One of Stan Laurel’s most-quoted lines pretty much sums up where we are in this country just now. How did it happen?
While MizM has been covered over with term papers, I’ve been contemplating the tough question of how the left and the right, political and religious, might be able to get out of their respective entrenched positions and start talking to each other in ways that can be heard. (Of course, we’d have to want to do it, but let’s assume for the sake of this reflection that there’s a critical mass with that desire. I had mine rekindled by taking the Pax Christi nonviolence pledge last week.) As I think about this, I have wondered how in the world we ever got to this extreme polarization in the first place.
The other day I read a column about road rage that contained a clue. It’s a concept called “naive realism,” which is basically the assumption that everybody sees the world the same as I do. The naive realist doesn’t see that her view of the world is just as much an interpretation as is everyone else’s view. My divinity school advisor was fond of quoting Eric Hoffer thus: “Be careful how you interpret the world; it is like that.” There’s a cool paper from Stanford on the implications of naive realism for social conflict and misunderstanding, if you feel like really getting inside the concept.
For a couple of recent examples of how this plays out, see the flaps in the North Carolina Baptist congregation, where 9 members were voted out for being Democrats, and at the Jesuit publication America, where the editor was forced out for differing from the Vatican. I’m still not clear on how we get out of the polarization, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be by dissing and name-calling, or by banishing those who differ from us. Humility all around and real listening on both sides could be a start to get us all out of this morass.
One huge factor shaping the consciousness of the evangelical community is the growing power and reach of “Christian media.” In case you missed it, here’s an informative piece on the subject from CJR entitled, ironically, “Stations of the Cross.”