“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
The words above were as timely when they were first given as they are today. They are from President Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address given March 4, 1861, just over a month before the American Civil War. Our prayers are likewise needed now as they were then.
Many say that our nation is as divided and polarized today as it was in the civil war. As I write this article, legal challenges are occurring around elections in several states across our great land similar to the election in 2000 . At the same time there are calls for unity and transition.
How do we respond to this experience of polarization and division? How do we respond as Christians?
We might begin by acknowledging that we have differences. We do not agree on everything. Sometimes it may seem that we do not agree on anything. It is easy to enter discussions that sometimes become heated and some label as arguments on many, many topics. Yes, that is true.
It is very, very easy to disagree on very nearly anything.
So with the reality of polarization and division on many topics, what are we to do?
Perhaps we begin by not trying to solve discussion of polarizing topics like abortion and gun control. Let us instead focus on safe topics like the PFD, a state income tax, school curriculums, and a balanced state budget. Okay, maybe that will not work either.
What can we talk about that is not somehow, “political?”
It turns out there are many things. We can talk to one another. We can check in with each other.
Through it all we can listen to learn instead of listening to respond. The goal of conversation is communication. Try listening to hear what the speaker is saying and imagining for a moment why a person is saying what they are saying. Ask questions to clarify what is being said and ponder the meaning. Listen to hear and thereby learn.
No, we are not going to solve big differences in a few brief conversations. People have been arguing about abortion and gun control for decades. Similarly, people have been arguing about state (and local) budgets, taxes, and school curriculums for years. Instead we just might get to know one another by listening and learning.
I write today suggesting that we spend time in prayer for our nation and listening, really listening to one another.
"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires." -James 1:19-20
The Rev. Stephen K. Reed, Pastor, St. Paul Church on Farmers Loop next to Mushers Hall, chaplain, police & fire.
This Insight Article is sponsored by Tanana Valley Christian Conference
Printed in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner's Faith Section on November 13, 2020.
Married 26 years, 2 kids, 1 cat and 1 dog. Ordained & Chaplain for 20 years. Ministry philosophy - we're all in this together and Jesus leads the way. Hobbies: working in the woodshed, teaching, and competitive shooting