The Dividing Wall of Hostility
Good morning. This is working theology.
Americans are more polarized than ever,† but a new focus group may provide a template for reconciliation. Over 500 people gathered at the Gaylord Texan Resort—a representative sampling of the United States population—to hear from policy makers and subject matter experts on various issues facing the country. Then they debated.
The project is called America in One Room, organized by Jim Fishkin, the director for the Center for Deliberative Democracy, and his team at Stanford University. The story at CNN describes it this way:
“We had a hypothesis that the American people are not as polarized as the American political class, not as polarized as our elected representatives and politicians,” said Larry Diamond, a sociologist at Stanford University. All Americans need, say the researchers, is access to non-partisan information and discussion.
I doubt this is all Americans need, but it’s definitely a start. Research at the MIT Media Lab visually represents the political division by scanning connections and posts on Twitter. They call it the Electome, and this is how divided Americans were near the 2016 elections on social media. In short, America in One Room has its work cut out for them.
However, some people believe this is a good thing at work.
In an article in the Harvard Business Review, researchers wanted to understand how politically diverse teams affect performance, using over 600,000 Wikipedia contributors as test subjects:
The findings are surprising. Political polarization is typically regarded as negative, but we reveal that if the power of diverse, polarized perspectives can be unleashed, it can positively influence quality productivity.
It seems division can be productive, and Christianity, of course, has something to say about that.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian church that Christ has broken down the dividing wall of hostility. In the ancient Jewish temple in Jerusalem, there were walls separating classes and races. The outer rings were meant for Gentiles, and the very inner rings were meant for the priests, going closer and closer into the Holy of Holies.
Christ, in contrast to the Jewish traditions, had broken down these walls to bring together disparate groups into one family.
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:12–16)
Work often acts like a surrogate Christ in some respects. My office, for example, comprises many people from many different backgrounds and beliefs—some Jews, some Christians, some atheists, white, black, old, young, liberal, conservative. And there’s only 50 of us.
Despite our differences, we all work very well together because our work breaks down the walls that divide us. (The Wall Street Journal even wrote a story on us about it.) I bet your office has similar backgrounds and diversity.
By focusing on the work you have to do and how to get it done together, your team can unleash the power of diverse mindsets to bring about new clarity and innovation to the work ahead, much like Christ has done for us in the spiritual realm.
Thanks for reading.
By the way, the results from America in One Room will be released on October 2. I’ll keep you updated.
† One media outlet has greatly influenced my thinking about diversity and political division. It’s called On Being, and they have a project for civil conversations, aptly named The Civil Conversations Project. I highly recommend you take a gander if you’re into podcasts and civil conversations.