Lincoln, Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton, both Presidents Bush, Dean, Clark and
Kerry), are all but lost. These call us to promote justice, mercy,
humility, self-sacrifice and peace for the sake of all of humanity because,
"The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we deal falsely with our
God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause us to withdraw His present
help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world."
Sadly, much of our political discourse
degenerates to name calling, partisan bickering and, well, just plain silliness.
The church's version of that adds to this list a brand of legalism and
a judgmental spirit, hiding under the guise of political correctness and/or
self-righteous indignation that stifles the spirit and muddies the mind.
"Compromise" used to be a good word, but
in this polarized world, it becomes synonymous with capitulation or failure.
That is often because we have vacated the middle ground and have lost our
basic values, sacrificing them to the god of
whatever the issue of the moment is.
"If only our side could win, all would be well," some think, so people
find themselves doing things they shouldn't to accomplish those goals (even
in the church!). Because they are afraid of losing, any
movement toward the middle becomes to them the beginning of failure. Even
embracing formerly shared convictions becomes suspect. Eventually one side
will lose or go too far, and the pendulum will swing the other way and
the process starts anew A win-at-all-costs attitude, mean-spiritedness,
vindictiveness, a sense of disenfranchisement and a rush to the bottom
for the lowest common denominator (usually money), all characterize the
consequences of such polarization, both within the church and in our society.
As we enter into the political season in
earnest, watch for this polarization and be aware of its seductive pull.
As our denomination enters into its latest conflict over openly practicing
gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered clergy (in committed relationships,
of course), be aware of the call of God and what the Word says about such
things. And let us THERE find the middle ground where
we can live as God's people and be free to serve him together, focusing
call, the work of the church. Is this
possible in the church?
Blessings and peace,