Friday, January 14, 2011

The Cure for Polarization?

What do you do to get two people to show respect to one another who disagree strongly on an issue they both consider to be very important? Maybe a better question is, "How do we convince ourselves to demonstrate respect towards those with whom we disagree?" It's easy to point the "polarization" finger at other people, but the truth is, we all have an incredible ability to see others as enemies who don't see life the way we do.

In the wake of the Tucson tragedy there has been a call for less polarization and more civility. Most of the media attention concerning this topic has been in regard to politics, but it's not just politicians who are at odds, it's families, neighborhoods, and just about wherever there are two or three people gathered in one place. Some editorialists have blamed the growing narcissism of our times, others the isolation caused by ever increasing technology. Much closer to the truth is that we all struggle with self-centeredness.

A look back into history demonstrates that people have always been polarized when other people don't agree with them and the violence of such polarization of the past has been as violent if not more violent than today. So does that mean there is no cure for polarization? No, it just means the cure is a whole lot more radical than people saying, "Let's everybody be nice to each other." Any parent who has tried to help their children get along knows it takes much more than saying to them, "Now say, 'I'm sorry' to each other and be nice."

The cure for polarized people is found in the teaching of a man who lived a couple of thousand years ago. His name was John and he was called the Baptist. His message was pretty simple. He said, "Repent of your sins. Believe in the forgiveness that Jesus Christ would bring. And then change your ways." That message may seem a little too simplistic to people living in our very complex world of 2011, but it is exactly the cure. Why? The only way we human beings will stop being self-centered and give in on something we want very badly is if we understand there is something bigger than ourselves to life. That's what John's message is all about. It says that there is a God, real and personal, who is also holy and just. That's good because it means God is good. But it also means God sees a whole lot in us that he doesn't like. But God doesn't leave it at that. He provides a way to be freed of the guilt of our wrongdoings. That means that even though there is a place called hell, we don't have to worry about it. He's opened heaven for us.

Now think about that: if there is life after death and God has done everything to make sure you spend it with him, isn't it going to be a whole lot easier to get along with people here on this earth, even if you don't agree with them. Especially when you realize that you haven't done anything more to deserve what God's given you than the person you're fighting with. You see, peace with God is meant to lead to peace with other people.

Hawaii Lutheran Church (WELS)

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Honolulu, HI
Community Lutheran Church holds protestant chapel services in Honolulu, Hawaii near Pearl Harbor, HI. We are next to the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hickam Air Force Base, and Fort Shafter Hawaii. Look for us directly behind the Salt Lake, Hawaii, Target.