© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved
Either/or, this or that,
black or white, us or them,
right or wrong,
good or bad — or, or, or…
It seems we are confronted by choices—
between conflicting issues, people, groups, ideologies.
To me, it seems like I am constantly
being presented with bad choices—
neither one actually really good,
yet each presented as such.
two sets of usually similar contentions,
or systems, or peoples,
presented so that
we need to choose between—
Many times we just get stuck in the middle.
Always the choices presented
seem to be tainted by
prejudice, bigotry, hatred, or ignorance,
mostly fear of some unspoken assumption.
How do we de-polarize?
How do we work through a tainted choice?
To do this our task becomes
to learn not to trust
any presenter of any polarization.
Not so easy when you have lived
with similar assumptions all your life.
But if we look at both sides,
and if we try to find a common ground
between the supposed polar opposites,
it is possible.
it will look like we are choosing sides.
it means we will lose our in-group.
it will mean we become an outsider like Jesus.
But, what is more important,
to be included by some,
or to find a way to include all?
# # #
Acts 11:1-18 — The Message
The news traveled fast and in no time the leaders and friends back in Jerusalem heard about it—heard that the non-Jewish “outsiders” were now “in.” When Peter got back to Jerusalem, some of his old associates, concerned about circumcision, called him on the carpet: “What do you think you’re doing rubbing shoulders with that crowd, eating what is prohibited and ruining our good name?” So Peter, starting from the beginning, laid it out for them step-by-step: “Recently I was in the town of Joppa praying. I fell into a trance and saw a vision: Something like a huge blanket, lowered by ropes at its four corners, came down out of heaven and settled on the ground in front of me. Milling around on the blanket were farm animals, wild animals, reptiles, birds—you name it, it was there. Fascinated, I took it all in. “Then I heard a voice: ‘Go to it, Peter—kill and eat.’ I said, ‘Oh, no, Master. I’ve never so much as tasted food that wasn’t kosher.’ The voice spoke again: ‘If God says it’s okay, it’s okay.’ This happened three times, and then the blanket was pulled back up into the sky. “Just then three men showed up at the house where I was staying, sent from Caesarea to get me. The Spirit told me to go with them, no questions asked. So I went with them, I and six friends, to the man who had sent for me. He told us how he had seen an angel right in his own house, real as his next-door neighbor, saying, ‘Send to Joppa and get Simon, the one they call Peter. He’ll tell you something that will save your life—in fact, you and everyone you care for.’ “So I started in, talking. Before I’d spoken half a dozen sentences, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as he did on us the first time. I remembered Jesus’ words: ‘John baptized with water; you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So I ask you: If God gave the same exact gift to them as to us when we believed in the Master Jesus Christ, how could I object to God?” Hearing it all laid out like that, they quieted down. And then, as it sank in, they started praising God. “It’s really happened! God has broken through to the other nations, opened them up to Life!”
John 13:31-35 — The Message
When he had left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is seen for who he is, and God seen for who he is in him. The moment God is seen in him, God’s glory will be on display. In glorifying him, he himself is glorified—glory all around! “Children, I am with you for only a short time longer. You are going to look high and low for me. But just as I told the Jews, I’m telling you: ‘Where I go, you are not able to come.’ “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
# # #
It is a matter of how we define ourselves. Do we define ourselves by what we are, or by what we are not? Do we look for what separates us from others in order to create safe distances and distinctions? How do we deal with that which we cannot understand or comprehend? Do we categorize people and their various cultural differences and ways, so as to defend how we are? In other words, do we create polarizations?
Is your way, and the way of your group/church/nation/culture the only way possible to do things? Democrats vs. Republicans, Capitalists vs. Communists/Socialists, Skinny vs. Fat, Cowboys vs. Indians, Straights vs. Gays, Christian vs. Jews/Buddhists/Hindus/Muslims/Atheists, you get what I’m talking about here: Hate and Fear vs. Love and Trust.
Peter’s group (1st Century Jewish Christians) could not eat at table with any other group. For them there was the “Clean” and the “Unclean” and never the twain shall meet. Before you start to think how much more advanced we are than they, consider just how unforgiving Republicans and Democrats are with each other and the viciousness with which they refer to each other. And if you are a Democrat and think that the nasty attacks on President Obama are horrid, over the top and completely uncalled for, try and remember how you may have referred to President George W. Bush. In the eyes of Jesus, and by his commission, there is no excuse or justification for either side’s nasty behavior—WE ARE TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER!
There are Christian communities who refuse to give Communion to non-members. There are Christian communities who will not allow their members to share at other Christian communion tables. There are Christian communities who are more defined by their cruel judgements of others than by their love. I have conservative Christian friends who despise my liberalism. I know Liberal/Progressives who just shut down any colleague who may seem too Evangelical to them. And my Atheistic friends, wow, they are so intolerant of anything Christian/religious/spiritual, they offer nothing but ridicule. We do seem to live by our polarizations!
I have spent many years as a photographer, both as a professional and as a black and white documentary still photographer. I worked primarily in color for the professional advertising photography I did. But I built my reputation primarily as a black and white photographer. In black and white photography, separation is needed between tonal values (the shades of gray) for the image to be interesting. To get this separation, there are several things that I did. I adjusted film exposure against development time which changed the contrast of the image. Another device is to use filters. A red filter brings out the most contrast, while a yellow filter the least contrast. There is also a polarizing filter I use sometimes. It overall enhances the scene by filtering glare on foliage and darkening the sky dramatically. Though I have a polarizing filter I rarely use it because it is too extreme and over-exaggerates the relationships of the elements in the scene. So, while in some cases, polarization may work in a positive way for photography, neither the human condition, nor Christianity are photography, and polarization will only work negatively with them.
Like I said, Christianity and the Christian life are not the same as photography. Photography is the product of a combination of vision, artistic training, the industrial revolution and is governed by the rules of science. Christianity and the Christian life are supposed to be the product of Jesus’ work in the world, a change of heart on our part, and our actions, modeled by the heart and soul of the love of God. There are some similarities: photography occurs when film is exposed to the light and a change happens to the film causing an image to appear when the film is put into contact with developing agents; when a person comes into contact with the light of Christ, a change also occurs as they are formed by the Christian community and grow into the people Jesus has called them to become—a people who love, have faith, and who include all others in that love and faith. We are just simply to love. There seem to be so many justifiable reasons to hate and judge, but they are not what Jesus has asked of us. We are to grow in love and faith, and to help others to discover Jesus through the love and faith and inclusion we have come to through him.
The polarizing of the elements within our society and the making of over-exaggerating distinctions between our various relationships is divisive at best, and deadly at worst. Polarizing promotes racism, sexism, agism, war, bullying, classism, and drives wedges between people and peoples. The action of Peter going to another culture and eating what to his culture was “unclean,” is the acting out of Jesus saying in the John Gospel, “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” There is no way we can fulfill this mandate and continue to polarize people and issues.
Please, if you have read this far and wish to make a comment, do so on this blog and not where you discovered it. You don’t actually have to if you don’t want, but somehow, someway, it seems to help with something, Thanks, Hilary