Anti-polarization: What can really bring people together?

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For about two years now, almost all the top news has been about some public figure doing something or saying something or having something revealed about him or her. The fallout has been a polarization and blatant separation the likes of which I have not experienced in my lifetime.

Political parties, genders, races, almost every possible crack of humanity seems orchestrated into division, argumentation and unrest. To be perfectly honest, it’s been an exhausting couple of years! Life is tough enough without the waters constantly being stirred up.

And for context, I’m putting these words to paper the Thursday when the latest Supreme Court nominee is having a hearing to hear testimony to clarify the story of one of the accusers of impropriety from years past.

I don’t know what the outcome of this is going to be, but I’m betting there will be no hand-holding with “Kum Ba Yah” being sung in the background!

However, I have experienced a couple of moments of non-polarization in recent weeks — moments when there was actually not even a hint of controversy, argumentation or “us versus them.” The irony is that the context of those two moments is actually in exact polar opposites.

The first context was one I suspect was pretty prevalent across parts of eastern North Carolina the past few weeks. It was in the path of hurricane Florence before, during and after its arrival.

My house is in Goldsboro. My church is in Wilson. Our family beach cottage is in Kill Devil Hills.

In preparing for the storm’s arrival in all three towns, there was a feeling of camaraderie, a commonality of purpose and indeed an overt helpfulness of EVERYONE perhaps because we were all joined against a common enemy — the weather.

During and after the storm, neighbors who normally kept to themselves came out of their caves.

Since we lost power (twice), I cranked up the grill and cooked for my house and the next as the winds blew. During debris cleanup, it was like the block party we never held before (and this is my parents’ old house that we’ve owned for 50 years)!

And everyone came together everywhere as a human front against nature’s fury.

The second context was at the mini-comic con we held at our church last weekend. We had a couple hundred people over three days come together engaged in conversation, sharing and worship — a vast diversity of cultural backgrounds — with all those in attendance at ease seemingly for the opposite reason of the above.

You see, rather than joined together against a common enemy of nature, the folks gathered in celebration of the “geek” culture found themselves in a very comfortable setting where even the most introverted folks were able to come out of their shell and join in the conversation and fun!

One might draw two opposite conclusions from what I have observed: that both a common enemy and a common interest can draw us together. It doesn’t even seem like that hard of a task to bring together those who in other contexts might be torn apart!

But, on the topic of division, I have another observation which I’ve noted from the news for the past couple of years and especially from what has been in the news the past week. In short: it takes a lot of energy to sow the seeds of division and to maintain that division.

Even in the two contexts I mentioned, there were minimal examples of attempts to go against the unanimity that was prevalent, but the energy level of those attempts to divide could not overcome the desire to be together. Indeed, the story of the Garden of Eden is the very first example of that negative energy injected to cause division!

The real problem is that if we are the ones expending negative energy to tear apart, we have wasted the energy we could use to build up.

And even if we are the ones trying to defend against the negative energy, we have to expend energy we could have used to build up in basically spinning our wheels. The end result is that there is an overall waste of all that potential. If we push or pull in opposite directions, nothing moves at all. But if we move in the same direction, even the most seemingly immovable object can budge!

What brings us together is to remember that we are on the same team. We are on the team called humanity.

We are all created by the same God, and therefore ALL God’s children! We are called together against the enemies who try to hurt us. We are called together by the needs and desires of the human condition.

In fact, we are called together by Divine design. However, that which separates now is the same as that which waltzed into the Garden just after creation.

It masks itself as self-righteous indignation and many other feigned niceties, but, as always, it is simply the same Father of Lies who tries to break the ties that bind.

And perhaps if we realized that division is just another name for Satan, we could join together against our true enemy and find ourselves as one!

Pastor Zach Harris has been an ordained minister for 27 years and currently serves Ascension Lutheran Church in Wilson. His column, “Through a Lutheran Lens: A Pastor’s Perspective,” will appear regularly in The Wilson Times. Previous columns are available at WilsonTimes.com.