"Once upon a time, a progressive, journalism student from Brown decided to take a semester at Liberty University..."
When most people hear this kind of a sentence, immediately they assume that it's some kind of sick joke setup, and begin bracing for the zinger at the end.
I mean, come on now, what could liberals and conservatives possibly have in common? What could evangelicals, and agnostics possibly bring to the table that would be productive?
Isn't this the whole problem?
We live in a society of extremes. We live in a culture which demands that you hold your banner of allegience high, and wave it proudly. If you aren't "for us," then you must be "against us."
Thus, it's impossible to accomplish anything. We see this all the time.
Our leaders reflect the very symptoms of narcissism and pettiness that currently plague our country. We hear elected officials give lipservice all the time to "civility" and "compromise" and the "necessities" of such things. Then they turn right around and act, rather predictibly, like it's business as usual, demanding that compromise requires that the other party do all the work, and meet their demands.
Our leaders do a magnificent job of reflecting the greater attitudes that are sweeping this nation.
How did we get here? Who's fault is it?
Frankly, I don't really care.
What we really need to do, is to figure out how we're going to fix this. We need to take a leap. To cross this chasm, because at the end of the day we're all humans. We share the same air, we live on the same land. We're in it for the long haul.
Where to begin?
Well, first of all, find some friends who don't agree with everything you believe. Hell, find some friends who disagree with most everything you believe. Build your relationship upon things that, I hope, are universally agreed upon, such as: helping the homeless, volunteering to clean up the community, doing run/walks for charities, etc.
Do some fun, non-politically/religiously charged activities. Go see a movie, have friends over for a party, take a road-trip. Believe it or not, when many individuals stop focusing on their causes, and spend time one on one with each other, they begin to see the person rather than the platform they support.
I can't tell you how hard, yet how worthwhile this is. Often, I find, when I stop flapping my jaw I can actually learn things I never knew before.
Have you ever been to an LGBTQ group? Have you ever heard about their lives? Try it.
Have you ever talked with a Tea Partier about their concerns for the American future? Give it a shot.
Have you ever asked a homeless person their story? Have you ever asked a CEO what it's like to employ hundreds?
I'll never forget sitting down one on one with a friend of mine, who is a devout Pagan, and listening to some of his stories about life as a minority religion, and the struggles he and his friends face.
I'll never forget the week he came to my Bible study.
Do we agree on everything? Absolutely not. Do we have to? Nope. At the end of the day we're still human beings, and I'm still proud to call him a friend.
You can do this too.
As Christians we're called to be peacemakers, not strife-creators.
We aren't meant to be militant ninjas for Jesus folks!
We're called to love our neighbors.
To care for the oppressed.
To feed the hungry.
To find common ground.
We're called to give grace liberally, just as we are given grace on a daily basis!
(Grace simply means giving other people permission to be human. To understand that we're all imperfect people, stumbling along on this journey called life...)
Here's what we aren't called to do:
We aren't called to be ballot punchers for certain political parties.
We aren't called to condemn and pronounce judgement upon others.
Last I heard, there's only one Judge, and I'm quite glad that I don't have his job.
Why should we do this?
Admittedly, it'd be much easier to just live in our little cliques.
To demonize those who live, and believe differently than ourselves.
But who ever said life was supposed to be easy?
I value those in my life who challenge me, who cause me to think and wrestle with the things I believe. We all need people like that in our lives.
Otherwise, we're simply sheep.