"Smile On Your Brother", Mural on Bleecker Street, Greenwich Village, NY by Rico Fonseca
Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. - Romans 13:11-12
Those of us who claim to be followers of the Way of Jesus are being put to the test. Deep divisions reside among us. I for one have been accused of being divisive myself; of posting "hatred" on social media. But hatred is not the motive for voicing convictions. For most of us, despite our differences, that is one thing that we would agree on. There is hatred in this world, to be sure. But for the Christian, hate is not an option. What truly creates division, I believe, is not hatred but darkness.
And here's the rub: each "side" of the political and social spectrum that we find ourselves believes the other is lost in darkness. That is what makes conversation, and therefore reconciliation, so difficult. We can't even agree on the facts. We live in complete different realities, it would seem. Different truths.
This is not new, either in our society or in the Church. What is new is the access we have to one another that is at that same time instant, personal and without the accountability of a full encounter. We express only parts of ourselves on social media, and hear only parts of others. In some ways, we are able to span the globe on a daily basis, crossing geographic and cultural lines with the click of our finger; in other ways, we are able to build stronger and more impenetrable walls between us on a daily basis.
There are efforts to bring about constructive civil discourse. Braver Angels brings together Republicans and Democrats to have fruitful experiences of getting past barriers and truly listening to one another. The And Campaign seeks to educate and organize Christians for civic and cultural engagement that reaches across the aisle.
In these and other efforts, we are being asked to engage more fully with each other. Can we succeed? Perhaps, but it will require something that we all tend to avoid: vulnerability. We like to hide. We like to stay where we are comfortable. We like to use our computer screens as a veil. Darkness feels oddly safe.
"Many men who would not tell a lie, yet seem to have faith in concealment:
they would rather not reveal the truth;
darkness seems to offer them the cover of a friendly wing.
But there is no veil like light---
no adamantine armour against hurt like the truth.
- George MacDonald, The Marquis of Lossie