Anna is a pastor, writer, and theologian who obtained her BA in religion in '06, Diploma of Ministry in '16, and Diploma of Divinity in '17.
A Hostile Environment
We live in volatile times, this country is the most divided it’s been since the 1960s. African Americans are still fighting for racial justice, women are still fighting to earn equal pay for equal work. Sexual abuse and misconduct are running rampant on both sides of the political aisles, with both men and women as victims. The whole country is sitting on a powder keg arguing about who will ignite in the brightest blaze when the whole thing blows up.
As a country, we collectively feel that we’re past the point of no return. It’s never too late to reach out to our brothers and sisters, yet we each feel that the other side won’t listen. For a country named the “United States,” we’re lamentably very divided. In Matthew 12:25, Jesus told the Pharisees “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided equally against itself will not stand.” Abraham Lincoln, in 1858, quoted this verse during the Lincoln-Douglas debate, when he predicted that the Union wouldn’t fall, but would become all-slave, or all-free. The Civil War abolished slavery, but did nothing to heal a wounded nation. Indeed, the country remained fractured. A split that continues even to this day.
Division Throughout History
We can look to the Civil War as the tragic culmination of a divided nation, but our differences go all the way back to the beginning. Before the Revolutionary War, the country was split between the Loyalists and the Revolutionaries. Not content to disagree as gentlemen, Revolutionaries would tar and feather the Loyalists, and in some cases, they would severely beat them. Ultimately, the Loyalists either assimilated, hid their loyalties, or fled to Canada or back to England. The Revolutionary War quite naturally ended the conflict between the Loyalists and the Revolutionaries, but led to greater strife in the new republic between the democrats and federalists. Newspapers from that era were blatantly biased and either painted George Washington, and later, John Adams, as either heroes or treasonous monsters. A trend that has reemerged in the last sixteen years or so.
During the early 19th century, the US suffered from a severe lack of quality entertainment. There was no football or baseball, no cinemas, and not everybody was literate, so books were out of the question for some. The entertainment that was available was often brutal; dogfighting, cockfighting, and bull-baiting among them. Politics often filled the recreational void, unfortunately, it was often little more civilized than the bloodsports. And occasionally it was worse, with politicians, like Andrew Jackson, hitting political opponents with canes. In 1836, speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives stabbed representative J.J. Anthony to death. Duels were fought, weapons brandished, and brawls would occasionally erupt during debates or sessions of the House. Such conduct, though far from civilized, was not uncommon during the 1800s.
By the 20th century, the nation was still battered and wounded after the Civil War, a brutal war that claimed the lives of over 618,000 men. It took decades for the south to heal, but the nation never united. It remained fractured with the nation divided over women’s suffrage, segregation, anti- and pro-Union factions, our involvement in both World Wars, Tea Pot Dome scandal, prohibition, urbanization and immigration, the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, Watergate, the Equal Rights Amendment, Iran Contra scandal, the Clinton Impeachment proceedings, the Affordable Care Act, and currently, possible Russian interference in our elections. Having an interest or active involvement in politics isn’t a sin, but these disagreements sometimes went much farther than simple squabbles. They’ve erupted into full-blown riots and lynchings. These aren’t just acts of a violent and bygone day, as recently as 2012 an Arizona woman ran over her husband for not voting. Blaming him for Obama’s reelection, she chased her husband down with the family SUV, eventually pinning him beneath it. He ended up in the intensive care unit, while she was sentenced to three years in prison on two cases of aggravated assault.
Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided equally against itself will not stand.
— Matthew 12:25
We Are Citizens of a Better Kingdom
This environment is not okay. It would be a lie to say the political atmosphere has gotten worse, because it’s always been bad, but we can do better. As Christians, we need to reach across the aisle and embrace our brothers and sisters. We are above this type of behavior, as Christians we are duel citizens: we’re Americans, and we’re citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Across the country, people are turning their backs on the family, abandoning old friends, divorcing their spouses just because of how the other person voted. Not all Trump supporters are evil and racist. Most democrats don’t want to destroy the country. Science did not prove that liberalism is a mental disease, nor did it prove that conservatives lack intelligence. We’re all brothers and sisters, this rivalry and anger has to stop.
On Thursday, we will celebrate Thanksgiving. Some families will not be joining together, the political divide has become to great for them. Other families are bracing themselves and trying to figure out the best way to avoid political discussions. This is sad. Some people have decided that politics is more important than their family, their friends, their coworkers, and even God himself. When was the last time you heard somebody put this much passion into bible study? Are people defending the Word of God with the same fervor that they're defending the Constitution? The Constitution is a fine document, but is it worth more than God’s Holy Bible? Are people as loyal to Jesus as they are to a sinful and corrupt politician? We shouldn’t stand by misconduct, inappropriate behavior, or corruption just because the politician involved has a “D” or an “R” behind their name. We should demand a higher standard from them. Having an interest in politics is not bad; but as Christians, we need to keep our eyes on God.
Compromise is possible. Both Republicans and Democrats both only want what is best for America, they merely disagree on the best method to achieve that goal. Republicans have looked at all the evidence and decided that being a Republican was right for them based on their existing values. Democrats did the same. Neither group is made up of bad people. But right now, there are those who are misguided. We should try to be Christians first, Americans second, and Democrats or Republicans third. We should put ourselves in the other’s shoes. We should be quicker to listen than we are to speak. And we should remember that we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ. The politics on this earth are a temporary distraction. One day we will all cease to be United States’ citizens and join our savior in our permanent kingdom. Why waste time now bickering with our brothers and sisters about the politics of our impermanent dwelling? Our time may be better spent if we focus on our greater goal and our eternal residence.
© 2017 Anna Watson