Currently, our culture appears obsessed with division, separation and isolation. It’s hard to imagine that the world cares about consensus, unity and community. More than ever, we witness tremendous domestic, social and political polarization; it seems almost impossible to find opportunities to engage in civil discourse and dialogue with one another. Our public and political interactions are saturated with vitriolic and disheartening rhetoric that leaves us all wanting.
The absence of recognizable common ground or respectful disagreement is mirrored in social and domestic interactions, too. A quick examination of social media viewpoints, for example, quickly reveals just how pervasive and deep this propensity for discord really is. Ironically, virtual platforms that were intended to bring us closer have now become the very instruments we use to keep ourselves apart.
The same holds true in our neighborhoods. Our neighborly life has given way to communities living in closed-off locations, shielding themselves from those deemed unacceptable and irredeemable. Common-sense hospitality is being corroded by all kinds of prejudices and irrational fears. And, as the economic and cultural gaps continue to grow, integrated neighborhoods are becoming more difficult to find and sustain.
We know that since the beginning of time, humans have been plagued by this insidious tendency to create disharmony, division and animosity. Along the way, we have acted in ways that isolate ourselves from God and His creation. In the book of Genesis, for instance, Adam and Eve hide and place blame on others (Genesis 3:8-24). Furthermore, the prophetic tradition can be read as particular corrective narratives, guiding us to greater reconciliation and communion (Isaiah 54:8-10).
Despite this sobering and daunting predicament, the limitations and challenges of any given moment will never overcome the grace found in our encounter with Jesus Christ: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8: 38-39).
As serious as this polarized climate is, it doesn’t have the last word for those who believe. Truly, the calling to freedom and responsibility we have received is stronger than the fragmentation and division confronting us today: “So if in Christ there is anything that will move you, any incentive to love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any warmth or sympathy…Nothing is to be done out of jealousy or vanity; instead out of humility of mind everyone should give preference to others, everyone pursuing not selfish interests but those of others. Make your own the mind of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2: 1-5).
In faith, we know that our commitment to love and reconciliation will not disappoint (John 13:34; 15:12). And in the grace of community, we can readily imagine a different world of unity, and make our own the joys, hopes, griefs and anxieties of the poor and afflicted. While we recognize the difficulty and challenges that are before us, we trust that God will give us what we need, especially as we strive to build up the Body of Christ.
Orozco is executive director of intercultural and interreligious affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.