12.13.2005

Polarization

In response to yesterday's post Igford Muley wrote

Does polarization really exist or is it something created by the media? Aren't the terms "right" and "left" just applied as a way to write sweeping generalizations about people?

Seriously, what does it mean to be a liberal or conservative Christian? Should I start sorting out my Christians friends and labeling them?

It may appear that I know what I'm talking about, but I don't. These are just random thoughts.


Random thoughts are great, they tend to be the most fruitful for discussion. At first I want to echo Igford's reaction. Terms like right/left, liberal/conservative, etc. are indeed "a way to write sweeping generalizations about people." Taken too far and pursued too specifically we can pigeon-hole people, which is what I think Igford is questioning. No, one need not sort out his/her Christian friends and label them! However, I am at a loss as to how anyone might speak of the general population and not speak in "sweeping generalizations." I am afraid this way of speaking is not a creation of "the media" (itself a sweeping generalization!). The Bible itself speaks of Jews, Gentiles, scribes, Pharisees, tax-collectors etc. as if all Jews were the same and all Pharisees were of a certain ilk. It is only when we get specific glimpses of particular scribes or Pharisees or tax-collectors that these sweeping generalizations are either confirmed or called into question, but either of these must be done with specific people and not with whole groups. We have to speak of larger groups in sweeping generalizations. There is no other way. But if we are to follow the way of Jesus we work toward seeing people apart from the general categories we might place them in. We see in the rough fishermen disciples, we see in the conniving tax-collector a beneficent community member, we see in the sinner a child of God. What we have to avoid is seeing the right-winger as a potential left-winger if we could only convince them of the merits of the left (or vice-versa depending on which "generalization" one tends to be associated with).

2 comments:

Igford said...

Woohoo. Somebody paid attention to me!

You know, we could all be in the same room, and we could still describe each other by which side of the room that we each were closer to. It isn't too hard to call one the right and one a the left. But we're still in the same room... so at what point does this get called polarization? Is it when we each have our backs to the walls? What would cause us to do that?

If it were up to me, we'd all be equator Christians and we'd all have glorious tans.

I like your blog.

beth said...

chris, if your dissertation is written anything like this post - they will have to love it. the way you worded that last bit of how the Bible talks of groups and then, Jesus shows us individuals, was wonderful. i loved it.