Our country is divided. It pains me to see it and I’m reminded of a time when my church battled something similar. Let me share a story and some thoughts on how to do better.
My church was landlocked and attendance was stifled by it. We only had a couple of acres in a suburban area with no option for expansion. The elders were looking for solutions but we were deadlocked on the two options they presented.
The first option was to buy a large tract of land, outside the area we were in so we could grow. Much of our congregation was local to the current site and didn’t want to move. Some said we shouldn’t spend all the money on a big campus and buildings but more on Missions. Our church had a unique focus on sending out missionaries from the congregation and supporting them.
The second option was to start a ‘sister’ church or ‘daughter’ church for room to grow and maintain our focus on missions. It would have given us the expansion room we needed, and a common direction but some thought it was a stop-gap option at best.
The two options were put to a vote several times but the results were always about 50/50. This went on for weeks.
We were about 800 members at that time. Our elders and leadership were frustrated because we all believed there ought to be an answer that we could all get behind. Sometimes the vote was 49/51 and other times it was 51/49 and the elders were just not willing to make the call based on that vote.
As one said, we can’t decide this on the fact that Jimmy can’t be here tonight to cast his vote. We are divided and need to find unity before we commit to a path.
I wonder how this compares to the current situation in our country.
We are about 50/50 and that causes a great deal of friction. Our elders were not willing to declare winners and losers but we clearly do that in this country right now.
The current speaker of the house declared their side winners of the ‘war’ because they had the gavel. They ‘lost’ some battles but won the ‘war’. Those were her words. That rhetoric is divisive and just continues the problems we have creating a clear vision and direction for this country.
The ‘opposition’ has the same tone and would be happy if they had ‘won’ the gavel. They might have it in the Senate and that still has to play out but that will mean gridlock for at least 2 more and likely 4 more years.
Nothing gets done and it’s a battle in the daily news. It prevents growth and improvements from being made. What happened to compromise? What happened to be able to listen to each other for understanding. What happened to building consensus and getting good things done even if we don’t agree on everything? We saw that as the stimulus bill was used as a political hostage. No progress, no solution, no consensus.
I think it’s a question of what sort of game we’re playing. In game theory there are two kinds of games. Finite games and Infinite games.
In a finite game, there are rules, a time limit, a playing field, and at the end, someone is declared a winner or loser. Infinite games have different rules. The main goal in an infinite game is to continue to play, to keep the game going. There is no time limit and no winners or losers. If you’ve never heard of this idea before, spend a few minutes with the video I included below.
Our form of government was designed as a Republic and was created to be an infinite game. To keep it going as long as we can. There is a story told about Dr. Benjamin Franklin and Elizabeth Powel after the new constitution was passed. Dr. Franklin was approached by Powel and she asked him a question:
Powel: Well, Doctor, what have we got —a republic or a monarchy?
Franklin: A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.
Powel: And why not keep it?
Franklin: Because the people, on tasting the dish, are always disposed to eat more of it than does them good.
It’s a battle we have to fight every day and it requires us to be unified in purpose. To continue the play without winners or losers.
Our motto, in the beginning, was E Pluribus Unum. It translates from Latin to English as follows: “e” meaning “from” or “out of”; “Pluribus” being the ablative plural of the Latin for “more”; and “Unum” meaning “one”. Thus, “E Pluribus Unum” simply means “from many, one” or “out of many, one”.
It’s the same idea of Unity in my church. Back to my church. How did we solve it?
It was decided we’d rent some temporary facility that could hold about 200 people at a Sunday service. We had to do something but the result was not what was expected.
The music pastor was chosen to lead the remote location and a schedule was set. On the morning of the launch, 400 people showed up instead of 200.
There were not enough chairs, not enough parking, and not enough bulletins. Chaos ensued but in a good way. Turned out, half of the church that wanted to build a bigger facility went to the new location. The other half stayed at the old location. There was a lot of confusion and unintended consequences but in the end, the two churches thrived and they had a vision for what they wanted to be, together. We supported each other, met together for events, and kept a spirit of unity. There were no winners or losers in that event.
The magic word is Unity. It was a command from Jesus to his followers that we would be unified. Unity was the reason the elders could not force a decision. It was what solved the chaos and unintended problems that arose. We had a common direction even though we wanted to go about it differently.
Can we do that in our country? “E Pluribus Unum”
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Isn’t that the common goal? Justice for All. Don’t we all want the same thing? It’s not something we will ever fully achieve but it is the goal of the infinite game we’re playing.
It’s a promise we have to work to keep, every day.
When we mistake the game we’re in for a finite game, we get what we have right now. Winners, losers and frustrated, angry people because they don’t feel like they are being heard.
Here is a video I found last night that might help. It might be a starting point as it explains something I certainly didn’t understand. I have always wondered why Christians vote the way we do. Check it out.
So how do we solve this? How do we make progress forward?
I think it’s two things. Relationships and listening.
Find someone with who you disagree politically and invite them to lunch. It shouldn’t be too hard if you just go on Facebook. Go to lunch with the intent to listen. No name-calling, no arguing, no agenda except to listen. This is how relationships are formed. Listening.
Relationships and listening are required and I believe can lead us to a solution. We are not as far apart as you might think.
Thanks for listening.
PS, if you want to comment here or on FB, that’s fine but keep it civil. No name-calling or I’ll delete your comments.
I’m free for lunch too if you want to meet up.
- Something from 1983
- Burn Out