We have always had differences and diversity of people and opinions in the United States. “You say ‘To-maht-o,’ and I say ‘To-may-to’” In fact, this has been and is one of our strengths. But in at least the last fifteen years, we have become more and more polarized. And it is not only our politics, but it is even happening within our Church. And it is hurting all of us—our country—and our Church very badly.
First, we tend to associate almost exclusively with people who already agree with us. We form friendships, join groups—even churches—that share our social and political points of view. Bill Bishop wrote a big, The Big Sort,” in which he demonstrates all this and how we even choice our neighborhoods based on our preferences.
But two other things have happened.
- We—and this is true of both liberals and conservatives–demonize those we don’t agree with. We say they are stupid, unchristian, unpatriotic, and evil. “They hate America!” “They are unpatriotic. They are evil.”
- There is even a name for this: political motivation asymmetry
- We are starting to ostracize. “They aren’t really Americans.” “He’s a rhino—Republican in name only.” He’s not a real Catholic.”
- We are at the point where at some universities when some professors—usually conservatives—appear to speak, the students—usually liberals—show up and shout them down. “They’re wrong—don’t let them speak” seems to be the mantra.
But the demonizing and the ostracizing are both liberal and conservative. Watch Fox news and then switch to MSNBC.
This where we need to remember the virtue of humility.
- No, I don’t think Jesus meant a false humility. “Play humble so that they make you look more important.
- And no, not a humility that says, “Gee whiz, I’m nobody. I’m not worth anything.”
- Rather the humility of “St. Theresa—of realizing what you true value is—and I would add what the true value of others is as well.
- First, we need to remember that person is distinct from his or her opinion. Each person is a child of God, made in the image and likeness of God. Another person might have a different opinion as to what the best way is to provide health care, or what is the best way to solve the challenges of the movements of people, or how to fix the educational system. But I have no reason to doubt their loyalty to the country, or whether God loves them, or whether they love. They have a different idea.
- The Catholic Church teaches that the pope is infallible when teaching as pope—ex cathedra—and only in matters of faith and morals. In all other things he is fallible and could be wrong. All of us are fallible and could be wrong in all matters. That means you could be wrong.
There should always be a little voice inside of us, reminding us that the other person could possibly be right, reminding us of our and their true value. that he or she is a child of God, that we might need their help some day.
When we demonize people or say they don’t belong, we are hurting ourselves and our society and/or Church.
- Ourselves because we are being unfaithful to Christ. Jesus did not tell us, “Do not have any enemies.” He said, “Love your enemies.” We must recognize both ourselves and them as being made in the image and likeness of God. We must treat them with kindness and with the love of God. We might disagree with their ideas or solutions, but we are called to love them as we love ourselves.
- We are tearing each other, our society, our Church apart. If we saw our nation’s enemies as acting this way, we would rejoice: They can’t last.” We mustn’t tear each other apart.
With true humility, we recognize God’s goodness in all of us, and we are guided by: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”