Can faith help heal our divide?
The American 'community' has been fractured. There's no reason pastors, priests, imams and
rabbis can't lead the way back, coaching citizens in what it means to be 'one nation' again.
People are pack animals. We need one another. From the earliest chapters of Genesis we read
that it is not good for people to be alone. People need community. Only in community are we
There are lots of places we go looking for community: bars, golf courses, civic clubs.
But it's hard to find real community. Especially since the advent of air conditioning,
VCRs, home computers, video games and iPods. Forget gated communities. Most of us live
Families used to sit on their stoops and front porches while others strolled the streets
and boulevards, and we communed with one another. Today, we come home late, lock the door,
turn on the cable TV and don't emerge until the next morning, when we slap on our earphones
and head off to work. The closest thing to community for many of us is an online chat
room or a MySpace account.
Why is it that, today, community is most often associated with emotional pain? Think about
it. When in recent history did you witness real national community? 9/11, right? And when
did you last see global community? I suspect it was after the tsunami of December 2004.
Even at the family level, it is the funerals that most often bring us together.
That's because intense pain can shatter the walls that isolate and divide us. When
crises come, our fears and petty differences are dwarfed by our shared humanity and
the impetus to reach out and help one another. But must we await another catastrophe
before we begin reknitting the ties that bind?
America has had a historic election, and the country is poised for a fresh start - another
chance for community. With daunting2 challenges at home and abroad, the stakes have never
been higher. We're on the verge of heading into a new year, a ritual that allows us to
turn a page on history while keeping an optimistic eye on the year ahead.
If genuine community is to occur, it will require sacrifice on the part of both winners
and losers. Winners must be willing to reach across the chasm3 that divides us and welcome
losers to choice seats at the table. Losers - rather than allowing themselves to steep
in their bitterness, awaiting the first opportunity to pounce on the new president -
must accept the responsibility of shared leadership. Of being the loyal opposition.
John McCain set the tone for this beautifully on election night.
Graciousness4 will be called for all around, as will be compromise - that essential
lubricant5 of our life together. Ours is a world of half loaves, but alas, it is still
Here's the interesting thing. America's faith communities are well positioned to
lead the way, to set the example for the rest of us. They are, after all, the places
where millions of Americans go to find community. There, Republicans, Democrats and
independents weekly kneel beside each other to acknowledge their shared humanity and
their common commitment to a transcendent6 God and the truths that transcend7 our
political and ideological differences. Truth. Justice. Love of neighbor.
A healthy church isn't just a sanctuary for saints. It's a hospital for sinners. A place
where we can let down our guard, open our hearts to one another and allow the healing
process to begin. And if we can do it in church, why not in the halls of government?
From: US Today of December 22, 2008; by Oliver Thomas
1. grace - Gnade, Anmut
2. daunting - abschreckend, einschüchternd
3. chasm - Kluft
4. graciousness - Gnade, Zuvorkommenheit
5. lubricant - Gleitmittel
6. transcendent - transzendent, überweltlich
7. to transcend - überwinden
1. Why is it so hard nowadays to find real community?
2. What does the author mean by saying that community is 'often associated with
3. Find at least two examples of figurative language and explain them in your own words.
4. What does the author expect from both, losers and winners, after the US elections (2008)?
5. Why does the author think that America's religious communities are best able to
bring people together?
6. Compare the situations in Germany and the USA in respect of a lack of community and communication