by Greg Sharp
A friend posted on Facebook a couple weeks ago that he noticed where his friends sit on the political spectrum seemed to correspond to their opinion on the Ferguson issue. I connected with this observation because personally I have wrestled with how my own political leanings have filtered the way I receive information.
Certainly, the Ferguson case was highly complex with a mountain of evidence including conflicting eyewitness testimony. One can’t help but feel for those on the grand jury tasked with making sense of it, judging only the merits of the case while trying to limit influence from the layers upon layers of historical social context or even ones own biases or predispositions.
Those of us outside the walls of the grand jury deliberation room are free to offer up speculation, conjecture and even conspiracy theories however we wish. Such is life in a free and open society. In a political climate such as America in this century, seemingly everything becomes politicized to some degree, from organic food to christmas decorations to immigration. Now we can add in another national news story about a death caused by police in New York, and it’s starting to look like so much going on in the world is dividing us into camps.
However, as followers of Jesus we are often at pains to square our political beliefs with the teachings of Christ, and these tragic stories are no different. We put on our political glasses and observe the world through those filtered lenses, receiving only information that confirms our biases. We all want so badly for the facts to line up with our politically predisposed assumptions that it is easy to lose sight of the real three-dimensional human beings at the heart of the story.
We all want so badly for the facts to line up with our politically predisposed assumptions that it is easy to lose sight of the real three-dimensional human beings at the heart of the story.
I am as guilty of this as anyone. I want my side to win as much as anyone. It’s very difficult for me to not get pulled into comment section flame wars or 140-character Twitter battles when I feel my own worldview being questioned. I’ll be darned if I’m going to let some troll with an offensive avatar get away with chipping at the firmly held foundational beliefs that I’ve spent most of my adult life building up and fortifying.
The media is no help. Pitting pundits against each other nightly, the networks seem to have a stake in how big a story becomes. If they can stoke the fires of anger on either side, that means bigger ratings and another night of unrest. Lather, rinse, repeat.
As to the question of why so many issues are so neatly split down party lines, I think I can best sum that all up with one word: narrative. Both sides have a narrative that they tend to jump to regardless of the facts or circumstances, and often these storylines are written even before all the facts have come out. Facts are irrelevant to narrative. Both sides want you to look at the world through your red or blue colored glasses. I’m reminded of a song that speaks to our tribal mentality called You Don’t Have To Yell.
Draw your lines and choose your side
Cause many things are worth the fight
But louder doesn’t make you right
As I watched our President speak several weeks ago, sharing a split screen with riotous mobs busting out storefronts and tipping over police cars, it occurred to me that perhaps my political inclinations didn’t really matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. Frankly, I didn’t care one way or the other about the politics of those involved.
I just wanted Jesus.
In the midst of the madness of a mob gone wild, all under the din of a juxtaposed “Seasons Greetings” sign over Ferguson, I longed for a savior that could bring peace and understanding. If I try to look at the world through Jesus’ eyes, the color of my lenses don’t seem to matter all that much. Jesus’ heart breaks for all His children, no matter what “team” they’re on.
Even still, I find myself asking where Jesus is in all of it. I’m not going to pretend to know the answer but maybe that’s the point. I can’t make sense of senseless violence, but I know the one who can. In our hopelessness, there can only be the hope of Jesus, the promised creator, sustainer and redeemer of all the world.
This Advent we have been on a journey during the Season of Promise, and on Sunday we met Jesus as the Key of David; the only one with authority to break into the darkness. Our world is sick with sin and there is only one antidote.
And in the mayhem and misery, we cry, “maranatha! Come, Lord.”
“You Don’t Have To Yell” by Chris Rice