“Even though we have known each other since first grade, I have made the decision to unfriend you. I can no longer tolerate your ignorant, uninformed, unintegrated, imbecile posts on Facebook!”
I was filled with a wide array of emotions as I read this post from one of my friends to another. Due to their prolific posting on social media I was acutely aware of their polar opposite political perspectives. Yet in a million years I would never have imagined that lifelong friends would decide to completely sever their relationship – significant political / world view differences or not.
As a youngster my recollection of my father was that my father had very strong political opinions. On many occasions I would overhear him deep in debate with a friend or colleague. And he also had a great sense of humor. One of my favorite childhood memories was when he made a concrete sign (that’s right, concrete) and in the dark of the night he placed that sign in the yard of a good friend with a different political perspective. Everyone found great fun in my dad’s high jinks. As such, part of my story that I often share with people is how much I appreciated the diversity of the culture in which I grew up – socioeconomic, race, religion, and yes, political.
Are those days gone forever? Frankly, I am often flabbergasted, if not completely offended, by what some of the people I consider good friends post on social media. Many of them I have attempted to engage in meaningful dialogue. This too often quickly moves to a death grip position in which they have no interest in exploring any other perspective. The absolute epitome of complete tone deafness, of binary positioning manifested in right and wrong, us and them, winners and losers.
Recently, I received from Beth Sarah Wright a copy of her new book entitled, DIGNITY – Seven Strategies for Creating Authentic Communities. I found this to be an intriguing read and a great approach for individuals to engage each other. And that in my opinion that is what is critical – engagement! “Will you strive for justice and peace among ALL PEOPLE, and RESPECT the DIGNITY of EVERY HUMAN BEING?” This for me, is centermost in the Baptismal Covenant of the Episcopal Church. It is, I believe, the very embodiment of love God, love neighbor, love self.
In the end history has repeatedly shown that cultures that move to the great chasm of polarization never thrive (A house divided cannot stand – Matthew 12:22-28 / President Lincoln). On the other hand, cultures that have created space for openness, if not appreciation for wide ranging perspectives, holding higher the value of relationship than opinion, thrive in terms of overall life satisfaction. It is within our grasp, the dream of Beloved Community can become a reality. It begins with each of us committing to bring a baseline understanding that each of us is a beloved child of God, and as such, each individual’s dignity being worthy of respect.