What America Needs

Tim Richards   -  

What America Needs  

This week our country celebrates its 247th birthday. While Americans enjoy the freedoms our constitution affords us, America has become an increasingly divided nation. Dr. Jim Denison, who writes a blog I regularly read, recently referenced an article from the New York Times that reported something which both political parties agree on; 69% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans believe our democracy is in danger of collapse. The agreement tragically ends there because both parties believe the other party is the cause of the problem.  

Citizens and leaders on both sides of the political divide are frustrated, but perhaps a quirky devotional Tim Gustafson wrote in Our Daily Bread on October 8, 2020, offers some practical advice about how we can begin to find some common ground.  

Gustafson referenced one of Dr. Seuss’ whimsical stories about a “North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax” crossing the Prairie of Prax. Upon meeting nose-to-nose, neither Zax was willing to step aside.” The first Zax angrily vowed to stay put— even if it makes “the whole world stand still.” In Dr. Seuss’ story, the world moves on and builds a highway around both Zaxes.  

Most of us want to be right but we may also be stubborn. Let me be clear, I am not suggesting we are to abandon our principles and agree to things we believe are wrong. However, when we begin to see everyone in the other political party as evil we are unlikely to see the possibility of reasonable principled compromise.  

When I was a boy I often heard my father say, “It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.” Tragically, this is increasingly rare in our current political environment, yet it is more needed now than ever. 

Frustration and friction are not new. The book of Philippians, which most scholars agree was written well before the end of the first century, has the Apostle Paul dealing with conflict between two women in the church. He wrote, “Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.” (Philippians 4:2, NLT) In the next verse Paul asked the pastor to help the women settle their differences because he valued both ladies. In verse 5 he offered a principle which can help those with different opinions work together he wrote, “Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do…”  

Of course, there are times when we must stand up for what we believe is right, but when we do we must avoid the unyielding stubbornness of the Zax. Gustafson correctly observed, “We can bicker with each other over every trivial concern until we destroy ourselves, or we can swallow our pride… and seek unity.” While it may not be easy, it is right and what America needs.