We are in one of the most highly polarized periods that I can remember. There are so many issues now that people are passionate about that it feels like the Country is coming apart at the seams. And many people who stand on one side or another of a particular issue are certain that they are right. Whether or not to wear a mask, to quarantine, to open the economy back up, to take down all the Confederate statues, to protest acts of police misconduct- these are all issues that are dividing us, and it seems that most people have certainty that their position on these issues is correct.
We should remind ourselves that this is not the most highly polarized time in our Nation's history. In 1862 we were engaged in a terrible civil war that pitted us against our fellow countrymen. Hundreds of thousands of lives would eventually be lost in our struggle for freedom for all. Through it, President Abraham Lincoln suffered personal sorrow and military defeats. It was a low point for Lincoln and for the whole Country. People both in the North and in the South were certain they were right and had God on their side.
In response to these overwhelming problems and the strong opinions of the citizens, Lincoln questioned the notion that either side could claim the complete support of God. He wrote, "In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time."
In our present season of travail it is tempting for each of us to be certain that we are right. We may even be convinced that God is on our side. In matters of the dignity of every human life, it is important to stand up for the causes of justice and equality. As Dr. King said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Yet it is also important to approach our neighbors and those with whom we disagree with a measure of grace and humility. People of goodwill grow and change, even if it takes longer than we think it should. None of us can claim complete moral superiority over anyone else, and it really would not advance our causes much to do so anyway.
History will judge whose present cause was the most righteous. It may even be that History will decide that the righteousness of some issues is ambiguous. President Lincoln, whose cause and leadership history has rightly come to revere, may have put it best, "My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right."
Lynn Jinks is an attorney with Jinks, Crow & Dickson, P.C.