Is Polarization the Problem?
An article has been making the rounds on social media this week that makes the common claim that “polarization” is the big social problem of our day. But is it?
The article is “The Evangelical Church is Breaking Apart” by Peter Wehner. There is some helpful stuff in the article, namely the focus on the lack of catechesis in the church, the self-interested “gasoline-on-the-fire” effect of social media in amplifying anger and hate, and the intentional stoking of fear by leaders to consolidate power, BUT…
Politics is not mere ideology
The article laments the “politicization” of the church, and in doing so makes the mistake of conflating “politics” with mere ideology, as if the only thing at stake is which disembodied, abstract ideas are correct.
This is the mistake that allows (mainly white) people to think that “polarization” is more of a problem than the power structures that are actually causing real harm to human bodies. Racism and patriarchy, for example.
Politics is embodied and material
I’ve been learning the last few years that Christianity has always been “political,” and “politics” is about embodied, material solidarity with actual people, not merely abstract ideas to agree or disagree about.
The politics of Jesus is thus not just to make everyone “get along,” it is to stand in material, bodily solidarity with the marginalized and oppressed, and let the “polarization” chips fall where they may.
I’d recommend two books if you want to explore more about this:
- How to Have an Enemy: Righteous Anger and the Work of Peace, by Melissa Florer-Bixler
- Scandalous Witness: A Little Political Manifesto for Christians, by Lee C. Camp
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