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Shaking Up Social Grouping

In my relatively short time here at JBU, I have learned things about myself, things about the world, and even a thing or two in my classes. The thing that I have enjoyed learning about the most, however, has been people’s viewpoints. It is nice to be able to sit down with someone and discuss anything from Old Testament interpretation to whether you should include corn in the popcorn chicken bowl in the caf, and every person is unique and has his or her own perspective. JBU does a great job of encouraging these types of conversations and creating opportunities for them to happen—both inside and outside of the classroom. Every time I get to talk to someone about their ideas and opinions, I learn something new, and I learn about the person. These face-to-face interactions with people who are different from us are fundamental in building a healthy community, and they allow us to understand viewpoints better than we ever could from a book or article.

Last semester in my government and politics class, we read a book titled Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became our Identity by Lilliana Mason. In the book, Mason describes what is called social sorting. I won’t get into the nitty gritty (talk to Dr. Bennett for that), but social sorting is basically when the various identities of people in a group align with each other, specifically under a political party. There are then two types of people: those who are sorted, and those who are what Mason refers to as cross-cutting. Someone who would be sorted into the Republican party would look very much like myself: white, male, southern, and evangelical. Someone who would be more cross cutting for example might be a Protestant Latino living in Los Angeles. Latinos generally vote Democratic, while Protestants generally vote Republican. A person like this, however, knows people in both groups, and because of this he or she is more likely to compromise and not view the opposition as an enemy. A socially sorted person, on the other hand, tends to fall prey to the evil of demonizing his or her opponent. Sorted people begin to see people in the groups that they don’t interact with as “the other.” Since they don’t interact with those who are different than them they become more tribal and consider people with differing opinions as their enemy. But enough with the political science; you get the gist.

As students at JBU, we are in a position where we can interact with people who are from all sorts of backgrounds or social groups. There is only so much you can learn from a book; the conversations we can have and the relationships we can build with the people around us are vital to really understanding and respecting differing viewpoints. We don’t have to agree, but we should not demonize those who disagree with us. This is especially true among believers. The church today is divided on some important issues, but by no means should we view other believers as the enemy. We are called to “above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Colossians 3:14) No matter our denomination or lack thereof, we are all united in Christ. This is especially true on JBU’s campus where there are so many different people with so many viewpoints packed closely together. So, students of JBU, this is the challenge for both myself and you as members of our community: get to know someone who you disagree with. Heaven forbid, you might actually make a friend, and the Kingdom will be better off for it.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not claim to reflect the opinions or views of the Defendant or its staff members.

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