Toward Civil Disagreement

 We seem to be returning to tribalism.

In Liberia, tribalism exists in its ancient form.  There are many different groups of people, and these groups generally separate themselves from one another. They go to church with people from the same tribe. They do business with people from the same tribe. They spend time with people from the same tribe. All the while, those from other tribes are outsiders in every situation.

Welcome to the new American tribalism. We aren't much better than the primitive tribalism of Liberia. We aren't segregated by a common heritage, but by where we get our news, the internet sites we visit or don't visit, the views that we hold, and our approach to the government. To see the new American tribalism illustrated, go to any controversial article on the internet, scroll down to the comments, and see people treat those who disagree with them like they are idiots, ill-intentioned, or uneducated.

This new tribalism is not for us. It will not create a better world. We have to learn to disagree and still love the people we disagree with, not call each other bad names or think ill of one another. The other day I got into a conversation where we wouldn't find common agreement. I said, "As long as we don't denigrate the people that hold the opposing views, I am fine with that. We can denigrate opposing views, but not the people." Surprisingly, it was amicably received.

Maybe the demonization of people entrenched in opposing views is all an overreaction to the pseudo-tolerance that is preached from all of the popular modern-day prophets on the television, the internet, or the radio. The same prophets who will demonize those that don't agree with them in the name of their "tolerance." But underlying that pseudo-tolerance is really a hatred for anyone that disagrees. We must not participate in rhetoric that destroys others. Instead, we should strive to love everyone, even when we disagree. During this period where we struggled to never disagree with one another as we became inundated with new ideas, our society appears to have forgotten how to participate in civil disagreements, how to love while still being at odds.

We should never participate in the rhetoric of demonization or the isolation of the new tribalism; especially those of us who claim to follow Jesus.

How can we be the salt of the earth if we separate ourselves from the world? Our saltiness would be of no use. What good would it do if we are the light of the world, yet we just congregate with other light and never go into the darkness? Our lights would be pointless. Light was made to displace the darkness. Our salt would be useless. Salt was made to preserve. Yet salt and light cannot do their intended tasks if they separate themselves from those who are different.

The other day I left an organization that I have been a part of for eight years. I felt that the conflict going on wasn't worth my mental time and emotional energy. But in leaving, I also disqualified myself from bringing any change to the group. The reason I bring this up is to illustrate the principle that we cannot be the salt of the earth and the light of the world if we remove ourselves from the world. Once we have removed ourselves, we have lost our opportunity to bring about change.

The Apostle Paul wrote, " For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:27-28 ESV).

This is the way that it is supposed to be among believers in Jesus. It's God's ideal. In Christ, there is neither liberal or conservative, there is neither Buckeye or Wolverine, there is no male and female, educated or stupid, rich or poor, for we are all one in Jesus our Lord. We are all one. Despite our disagreements and differences, those in Jesus are all one.

Mix that idea with the teaching that we are to bring heaven to earth as much as is possible, a prayer that we pray every time we recite the Lord's Prayer, and we see that the world is to be different than this course of hatred that it is currently steaming down. God has a different plan for humanity.

It's our opportunity as Christians to be used by God to bring this plan into reality. This cannot be achieved if we just conform to the new tribalism of the world. We must intermingle. We must develop relationships. We must never demonize. We will disagree, but we must behave differently when we do. We must be salt to prevent spoiling. We must be light to push back the darkness.