With all the current chatter about “alternative facts” and fake news, it’s becoming increasingly clear, as if it wasn’t already, just how insanely divided we are. In so many political/social conversations it seems that we’re totally incapable of seeing things from another perspective. Our biologically driven tribalism which has programed us to see the world in dichotomies of “us verses them” has been hijacked by marketing, religion, and politics much the same way they use our need for sex, food, and love to sell products and heard us like cattle. We’re pitted against one another, blind to our absolutism and personal biases that keep us from seeing nuance or finding common ground. We’ve been divided and conquered.
In all of this, we’re convinced that our side is right and those guys are wrong. We post videos, articles, and studies that back up just how wrong they are and prove just how right we are. Our rightness of position, belief, and perspective seems so clear to us.
But what if we were chasing the wrong idea?
What if the impulse to be right is actually what’s wrong with us?
What if our hyperbolic generalization of the “other” has actually made things worse?
What if trying to be right isn’t the best way?
There is a different ethic I’ve been mulling over in light of our current predicament that I think we must consider. It comes from some ancient writing between a faith leader and a community of people that he helped lead. In this context, there were fierce divisions between folks from different socioeconomic, ethnic, and gender demographics. Whether or not you consider yourself a person of faith, I think these words are worth heeding:
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20, emphasis added)
Part of the Christian proposal is that the deepest divisions between humanity and the Divine have been reconciled, and because of this, humanity is then invited to become agents of reconciliation. Reconciliation comes from Latin and means to bring back together broken things.
This is quite different than the ethic of our current predicament which implores us to be agents of rightness.
I wonder what would happen if our highest call, virtue, value, or ethic shifted from trying to be right all of the time on any given issue towards trying to be reconciled with our neighbor, Facebook friend, and world.
What would it look like if reconciliation became our first impulse rather than trying to tell “them” why they’re wrong?
How can we call out injustice while emphasizing reconciliation?
That seems like a question worth wrestling with.
So wherever you are at politically or spiritually, experiment with this. What practical ways can this be played out? Here are a few ideas, but I’d love to add to this list:
-Begin to see people on the other side as an extension of yourself rather than the enemy.
-Recognize that you are limited in your own bias.
-Ask lots of questions.
-Try not to speak hyperbolically in ways that vilify the other side.
-Find common ground.
-Be quick to apologize and concede when necessary.
-Don’t generalize entire groups of people.
-Think about what your end game is- is it to convince the other person they are wrong, or to walk the path of love? Be honest about this, but also willing to adjust depending on new information, relational capital, or a changed heart.
My bottom line is this: I think that reconciliation is a higher calling than being right. How this gets fleshed out is something that may take a lifetime to work through, but I think it’s worth it- just look at where our attempts to be on the right side of things have gotten us this far.