Loving a Divided Nation
The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities recently had the privilege of hearing Arthur C. Brooks, a conservative columnist and author of the forthcoming book, Love your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt.1 As a Christian and an ardent capitalist, Brooks reminded us that Jesus requires more than mere tolerance or respect for those we see as our enemies: He enjoins us to love them—thereby offering a path to national unity in the midst of our severe divisions.
Ross Douthat, in his book Bad Religion, reminds us that in the 1950s—a period known for the highest rates of church attendance in all of American history—the church stood as the primary unifier of our nation.2 But even as the decade progressed, the sexual revolution, together with a liberal theology that denied Biblical authority and even the divinity and resurrection of Jesus, would drive a stake through the heart of Christian unity. Liberal Christians went a new way and evangelicals sought to stand their apostolic ground. As the divide got sharper between Christians, the culture wars set in and national politics grew more and more bitter with each battle.
Over the recent holidays, many bemoaned the fact that our divisions are splitting families apart, as progressives and conservatives often cannot even talk without a bitter fight breaking out. Jesus certainly knew that the Gospel would separate families (Matthew 10:34–36), but surely He did not mean for partisan politics to do so. During the 2016 election, a number of pastors around the country went so far as to tell their members that voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton would be immoral or would make them unwelcome at the church. Since Jesus commanded us to preach the Gospel to everyone (Mark 16:15), we must keep the lines of communication open with our neighbors and our “enemies”—both of which Jesus has called us to love.
The command to love our enemies means that no matter how hard we may fight to win our political battles—and I believe that we should contend vigorously for what we believe to be in the nation’s best interest—we should never do it in such a way that a reasonable person would conclude that we hate or despise those who disagree with us. Christian citizens have every responsibility to struggle hard for their values in the public square, but the One who has called us to love our enemies and our neighbors requires us to do so in a way that communicates our sincere love for everyone. We can once again unify the nation if we prioritize loving all of our neighbors in the midst of any cause our conscience may propel us to champion.
1 Arthur C. Brooks, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt.
2 Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.