Why are Christians so Divided and Polarized? by Greg Albrecht
Why does it seem so many people (including and especially Christians) are divided and polarized?
Most churches and ministries publish a statement of beliefs – you can find ours under “About” on our home page (www.ptm.org) under the heading “We Believe.” Our statement is short, deliberately, because we believe the focus of our faith and our ministry is Jesus Christ alone, and that there are many non-essential issues (about which we believe people of faith may differ). But when an issue is made of peripheral non-essentials, those topics can end up being exalted beyond and even instead of Jesus Christ. In so doing, those topics become divisive—perhaps even idolatrous.
Thus, we avoid composing official statements on hot button topics associated with various current controversies.
For example, some believe in making hard and fast statements concerning vaccinations, people’s lives being prolonged in a variety of ways, or of the easing of pain through morphine while in hospice.
Some believe smoking is a sin—whether cigarettes, cigars, pipes, vaping—or beyond that, using marijuana, even medically. They say such habits and behaviors are a sin against God’s temple, our body. All the while, those who take such a position may also be scarfing down enormous quantities of junk food, sugars and salts that likewise shorten lives and contribute to all manner of diseases.
Some believe listening to certain kinds of music is a sin—that gambling is a sin—that alcohol in any quantity at any time is a sin. Important as such questions are (or aren’t), we believe we need not enter these debates in an official capacity because they are not central to our mission.
Some believe we should encourage Christ-followers to glory in military victories or nationalism. But we believe our citizenship is in heaven, and that we are sojourners and pilgrims here on earth.
We believe our mission does not encourage one political party over another. In my case, I will not join a political party for the same reason I refuse to become a member of a religious entity. Either may come with a long list of provisos and necessities to which adherents must bow the knee. But I believe my allegiance and worship are to God alone. With the apostle Paul (Galatians 3:28) we believe in diversity and seek never to make partisan beliefs a test of faith. That is above our paygrade and beneath our gospel.
Sadly, because of misguided attempts by sincere people, many now believe that “Christians” are people of hate, bigotry and division. But we believe that many in the body of Christ have conveyed an unfortunate political message of condemnation rather than the love, mercy and grace of God. We believe such regrettable and pathetic misrepresentations of God as angry and condemning result because religion dares to draw up long lists of sins, and prioritize them. But we believe our emphasis is to be the Way of the Cross—what we often refer to as the Jesus Way.
We believe without a doubt that when Jesus lives in us, our behaviors will bear his fruit—the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Even in our various addictions and compulsions, as we surrender our lives to Christ-in-us, the normal trajectory of our lives will move toward maturity and beyond harmful behaviors. The “virtues” produced by the indwelling of Jesus Christ, available in the New Testament, will appear in us.
I hope this helps!
In Christ, Greg Albrecht