I learned recently that we are not only divided between red states and blue states; America is divided between cat states and dog states. That's right. There are states, primarily up north, with more cats than dogs (at least 20% more), and other states, primarily in the deep south, where there are more dogs than cats. In other states, including both of the Carolinas, the number of dogs and cats is relatively the same.
Here's a little quiz for you: which political party tends to have more dogs than cats? Republicans tend to have more dogs than Democrats; Democrats tend to have slightly more cats than Republicans do. Now, what you will ever be able to do with that information, I have no clue. But at least now you know.
We stand today as a very polarized country. When we try to have political conversations, we immediately find our blood pressure rising when other people are saying things with which we disagree. Before they even finish speaking, we've already formulated our response to their arguments. We really don't listen very carefully anymore. Even more, there is a spirit about our partisanship in this country that leaves us deeply divided.
I think of Abraham Lincoln's words during the Civil War, quoting Jesus: "A house divided against itself cannot stand." I also think of a passage from Paul's letter to the Ephesians, a church that was in great conflict. He said, "Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, that your words may give grace to those who hear." Can you imagine how politics would look differently if we all practiced that?
There are ways that we can act as peacemakers, as part of the solution, and not part of the problem. James 1:19 is a verse that maybe we should keep in front of us until the election in November: "Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God's righteousness." Maybe God gave us two ears and one mouth in direct proportion to how much God wants us to listen, and then to speak.
An amazing thing happens when we stop to listen to people. We find that people come together, and as opposed to building walls, they build bridges. We have a choice to practice politics in the way that we've been doing it, or we can decide that we're going to let no evil talk come out of our mouths, but only what is useful for building others up, and that we might be "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry." If we do, I believe we have a chance to become part of the solution, and not the problem. And that's my hope for us.
In the name of the One who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
Bruce Jones, Pastor and Co-Creator,
Imagine Church of the Carolinas