Haidt asks THE question of our time. Why are good people divided by politics and religion? Here are some of my thoughts.
I have many European friends who say politics and religion have the same purpose, they both want to control the individual. From their perspective, they want nothing to do with either. They want to be able to choose their own way without interference from any organization either religious or political. At the core of their life choices and therefore their moral compass are their experences, their emotional responses to those experience and even their intuitive response to those experences.
Most who belong to an Evangelical church in the United States would not hold to that same tenant. However, consider that Haidt argues that we are born with the desire to want to do what is right. Also, consider that it is frequently our experiences and not reason that shapes views on what is right and what is not. In other words, “We’re born to be righteous, but we have to learn what, exactly, people like us should be righteous about.”  Consequently, people can be quick to choose sides and quick to form opinions that are not based on reason but on experience, which leads to reaction instead of acting thoughtfully and rationally. This is not a secular vs Christian condition, it is the human condition.
It’s interesting, “we’re really good at holding others accountable for their actions, and we’re really skilled at navigatiing through a world in which others hold us accountable for our own.” But we are not so good at holding ourselves accountable for our own actions and reactions.  In light of this circumstance, people react to emotion and physical stimilus more than they do reason. In fact, people often do not respond to reason until, because of the circumstances, they are forced to reason. Even then, they can second-guess their reasoning over their emotion and intuition. However, this might not apply when people are interacting with other people. 
Haidt applies this thesis to the polictial spectrum of left, right, conservitive and liberal. However, the thesis can be applied to other situations where opinions, culture and world views differ. Which is most of the world. The church is not immune.
Though the church can be divided along polical lines, the church has long been divided along structural and theological lines. Regrettably, the polical lines that divide the church seem to be getting more and more ingrained in Christian discourse.
Honestly, I try my best to stay out of the public political fray because I do not believe that it advances the Kingdom of God—for which I have dedicated my life. I have taken some redicule for this stance with some of my friends saying, being in the middle is the most dangerous spot on the highway. Go left or go right but you can’t walk down the middle of the road and survive. This is indicitive of the political divide among even some of my close colleagues and friends.
Getting back to my Europe experience, my time there has influenced everything about me. It has shaped the way I see the world, and it has affected my view of the danger of mixing politics and religion. From that point of view, I regard political influence in and on the church to be unholy and even detrimental to the Kingdom of God. Many, many disagree. And, if one chooses to call that walking down the middle of the polical highway then so be it.
One thing I have noticed however; it seems that the more stark the political divide among the church, the more the structural and theological lines become blurred or even “forgiven.” For example, there was a time when the Evangelical church and the Catholic church seemed to be in diametrical opisition to each other, in their structure, in their theology, and in their political views. It appears that the tension has been lessening. Many things have attribute to this lessening of tension. One in particular my be what is precieved as a general attack on conservitive values and conservitive views of, for example, marriage and family values. The common sturggle has made a once less-than-friendly association, more friendly and even fraturnal.
At this point in my ministry and life, I have little time left for the division along political lines. As long are there are people in this world who are unreached, who are hungry, without clothing, medical care, clean water, heat in the winter and shelter from the storm, there is no time for drawing lines in the sand politically. Haidt states that “people are trying harder to look right than to be right.  I don’t want to be right, I don’t even want to look right. I want to do what is right. That means different things to different people, for me it means that I will walk humbly, love mercy and do justly, in that order. That’s not policial, that’s just plain Christian.
- Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. New York: Random House, 2012, 31.
- Ibid., 87.
- Ibid., 80.
- Ibid., 89.