The State of Our Unity
In his first State of the Union Address, President Obama issued a call for bi-partisanship. He argued that our elected officials need to put aside their differences for the good of the country. But, as the disparity between Democrat and Republican claps-per-minute grew, the viewer was left wondering how effective that call for unity would be. Hopes for bi-partisanship began to fall when Republicans wouldn’t even clap for tax cuts, they began to fall even faster as the President threw jab after jab at his predecessor and opposition, and they down right plummeted when the Republican response highlighted how different the agendas of our two political parties actually are. We are left wondering if bi-partisanship will ever work, or if these calls for unity are merely more political propaganda.
Bi-partisanship is important in the political realm. As the recent health-care debacle has demonstrated, one party simply isn’t enough to get anything accomplished in our politically charged climate. In this way politics can be like a marriage, the two parties involved can get by without cooperating, but if they want to truly thrive, they will need to be unified. The importance of unity certainly isn’t lost on Washington, or the public for that matter, which is why so many speeches have been made on the importance of the subject. So the question remains, why are we gridlocked in this partisan mire?
The most obvious answer is that we don’t really want unity, none of us do. We want to win. We will work with the other side, but only if it accomplishes our ends, and preferably only after a thorough trouncing of the other side. Thus the incessant belittling of conservatives in the President’s speech, thus the refusal to applaud his good ideas, and thus our current knock-down, drag-out, take no prisoners assault on public opinion. It is not just the politicians desire to win that creates this atmosphere; this virus infects all of us. Special interests, lobbyists, political action committees, all of these only have as much power as society gives them. Our donations and support is what keeps these political machines running, and all to one end: to make sure we win.
So what do we do about this problem? I’m not suggesting that we all give up our agendas. The beliefs that we hold to create this tension are deep-seated, and no amount of eloquent speech will change that. What we can do is act in humility, avoid actions and words that are deliberately designed to anger our opponents and fire up our base, and act with civility in all we do. This won’t bring in a lot of money, and it won’t make any headlines, but it will contribute to an atmosphere that genuinely works for the common good.
So far we have been dealing strictly with political unity, but for Christians there is a far more important type of unity: spiritual. Our need for unity goes beyond merely needing to make a country operate, it is a plea straight from our Savior Himself. In John 18:21 Christ prays that all of the Body would be united, just as the Trinity is united. Not for ourselves, but so that the world would know that Jesus is the Messiah. The validity of our testimony rises and falls with how well we all get along. Sadly, the Church is more divided than ever. Infant baptism, tongues, church hierarchy, predestination and a host of other issues all contribute to our infighting. As with political unity, we cannot expect these controversial issues to go away, for they all are extremely important in their ramifications, but what we can do is recognize that our common bond as heirs with Christ is far more important. For it is through our unity and love for one another that the world will come to know Christ as King.