The United States is being torn apart. We might better be called the Divided States of America. We are two distinct peoples sharing one topography.
Janeane Garofalo, a comedian and political activist, has expressed this division in unforgettable fashion:
[W]hen I see the American flag, I go, “Oh my God, you’re insulting me.” That you can have a gay parade on Christopher Street in New York, with naked men and women on a float cheering, “We’re here, we’re queer!” — that’s what makes my heart swell. Not the flag, but a gay naked man or woman burning the flag. I get choked up with pride.
Every week we see the divided states on national TV during football season as players and coaches have bought into the narrative of BLM and show disrespect for the nation’s flag, rather than honor that historic symbol of national unity and the lives of patriots who have died to defend their country.
And not only in the USA. National divisions are growing all over the world. Consider Brexit in England, for example. Or the growing nationalism in France, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Four forces are at work in today’s Europe. Two have been prominent but are less so today: 1) modern globalism, which was prominent for decades but now is being shaken by new forces, and 2) postmodernism, which continues to grow slowly. Today two ideologies of long history are enjoying new prominence: nationalism and Islam. At this writing the Catalonians are seeking independence from Spain and the Kurds from Iraq. About the resurgence of Islam on the European continent little needs to be said.
Nations are being divided along racial, religious, tribal and ideological lines.
Jesus warned of the effects of such division: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand,” Matt. 12:25.
The solution to these divisions is a more comprehensive vision, one big enough to unify a divided world. The New Testament speaks of:
One blood – “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,” (Acts 17:26 NKJ).
One new man – “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” Gal. 3:28.
One Kingdom from every tribe and nation – “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb …” Rev. 7:9.
The divide we currently face in the USA is as great as, or greater than, the divide of the American civil war that claimed more than 600,000 lives. It is a divide of both substance (the content of our differences) and of style (the way we relate to those with whom we disagree).
The substance (essence) of the Civil War was threefold: slavery, the threat of secession, and, to a lesser extent, two national visions, one of a rural agricultural life vs. the other of an urban, industrialized life. The style (means) of the conflict was bloody combat that sundered families, communities and a nation.
Today the substance is a conflict of worldviews. In the 20th century the struggle was between Judeo-Christian theism and modernism. Here in the 21st century we are experiencing a conflict between remnants of Judeo-Christian theism and postmodernism. Today, the STYLE has mostly been limited to speech, vulgarity, rudeness and hatred. However, we are beginning to see strains of violence as well, both from the right (supremacists and anti-Semites) and the left (Antifa, Black Lives Matter and By All Means Necessary).
If adherents do not pull back from the brink, the foment could break out into open civil war. The conflict would make the carnage of the Las Vegas shooting, and the violence at the University of California at Berkley, look like child’s play.
From Paradigm to Program
Today, the division in the USA runs more deeply than many people recognize, all the way down to a paradigm, or worldview, the way we see the world.
Four P’s capture the movement from of this division its foundation to its outworking in the society: paradigm – principle – policy – program.
As an example, education at the program level translates to local schools with students, teachers and administrators. These function based on policies set by local, state or federal bureaucracies. These policies are built on principles which often are unexamined. A century ago, the operational principle of public education was to prepare citizens for life, teaching them to think, to reason, to seek truth. Today, the principle is to prepare workers for a job. Very different outcomes will result from our policy choices. Yet these policies are often unstated to the public and rarely examined by teachers.
Finally, under the principles are the paradigms (worldviews): theism, atheism (modernism) or postmodernism.
Each of the four “P’s” deals with a different question that helps define the whole. Programs deal with the very practical questions of any event:
- Who is going to do the activity?
- Where will they do it?
- When will it be done?
- How will they carry it out?
Policy deals with the concept of the program activity and answers the question, What?
Principles move away from the practical and concrete actions in programs. Principles look at the reasons behind the policies. They answer the question, Why do we have these policies? Principles deal with the themes of culture or ethos.
Finally, the deepest level is the Paradigm or Worldview. If you ask Why do we have these particular principles? the answer will take you to the deepest level, the paradigm.
The current, profound division in Western society that we see every day on the level of our personal and corporate activities (programs) is ultimately rooted in these differences of worldview. We witness this division hourly in our news cycles: Antifa violence, killing of black youth by policemen, gun violence, tearing down statues of historical figures who owned slaves, the murder of unborn babies, arrests for using the wrong pronoun for a person’s gender identity, creation of safe spaces on college campuses, etc. These issues are a reflection of grassroots activities, sometimes personal, sometimes corporate, and often systematic. These grassroots activities play out in discussions and behaviors by millions of people.
- Darrow Miller
… to be continued