The Continental Divide: must it be Divisive?

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

Continental Divide takes on new meaning as the rift between two distinct ideologies polarize a nation. As the gap widens, speculation regarding an electorate divided between two leading presidential candidates abounds. What could be healthy voicing of divergent views, a natural part of the democratic process, is clouded by anger, distortion, and accusations. How can divergent and also destructive perspectives on issues find a meeting ground?

According to observations reported in this newspaper this past summer, not only is this divide persisting, but it's intensifying. One article acknowledged a deep dissatisfaction in members of each party with the prospect of the opposing candidate's success in the November election (see The Christian Science Monitor, July 14). We've survived similar divisions, but that's little comfort as we forge ahead in an uncertain political climate.

The issues are complex - the war in Iraq, uncertain economy, racism, healthcare, national security, and so on. Perhaps the real need is to stand back and take a broader view. Hasn't humanity throughout history found itself divided and polarized? We see it in the earliest stories in the Bible with Cain at odds with Abel, Abram (later called Abraham) and Lot parting company, and Joseph being sold to Midianites by his brothers, and it has continued throughout history.

Numerous countries have faced divisions over racism, resulting in slavery, white supremacy laws, apartheid, and even genocide. Nations have been at odds over uses and abuses of the environment and other issues.

One point that stood out to me from the Monitor article was that a nation becomes polarized mano a mano, hand to hand, at the level of the individual. It follows, then, that a nation will come together in unity as individuals come together as one.

The solution isn't new, but it needs to be applied to the current challenge. It was first iterated by Moses in the Ten Commandments, especially the first, which calls for worshiping one God. Later, Christ Jesus boiled them down to two commandments: to love the one God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. He went on to pronounce, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (see Matt. 22:34-40).

The question of division often suggests more than one opposing point of view, acting and reacting, which can lead to separation and can breed resentment. Healing of the great divide comes about by starting with one God - one divine Intelligence, one infinite Mind - and one creation in perfect unity. When we start there, then we naturally look for what unifies us, and we seek solutions that draw us together rather than separating us. In this heartfelt prayer, when we begin with one creation or one Mind and expect to prove its actuality, possibilities and solutions come to light that we didn't see before. Then, we'll discover, in the words of the poet Maya Angelou, "We are more alike, my friends,/ than we are unalike."

The First Commandment holds promise for humanity by surmounting the divide and removing bitterness. Listen to what a true thinker in this regard, Mary Baker Eddy, envisioned: "One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself;' annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, - whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 340).

What if each of us contributed to this promise, rather than to this newest version of an age-old problem? Since the solution starts with individuals, everyone has the opportunity to tackle the challenge of divisiveness in their own lives and, thus, help mitigate the great divide that plagues our country.

We can discover what unites us with family members, neighbors, and other ethnic or religious groups, rather than magnify the differences. We can enter relationships anticipating good rather than fearing the unfamiliar. We can engage in open discussion rather than imposing strongly held opinions. Why? Because we share one infinite Father-Mother God who unites us in harmony. Realizing this and making it practical chips away at the great divide and helps advance humanity as one.

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