I don’t think we really appreciate how radical the Good Samaritan parable is. Sure, we would all agree in theory that we should be a good neighbor to all people. But the uncomfortable truth about what Jesus is saying in this parable is that you should be a good neighbor to somebody even if you absolutely hate their guts. Even if you adamantly despise their worldview. Admittedly, that is a hard pill to swallow.
With a quick look around at the state of society today, one would immediately recognize how tragically we have missed the mark in terms of incorporating Jesus’ message into our culture. It seems we are allowing ourselves to become more polarizing and divisive with time instead of reconciling our differences and treating each other with the patience and empathy we would expect others to show us.
What is so tragic is that at the end of the day, we all seek the same goal, don’t we? We all want to make the world a better place to live in; we just don’t all have the same idea of what that looks like. Despite what one might think after watching cable news, I believe that there are more things that we can agree on than there are irreconcilable differences between us. Yet we too often allow our pride and laziness cripple our ability to produce meaningful change, and instead we end up bickering like children over proper tactics. Or even worse, we spend more time tearing each other down than actually working towards our common goal of social healing.
This reminds me of a study my preacher back home told me about. The premise of this experiment was to get two people with radically different political views on a hot button issue and have them spend two weeks in close contact together while they go about their respective activism. No, the results did not include a trip to the emergency room, as anyone with a Twitter account might have guessed. Instead they walked away with a greater respect and understanding of where their so called “political enemy” was coming from.
This column will seek to bring about a similar healing shown in this study and raise the level of empathy and understanding that is expressed on this campus, particularly when it comes to controversial issues. The solution to our divided culture is not to avoid these types of awkward conversations altogether. Ignorance cannot be accepted as bliss. There is a middle ground where we must operate what lies between malicious confrontation and total detachment. We can care about change and improving the problems that exist in our society without screaming for revolution.
What we are seeing far too much of today are people essentially saying: “It is more important to me for my ideas and agenda to become actualized than to solve this problem in harmony with others.” This column seeks to reject such arrogance, and instead say: “We can address controversial and divisive issues in a civil and productive way by establishing an understanding of mutual respect and common interests.”
I will be addressing a variety of current issues with the hopes of starting an open conversation that seeks to bridge the differences in opinion that might divide us in thought and relationship. I firmly believe that a conversation rooted in mutual respect paired with the desire to put thought into action can do more to change the world than holding up a sign that says “I’m right and you’re wrong.” Part of my desire for this column is for it to be a true dialogue. If I write about a topic and you disagree with my take on it, I encourage you to respond to the invitation that will conclude all of my articles and write a rebuttal piece of your own that can be printed in a later issue.
The solution to polarization and gridlock is not to duck your head, clench your fists, grind your teeth and plow over an obstacle that stands in your way. A lasting, genuine solution would look more like sitting down with whatever your version of a Samaritan might be and having a conversation. So let’s start talking.