Worldview and Political Polarization
“…we should avoid holding the assumption often held on the extreme left and right that salvation comes through government”
As a 1.5 generation Korean American immigrant, family has always been at the core of my identity. It’s the smallest unit of measure. It’s my default setting, and if I am not actively and intentionally considering other ways of seeing the world, I can easily make the mistake that it is the only way to see the world. This perspective is part of my worldview, or the lens through which I interpret and understand the world around me. Our worldviews are the stories and frameworks through which we organize and filter information–shaped by our experiences, tradition, culture, family, education, network, socioeconomic status, etc.
Differences in worldview help to explain how two people can look at the exact same data or circumstance and come to vastly different conclusions about its meaning and implication, especially as we consider political matters. Positions on healthcare, taxes, immigration, and guns are all downstream of our worldview. Policies are the what; worldview is the why. Too many of our political conversations remain at a positional level. They are characterized by a bombardment of statistics and articles favorable to our positions, and they rarely add value to a conversation because their authority and dependability are first assessed through one’s worldview.
“Policies are the what; worldview is the why“
Political polarization is not merely a cultural problem; it’s a problem within the Church. How we have conversations matters. When the outcomes of discourse are fear, anger, resentment, and bitterness, something has gone seriously wrong. Instead of beginning conversations on positions and platforms, what if we went further upstream and truly learned about others? What if the goal of our conversations wasn’t winning, but understanding? If we are unwilling to learn the worldviews, contexts, and stories of others, we will believe that our way is the only way to see an issue, just like my conversation in high school.
“…anyone who disagrees with us can be labeled as either insane, evil, or willfully ignorant. This is the true tragedy of polarized political discourse”
Christians should vote, engage in politics and culture, and run for political office if that’s where they’re called. But we should avoid holding the assumption often held on the extreme left and right that salvation comes through government. As Christians, we believe our ultimate hope is not in Caesar, but in the triune God. Jesus has shown that he does not need to work vicariously through other kings to bring about his kingdom. This is very good news. It means that those across the aisle are not our enemies, but fellow image-bearers whom we are called to love and serve. It means we have the capacity to share stories and learn each other’s worldview and context. Our conversations don’t have to be dwindled to defeating our opposition in debate but can be invitations to mutual understanding–which might be just what we need in this polarized political climate.
Kyongmin Song is a 1.5 generation Korean American, with a passion for building diverse, Christ-centered communities. He has taught classes on Christianity, culture, and politics with an emphasis on reconciliation, and is a frequent preacher and speaker at churches and para-church ministries. He also works as an environmental engineer and studies theology at Bethel Seminary. He and his wife Emily live in Minnesota with their guitars.