American flag flying

An American flag flies on a pole in Sheridan County.

Rate yourself on the following statements according to this scale:

(6) Strongly Agree (5) Agree (4) Slightly Agree (3) Slightly Disagree (2) Disagree (1) Strongly Disagree

1. Rules matter. They are a part of the universe or are ordained by God.

2. Emotions should be kept under control and are less important than following the rules.

3. Those that follow rules and control emotions should be in charge. I favor hierarchy.

4. Success is a matter of individual effort regardless of group or social class. I favor the individual over the group.

5. Human needs and pleasures matter. Rules are created by people and can/should be changed when necessary.

6. I am attracted to new experiences and positive feelings. Social networks are more important than individualism.

7. I am for equality; I am egalitarian.

8. I am an ally of the underdog. I believe people are excluded from the dominant society by things like race, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religious preference.

Statements 1-4 represent “Right” thinking (Conservative/Republic) and Statements 5-8 represent “Left” thinking (Liberal/Democratic). Where did you land?

So, what’s the deal? I thought this was a faith page article not a political page article. It is. Please bear with me.

First, let me give credit where credit is due. I gleaned most of the above from a thought-provoking article written by Professor G. William Domhoff, Sociology Department, University of California at Santa Cruz “The Left and Right in Thinking, Personality, and Politics” (first posted in June 2009 and updated in October 2013).

God laid it on my heart to use this platform at this moment in American history to write something that would lead the 5-6 average score people from both the Left and the Right to discover that they have much more in common with the 5-6 average score people from the other side than they will naturally care to admit. I am not going to tip my hand concerning my own leanings. I will say that before I began, I had a much higher average on “my side” than I do today.

Through reflection, prayer, studying of scripture and loving my neighbor as I love myself, which means respecting the opinion of those with whom I disagree and loving them anyway, my score is a lot closer to 3-4 than to 5-6 or 1-2.

Consider this common story from the above-mentioned article: “The country is sustained by good and hard-working average people in the middle like us, but we have little or no power. Although important and hard-working, we good people are exploited and dominated by the few at the top.

Moreover, we good people have to contend with the ne'er-do-wells, those who don't contribute to the overall good of the society like we do. Since this state of affairs is not fair to the good and hard-working majority, we have a right to be angry, and we should organize to create social change that brings about a new social order (Domhoff, 2013).”

A rightist and a leftist can read that story as their own by substituting different groups/types of people for the “good… people…in the middle” and the “few at the top.” No wonder the country is split in two. Both can read that story from their own Right or Left perspective and it is true. The stronger feelings, the stronger the opposition to the “other side.”

God is neither Left nor Right; God is both Left and Right. God sees all of us as imago Dei (Latin for “divine image). “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the seas and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:26-27).

Perhaps your score surprised you? Maybe you are more like “the other side” than you would care to admit. It’s because we are all created in his image and God sees all things from his perfect point of view. Our job is to read his word and conform our Left or Right minds to his perfect mind. Then, we who are like-minded with him whose image we bear, will be able to view and interact with the world as he does, in perfect love. #LoveGod #LoveOneAnother

Gary Dobney is envoy-in-charge at The Salvation Army in Sheridan.

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