I believe we are living in an era of extremes. We are living in a time where we are more likely to see our differences than our commonalities, especially when it comes to our ideas about life.
This shouldn’t shock anyone. Our society has been impacted by our deepening political polarization. For decades, we have been more interested in “left versus right” than coming to a consensus. We define truth by what is expressed by our favorite media outlets, which often share our ideological views. Even more, we have become distrustful of others who do not share our opinions. With each passing election, we have become more divided and the trend does not seem to have an end in sight.
All aspects of our lives have been impacted by this polarization and era of extremes. This includes our theological discussions. The era of extreme living and polarization that we see in political interactions also impacts how we view others within the body of Christ. We have made discerning the truth and love of Jesus Christ into a battle of “theological left” against the “theological right” with the winners inheriting the keys to the Kingdom of God.
Instead of focusing on making disciples of Jesus Christ, we concentrate our energies on making theological straw men out of those we disagree with. This happens when we take something said by someone we disagree with and turn it into an articulation of what is wrong with that person’s theological views, often without the appropriate and needed context. We also have the tendency to build up theological leaders as representations of the worst of the worst or examples of what is wrong with the church. In both ways, and many others, we are too busy talking at each other than talking with one another. The inability to see our theological opposite as our brother and sister in Christ prevents us from growing together in what it means to follow God.
What pains me is that we are more like the Pharisees and Sadducees than we want to admit. The Pharisees and Sadducees were focused on defending their own views than they were about truly being the people God had called them to be. Like the Pharisees and Sadducees, we can become overwhelmed with defending our own views that it clouds our witness and ability to serve the kingdom. Our perspective must be the other way around. In serving the kingdom of God, we must strive to see each other not as opposites but as common partners. If we cannot do this simple task, it will not matter how strong our views are because they will be lost in our inability to love others.
The fact of the matter is that people are watching us. If all they see out of the church is a group of people who reflect political squabbles than the kingdom of God, then what message are we sending to the world about the church or about Christ? People will not hear us when we say that in Christ is love and truth if we do not share that same message with our theological opposite.
This era of extremes will continue for some time. My hope and prayer is that the day will come that it will not longer impact the church and how we view each other in the kingdom.