I’ve Experienced This Cultural Moment Before … in Russia

Why America today feels like Russia in the early ’90s and why that’s an opportunity for Christians.

The country seems to be divided as it has not been for a long time. The grand narrative that has united the country is being vigorously questioned. People cannot agree on basic values. Public discourse has become toxic. Deep divisions run through nearly every public institution. The media have become polarized. You can tell people’s political leanings by the media outlets they draw information from. People on the other side are not simply wrong on some issues, they are bigots, entitled elitists, foreign agents, ivory tower weirdos, or some combination of these. Reasonable discourse with them is not possible, so eventually they have to be shut out of public life.

It is becoming more and more challenging to have a calm, lighthearted conversation about public issues with friends who disagree. Tension is palpably in the air, and sporadic street clashes are beginning to erupt. There are some who call for peace and reconciliation, but their voices are drowned out by those who think that peace and reconciliation with their opponents are impossible. And, to make matters worse, a deadly contagious disease has arrived from another continent.

You may be thinking that I am describing the current state of affairs in the US, but I’m actually describing my experience of living in the Soviet Union during the final years of its existence. Lately, though, my experience of living in the US feels eerily similar.

As a seminary professor, I often wonder how Christians should respond to this situation. But divisions among Christians tend to mirror divides in society at large. Moreover, these divisions have seeped into my classroom, and sometimes they burst into the open. How should I react? Should I steer clear of discussing this subject? …

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