Crossing the chasms created by religion

by Kristin on March 29, 2012

in Belief, doubt & hope

Photo by TenThirtyNine

“…religion remains a key fault line in American life.”

That’s one of the main conclusions in today’s The Atlantic Cities article “The Real Boundaries of the Bible Belt,” along with this:

Gallup notes the relationship between religious intensity and American voting patterns, with the most religious states generally skewing Republican and the least religious trending Democrat.

Of course, these findings don’t surprise me—at least not in that shocking What?!? sort of way. But no matter how known the statistics are, they’re something I can’t get used to, or accept.

That’s where I think the real danger lies when it comes to our increasingly polarized society—not that patterns exist when it comes to geography, race, religion and politics, but that we gradually begin to accept them and assume. Even if we don’t like the patterns and stereotypes. Even if we personally know people in the South who don’t go to church, or Christians who vote democrat, or churches where black and white people come together to worship and create meaningful community. We still have a way of letting go of the Why? and But, what if?

When we do let go of those questions that tug at us, the strong current of popular assumptions and thought pulls us into that accepted groove—the path of least resistance, where there are fewer questions, fewer divergent paths. And like water finding its way down a mountain, as more of us enter that groove, we carve it deeper, faster, until we’ve almost completely negated the possibility of divergent paths.

Sure, the fact that there’s a correlation between religion and geography might be “just the way things are” (and have always been), but that doesn’t mean we have to be OK with it. That doesn’t mean we should stop telling stories of people who are living out something different. That doesn’t mean we should all just find our like-minded comrades and hunker down for the fight.

Because here’s one thing I deeply believe : That map? Those “fault lines” formed by religion? They’re not what God wants for us. Not even close.

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  • http://www.leighkramer.com HopefulLeigh

    So, so true, Kristin. I’ve been wondering what I can do to get out of the well-worn grooves I’ve found myself in. I don’t want to be a polarizing person and I surely don’t surround myself by people that only believe the same. But I recognize I still have further to go. I want to bridge reconciliation and understanding wherever I go but sometimes it’s hard to know how to take the first step and in which direction to head.

  • http://jeffreyholton.blogspot.com Jeff Holton

    There are people who claim to be Christian and vote *Republican*??!?

    Wow.

    ;)

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com ed cyzewski

    Part of the problem is that politics looks for ways to exploit fault lines, while we need to look at the hope found in the exceptions.

  • Jen

    Man. Kurt and I have been talking about this a lot lately. It makes us frustrated; we live in a crazy state and I’m constantly challenging (not on purpose) the assumptions that are made about me. I’m sad that we as a people lack either the ability to think critically or the interest in spending time getting as many sides as possible. We are reduced to sound bite decisions, and happy to stick with status wuo. Plus the moderate voice, the one I retested in conversation (mine) is quietest because I got stuff to do, and I don’t want a fight. I want a conversation. This is not where God wants us.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    HopefulLeigh, it *is* a really difficult path to map out, but it occurred to me, as I was writing this post, that simply catching myself when I start to get lazy and accept things the way they are is a big first step (or at least a big preventative step—perhaps it’s neutral but that’s better than negative). We all have work to do, but I bet someone like you (a compassionate listener who grew up in the North and then moved to the South) is especially suited for this important work. :)

    Jeff, I admit, I tend to appreciate that sort of humor and I’ve even been guilty of generating it, but I’m also starting to recognize how it’s polarizing, too. I’m not trying to be a grumpy blogger who takes all the fun out of the conversation—your comment just pointed to another area I need to work on, so thanks!

    ed, “politics looks for ways to exploit fault lines”—without a doubt. And we need to call it out whenever we recognize it. What’s even more sad to me is that religion—a collection of people who should be working toward unification and harmony in and through God—also seems guilty of exploiting fault lines. Our churches should be full of those hopeful “exceptions” you referenced, but for the most part they aren’t.

  • Jonelle (warnoj)

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I struggle through another legislative session that blurs religion and politics. Too many of us just resign ourselves that since this is Idaho, nothing can change. But it must.

  • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

    I like Ed’s comment. We do need to hold politicians and those who influence politics more accountable for exploiting religion for politics’ sake. We need to be more vocal, and not just with our words but with our money and our votes.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Jen, I thought about you and your “crazy state” as soon as I looked at that Bible Belt map! I really agree with this: “I’m sad that we as a people lack either the ability to think critically or the interest in spending time getting as many sides as possible.” I wonder if it is a lot about our lack of time, the pace of our lives? Also, so much interacting happens now on Twitter and Facebook, which is faster-paced, it’s more about sound bites, and it’s easier to separate the real person from the avatar.

    Jonelle, it’s one of those “snowballing” situations, isn’t it? As soon as we resign ourselves to the way things are the problems multiply, becoming more and more difficult to actually do something about.

    The Modern Gal, politics just feels like such an enormous machine to me—one that’s been set in motion and has taken on a life of its own. If I communicate to a candidate “I like your positions but I’m not going to vote for you because you exploit religion” (or employ negativity and polarization, or whatever), would they even care?