Just get along and work together
A friend recently posted as her facebook status a sentiment familiar to us all:
[I hate] politics. Why can’t we all just get along and work together? Today, I’m thanking God that this place is not my home.
“We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.” 1 Chronicles 29:15
I’m with her on the majority of that status. That first bit, though? I understand the sentiment; I think we all feel that desire for peaceable cooperation in love, and we all look forward to the day when our many differences no longer divide us, when our unity in Christ really does supersede all else and our disagreements fall away.
There’s are many reasons we can’t all just get along and work together, though.
For one, we are not yet at that day. We live now “between the times”, in the age between Christ’s first and second advents, when the kingdom of heaven is breaking in but the present age remains dark and full of wickedness. Those are unusual words to use in the context of modern politics, but the reality of human evil ought not be taken lightly. We can’t all just get along, in part, because some people want what is evil. Light has no common ends with darkness – still less common means.
So we shouldn’t be surprised, at that abstract level, that we run into conflict – sometimes profound – with others in this world, including in the political realm. We have different ultimate aims and different views about how to accomplish those aims; we therefore also have different proximate aims and means (and, God willing, they look more than a little different from those of the world around us).
At the day-to-day level of politics, too, we find good reason to be in conflict. To be sure, we’d all like a healthier economy, and we’d like to find ways to build better infrastructure for our country, and so forth. There are a few things most Americans agree are good goals. But we differ even on how to achieve those goals. It’s not so simple as to say, “Let’s all just get along and work together.” Of course, it would be nice if we could – but how do we square that with fundamentally different visions of how to achieve the same ends? If I think the way to a better economy is through tax cuts and you think it’s through raising taxes, how exactly will we work together? We can get along – in the sense of politeness and good civic discourse – but the sorts of differences that undergird even these agreeable areas of politics are not the sort that can be simply brushed under the rug or ignored. They are substantive and important.
The stakes only get higher as we get out into “culture war” territory. It’s one thing to suggest we should all get along and work together on the economy; there, at least, we’re all in agreement that (a) it’s in bad shape and (b) we want it to be in better shape. What about an issue like abortion, though? Here we find ourselves on polar opposite sides of a divide – an insurmountable divide. There can be no cooperation when one side believes the other hates women; and on the other hand, one side believes the other is legitimizing mass murder. How, exactly, are we supposed to work together? How are we even supposed to get along? Again, politeness is one thing, but being more than charitable to someone in favor of prenatal infanticide? No, thanks; I’ll pass.
Politics, it is true, is messy. Too often even the areas where we could just get along and work together are tainted by sin, our possibilities derailed by unchained avarice. But much of the rancor in our current political discourse is not entirely unjustified, at least insofar as the substance of our disagreement with one another is great and growing. Again: let us be kind; let us be winsome; let us be generous and disagree with a laugh. But let us do so recognizing that our opponents are unlikely to do likewise, and that there is simply no room for just getting along and working together on some of these issues.
As ever, we pray, “Lord come soon.” And in the meantime, we deal with the realities of a world still subject to sin; we must be wise as serpents as well as gentle as doves.