When unprecedented bushfires ravaged the Australian landscape, I didn’t expect what happened next.
Social media went into meltdown. The Prime Minister was excommunicated for having a holiday and not showing ‘real leadership’ in a time of crisis. The Greens were lambasted for not allowing enough controlled burning. The gloves were out. We needed someone to blame. We were angry. We are frustrated.
One journalist called it, ‘The fires dividing the nation’.
Some shouted so loud about climate change, that I think extra carbon emissions were unintentionally spread into the atmosphere. On the other hand, others dug their heels in; they denied a link between climate change and bushfires. They wanted people to cut the Prime Minister some slack. Some felt their buttons pushed and went into defence mode, simply perpetuating their climate-denying rhetoric, but this time with irrational memes and a little more added aggression than normal.
I didn’t think 2020 would start like I was in the middle of a boxing match between the left and right of an opinionated Australia.
I wasn’t intending to even be in the ring, but it looks like I got a couple of left and right hooks to the cheek nonetheless.
If Madonna wrote a song today
If Madonna re-wrote her 1984 classic, , I think she would write, ‘We are living in a polarised world, and I am a polarised girl.’ While materialism, capitalism, communism and all those –isms still rock our society today, I can’t help but think, that within the next decade, above many other things, we will need to deal with .
We are living in a polarised world. And I am a polarised man. The forces of polarisation are forcing me into a corner.
Pete, what’s your view on same-sex marriage?
Pete, what’s your thoughts about climate change?
Pete, do you watch the ABC, or do you have Sky News?
Pete, do you read Rupert Murdoch or Fairfax?
Are you AFL or NRL?
Are you Labour or Liberal? Or do you vote for a minor party? Tell me, tell me, tell me.
You cannot help but feel the forces of polarisation!
Glance beyond Australia and you hear the trade tensions between the United States and China. You hear about the possibility of a new Cold War emerging between Russia and the United States.
You wake up one morning and you see Boris Johnson elected with a thumping majority, hoping he’ll finally, ‘Get Brexit Done!’ You wonder what world you now live in. This whole Brexit thing may now be inevitable, but then the Scottish people will have their say. The Scots don’t want to leave the EU. And so the perpetual cycle of polarisation continues.
Take a look at the British Royal Family. Meghan and Harry announce their split from the Royals, and the Brits are more divided now than before the Brexit referendum. ‘ one keyboard warrior writes. I think someone wrote that under the pseudonym of
Polarisation is everywhere. It divides. It can hurt. It separates. It corners people. It creates boxes of exclusion.
Moving on from polarisation
As I reflect on this global phenomenon, I am drawn to a different way of thinking. What if polarisation wasn’t the only way? What if we didn’t have to simply divide and conquer all the time?
That’s right: Reconciliation.
That’s huge. Let’s make reconciliation great again. That’s my new political slogan.
A move from to is critical in this next season of our lives. When our first response is anger and disbelief, we take a deep breath.
We ask ourselves: How can I bring reconciliation into this discussion? How would I behave right now, if I was intent on reconciling the brokenness, rather than pressing buttons that ignite backlash? How would Jesus respond right now? What’s the best response that brings peace and love into this situation?
Reconciliation brings healing. And it’s worth the effort.
It was the vision of people like Martin Luther King Jr. He longed for reconciliation in a society that was racially divided. In his speech, he bellowed out,
Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is still unrealised.
The call of God to work for peace in this world is still there for the taking.
One last word
Friends, we’re living in a polarised world. There’s no escaping that. And the polarisation existed well before fires raged across the Australian landscape.
I just hope we can all choose to have a little more patience and a little more grace as we aim to be ministers of reconciliation.
Pete Brookshaw is the Senior Minister of The Salvation Army Craigieburn. He has a Bachelor of both Business and Theology and is passionate about the church being dynamic and effective in the world and creating communities of faith that are outward-focused, innovative, passionate about the lost and committed to societal change. He has been blogging since 2006 at http://www.petebrookshaw.com about leadership and faith and you can find him on:
Peter Brookshaw’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/peter-brookshaw.html