A Flickering Beacon

The lines are drawn. The boundaries are set.

Deep trenches have been dug. 

Walls, moats, and impenetrable barriers have been set up.

Razor wire traces curlicues across the top of our parapets.

Each side glares across no man’s land at the other, ascribing the most craven and baseless motives to their actions. 

“You want to know what the devil himself looks like?” they ask. “Just take a look at THEM!”

Red and blue no longer make purple. Today they just seem to make mud.

And rising up in the middle of this tense terrain we hear voices wailing, “We have NEVER been so divided as a nation!”

To which I reply, “Stuff and nonsense.” After all…

  • It was only 57 years ago that this country passed the Civil Rights Act, national legislation that made it illegal to discriminate against people because of their race.
  • It was only 59 years ago that relationships between two people of the same gender were federally legalized.
  • It was only 64 years ago – well within my lifetime – that the governor of the state of Arkansas, Gov. Orval Faubus, ordered the National Guard to block the entrance to Little Rock’s Central high school in order to prevent nine African American students from attending the previously segregated high school.
  • It was only 100 years ago that women in this country were granted the right to vote.

Oh, no. We are indeed divided, but please don’t tell me we have never been more divided. 

From the very first day of our founding as a nation, these United States have been dramatically divided between haves and have-nots, blacks and whites, gays and straights, Norths and Souths, natives and immigrants, Christians and non-Christians, males and females, white collars and blue collars, and countless other sub-groupings.

We have defended our divisions, too. Blood has been shed and lives have been lost in the attempt to maintain those walls of separation and inequality.

The difference between then and now is that the light has finally been switched on. In the old days, we could close our eyes to those cultural/racial/economic/gender/social divisions and pretend they didn’t exist…

… [a practice, by the way, reserved for those of us born into the privileged classes.]

Today, thanks to social media and a 24/7 sleepless news cycle, we have to look. And when we do look, we can’t avoid seeing the reality of a nation that continues to fall short on delivering its “liberty and justice for all” credo.

Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32, NRSV). 

The truth is, deep divisions still remain in this country.

The truth is, this country still experiences serious injustice based on race, gender, sexuality, class, and ethnicity.

The truth is, lots and lots of people still value the maintenance of tribal loyalties more highly than the pursuit of the common good.

The truth is, this country can still stand as a beacon of civility, diversity, and honor in the world. 

The truth is, each of us is still invited to echo the words of King David, inviting God to; “Search me, God, and know my heart… See if there is any offensive way in me…” (Psalm 139:23 and 24, NRSV). 

The truth is, divisions are only dangerous if we see them as given, insurmountable obstacles instead of as the planks with which bridges might be built.

The truth is, God offers forgiveness to each of us who have helped foster greater division and animosity… and urges us to extend that same forgiveness to one another. 

The truth is, “… with God, ALL things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26, NRSV).

… INCLUDING reconciliation, justice, and healing.

Abundant blessings;

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