Whether we are talking about the justification for raising or lowering taxes, the question of Dreamers and refugees, whether “voting prolife” must mean voting Republican or whether it can or should incorporate a larger view of the total life issues, or arguing over musical styles in worship, one thing is pretty much universally true: conflict gets ugly because we focus on issues instead of people.
Am I talking about the dignity of the person on the opposing side of the debate? Yes, but also the dignity of the people who are impacted by whatever issue we’re talking about. It’s much easier to look at issues as black and white, with no room for discussion or working together, when they are looked at in the abstract, rather than considering the real life people involved. When you start thinking about the dignity and well-being of refugees and Dreamers as beloved children of God, and of the Biblical call to be “our brothers’ keeper,” it becomes a lot less defensible to chant “build a wall” and tell Dreamers to go to the “back of the line.”
When we consider the dignity of the people involved, we have to look for solutions that take into account everyone, not just our own well-being. If we want to be a Christian nation, this is what we must do. It’s unsatisfying. Every one of us would be happier if the world laid itself out neatly in exactly the way we think it should. But we have to recognize that the world is flawed, and we’re not God. We can’t see the whole picture, and the only way we get anywhere close to seeing the big picture is by looking through the eyes of everyone else and figuring out how to set up the world to meet their needs as well as our own.
This is a lesson we learn as children: walk a mile in another’s shoes, see the situation through their eyes. Why do we stop thinking it matters when we reach adulthood?
One Reply to “Go Beyond the Surface”
I agree. Seeing the persons behind the issues is so absolutely crucial, and so often lacking in conflicts. We cannot stand up for truth and goodness justly unless we can see in our “adversaries” and in all people their humanity, just as real as ours is, and we can identify with them as our fellow human beings, from which arises empathy and compassion.
Such an attitude does not entail that we minimize the importance of the issues or of our disagreements (though it does sometimes make us see that we have inflated something beyond its real importance), but it creates an entirely different tone for the real arguments that sometimes have to take place. And it greatly increases the likelihood that those arguments will be truly effective at helping all of us to get closer to understanding what is really true and good, which should be the real goal of all such arguments.