In a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 80 percent of people surveyed say they believe America is “mainly” or “totally” split right down the middle on a wide variety of very important subjects. This clustering effect is a galvanizing together of people into their preferred circle of social paradigms.
Why is it that we mostly align on one of two sides of the same coin when we are looking at the same set of facts? Another survey says 90 percent of people claim this deep divide between opposing cluster groups is so extreme, and often hateful, that it is damaging society as a whole. That’s the only thing we all seem to agree on, which is, we all disagree. Politics has always been divisive to the extreme and sometimes even spiteful: overflowing with rage. Let’s put that one on the shelf in this article and try to find out how some historically mainline social issues of the past and present have split our moral fabric in opposite directions.
To start with, we need to do a social autopsy on a few of those social issues. Most polarizations can be traced to society coming to a fork in the road on their journey in life. The road they chose was determined by many factors, but I would like to assign a label to the roads taken. One of the roads will lead to the “material” and the other road will lead to the “spiritual”. Even though America has been deeply divided on many issues in the Republic’s short history, let’s go back to the civil war for my first illustration on the fork in the road.
North v South
Americans during the Civil War were deeply split, which resulted in the bloodiest conflict in American history. Battles such as Shiloh, Antietam, Vicksburg, and Gettysburg left the country shocked as lifeless young men covered the land with blood and bodies. Hundreds of thousands more died of disease. About 620,000 people lost their lives in the line of duty, and if we calculate those percentages with today’s population in America, 6 million people would have died. Just imagine 6 million people lying dead on American streets today. How did we get to that point that a loving brother against a loving brother would line up on opposite sides of a battlefield and then try to annihilate each other?
The answer to that requires volumes, but one of the major factors was slavery.
In the years before the Civil War, crops such as cotton, sugar cane, and tobacco were the main crops grown in the south. These crops were so prolific and profitable that if the south were a separate nation, then it would rank as high as the fourth richest nation in the world. To run such a huge industry takes fuel. To fuel that prolific agrarian industry the south needed lots of slaves. In the 17th century, a slave could be bought between 5 and 10 dollars, but if you wanted to buy a slave just before the Civil War, you would pay 1,200- 1,500 dollars. Slaves were a valuable commodity, but many looked at slavery (mostly in the North) as being against all laws of decency and God. The debate raged over whether slaves were human or not human. How could such an abhorrent debate even happen in the first place?
It seems money, power and control will always blind the eager pursuer.
The South not only needed slaves but vast amounts of land (plantations) which often were acquired early on via land grants. The land was so vast that farmers simply plowed around rocks and trees and then cut only shallow furrows for planting cotton and tobacco. The land was slowly depleted or ravaged so more land was always needed as well as more slaves. But in the north it was much different because they needed much less land to sustain their families.
That northern region was settled by mostly European’s who knew well how to survive with limited land usage. They pulled up rocks and trees and tilled the land using deep furrows utilizing fertilizer from their animals. A family with 20 acres for instance could sustain themselves by using only immediate family labor. Slaves were not needed as a general rule. And because there were mostly religious immigrants who settled in the North the notion of keeping and using black families like beasts of burden was abhorrent. The south also had a spiritual populous as well, but they self-justified their decisions to own slaves because many whites believed themselves to be far superior to blacks. Those southerners rationalized the convoluted reasoning they were actually pleasing God by taking care of an inferior helpless race. Self-justification can manipulate almost any decision we make and the self-justification for slavery was simply money (material).
The two hemispheres where most social issues align are within the spiritual or the material. Those two issues will basically draw most into their respective polarized clusters. Again, the reason people are divided is because they have personal agendas that are based upon emotion (agenda) which is then backed up with logic (self-justification). For instance, if we want to take a family and enslave them, beat them, shackle them, work them to the bone then all you have to do is self-justify. Slaves were not considered children of God but commodities for men to own. In essence the claim was made that African heritage people groups were less than human. That is where the spiritual (we are all equal children of God) is passed through a convoluted filter of the material (love of money) to rationalize slavery. This same principle has always been around since the time Adam and Eve. Able (spiritual), Cain (material) who had big self-justification issues in the Garden of Eden.
Logic v Emotion
Now let’s move the historical needle to today. The landscape has changed a lot but the principles of division are still with us. In America, we have a division within our country where one group marches in freezing cold weather to protest the aborting of an un-born baby and then we have an opposing group which also protests their right to have more rights for women to choose for themselves (abortion rights). We all instinctively know deep inside that life begins in the womb but to rationalize an abortion, all you have to do is what they did long ago with the slavery issue. And that is simply to make an unborn life a non-human because they have not taken a breath of life yet. Again, people will make decisions based upon emotions (abortion) and then backup these decisions with their own self-justification (logic).
Then we are confronted with others do it (emotion) then back it up with so why can’t I do it (logic). The problem with that self-justification is that when you compare yourself to the standard of man instead of the standards of God, you can always lower morality in a continual downward trend. For instance, what was unthinkable just 10 years ago is becoming a social norm today. In other words, self-justification is the man-made shield which allows us to sin without guilt. Established social standards based upon Biblical mandates are being rapidly replaced with new modern ways of thinking. Many will say they have the right to make life-style choices without the judgment from others with who they look at as being judgmental and clinging desperately to outdated draconian standards of behavior. The church is right in the cross-hairs of that statement because the church professes eternal truths and the world often stresses mercurial opinions based upon newly acquired knowledge. So, do we follow man’s ever-changing standards (material) or God’s never changing mandates (spiritual)?
