Stuart C. Reid: American Christians will regret their divisiveness

People protest for and against the confirmation of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, rally at the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The recent national elections exposed how polarized the United States has become. Irrefutably, we are a divided people — divided right down the middle and dangerously so.

What are American Christians doing about it? What are they doing to try to heal and reunite the nation?

In 1850, U.S. Sen. Sam Houston warned America on the floor of the Senate, declaring: “A nation divided against itself cannot stand.” Eight years later, during his acceptance speech for the nomination to U.S. Senate, Abraham Lincoln echoed Houston’s warning, declaring: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Their declarations were warnings about America’s division over slavery. Both Houston and Lincoln were presciently proved right when, in 1861, the nation plunged itself into civil war. At that moment, the United States, as they warned, could stand no more — the states were no longer united.

While these declarations by Houston and Lincoln were prophetic, they did not originate with them. Their words were the biblical words of Jesus Christ, recorded in Matthew 12:25 and Mark 3:25 — words familiar to Christians long before the Civil War.

In light of Jesus Christ’s words, what did Christians actually do to prevent the American Civil War that killed and maimed over a million lives, wiped out whole cities and impoverished more than half the nation? The short answer is, not nearly enough.

The historical record clearly establishes that Christians, divided themselves, spread their derision throughout the nation. Each side quoted scripture inflaming the further polarization of the nation, resulting in the worst mayhem in its history, while each shamefully claimed fidelity to God.

In the midst of division, Lincoln resolved that the most important objective was to keep the nation united whatever the costs. His primary objective was a matter of national survival, superseding all other considerations — no nation, then no freedom, no peace, then no prosperity.

Lincoln refused to allow the Southern states to secede from the United States, even if it meant civil war. As the war progressed, it became increasingly clear to Lincoln the nation must stand undivided for freedom for all, whatever the costs.

Today, what are Christians doing to heal and unite the nation from going down a similar path of division and self-destruction? The short answer again is, not nearly enough.

Like before, Christians are divided among themselves, raging over culture conflicts, which are not only destroying American Christianity, but also further dividing the nation. As before, Christians are scripturally justifying their divisive behavior, while injecting their discontent into the bloodstream of national politics, further weakening the nation.

During the 2020 election cycle, Christians chose to unsheathe religious freedom as the sword wielded to fight their cultural and political conflicts. Because they drew that weapon, the presidential and congressional elections and even the recent judicial nomination to the Supreme Court have been severed over the subject of religious freedom.

American Christians will regret they disregarded Christ’s warning that a divided house cannot stand. They will regret devaluing their own Holy Writ when it results in the downfall of the nation. They will regret wielding religious freedom as a political sword when their adversaries marshal to rip it from them.

Certainly, religious freedom deserves to be protected and preserved. Yet, when Christians wield it as a weapon to politically divide and conquer, they themselves become the enemy to the very freedoms they claim they are trying to safeguard.

Is there not at least one Christian denomination willing to prove how to passionately protect and preserve religious freedom for all without sundering the nation? Is there not at least one willing to be a beacon for people of goodwill to rally around to help reunite the nation in peace?

If there is such a one, it is needed now more than ever to stand up and let its voice be heard for a united America. And if not now, then when?

Stuart Reid

Stuart C. Reid, Ogden, is a former Army chaplain and former Utah state senator.