A couple of weeks ago, a columnist for Slate (Reihan Salam) posed the question, “One Nation Divisible? Is America in Danger of Fracturing into Two Countries, One Secular, One Religious?” In his piece, Mr. Salam wondered, “Could America break apart along religious lines, with devout Christians going one way and the rest of us going another?”
Which “country” would I belong to in such a scenario?
While I often find myself leaning more toward “secular” arguments and approaches when it comes to public policy and governing, my faith is very important to me, and does guide me in the decisions that I make and in how I view myself, the world, and how I see myself as part of this world. So, where does a progressive liberal Christian belong in a potentially divided country?
At first glance, this may seem a silly question, but I’ve found myself thinking about it a lot lately. Perhaps because of the Hobby Lobby case, or through what’s happening in the immigration debate (I recently heard a Boston-based very conservative radio personality not only refer to immigrants as “vermin,” but he then went on to bash Glenn Beck—in strong, vicious language— for suggesting that we use some “Christian values” in thinking about and dealing with the current immigration crisis), I’ve been wondering a lot about what it means to be Christian in the United States, and especially what it means to be a Christian who doesn’t conform to the what’s generally cast as “Christian” in the media.
To the extent that we have a “religious” divide in the United States, I fear that we don’t have so much a divide between “secular” and “religious,” but rather a growing and more obvious divide within Christianity. I’d actually like to see such a thing find a place in the public square, as we ought to have some public discussion regarding “Christian values” and “Christian teachings.” Instead of simply filing into the church that supports my own views, perhaps we should do more to mix things up a bit, and to encourage a different kind of Christian conversation.
It doesn’t take much focus to realize that the range of beliefs for Christians is very wide. And, for many of us, we have a hard time being consistent, in keeping a solid Christian foundation for all of our opinions and perspectives. After all, the Bible itself is not exactly consistent itself.
A more public discussion, then, might be a good thing. It might help us to be clearer about why we believe what we do, instead of simply finding handy Bible verses, and churches, that magically support our own prejudices. We might also become more knowledgeable about the Book we call Holy, yet about which so many seem to know so little (according to a number of studies).
I’d like to think that I can be both devoted to my faith, while also progressive in both my faith and my politics. I suspect that more dialogue across rather than within would provide more opportunities for the discovery of common ground, instead of the continued feeding of the fractious field of assumptions.