Profiling And Dividing

Think about your identity. How do you identify yourself? Think about how we identify others. “Oh he is a doctor.” or “She is a lawyer.”, “Suzie is the wife of Bob and a stay at home mom of 3.”, “He’s rich”, “They’re poor”, “Oh they’re so liberal.”, “She’s a Republican.” and so on. We use a lot of culture marks to identify and classify people. Just this past year our government had a nationwide Census to get statistics on different classes in the U.S. This is how we talk, and view people in our world. It’s like a grid, to navigate and make sense of things. We think it helps simplify in knowing about a person. “He is a white, male, father, engineer, middle class, Catholic, American, Democrat.” But the unfortunate reality is that these classifications often generalize and don’t tell the whole story. They bring about a judgement of a person that could be way off. A person may drive around in a brand new BMW, but does that automatically make them rich? What if they live in a poor neighborhood and shop for clothes at Amvets to pay for that BMW? We do this all the time in so many different ways. If you supported Trump, you're automatically labeled a right wing, racist fanatical. If you voted for Biden, you're automatically a liberal, left wing, nutcase that’s also a baby killer. Even though this isn’t true for a lot of the supporters in each camp, the label and thus the identity is marked.

The world likes to create boxes to put us in and then label us. And we also will play that game in our own minds. What worries me is that this type of mental approach to others is permeating more and more into the American church. We make snap judgments without knowing all the information. The same lines that are drawn in the world, are also being drawn inside God’s house. And when lines are drawn, division is not far behind. While we have always viewed people in this type of categorical game, I think two events and one communication medium has been an accelerant to classifying, judging and then dividing people in the church.

The two events I’m referring to are the election and corona. This has been a very tumultuous, unprecedented type of year. The nation as a whole has been very divided on both of these topics. For the election you have those that support Biden and those that support Trump. There is a third group that wishes there was a third option, but they don’t have a voice. With this, are two nicely placed boxes to dump people into; those for Biden and those for Trump. Then following this dichotomy comes much judging. You voted for Trump; you’re a racist and a bigot. You supported Biden; you're a socialist, marxist left wing nutcase. The judging is also within the church. Leading up to the election there were many prominent, godly, sound christian leaders that put out there who they were supporting and why. And it was anything but a unified front for the christian community. Following this was a lot of judging, labeling, and yes dividing, of these leaders by the Christian community. You saw a lot of people in the church claiming allegiance to certain men or women because of their political stance and thus declaring it the “christian” stance.

The same is also happening with people’s views on corona. You have those that are taking it seriously and those that are not. And thus again we have two nicely built boxes to corral people into. And again, we have the judging that goes along with it. If you take it seriously; you are believing lies and giving into fear and giving up your freedoms. If you don’t take it seriously; you are unloving, careless and believe in conspiracy theories instead of science. And yes, once again this is pervading the church. You have churches all over America not sure on what to do. You have some that are ignoring all the government mandates and you have others that are following them. And yet again it is dividing the church. You have christians claiming on each side that their side is right and using scripture to support it.

Then you have the medium of communication being used that makes this all a toxic waste media. Social media is like a megaphone. you blast out a few sentences for all the world to see. So in turn, everyone that reads it makes a decision and an  opinion on you automatically. What is gone is the discussion. the old rebook back and forth the exchange of ideas and opinions. We jump to conclusions (oftentimes wrong ones) based on only a snippet of information.  If I gave you 3 sentences out of a 400 page book, how accurate would your assessment be of that book? Yet that is exactly what we are doing with people! We are making definitive judgements on people with hardly any information. You don’t have any context, you don’t hear the person's tone and you don’t see any facial expressions!

Also social media has emboldened people. It is amazing what people will type on their phone or computer that they would never say to them face to face. Social media has created much conflict that was never there before. Friends, families and unfortunately even the church cut each other  back and forth online. It’s all about one-upping the other guy to show all who reads that you’re right and they’re wrong. Everyone’s grappling for the “gotcha” statement to deliver the final blow. It’s all about “winning” and saving face. It’s about embarrassing, humiliating and proving the other person wrong. It’s not about healthy discussion. It’s not about learning and growing. It’s not about respecting and loving others.

And here we are. with two divisive events and social media to dishonestly relay information, there is a lot of division in the church. We are doing what Paul warned us not to do by labeling and dividing. “For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” - 1 Corinthians 1:11-13

This leads back to my early question of how do you identify yourself and others? Because as christians our identity is with Christ (Galatians 2:20, Colossians 3:3). But unfortunately we are identifying with other people and other groups. Let us not forget that we are His children and our identity is with Him. Not a certain political party, not with a certain pastor/author and not with a certain viewpoint on covid. Let us not think as the world thinks but have the mind of Christ. Let us not label and categorize as the world does. Let us openly communicate face to face with each other and remember who we really are as Christians. We are who God says we are, not the world.
“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” 
Galatians 5:14-15

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