COULD WE JUST LISTEN TO EACH OTHER?

A few days ago, I received an email from dear friends living in a very politically conservative state. They said they did not dare say “a word about anything that might be political.” They do not even dare share the most basic scientific facts about COVID-19 with their dear Christian friends.

We have a theological problem and a political problem.

The theological problem is (as I have tried to say in several blogs) that biblical faith calls us to believe and live the theological truth that our oneness in Christ is more important than any ethnic, racial, gender or economic difference. That is what it means when Paul says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus“ (Galatians 3:28). Surely that applies to Christians who are both Republicans and Democrats, both pro-Trump and not-Trump Christians.  If we believe the Bible, then our oneness in Christ must be far more important than even this huge political difference.

The political problem is that the nation is almost equally divided. (Trump won more votes than he did in 2016 although Biden won even more votes.) We listen to different sources of news – – different TV news, different Facebook, Twitter, etc. accounts. The result is that some people have a vastly different sense of “the facts” (for example, what exactly happened in this election; what science says about COVID-19, or global warming; etc). So we shelter in our separate camps, not truly listening to, and not even talking to, each other. It is not surprising that effective political action dealing with major national problems grinds to a halt.

Genuine political differences explain some of the division. There is legitimate disagreement in the nation about abortion, the size of government, and religious freedom for people with a traditional view of marriage. (I actually largely agree with conservatives on the first and third of those three issues.) But our dangerously huge division comes from much more than just valid political disagreements. We listen to different sources for our news and we no longer talk together or even have serious friendships across the political chasm.

Democracy simply will not work and our country’s future is very bleak, indeed exceedingly dangerous, unless we can start talking and really listening to each other.

I wish I had a good set of solutions. I don’t. So if you have concrete ideas or even successful stories, let me know.

But I intend to pray fervently, and often, that God will show me how to become friends with, and truly listen carefully to the views of those who voted for Donald Trump. We need to pray together. We need to explain respectfully to each other why we think so differently.

That kind of listening does not mean succumbing to relativism. Some statements are true and some are not. I will continue to work hard for the political changes I believe are right.  

For example, I continue to be certain that structural racism continues to exist in education, policing, etc. in ways that benefit white Americans and hurt others, especially African-Americans. I believe that widespread white racism is a terrible sin that makes African-American Christians  and other non-white Christians turn away in disgust. It makes non-Christians refuse even to consider—in fact despise— Christianity. And it is driving many of our younger Christians away from the church and even our Lord. We must speak the full force of truth against the terrible sin of white racism. Furthermore, at the center of any honest conversation on racism must be humble listening to African-Americans tell their experiences of racism. We must listen to them tell us why they are almost ready to totally give up on any relationship with white Christians who do not work to end racism.

At the same time,  I believe that many white Christians with racist ideas truly want to follow Christ. And I want to listen to those who do not believe that structural racism exists and then sit down together and search together to help us all understand and embrace the actual facts.

I simply do not know how to do both honest truth-telling about racism and genuine listening to white Christians who reject even the idea of structural racism. But somehow we must try.

The same kind of insistence on both truth-telling and genuine listening across great differences needs to happen on many issues.

I would hope that followers of Jesus would find a way  to model honest truth-telling and careful, humble listening  across the huge divisions that threaten our democracy. Unless we beg God to help us do that, we deny the central biblical truth about Christ’s one body. Please Lord help us.

Please share any  ideas you have.

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