For at least fifty years I have been fascinated by people’s differences and have had a profound motivation to study these differences. Eventually, my career secured a place so that I could work within America’s then youth crisis. For over twenty-five years, my life was dedicated to this country’s troubled youth. I had first-hand exposure to the complex sociological differences of their challenges, as they moved in separate circles within our nation’s many very different cultures.
I think we can all agree on one thing that has always been and always will be true, namely, that most children do not understand their parents and most parents struggle to understand their children. I was shocked to find out that many parents did not understand that their children were members of their distinct own sub-cultures. Parents were quick to say that “Teens are in their own world” as if something was wrong with them, but were slow to realize that every generation of young people which has ever lived has formed their own distinct sib-cultures in their desire to be unique. Any success I ever achieved working with youth was my willingness to study, and embrace this process as a normal part of any society in almost any part of the world. Parental strong-arming and family traditions can have a numbing effect on this natural process, but they will never eradicate it completely. Simply put, we all want to be one of a kind; we want to fill a unique footprint within our own society. We feel complete when we find that “niche” where we fill that “me” shaped hole that we feel we were born to fill.
In this season of what seems to be a “broken America, my most recent heart’s desire is to help us all understand how different our two main subgroups are from each other, in the same way that we need to understand how different we are from our own teenagers, or from the young people we see around us every day.
For the sake of our nation, can I ask you, dear reader, to open up your heart to try to understand the “other side” a little better? Would it ever be possible for one group to attempt to see the cultural differences of the other group? Would it be possible for one side to put aside any hate or contempt and rationally consider why those on the other side think they way they think, and why they are so passionate about the things they fight for? Please excuse the over-simplistic and not all-inclusive analogy, but what makes one individual a Ford person and what makes someone else a Chevy person? To continue that line of reasoning, what makes a Ford person dislike a Chevy person simply because they drive a Chevy, or a Chevy person dislike a Ford person because they drive a Ford?
The good news is that we live in a nation that have for many years and should continue to be able to kindly accept our differences, living together contently, not expecting everyone else to think just like we do! If we have done this we are capable of continuing to do so!
Let us start by building some common ground that touches many areas currently dividing America. The one thing we all have in common is that most of us believe we are made up of three parts. One side believes that we have a mind, a body, and a conscience. The other side believes that we are made up of a mind a body and an eternal spirit. Most of this second group embraces the moral teachings of the Bible or another religious affiliation. I must add that this observation is not an absolute, as there are obviously some on the first side, which do believe in an afterlife and embrace part of the teachings of the Bible. However, some spiritual differences have brought us to this place of “seeming hate” between the two camps.
Let us remember how hard we fought when we were teenagers to be distinctive, and how hard teenagers fight today for their idiosyncrasies. I believe we should show the same mercy to each other that we are willing to show to our youth!
If one segment of our country could have a theme song it might be one of Paul McCarthy’s greatest hits “Live and Let Die” released in June of 1973. This group of fellow Americans, those who mostly believe in the three-part personage of our human makeup being a mind, a body, and a conscious desire to live out what they believe is a normal happy life. Some have their own version of religion.
If the other part of our country could have its theme song, it would be the most well known Christian song in America, “Amazing Grace”. A converted slave trader named John Newton wrote this song in 1722. It well describes the beginning experiences of almost every Christian believer very well. Its theology is embraced by many in our country who firmly believe that they are under the care and watchful eye of a Heavenly Father. They believe that due to His amazing grace, He gave us the gift of salvation by offering His only Son for the sins of the world.
Couldn’t both groups just accept that the other half believes differently? Neither side should ever justify violence or hurt to foster a peaceful America. Certainly nothing Jesus Christ, mostly recognized leader of the one camp, never taught anywhere to promote violence, but always encouraged to understand those culturally different from the others around them. Every person on this planet should be considered an important and precious living souls that we need to try with all of our hearts to understand better, and think ill of less. In conclusion, if we can learn from accepting the differences of our loved teenagers, then we should likewise be able to accept the differences other adults.
Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. He is currently a contributor to christianlensonline.org and christianpost.com. His website is www.verticalsound.org.