How God — and Only God — Can Heal Our Divisions

By Tom Gilson Published on November 12, 2017

Conservatives and progressives both desperately want to heal our divisions in America. Sometimes I get the sense that progressives don’t believe that of conservatives, but I think most progressives do, and I’m willing to say kudos to them for that.

Except the way they’re going about it is hopelessly doomed to failure. Where unity is needed, their policies promote anger and division. Where truly human freedom of spirit is needed, they’re being driven by guilt instead, and driving us along with them.

Answers That Fail

The pain in our land is deep, the anger is hot, the hurts are real and the danger of it all has risen way too close to the surface. The angle progressives typically take on mending that is to try controlling the people into getting along through policy and law. As if that ever worked!

No, the best high-control approaches could hope to produce is a surface pseudo-mutuality: everyone doing their best not to offend, forever looking back over their shoulder at the enforcers, always focused above all on making sure they won’t break any rules that will get them in trouble.

You call that unity? I call it pretense. You call it freedom? I call it chains.

Some people think whites deserve those chains, in retribution for chains wrapped around black slaves’ ankles and necks earlier in our history, and for continuing injustices against African Americans up to this day. It isn’t just blacks who think so. It’s mood that seems to be just as common among progressive whites.

But a culture of punishment is still a culture of control, fear and anger. It isn’t just the ones being punished who suffer in such an atmosphere. Everyone loses.

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Neither, however, would it be right to just shrug off the wrongs done against a large portion of Americans. Unfortunately there are whites who want to do that. Unfortunately (also) that’s partly attributable to extreme measures some people think it would take to make up for all the wrongs. It’s hard to think clearly about real problems when the only solutions you hear are completely over-the-top. And unworkable. And unlikely to solve the real problem anyway.

The Answer We Need

What we need instead is an answer that takes the wrongs seriously, but leads to a unifying solution, not a divisive one. We need an answer that doesn’t brush off guilt but resolves it and brings healing.

I’m convinced their answer is the same one our whole country needs.

I’ve seen that kind of answer in action. One of my best friends made a very serious mistake a few years back. It was a while before I met him, but I can attest to the whole story, especially its good outcome.

Brad had just moved from pastoring a large church in Michigan to another large church in South Carolina, when he chose to commit adultery. It devastated his family, forced him out of the one decent job he know how to do, and above all just about destroyed his marriage.

But not quite. For they all found healing together in Christ. Brad and his wife, Heidi, told their story recently in an interview with Lee Strobel. I’m convinced their answer is the same one our whole country needs. It’s about taking sin seriously, and then letting God do His healing work. Which we all need.

The interview here should pick up at the key moment, but if not, you might want to fast forward to about 11:30.

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  • Andrew Mason

    You have far more faith in progressives than I do! Oh I’m sure there’s some who earnestly want to solve things but it’s not the theoretical progressive I think of when I think of regressives. What leaps to mind for me are the ones who incite the burning of churches, who call for the crucifixion of Christians and other dissenters, who want to forcibly indoctrinate all children in their depraved beliefs, who want … Conservatives and regressives disagree about good and evil, what needs solving, what needs preserving, and I suspect pretty much everything under the sun. Without divine intervention I don’t see a happy ending..

    • That group exists, Andrew. I don’t think everyone on the left is like that, though.

      • Andrew Mason

        Does a distinction perhaps need to be made between progressivesregressives and those merely on the Left?

  • tz1

    I see this as pointless – you can give an anecdote without practical advice.

    The division is as deep as what “justice” means. Social Justice Warriors don’t want anything Aquinas would recognize as justice.

    The division is simple. “Take the wrongs seriously” to the right generally means identifying a specific sin or crime, then giving due process, then determining the just deserts and implenting and/or enforcing them. To the left, it is admitting some kind of privilege or guilt detached from any actual fact or act or condition (Solzhenitsyn and his progenitors were in Russia and suffered but apparently he was also guilty of some white oppression).

    “Our children are doing badly” – Ok, then end the teacher’s union monopoly and you stop having them out of wedlock – wait to get married first. But I guess I don’t understand.

    “We have a lot of our race in prison”. – Ok, join with me to end the war on drugs, but avoid crime – and that includes bad checks, robbery, burglary, etc. Oh, and maybe join with me and Trump to recreate the Blue Collar jobs of the 1950”s that lifted black families out of poverty. But I guess I don’t understand.

    If sin is collective, then look at Abortion where the blood of 60 million innocents in the USA since roe should worry all of us, and no one wants to talk about it, including the disproportionate murder of black babies. A church is bombed killing 3 girls in the 1960’s and it is a tragedy. But the KKKlinics murders hundreds daily and it is? what? Racism and oppression doesn’t kill directly. Abortion does.

    If sin in individual, then the key is to accuse the individual, in charity and with process, pastors, and individually, but eventually if guilt is clear, publicly and the church and/or courts and handle things.

    So which is it? What do you want?

    • His wasn’t intended as an outline of strategy. Rather I was hoping it would contribute to people’s awareness that where there are deep divisions because of serious wrongdoing, healing can only really come through applying the gospel to our relationships. In a short piece like this, it’s not possible to do more than about that much.

      Abortion is a huge problem and we address it as such here at The Stream. It’s not our nation’s only problem, thought. Pointing to it does not make those other problems go away.

      Social Justice Warriors are morally confused and no help at all. That, too, is a problem, yet again, pointing to it doesn’t make other real problems disappear.

      I think the worst thing SJWs have done has been to distort the “solutions” so badly, and with such unfortunately widespread influence, that ordinary people with common sense think they can’t acknowledge the problem without buying in to the “solutions.” What we should be doing is seeing racial inequity for what it is (The Stream posted a good article on that by Josh Shepherd very recently), and applying real gospel- entered solutions.

      But again, it wasn’t my purpose to propose those solutions in this short article. I just wanted to turn attention to the truth that God heals divisions His way.

  • Chip Crawford

    We can talk of symptoms or we can be part of carrying out the answers. Since God is certainly the only one who can fix things, do the heavy lifting, etc., etc., then perhaps a single focus on seeking him is in order across the board. However, if you believe in hyper sovereignty, then why discuss it. That becomes a matter of biding your time until he gets around to it. If you believe God sovereignly inspired the Bible, then what it relates is the way he has chosen to carry out his will. The NT, the most relevant part for the church, reveals that it is not all up to him. He has chosen to use men. You cannot delegate back to God what he has delegated to you. This works for an individual and it works for the Body of Christ. So, back to showing up in the a.m. and seeking with all our hearts, hearing his instructions, and carrying them out. Those who are about doing that very thing, are doing the work of the ministry, some doing double to triple duty these days. Those waiting on God to move “sovereignly” are essentially causing that, of course, in ignorance.

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