Reuniting the United States:
Unity Through Mind and Heart
A brief observation of the modern state of things in the United States will quickly lead one to conclude that America is incredibly divided right now. From the riots of Antifa to the violence and bigotry of neo-Nazis, America's screens are filled with images of hatred, division, and insanity. When we aren't seeing violence in the streets, we hear a constant barrage of pundits squabbling over politics. We check our social media news feeds only to find that our friends are cursing one another over who they voted for. If you are anything like me, you are tired of the constant focus on violence and hatred. I estimate that a majority of Americans find themselves wishing that we could all just get along. Yet how do we accomplish such a task? Are we more divided than ever? And is there any hope for us reuniting the United States?
"Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." - Matthew 10:16
During one of the most divisive times in American history, Martin Luther King, Jr. detailed the means for creating national unity. He understood that in order for the nation to unite, individuals must first have a unity of heart and mind. In his book Strength to Love, King described the need for a strong mind. According to King,
"Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think."¹
Sadly, this accurately describes American culture all too often. In this era of instant gratification and low intellectual standards, few seem to be interested in deep thinking on complex issues. But what does it mean to have a strong mind? Those with a strong mind are able and willing to think through difficult situations. They do not merely chase after the easiest solutions, but pursue the most effective means to accomplishing a task. The strong mind is not easily led astray by shallow claims or quick generalizations. Rather, it seeks to know the truth of every claim. It is not afraid to ask hard and honest questions. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the strong mind is willing to "fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion."² It is also able to "question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear."3
Yet how does a strong mind help lead to national unity? In order to be unified, Americans need to be able to deeply evaluate the claims they hear from the media, politicians, and others. A strong mind is needed in order to look beyond the swirling clouds of media bias, political partisanship, and divisive rhetoric that permeate our culture. Let us all invest, then, in strong minds capable of intellectual honesty.
In order to succeed in uniting the country, individuals must also possess soft hearts. To have a soft heart simply means to possess and practice compassion and kindness. As we continue to see footage of violence and hatred on the streets of America, compassion and kindness seem to have taken an extended vacation. Now more than ever in our lives, we need people to stand up for the Biblical principles of love. As the Bible says in 1 Peter 4:8, "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." This type of love has been displayed in instances such as the aftermath of hurricane Harvey, as multitudes of Americans came together to show love to their fellow human beings in such a time of suffering. May this type of love continue across the nation, and may violence disappear from our society's playbook of protest. Again quoting Martin Luther King, Jr.,
"There are hardhearted and bitter individuals among us who would combat the opponent with physical violence and corroding hatred....A Voice, echoing through the corridors of time, says to every intemperate Peter, 'Put up thy sword.' History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations that failed to follow Christ's command."4
Let us therefore pursue soft hearts and follow Christ's instruction to put up our swords.
Unity of the Head and the Heart
Before we can come together as one nation, the American people must first possess both strong minds and soft hearts. This will allow us to look beyond our prejudices and preconceived notions in order to see the human beings on the other side of the aisle. Like Martin Luther King, we must understand Christ's instruction to possess both intelligence and compassion. Without these qualities, we will continue to witness the strife and hatred that pervades our current culture. Strong minds and soft hearts must be pursued in America, and it starts with you and I.
¹Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010), 2.
²Thomas Jefferson, “Excerpt from Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr,” obtained from http://tjrs.monticello.org/letter/1297
3Jefferson, “Excerpt from Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr,” http://tjrs.monticello.org/letter/1297
4King, Strength to Love, 7.