Owners v Renters
The answer to the question of God’s way verses man’s way is the wedge that separates most (not all) into two clusters. If we do not submit to Biblical mandates, we essentially are claiming we own our bodies. As owners we can do anything with our bodies we want. As owners of their bodies as a pregnant woman will claim she can not only do what she wants with her body but also with what is in her womb. The same principle is true if you outright own a car because you can do with it what you want (within the law). You can paint it purple or put it into a crusher for scrap because you own it and no one can tell you differently.
Now opposite to the car owners we have what I call renters. These renters cannot do what they want with the car because someone else owns the car. When you rent a car you are required to sign a document which states you will explicitly follow all of the demands of the rental car company. You are acquiescent to the rental car company and agree to use their car in accordance with their rules and not your own. Yes, we can drive the car where we want (stewardship) under the rules of the owner (along with the laws of the land) but make no mistake there will be a punishment if you break the rules of that rental car agreement. Just like the rental car agreement, if you truly believe in God and make Him Lord (owner) of your life then you need to follow the rules of the owner, and of course, the owner’s manual from God is the Bible. You have then essentially forfeited the right to follow your own opinions (renter).
Man’s standards have devolved so low under his rules that when a baby is born alive due to a botched abortion then that helpless child might actually be left to die. To gain a hidden perspective here the following is from an article by Abby Johnson from Fox News… In an age where medical progress has enabled premature babies as tiny as 21 weeks and four days gestation to survive -- and thrive -- outside the womb, babies are being born alive following botched abortions in the United States and left to die. Many individuals, legislators, and so-called women’s rights groups are turning a blind eye. Imagine just for a second seeing a baby who was supposed to be aborted struggling to breathe after delivery. What would you do? State Departments of Health in just three states reported that 40 babies have been born alive during botched abortions since 2016. But that’s only three states. The number is likely far more. The Susan B. Anthony List has over 270 documented cases of babies born alive after abortions. Why aren’t we hearing more about this?”
Spiritual v Material
The two hemispheres of God vs human intellect are polarized and entrenched. Again, the split in the road usually see the spiritual going one way and monetary going the other way. For instance, if you want to abort a child (emotion) all you have to do is change the rules (self-Justification). To do that, an unborn child must be evaluated as a non-human (logic). This is just like the slave issue where the non-human label was assigned which then allows the mother (owner) to make the unborn child not a human just yet (logic). Guilt is then shielded. According to the Daily Wire, March 9th issue, tax payers paid 1.5 billion dollars to the abortion business over a three-year period and that Planned Parenthood alone performs 320,000 abortions a year.
To help in the self-justification of taking an unborn life the abortion industry changed its packaging (self-justification). The moniker went for pro-abortion to pro-choice because after all who could be opposed to such a good thing as choice. But, what about the un-born…do they have the liberty to choose? Also, if a single mom is under the burden of needing more money (material) to sustain herself and family, then she might self-justify the unborn as not a human (yet) and ignore the spiritual prohibitions. It often all boils down to material vs spiritual with self-justification always tilting the scales. Remember we make decisions based upon emotions and then back it up with self-justifying logic.
Now let’s go into the subject of organized religion (spiritual). A pastor might look at his congregation and say I will preach the word of God without pause or fear. But much of our society might not attend a church which preaches such a strict view of Scripture if it challenges certain social issues. So they leave the pews and the same preacher does the math and says, well maybe if I water the Bible down I might have more congregants which leads to more tithes. The same pastor knows he has bills and employees like everyone else (monetary). So he preaches a more socially palatable sermon (self-justification). His self-justification might be based upon the premise that others don’t preach a sermon so stringent to the Bible (logic) so why should I?
Now let’s go into the floater zone. Floaters are reeds being blown by the wind. They are ones who either don’t care or are floating in the middle of any subject. Like lemmings they are easily convinced to follow a charismatic or persuasive person or even a news network that has convinced them they possess the truth. Of course that truth is whatever their agenda is. Jesus said,
“I am the way the truth and the life”
Without the way there is no going, with the truth there is no knowing and without the life there is no growing. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to man. God is the author, salvation is the end and truth without any mixture of error is the content. The Bible is thus the supreme standard by which we should live our lives. As Christians we are required to follow all Biblical mandates. In other words Jesus is not only our Savior, as many on both sides of the issues might label themselves, but Jesus is their Lord which is where the narrower road begins. If Jesus is Lord (owner) we have forfeited our human emotionally driven self-justifying logic and we are compulsory to follow Him with no exceptions (renters).
As said previously, we have stark and deep differences based upon personal agendas which are man centric verses God centric. Humans have inherently proven to be religious because they find the need to worship something. In this illustration I will label those two entities as worshipping God Almighty (creator) and all that’s in the world (created things). In Romans 1:12 the Bible says there would be those who would exchange the truth of God and then worship, and even serve, the creature (creation) above God. Creation includes the obvious such as earth, plants and animals but also includes all created things such as beauty, talent, and wealth. If we choose to worship the wealthiest and the most beautiful celebrity types (creation) then we will let their opinions influence what we accept as moral and not what the Bible has to say (God). And so the search for truth becomes more difficult for many because of the myriad external influences which claim to hold the scepter of truth. Accepting Jesus as the Son of God is to have the baseline of all truth. If we take the Bible as truth we will be required to accept that document as the premise for what side our opinions fall. Jesus died on the cross for our sins and the good news is that if we repent of our sins and accept Him as Lord and Savior then we will be born again, free of any past sins and have an assured eternal destiny in heaven.