A year after the presidential election that transformed our country and political discussions into a raging dumpster fire, we haven’t made
much any progress in returning civility to our discourse. We can’t seem to separate people from their positions, and refuse to see the wide variety of human experiences behind hot-button issues. Nuance gets lost in so many of our political, religious and cultural debates, and we categorize one another into strictly defined boxes: we are either For or Against, Pro or Anti, Conservative or Liberal, Fundamentalist or Progressive.
We divide into teams, suit up, draw our lines in the sand, and refuse to budge, even when confronted with statistics and factual information that proves us wrong. We cower behind arguments of “Slippery Slopes”, “The Bible is Clear” and “Respect for the Flag”; meanwhile, we are degrading the humanity of our neighbors and caring more about rules and ideologies than living, breathing people.
And then we wonder why our country is in a constant state of vitriol.
In order to affect real change in this country, we have to stop living like everyone fits into a clearly defined box, and if she isn’t in our box, she must be the enemy. And more importantly, we must recognize that very few issues are black and white, with a “right” side and a “wrong” side. The vast majority are varying shades of grey.
Issues are complicated, because they are created by complicated, flawed humans. Too often we cope with the complex nature of moral and political debates by retreating into our boxes and doubling down on our Black or White stances. Living in the grey spaces is much more complicated, messier, and to be honest, a lot lonelier.
Instead of staying stuck as a country of ORs (you are for this OR against it), we need to start making space for a lot more ANDs. For example,
We can advocate for much stricter gun control laws and regulations AND respect the (true purpose of the) 2nd Amendment AND believe that no one should be able to purchase an assault weapon AND respect those who are responsible, safe gun owners.
We can mourn and offer our thoughts and prayers to the victims of the latest mass shooting AND immediately start a conversation about real, actionable solutions to stop this from happening over, and over and over again.
We can be Christians AND be disgusted by Christian leaders who preach nationalism and loyalty to a political party, no matter the cost or defamation to Jesus’ name.
We can believe abortion is morally wrong AND disagree that making abortions illegal is the best way to reduce them AND weep for the loss that results from abortion, AND still love and support a woman who has made a choice that maybe we would not have made.
We can have the upmost reverence for Scripture AND realize that on many, many things it is not clear, and can be interpreted differently.
We can respect our flag and our anthem AND rank that respect behind the value of actual people and injustices hurting those people.
We can hold law enforcement in high esteem AND appreciate the risk and sacrifice of their job AND recognize that there are deep-seated, systemic injustices in their profession that are killing American citizens at an alarming rate.
We can teach our children our moral values when it comes to sex AND provide them with education and resources to make informed choices about their own bodies.
We can disagree AND remain civil, and even friends. Really, we can.