What Psychology Offers Christians Amid Political Polarization

Scholars describe the difficulties and benefits of humility, but Christ offers an example.

Unprepared for all the political drama after the 2016 election, a number of churches split up over disagreements on whether Christians should support President Trump or not. As we face the 2020 election, the pressure to choose a side remains intense. Recent Democratic candidates have called for the establishment of a “religious left” to defeat the “religious right.” Groups like the Red Letter Christians vehemently denounce anyone who supports President Trump as “abandoning Jesus” and part of a “toxic Christianity.”

Yet the church’s tension is also part of a national tension: The growing rift between the two political parties has hit an all-time high, with 97 percent of Democrats polling more liberal in viewpoints than the average Republican, and likewise, 95 percent of Republicans polling more conservative than the average Democrat.

Psychology explains this political polarization as an effect of groupthink: Put in a position of “us versus them,” people will strongly side with those who think and act like themselves and want nothing to do with the other side. This creates a spiraling effect which further widens the “us versus them” gap.

A key mitigator to this hostility between groups is intellectual humility, a term psychologists broadly define as “recognizing that one’s beliefs and opinions might be incorrect.” The lead-up to the 2020 election has combined religion and politics in a way that is destined for social conflict. As the election cycle begins with this week’s primary debates, we can learn from this study.

While this kind of humility may be particularly applicable to this contemporary moment, humility has always been …

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