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It sounds like the start of a bad sitcom: a Democrat and a Republican rent a car and spend twenty-four hours driving through a snowstorm to Washington. Except it really happened.
Democrat Beto O’Rourke and Republican Will Hurd, both US congressmen from Texas, couldn’t fly back to the capital for today’s votes because the winter storm gripping the Northeast canceled their flights. So they decided yesterday morning to rent a car and spend the next day roadtripping to DC.
The two livestreamed what they called the “Bipartisan Roadtrip.” They took questions along the way. Their trip garnered national attention, not least because it’s the first time in recent memory that a Democrat and a Republican cooperated on anything.
The political divide in our country seems to be growing. Of America’s 3,113 counties (or county equivalents), only 303 were decided by single-digit percentage points in the last presidential election. By contrast, 1,096 counties were that close in the 1992 election. During the same period, the number of “landslide” counties (votes decided by margins exceeding 50 percentage points) exploded from 93 to 1,196.
Now there’s division even within the parties. According to The Hill, twelve House Republicans are opposed to the Republican plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Assuming all Democrats vote against the plan, if nine more Republicans reject the legislation it will not pass the House, much less the Senate.
We should not be surprised by such divisiveness. The Pew Research Center reports that in 1994, only 16 percent of Democrats and 17 percent of Republicans viewed the other party as a “threat to the nation’s well-being.” In the years since, this percentage has more than doubled for Democrats and nearly tripled for Republicans. Meanwhile, the number of Americans who express consistently conservative or liberal opinions has doubled over the past two decades.
What explains such extreme partisanship in our time?
Our culture has replaced absolute truth with subjective opinion. But in a world without objective truth there’s no way to prove my opinion right or yours wrong. Nor is there a way to find an objective compromise. So I fight for my beliefs while you fight for yours. In this zero-sum game, if I win you must lose. And our elected leaders must champion our opinions or we will elect someone else who will.
When tolerance replaces truth, it’s not long before we tolerate only those with whom we agree.
Here’s where Jesus’ followers come in. We are commanded to defend our beliefs “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15) by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). The greater our opposition, the greater our opportunity. If the country takes note of a Democrat and a Republican who get along well enough to drive to Washington, what will it think of Christians who love our enemies and pray for them even when they persecute us (Matthew 5:44)?
G. K. Chesterton: “To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” If our culture saw millions of Christians expressing such love, forgiveness, faith, and hope, would spiritual awakening be far behind?
John F. Kennedy asked, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”