I have spoken to or overheard several people in the last few weeks and months say something along the line of, “I have stopped watching the news. I just can’t bring myself to turn it on.” Now most of these individuals were not saying that because they believed the news to be inaccurate or “fake.” They were feeling as though the news itself is simply too painful. The shared feeling is that it puts them in such a state of either depression or anger that for their own mental and spiritual heath they had decided they needed to take something of a break from the constant barrage 24 hour news brings to us. I understand that feeling.
I’m also aware that there are others, maybe others reading these words, for whom the news over the last year or so has been the kind of thing they have wanted to hear for years. These persons believe that overall things are headed in the right direction politically and they celebrate what they see as positive changes.
Neither of these broad groups of people understand one another. And we wonder if there was ever a time when we were so divided. And while I find myself very clearly on a “side” in the debate, I am also as concerned as anyone about the state of the cultural divide in which we live today.
I know there have been many times when we have felt a similar cultural divide. I mean we had a civil war where we were actually killing one another over issues that divided us. In the 1960’s and 70’s the divide took many to the streets where tens of, hundreds, even thousands of people marched in protest of the US war in Southeast Asia and for civil rights.
Now, I am not at all trying to minimize the current cultural divide nor am I suggesting there are not some significant ways in which the basis for the current divide is not even more ominous than at other points in our history. What I am suggesting is that the differences and struggles are not new. While it indeed is difficult when, (as others I have spoken with express), the anticipation of Christmas dinner brings stress because we know those differences will show up and will make conversation and digestion problematic. We need in the midst of our differences to find a way to celebrate our sameness. I confess, I don’t always know how to do that in our polarizations. Sometimes, often times, it would be easier to just stay where it is safe and people think as we do. But unless we at least prayerfully try to understand one another both in our broader culture, and in our divisions within the church (which is a whole other conversation!), we will continue to live life in isolation listening to our particular brand and perspective and seeing one another as “the other.”
2,000 years ago the one, the angel, called the “Prince of Peace” was born. Would that we might discover, in these trying days, the gift of that One again.