I am so weary of the political divide in the United States, the rancor between the parties and between those who have differing opinions. I am not naive. I know that political rhetoric has always been divisive, and that sometimes the drama and excess in language are for effect.
But I feel that we have turned a corner.
And so do some who know much more about life in Washington DC than I do. The journalist Cokie Roberts remembers both of her parents serving in Congress at a time when deep friendships existed across the aisle, when people would debate vigorously by day and socialize with real congeniality by night. Congresswoman Olympia Snowe resigned when she could no longer accept the new reality: “What I like to call the sensible center has now virtually disappeared in Washington.”
What grieves me most deeply is that this political divide is also evident in the Christian community. We seem to be no different than Washington. Conservative Christians talk with conservative Christians and liberal Christians talk with liberal Christians. We spend time with like-minded people, acting as if we do not think that people who disagree with us have anything to teach us, as if we have a monopoly on the truth.
The theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote this during World War II: “Democracy…requires religious humility.” None of us have all of the answers.
So I was heartened by a news item I saw in the July 22 edition of the Christian Century, in which a Palestinian activist decided to engage Israelis in dialogue after his brother was killed by an Israeli drive-by shooter. (You can read the entire story here: http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2015-06/palestinian-former-intifada-fighter-chooses-nonviolence-over-revenge.)
He has founded an organization called “Roots”, described as “a Palestinian Israeli initiative for understanding non-violence, and transformation.” A documentary based on Roots has been produced; its title is “A Third Way.”
Surely, if such a movement can exist in the Middle East, then we in the United States can find ways to bridge our gaps. Where are those other “middle ways”, those “sensible centers” where we can begin standing together and listening to each other?
Can the church become a place for such dialogues to take place, with civility, humility and openness of heart and mind?