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Monday, June 24, 2024
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How can we navigate conflict as Christians this year?

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Image: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

I never liked playing team games. Mainly because I was half-blind, large and slow, but also because I didn’t enjoy being part of a team. Teams mean focus on shared goals and loyalty to members. I found that for me this meant a blinkered focus on the way ahead and spending time with people I hadn’t chosen.

Sides are still difficult for me. Religious questions have sides, political debates have them; so does almost every conversation. By ‘sides’, I don’t mean opinions, but something more like the sports teams of my childhood – a group we stick with, fight for and are loyal to. This may sound good in tribal terms but it can be an affront to reason.

Jesus asking us to forgive enemies is basically saying to us: don’t have enemies.

Some views of the governing Labor Party are good and some are terrible; some Coalition views are good and some terrible. I don’t take sides. I’d never join a political party myself and I’d say to anyone who does: never forget your principles not just your party loyalties; work at improving your party’s positions and not just its electoral results; be ready to resign your party if it gets it radically wrong; and be ready to acknowledge that sometimes the other side gets it right. Jesus asking us to forgive enemies is basically saying to us: don’t have enemies. There are no sides in the Redemption. Christ’s sacrifice means the world—the whole world—is reconciled as one. And is so whether it believes this or not.

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But isn’t the everyday reality that we must vote one way and not another, go to this church and not that, stand in the oval beside these supporters in the blue and not those in the green? Yes, of course – but only for now and only insofar as we are trying, ultimately, to bring the sides together. Reason – and Christian faith – tells us our real goal isn’t the narrow team goal: it’s the reconciliation of every team; and our loyalty isn’t to a side: it’s to the communion of persons, all together and under grace.

The real exposé of split-side mentality is that post-liberalism has decided there is really only one side to be on—the popular side or the side determined by the influencers and wokesters, popular or not. Choosing differently can threaten your name, your job, even your life. In post-liberal societies such as ours there are no arguments; instead, we use outrage, intimidation and deplatforming if you do not agree. In my youth, group-will embedded team loyalties; now it has dissolved the teams.

What will come next? It’s hard to say, but with a major war and economic depression affecting the whole world, some global shift in value is likely. Imagine if instead of school sports models, we acknowledged every good thought uttered by the opposing party, religion, nation or faction. It would become quite unclear what ‘opposing’ meant. And yet we could still play soccer….

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