The Polarization of the American Church

For decades now, the American political system has been defined by an ever-growing state of polarization. It is a state of division and separation that claims there is no worth in the opposing view and that those who are not “like us” are really out to harm “our way of life.” This attitude divides us into camps of “left” or “right or “red” or “blue.” It has also led to our modern governing structure where there is little respect for someone on the opposing side and limited opportunities for compromise.

The polarization of the American political system has affected each of us and how we see worth in each person. Because this polarization exists in an area of life that affects each of us, it was only a matter of time before this polarization impacted the church.

Today, sadly, the American church is defined by its polarization. We are divided body. We are more likely to be defined by our favorite camps and viewpoints than we are our shared love and faith in Christ. The polarization of the American church has left us unwilling to seek compromise and work together as one body. Instead, it has pulled us further apart and separate from the vision of the Great Commission to go out and share the love of Christ with others.

Instead, we want to claim that the person who disagrees with us in wrong. We want too much time arguing over the values of my theological view, instead of seeing the worth in the various traditions of the faith.

The reason for this, much like our political dialogues, is that we cannot stand to be proven wrong or be challenged. We expect to be right on all things about God and cannot wrestle with the fact that we might misunderstand something about the wonder of God’s grace and love. This prevents us from hearing from someone who challenges us and, as well, from considering that they are a person worthy of being heard.

When the church is defined by this attitude we are not doing a good job of sharing the message of Christ’s love. Instead, we are sharing the message of a church that is more defined by the things of our culture than about the message of Jesus Christ, who came into the world in the most humble of ways to share hope, joy, peace, and love with all people.

I yearn for the end of polarization in America, whether it is in our political conversations or in our churches. For that to happen, we must take the lead in ending the attacks and divisions within our churches. We must see each other as loved by God. We must see each other as having worth and value in God’s eyes. Until that day happens, we will be further separated from each other and unable to see the value in someone else’s opinion.

The day of polarization in the American church must end. Let it end with me, first, so that it may end in others, as well.

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