For example, whether you voted democrat or republican or for a particular candidate has become so hot a polarized issue that if you name or state what you did, an opinion is already formed about you, but no "side" is willing to really hear out and listen to the other side because they have pronounced judgment on the other. We have friends and family on both sides of the current (2016-2017) political spectrum. I listen to both and understand a good deal of both sides concerns, but what is so heartbreaking is seeing that some will never talk to or listen to each other. It is the tearing apart of the fabric of human connection by the means of polarization.
There is a lynch mob mentality being generated in our culture by this polarization, and it is the language of "hate" being justified by perceived hate or offense. People who don't hate are being made to look like mindless haters, and thereby justifying feelings of hate against them. This is not good for anyone.
The real enemy here is polarization and black and white thinking and people forcing a polarized view. When only part of a story is told or people are reduced to caricatures of who they really are, and others are pressed to form a quick opinion with limited information, it creates conflict in an information vacuum.
It does appear that this viewpoint is to the advantage of media that want to grab your reaction to a perceived wrong, often making someone look more wrong than they are just to get you to read the content. There are some non negotiables for individual Christians, like the necessity of Jesus Christ. But other issues like republican or democrat are not deal breakers. I recently attended a conference where the people in the conference, unrelated to church, could not stop talking about a recent national decision. The conference centered on one aspect of abuse, but the intolerance and abusive attitude toward the people who voted differently was constant, and they had no clue because they felt so strongly that they were right, they felt their outrage was justified. Those who shared a different viewpoint are perhaps equally intolerant. It does not make for dialogue. There was a time when people knew how to disagree but still remain agreeable. I believe in many cases we can take the time to agree to disagree and still have common ground.
How do we do this? We listen to people and try to step into their shoes and understand where they come from. Recognize that media, TV, friends, family, work associates, people we connect with often want to move us to action to join their cause and share their viewpoint. It helps to sort through what we believe, and still be open to dialog. When you became a Christian, you may have been pressured to take sides on political and ethical issues.
If you believe God heals, you may be perceived as someone who is against medical care, even though you regularly obtain medical care yourself and recommend people see their doctor for medical issues. If you are concerned about thimerisol and reactions to vaccinations, you may be presumed to be some horrific monster who would prevent children from getting the health care they need. Similar polarization occurs on many other issues that are heated and controversial. If we take time to listen to the other side, those issues have validity and are worth a hearing. We can hear that people are concerned children are well cared for, and people are also concerned about iatrogenic illness. I am not promoting a position, but promoting dialogue and understanding. Otherwise there is just inflamed oppositional controversy, with a rift growing larger and larger.
It is a manipulation tactic to force sides and call question on an issue. The Bible talks about answering a matter before hearing it. Many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, are treated like they have just walked into a room with two other people, and one will live and one will die, and then they are told that they have to decide who lives and who dies. I was once on a bike ride with a non believer in a local bike club. She assumed since she knew I was a believer and that I believed God healed today that I took a certain position regarding a type of medical care, and that was not my belief at all. In face, I purposely did not state my belief, which was much more on the liberal side, because I wanted to hear her out. I responded with thoughts from both sides of the issue, but there would be no hearing of scientific facts from both sides, only the ones that supported an opinion already formed.
I'm not sure where the quote comes from, but there is the saying that, "a man convinced against his will is of the same opinon still." People are often engaged in conversations only to justify the opinion they have already formed. Also however much "evidence based" those opinions are claimed to be, it is often faith in the people or group from which they heard the opinion or study.
In our work with helping people deal with abuse, it is paramount that we can have open dialoge. A Christian recovering from marital and religious abuse in a church context often has to contend with people who want to "help" them that make quick diagnoses about what is destructive and constructive in their past church background. Practices and issues that are part of the person's faith are seen by outsiders as part of the abuse. We need sensitivity and care in understanding a person's unique beliefs and what comprised those beliefs.
God gave people of faith a brain, and often it is with much care that Christians make decisions on what could be perceived as peripheral issues, though they are sometimes labeled mindless followers. The encouragement is to be people of faith who are open to thinking critically and having dialogue. What is true won't be changed if we listen.
Not everything is blind undue influence. Yet often people are lead to think that people of faith don't think just because they may hold opinions that differ from the popular view.
So how do we help? Let's work to not feed the polarization.
Let's stop forcing the issue and judging people based on what "side" we perceive them to be on.
Let's hear a matter before we decide someone is off the wall. Both sides of these polarized issues would do well to stop ridiculing and scorning people who do not agree. What good does that do?
We have heated and polarized topics that basically serve to inflame and insight outrage. We need to recognize that there are economic interests vying for attention (for advertising) which benefit from getting us all riled up about something, because we will then be encouraged to remain at that source (website, news byte, rss feed...etc) to find out more. But it is not healthy to be pressed to black and white thinking and a quick taking of sides, where there did not have to be two separate and isolated camps. Many of us have way more breadth of thought and understanding than "Did you choose door #1 or door #2 this election?" What goes into our decisions is much more complicated and well thought out. Most of us have to sort through facts and our best understanding and study and many sets of values in order to come to the best conclusions. Many of us can remain open to ongoing decision making in these areas. Beware the people and institutions and media outlets that force you to take sides and group you together and peg you as a certain "type" of person or believer or non-believer. Note that sometimes it is not whether black or white is good or bad, but it is the source forcing the questions "Whose side are you on?" that can be the problem, especially when you are not on a "side" or where no side existed before.
The only thing accomplished by this kind of journalism and thinking is to confuse understanding and halt real communication. Some may have that as their objective, but I think we don't have to live that way if we take care to not get caught up in it.
An exception to "hearing matters out" comes when people take advantage of this. Those who would manipulate and use us will take elements of our faith and goodwill to hold us captive for their own gain. To add to this discussion, sometimes you have heard something out and facts and truth is known. There are times when the information gathering is diminishing returns, and you do need to stand and act, such in the case of known child abuse and other types of abuse.
There is real right and wrong, so the balance to hearing matters out is to know when we have heard enough and need to take action in loving care of others. It also may mean taking action when others repeatedly violate us or our family. So the balance to hearing matters out, is also to know when enough is enough.
Take time to listen and understand, no matter what your opinion. But also be confident in discerning when nothing more is to be gained from giving a hearing to someone whose aim is to abuse or manipulate.
Understand how your opions and beliefs have formed, and take time to understand others.
This is part of really hearing a matter out, and it is part of love.
Recognize the role of polarization and how it attemps to get you to take sides on issues where you don't necessarily sit on one "side" or the other.
It is okay to know who you are and what you agree with and disagree with. This is called letting your yes be yes and your no be no. But you don't have to adhere to someone else forcing you to say yes or no on something you have not sorted out and decided or looked into. Take a look at whether you are being pressured to a polarized viewpoint, and resist the pressure to have some group's opinion be your own just because of the pressure. We can also educate those around us that just because we have a firm faith in Jesus Christ, that we are not parrots or lemmings of the public perception of our beliefs on other issues.
There is no evil in well thought out decisions and opinions formed out of experience, study and time, even if they are strong opinions where others do not agree, but in resisting unneccessary polarization, we can dialogue in an environment of understanding and love where possible.
It takes at least two willing, cooperative people to do this, even if in the end they agree to disagree.