It may appear like our nation is more divided than ever.
At least, that’s what our politicians would like to have us believe. Simple “fact checks” are not so simple or easy regardless of the news source you read, watch or listen to.
At the same time, talk of a “divided nation” is not a new phenomenon in US history. A careful look into our country’s history shows that division has been a close companion since the founding of our country nearly 250 years ago.
The History of the Divided States of America
While the delegates attempted to show a united front at the 2nd Continental Congress in 1775 in the months leading up the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the citizens of the 13 colonies were divided into three camps on whether they should actually declare independence from England.
- Loyalists: did not want independence (representing 20-30% of the colonists).
- Patriots: supported independence (also representing 20-30% of the colonists).
- Undecided: did not make a concerted stance (representing 30-40% of the colonists).
And division over big political issues didn’t end there!
Divisions after Independence
Here is a list of things our country and government was divided over after independence from England in just the first hundred years:
- How to ensure equal and fair state representation at the federal level.
- How to structure the federal government so that one branch of government did not have more power than the others, as is what happened in England.
- What rights would be afforded to citizen’s of the US.
- Whether or not slavery would (or should) continue legally.
- Whether women should be afforded the right to vote.
- Whether child labor should have restrictions.
- Whether people of color should have full and equal citizenship rights.
- Whether the US had been granted “Manifest Destiny” for westward expansion.
And that’s a short list!
Divisions have defined us as a nation
Since the beginnings of our country, even over the matter of independence, division has been deeply part of what has defined us as a nation. Some might suggest that ever since the founding of our country, there have been just as much to divide us as there has been to unite us.
A lesson from our founders about division
Divisions are a fact of life because disagreements are a fact of life. The question is what to do with them.
Pretending they don’t exist or turning a blind eye doesn’t ever help.
It seems the founders of our country had some wisdom we could glean from:
What did they do?
- They debated.
- They asked questions.
- They disagreed…openly.
- They talked it out.
- They (even) compromised!
Sure, it wasn’t always pretty and sometimes they acted with incredible self-interest instead of the interest of the larger population.
How do you deal with division?
While many of us may not be in political positions of influence, we live and work with very normal everyday people in our country. People who have political views and values, social perspectives, cultural practices and religious convictions that are different than you.
When politics or religion come up, you can ignore those conversations.
You could flare up and fight fire with fire.
Or you can choose the higher path of engaging in political discourse respectfully and humbly.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if Christians were known for being good listeners, shared our views from a posture of humility and engaged in mutually beneficial discussion and compromise?
Let’s begin today.