In the past I have decried the demise of civil discourse in our society and to a degree within our churches. Polarization, hardening of positions, and silo thinking have come to dominate. The term compromise has become synonymous with weakness. I applaud a person with deep and abiding conviction, and indeed think we who call ourselves ‘people of the Book’ should be people of conviction; but we are still human, here are some thoughts as to why compromise has declined.
1) We have ceased to teach critical thinking skills such as: consideration of others’ perspectives; allowing new ideas to simmer and slowly be shaped instead of thinking any newly concocted thought is instantly complete; basic research methods; ability to articulate well and precisely one’s thoughts, feelings, and positions; ability to navigate/negotiate adversity without resorting to confrontation, defamation, coercion, or intimidation; ability to analyze and sift through conflicting data.
2) We are losing the battle for objective truth. If I’m free to construct my own set of truths to govern my life, and everyone else is also, then why bother trying to reach compromise? Searching for a compromise keeps open the possibility that maybe, just maybe, part or all of my position is faulty and needs input from others to hopefully (through our mutual search) get closer to ‘the truth.’ Unfortunately in some halls in Congress, colleges, and churches we have self-convinced individual silos masquerading as society or the body of Christ. Paul Tournier (Swiss Christian psychologist) poignantly described it as, “Listen to all the conversations of our world, between nations as well as between individuals. They are, for the most part, dialogues of the deaf.”
3) We have trouble thinking sequentially, logically, and linearly. Our phones, computers, and constant media barrage have broken down our ability to follow (or construct) a logical argument. Cognition has acquiesced to emotion, listening (auditory) has succumbed to visual. Our omnipresent screens have substituted brief but constant distractions for logic. No one has time or interest in entertaining someone else’s opinion or slant on much of anything unless it can be accompanied by a photo/video on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Imgur, Facebook, or upcoming Animoji’s (new feature on iPhone X).
4) We have lost a sense of ‘the greater good.’ At the heart of altruism is the willingness to sacrifice something precious to achieve a goal or fulfillment of a cause that is larger than your personal agenda. This applies to marriages, covenants, trade agreements, legislation, diplomacy, and political standoffs.
5) Compromise is seen by ‘the faithful’ as betrayal, as caving in. When Christ calls us to be peacemakers (Mt. 5.9-11; 1 Cor. 5.18) that means we often get shot at from both sides of the aisle/table.
6) Dialectical Tension doesn’t always demand resolution. There are just some things that cannot claim common ground, but we can still maintain a common identity as (choose Americans, W .Virginians, Christians, or those with your last name). Let’s learn how to walk together on this planet in the midst of our dissatisfaction. Let’s embrace the life of grace in a fallen world.
“Come now, let us reason together saith the Lord.” Isaiah 1.18