All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. -2 Corinthians 5:18-19
Oh how I wish we as Christians would embody this passage. Recently, I've taken to Facebook as a sort of mission field. And lets be honest, it needs it. In the wake of recent events, what I see more and more are people who are comfortable retreating into their own positions on a handful of issues, posting trite memes, and ultimately humiliating or belittling those who disagree with them. It happened when Colin Kapernick decided not to stand for the anthem any more, because he felt the nation didn't stand for African Americans. It happened when Terence Crutcher was shot in Tulsa, unarmed. It happened when protests became violent in North Carolina after another African American individual was shot by the police. What happened in each of these cases (and I haven't even gotten to the election yet!) is that folks want to simplify these issues, to remove complexity, to choose a side and fight it to the death.
There are any number of things wrong with this approach. For starters, all of the events I've mentioned are impossible to divorce from complexity and nuance. Any attempt on our part to do so robs the situation of truth. Any attempt on our part to do so robs those involved of their humanity. It forgets the families of those shot by police mourning at home, and it forgets the emotional trauma that I'm sure comes to the officers who took lives. When we simplify, we do violence to the opportunity for conversation right in front of us.
The second thing we've done is we have removed from the equation discussion. Every event these days seems worthy of debate, but debate assumes there are only two sides to any given topic. You're either on team A or team B. We've been at this for a long time. Think about where you get your news these days. Chances are (and I am equally guilty of this, I know) you choose sources of news that you agree with, listen to anchors who will spin information in only one direction, who do everything they can to demonize "them," whoever "them" happens to be at any given moment. Debate is team A versus team B, while discussion is "we." Discussion asks what are we doing? How can we help? How is this affecting us? What is this doing to the collective we? Discussion sees a protest in North Carolina and, instead of labeling it a riot or disruption, stops and asks "I wonder what it means to be them right now?" Discussion sees a police officer reach for a gun first, and asks "I wonder what it feels like to have a job where you are in danger each and every second of the day?" Discussion is what we need, debate is what we crave.
But lastly, this kind of over-simplification on the internet is anti-Kingdom. Read that passage above again. You and I have a job to do. It's our job to bring about reconciliation. It's our job to bring the world together. It's our job to make more friends than we do enemies. Not simply because we want everyone to get along and play nice in the sandbox. But because it's what Jesus is doing in and through us. Both sides of the isle in these debates will make appeals to Christian values, without ever really going into what that means. This is my Christian value I want to see interjected into the conversation. As a Christian, I value reconciliation.
This election scares me. Not because of who might or might not win. Not because of my team or tribe. Not because of anything I've read or seen in an advertisement. No, this election scares me because I'm beginning to doubt we can be reconciled. I think the way we're talking to each other is doing irreversible harm to our nation. It doesn't matter who wins if the fight carries on well into 2017. We'll be no better either way.
But we can turn it around. We can change things. You, reading this, at your computer or on your phone, you have an role to play in fixing it. Again maybe it's silly that Facebook is my chosen battleground on this, but you have to start somewhere. My habit these last few weeks has been to ask myself before I post "How is this working toward reconciliation?" Sometimes it means pointing out false narratives, which are easy to find these days. Sometimes it means recognizing another viewpoint as correct. Most of the time, it means posting nothing at all. I badly need reconciliation. You badly need reconciliation. We badly need reconciliation. Perhaps best of all, this is not a problem that we can blame on the politicians running for office. This is not a problem we can blame on our neighbors down the street or across the nation. This is not a problem we can lay at the feet of an "other." It is our problem. You and me can fix it, but only if we work at it.
Your ministry is reconciliation. Get in the game.