My glasses sometimes don’t allow me to see well. They don’t change fast enough. Shoveling snow makes them darken so much that I can almost stare at the sun through them. Then I walk into the house and I bump around, unable to see the furniture right in front of me. Most of the time, I appreciate the shading factor blended into the lenses. It is a convenience I rather enjoy. Yet it is also difficult to control. In fact, it is automatic and not every situation requires the darkness mode my glasses go into. Sometimes, they shade out far too much light. Thankfully, the effect doesn’t last long and I’m able to see clearly again in a few moments.
Polarized glasses are even worse because they stay the same. They shade out light and glare no matter where you are. I think of them as overgrown goggles with funky colored lenses from the 80’s. In other words, I wouldn’t be caught dead in them. They don’t change to suit the light conditions.
Someday, I will be able to go back to not wearing glasses of any kind. I look forward to that time. In the meantime, I’m stuck with metal frames and plastic lenses that tell my eyes what they can and can’t see.
They polarize well. That is their purpose. They move from one direction to another direction, usually ending up at their extremes. That’s what they are made for. I paid good money for them. My insurance helped out, but I still wrote a sizeable check.
There is another set of glasses we wear, much more automatic and more costly. It is the stealthy and automatic method we use to polarize the people in our field of view. While there is nothing wrong with identifying with the Republican party or the Democratic party, or most other parties for that matter, that identity carries with it some responsibilities. If I allow my party affiliation to avoid relationships with someone of the opposing party, then I have put on my Polarizing glasses. I really won’t be able to see well, the issues will not be clearly seen. The glare will blind me to the people right in front of me.
That’s what polarization does. It takes me to one pole or the other, leaving little room to enjoy the tropics. And we all know how cold polar relationships can be. The real issue is that issues take a back seat to personalities. Once a person has declared themselves to be in the opposing camp, we can then declare ourselves as opposers as well, just by stating that we are in the other camp. Very polar.
So what happens after that? Not much. Why work with someone who is oppositional? At least that is what our glasses tell us. They are in that group, they are not going to change, they are wrong, and heaven help them, but I can’t. I’ll just do my thing and leave them to their own failings. I might even blog about them or send out nasty chain emails about them, but I won’t hang out with them. They are in the dark.
One of the little riddles that has been so popular in recent years goes like this. If Pro is the opposite of Con, what is the opposite of Progress? The answer to the riddle is Congress. This is a cute riddle, a nice spin on words. It works on two or three levels, making it all the more interesting. It’s also quite polarizing. We polarize in order to save time and energy. We can put someone in a category and then we know how to relate to them if we need to relate to them at all. It allows us to save time by not trying to change them, or work with them, or spend time in debate with them. We only need to avoid them to feel good about what we do and how we see.
Such a convenient method of saving time is also hurting us. It has become automatic like the change in my lenses when I leave the house and enter the bright sunshine. The lenses clamp out the light and I see things differently, according to the automatic filters provided. But situations in our lives cannot be so automated. People do not deserve to be automated. They deserve to be individuals, with their own thoughts, dreams and plans. Even congressmen deserve as much.
Issues, not personalities are to be seen. Personalities will still be there, and yes, they will often get in the way of progress, but there will be far less progress if we continue to polarize people before we engage them. Maybe we need a collection of glasses, or glasses with windshield wipers, or a dial on the side that allows us to override the shade scale built into them. Maybe we need to take them off altogether, not while we are driving perhaps, but when face to face with each other.
Jesus seems to have avoided party affiliation. He does not denigrate the politicians or leaders of His day. Yes, he has some things to say to the religious leaders, but even they warrant His personal warnings instead of distant rantings. He does not screen them out of His life; He engages even them. Certainly people were polarized after their encounters with Him. Yet, somehow I feel He did not encourage it. His prayer in John 17:21-23 seems to be a model for engagement with others, whether they agree with us or not:
that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.
Those last and compelling words of Jesus are a call to change glasses, or at least be willing to take them off from time to time. Our automated responses while wearing the same glasses will continue to produce the same views that have led us to different poles. It won’t hurt us to take them off for a moment and look at things a little differently, in a different light. In fact, it might just bring us together; help us to see things from the same view. That wouldn’t be so bad in our polarized society. It might just help us with our ultimate mission of sharing the Good News that God wears Lovely Glasses, glasses that use love to share the light, not keep it out.