The Divided States of America desperately needs people who will speak the truth in love.
Francis Schaeffer spoke prophetically almost a half century ago about the worldview struggle and division we are experiencing in the US.
These two [Christian vs. naturalistic] worldviews stand as totals in complete antithesis to each other in content and also in their natural results—including sociological and governmental results, and specifically including law. It is not that these two worldviews are different only in how they understand the nature of reality and existence. They also inevitably produce totally different results. The operative word here is inevitably. It is not just that they happen to bring forth different results, but it is absolutely inevitable that they will bring forth different results.
Schaeffer’s words include several important insights.
- These two worldviews not only perceive the world differently, they also create two very different worlds.
- The differences between these two worldviews are not slight, not easily bridged. Rather, they are polar opposites, creating radically different moral visions for the country. This is why there is such heated discussion over an issue like abortion. This goes to the heart of what it means to be a human.
- Because ideas have consequences, it is not simply happenstance that two different nations are created, it is inevitable.
- To understand why our nation is so divided, we must move beyond the issues to THE ISSUE of worldview.
Patricia McCarthy, writing for the American Thinker, summarizes with large brushstrokes the differences between the coastal populations and the heartland folks.
These people, the D.C. and Hollywood elite, live by different rules, rules under which faith, hope, and love have no place, no place at all. They are about two things and two things only: power and money.
While she does not use worldview terminology, she does correctly identify that we’re in a fight between Judeo-Christian Theism and Materialistic Secularism.
A House Divided Cannot Stand
In considering any issue that divides people we must consider both the substance of the discourse and its style, that is, how the disagreement is handled. In Ephesians 4:15, the Apostle Paul identified the virtues we need to do this well: “speaking the truth in love.”
We must strive for this balance—the content of truth and a lifestyle of love. In fact, these two virtues define one another. Without truth, love is mere sentimentality. Without love, truth is simply dogmatism.
To put it a little differently, if we leave love behind to speak the truth, we have not only lost love, we have lost the truth. If we leave truth to speak in love, we have lost both truth and love.
So to heal our divisions we must consider both the content and the style of our message. Jesus Christ spoke the message and modeled the style. He inspired two great American leaders—Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.—to deal with divisions in our country over slavery and civil rights. These two notable leaders drew from the words of Christ.
- Matt. 12:25: “Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.’”
- John 8:12: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”
- Matt 5:14: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
- Matt 5:44: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Abraham Lincoln understood the peril of division
On June 16, 1858, in his famous “house divided” speech, then senatorial candidate Abraham Lincoln applied the words of Christ.
A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.
Note some of Lincoln’s insights:
- A “house,” be it a family or community or nation, cannot survive in a divided state. This is why this moment in the history of the United States is so important. We cannot continue to exist at the current level of division.
- At some point the division over substance will be healed because one vision will triumph over the other. This is not a time to simply sit back and watch our nation come unraveled or return to a pagan culture. This is a call for us to pray and work for the biblical vision of the Kingdom of God, a nation of diverse people united in one kingdom.
Martin Luther King modeled speaking the truth in love
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke the truth in love. He modeled the STYLE of loving your neighbor, and even your enemy, in dealing with the substance of civil rights, an issue that once again divides our nation. In his book Strength in Love Dr. King drew from Christ’s words to develop his strategy of nonviolent resistance for dealing with racial hatred.
Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
Our normal tendency is to return hate with hate, darkness with darkness, violence with violence, and rudeness with rudeness. Dr. King showed the world a different pathway based on the words and example of Jesus Christ. King, and the movement he led, was willing to take on himself the sacrifice of his nonviolence. He was arrested and jailed and ultimately paid with his life. Our style is to be Christ’s style: love your enemies, shine light on the darkness, confront lies with truth, transform the hideous with beauty, and triumph over evil by good.
We can respond to rudeness with civility, to violence with reason. We can replace the new tolerance–accepting all ideas as equally valid—with the old tolerance (as defined by the Judeo-Christian ethic) – forbearance with those we disagree with. We can challenge greed with generosity, narcissism with self-sacrifice.
Michael Brown, in response to the evil shooting in Las Vegas, commented on the need for decency in our national debate:
But whatever we do, let us have common decency, and let us recognize that during the hurricanes and during the shooting, strangers were helping strangers, regardless of their ethnicity or skin color or sex. Do you think anyone stopped to ask, “Did you vote for Trump or Hillary?” as they risked their lives to help others?
Will we learn to live the truth in love?
We are spiraling down into what could become a new civil war. Our divided nation needs to be healed.
The progressive radicals believe that the United States was formed under false pretenses (Judeo-Christian theism) and founded on extreme oppression of minorities. They see nothing redeemable.
One of the prophets of this movement is Ta-Nehisi Coates. In a recent article he wrote for The Atlantic, Coates threatens, “should white supremacy fall, the means by which that happens might be unthinkable to those of us bound by present realities and politics.” Militants both on the Right (neo-Nazis) and the Left (Antifa, Black Lives Matter, By Any Means Necessary) are testing the waters of violence.
We must pull back from the brink, but not by papering over our differences. Clarity of moral and metaphysical vision is critical. The style of the discussion is as important as its substance. As Paul the Apostle reminds us from the lions’ den of the 1st century, we are to speak the truth in love.
Come, let us reason together. Let us speak of our differences with civility. Instead of spaces of hatred and violence on the one hand, or “safe spaces” on the other, let us create spaces of intellectual hospitality.
Lincoln was convinced that America would “cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.” And it did.
What becomes of America now will be determined by the application, or the abandonment, of the virtues of speaking the truth in love.
- Darrow Miller
This series of posts was inspired by the reflections of Michael Brown following the massacre of nearly 60 and wounding of 500 Americans by the heinous attack in Las Vegas on October.