"Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand."
-- Matthew 12:25
The mountain ranges stretching from the northwest corner of Alaska to the southern tip of Mexico form a watershed known as the North American Continental Divide. Thus, river systems along the high ridges of the Rocky Mountains in this country flow only in an easterly or westerly direction, depending on which side of the mountains the originating moisture fell.
I can't think of a better way to describe the political divide bisecting America today. From the turbulent 1960s to the recent presidential elections, from Social Security to the War in Iraq, and from Terri Schiavo to the role of the Supreme Court, there hasn't been another period in my lifetime when this divide has seemed as impenetrable as it is today.
Controversies are a part of life, and disagreements are necessary to guard against ill-planned or lop-sided rule. But do we have to disagree so much, on every issue, and always along the same divide?
When the subject is even a little to the right of center -- tinged with religion, tradition, or authority -- the adherents are called conservative, far-right fundamentalists and sometimes of low intelligence. Just as often those with a leftward tilt -- more pro-choice than pro-rule, and more concerned with their own rights than whatever the other side holds most dear -- are called secular, liberal or "up with the times."
First we dealt in generalities -- separation of church and state, sanctity of life and following rather than circumventing the rule of law. Then came the specifics -- prayer out of schools, religious symbols off the public square and unwanted babies out of the womb. Before long there was hardly a law that couldn't be bent.
Abortion for other than health reasons or removing feeding tubes from disabled but fully alive persons used to be illegal. But by expanding the parameters of a law, to include placing international opinion above our own Constitution and substituting "quality of life" for life itself, the foundations of our nation are being aborted, too.
As I see it, one of those aborted principles is majority rule. Although there has been a convincing political shift across the country for most of the past decade, there have been lawsuits over election results and opposition to nearly everything the new majority tries to accomplish. Have cooperation and compromise also died?
If you read the advertised opinion polls you'd think a majority of the country wanted Terri Schiavo's feeding tube pulled. But if you happened to see the recent Zogby International Poll, you'd learn that 79 percent of us sided with Terri's family and against the judge who made the feeding-tube ruling.
Where does all this lead? Perhaps to less rule by law and the majority, and more power in the hands of those who rely on their own judgment or see their role as "righting wrongs of the past," says Mark Levin in his book about the Supreme Court, Men In Black. If one side of our divide refers to a higher law, like The Ten Commandments, the other side goes ballistic. Not to mention these laws and the God who gave them to the world for our benefit, however, is a travesty, too.
I've been studying the Old Testament to see how the extended plan God gave his people for managing their new nation might apply to us. I'm stunned at the pattern: blessings that followed obedience to God's plan, and chaos when the people turned their backs on him.
But I play an old refrain, and cast myself on the religious-authoritarian side of the divide. In the process I also draw the ire of those who still believe in the supremacy of man, and that the only drawback to orderly government is having those with better human judgment -- theirs -- in charge.
From Joshua to Esther, these books cover 300 pages and about 1,200 years. Because of the "great divide" between those who supported allegiance to God and those who did not, much of that time the nation of Israel lived in a literal, and eventually conquered, divided-kingdom of their own.
Oh that such a fate would not become our own.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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