Politics, Society, and Human Nature

It’s safe to say, I think, that our culture is polarized. Not only are there are strong disagreements amongst people regarding politics and various societal issues, but we seem to be less and less capable of viewing those with whom we disagree as human beings worthy of respect. Instead of thoughtful dialogue, we have media outlets that serve one point of view or another. If you’re more to the left on the spectrum, there’s CNN or CBC. However, if you’re more to the right, there’s Fox News or Rebel Media. Rarely do voices from one perspective meaningful engage directly with the voices from another perspective. Neither seems very willing. It probably wouldn’t be good for ratings, social media attention, and their bottom line.

But is it all about political differences? Are we only talking about the policy differences between Republicans and Democrats or between the Liberals and the Conservatives (or the NDP or Greens)? Have you, like me, ever wondered where this polarization comes from? How do opposing positions become so deeply entrenched? Why does it seem as though people are, more than ever, at one another’s throats?

This week conservative podcast host Ben Shapiro discussed this very question and I thought his analysis was insightful and very helpful. You can watch the clip below. While the context is the US political situation, I think if you watch it all the way through you can see how it applies more broadly.

Essentially, when we think about politics, culture, and how we as a society deal with one another, some key questions to ask are: What does it mean to be human? What is human nature? Are human beings basically good and trustworthy or do we need to acknowledge that each of us contains both good and evil, right and wrong? How we answer these questions–and not everyone operates with the same answers in mind–matters because our answers impinge on the way we think we ought to organize society, government, and our relations with one another.

More and more, it’s clear that different and competing visions of human nature lie beneath different views of political authority and societal norms and expectations.

The Christian worldview makes clear that human beings are a mixture of good and evil. When God created human beings in his image, he said it was very good. But not long after the creation of humankind, things went awry. Sin entered the picture. People became enemies, both of one another and God. The image has been cracked and marred by selfishness and disobedience. The question is what happens to the way we think about society, culture, and politics when we ignore the realities of human nature? I don’t have all the answers, but it’s a question we should be asking.

Here’s Shapiro’s video.