Been reading "Undaunted Courage" as of late, about the Lewis & Clark expedition to the Pacific.
At the time of their adventure, 1803, the nation was already struggling with competing visions - the Federalist and the Republican, and how to read the Constitution.
The differing visions polarizing today's politics are not much different, though within each of these visions, there is always some degree of fluidity - e.g. Rick Perry's GOP and that of George W. Bush.
I find it encouraging to read, simply because it encourages me to stand firmly for my view of things, even as I consider other points of view. Yet the vision that energizes me has long been a part of our nation's conversation.
It doesn't help, as some conservatives suggest, that Obama is a Marxist. Not at all, for Obama's vision is very much rooted in the American Dream. No doubt, Rick Perry's vision is rooted there as well, or even that of Paul Ryan.
America's unique political climate has allowed these competing visions to grow and prosper at varying times in our history, enriching our national experience.
Pushing deeper, these competing visions seem to be rooted in human DNA.
And they are clearly reflected in the Bible as well - with it's competing visions: the expansive world of Isaiah and the narrower world of Kings and Chronicles - each asking the question: What is God's vision? For Kings and Chronicles, God's vision is "Israel First." For Isaiah, the whole wide world is God's objective, and Israel is a tool toward that end, and never the end itself.
When Jesus enters the scene, he clearly goes with Isaiah, and when Paul begins to write, he, as well, aligns himself with the larger picture, seeing the church, not as an end in and of itself, but rather as a tool, a means, toward the larger picture of God's love for the whole wide world and the eventual redemption of creation!
We'd all like to think that our view of things is the best, and if we're readers of Scripture, that our understanding of the Sacred Text is more accurate that someone else's.
Who knows ... but this much can and must be said: there are competing views of the world in the Bible, views similar to the current debates in our national and local politics. Not that there's a direct correspondance (there never is), but enough similarities that allow us to compare and contrast.
For most of my adult life, I've tried to read the Text fairly, and I've tried to learn something of American history, even as I've searched my own life-experience and story to discern how I've been shaped and why I value what I do.
In the long run, I think it's a mystery - as Paul puts it, "Now we see in a mirror darkly, but then, face-to-face."
In the meantime, it's incumbent upon all of us to stand where we stand and to affirm the values we hold dear, even as we try, with all our might, to hear what others have to offer, and to learn from them, modifying our own views as we go along, yet to sharpen our views, too.
It's a great debate, and much is at stake.
May God grant to all of us a certain generosity and kindness.
But courage as well. The undaunted courage of solid convictions founded upon the bedrock of knowledge acquired through the discipline of research, with reflection upon such knowledge in long hours of consideration and conversation.