by Aaron Matthew Weldon
December 14, 2017
As myfamily sang the line from O Come, O Come Emmanuel, "Bid Thou our sad divisions
cease, and be Thyself our King of Peace," it occurred to me that Advent is a
particularly good time to think about how we foment "sad divisions" in the body
of Christ, and what it might mean for us to take our role in those divisions
who try and bring their faith to bear on social questions – whether we focus on
religious liberty, care for creation, or justice for immigrants – often get
caught up in the polarizing habits of current American political culture. Polarization can infect the Church, rendering
us unable to engage in mission. The
Church isn't much of a field hospital when her members are actively picking at
the wounds in our society.
clear, polarization is more than deep disagreement. You and I can disagree with one another in
good faith, and our disagreement can even generate fruitful discussion that
benefits everyone. But if I know that
you belong to "the other side," and I decide to hold to a cluster of positions
in opposition to yours simply because you are on the other side, then our
relationship is polarized.
can we do?
ask for the grace to be humble. The
Solemnity of the Nativity reveals the humility of God. In the Incarnation, the all-powerful,
unchanging God enters fully into our human situation. In a sense, God lowers Himself to reach
us. However, in our need to elevate
ourselves, we often cling to tribal identities and nurse resentments, and in
the process, we close ourselves off from being able to simply listen to
others. As we make our pilgrimage to
Christmas, perhaps we can have the humility to listen to and make the effort to
understand those we see as the other side.
commit to truth over tribe. At
Christmas, we celebrate that God makes His Word flesh. In Jesus Christ, God communicates the truth
of Himself to us. Our commitment to
Christ implies a commitment to truth, wherever it might be found. We cannot be committed to truth and polarized
at the same time. It's one thing to
disagree with others, but it's another thing to take a side on an issue before
even considering what the truth of the matter is. And that's what polarization is all about.
a perfect time to avail ourselves of the sacrament of reconciliation. We can honestly examine how we contribute in
negative ways to our politics - by harboring resentments, nursing bad
attitudes, refusing to listen to our opponents, and filling social media with
comments whose only purpose is build up our side, rather than to move closer to
this season, we wait for the birth of our King of Peace. Perhaps we will see him more readily if we
can humble ourselves, turn our eyes away from tribal agendas, and re-commit to
being open to the light of truth.
Aaron Matthew Weldon is Program Specialist for the Committee for Religious Liberty.
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