By Mark Feldmeir
If you’ve grown weary of the hyper-partisanship that plagues and paralyzes our national debate; if you’re exhausted by the outrage industrial complex that vilifies those on the other side of the aisle; if you’re exasperated by our current culture of divisiveness that turns friends and family members into enemies and makes political progress impossible, there is a more hopeful, generous, and faithful alternative.
It’s based on the assumption that Americans are not nearly as polarized in their actual convictions as the current political rhetoric suggests. Polls consistently show that we have far more in common than we’ve been led to believe by the media, which are driven by profit, and our political institutions, which are motivated by power. Each are highly organized and resourced to amplify and exploit the differences between us. Each preach a message that elevates penultimate things over ultimate things. Each perpetuate a kind of dualistic thinking that coerces us to view our neighbors in terms of good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy. The result is that we have never before been so divided as a country and never more isolated, socially disconnected and lonely as individuals.
The antidote to this politics of contempt is not a politics of compromise which seeks to end disagreement. In our politics, as in our religion, we often tend to make idols out of centrism and middle ground. There is nothing inherently about noble or courageous about standing in the middle. Democracy, in fact, always thrives on the vigorous competition of opposing ideas. And the Christian witness always demands a prophetic spirit that drives us to the margins.
Consensus politics often lacks the moral courage to effectively dismantle the evils and injustices of our world, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, to name just a few. The politics of compromise is not the cure to what ails us.
These hyper-polarized times call us to transcend a politics of compromise in favor of a politics of compassion, which fosters a way of relating to others and responding to today’s issues with universal care, concern, and commitment for the sake of the flourishing of all human and non-human forms of life. By doing so, I believe we can re-order our everyday conversations and renew our commitment by practicing a kind of politics that embodies grace, reason, and humility, for our sake and the sake of the common good.
I invite you to journey through my book, A House Divided, as I explore some of the most controversial issues of our time -- health care, immigration, climate change, medical aid in dying, social isolation that leads to suicide -- these and many other issues that are so important to our national debate and our personal conversations.
Order your copy of A House Divided: Engaging the Issues through the Politics of Compassion today.
Watch the A House Divided video book trailer.
Mark Feldmeir has served as senior pastor at Saint Andrew United Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, since 2014. He previously led United Methodist congregations in San Diego and Orange County, California. Mark has served on the adjunct faculty at Claremont School of Theology, lectured at various conferences throughout the country on topics ranging from preaching, leadership, and pop culture, and is the author of three previous books.