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Driving Wedges

2017-11-02

"Russian agents intending to sow discord among American citizens disseminated inflammatory posts…”1

"The Russia-linked posts were 'an insidious attempt to drive people apart'…”1

In the world today we’re seeing more and more polarization, extremism and loss of conversation. The news for weeks has been filled with a series of revelations on the full extent of Russian president Vladimir Putin's intelligence operation to drive wedges into western issues. Russia operated a massive “fake news” effort that targeted the 2016 political election in the U.S. They made social media posts “that reached 126 million users on Facebook, published more than 131,000 messages on Twitter and uploaded over 1,000 videos to Google’s YouTube service”… they focused on race, religion, gun rights, and gay and transgender issues.”1 Russian third parties even went as far as paying coaches to offer self-defence classes for African Americans to increase the chance they would fight back against aggression. These coaches had no idea they were being manipulated by Russia.2

As shocking as the scale of this operation is, it’s a familiar tactic to those of us in Christian ministry. We know someone whose strategy is to drive wedges. Satan has been operating this tactic for millennia against God’s purposes. This week we commemorated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. For all the renewal we celebrate that came to both sides of that divide, it was still the largest schism in the history of the Church, and several stories this week have asked why, 500 years after the Reformation, Christians are still dividing.

As believers, exposing the strategy is the first step. But how do we wage an effective battle against a strategy to divide? Do we simply strengthen our defences and put up better firewalls against division? What would an offensive strategy look like? Would it mean trying to divide our opposition, responding in kind? Or could we intentionally pursue unity and collaboration? Frankly, it sounds weak—or paradoxical—to aggressively sow peace and unity.

One way to fight back is to pursue radical generosity. A dry, fragile, scarcity culture is liable to snap when pressure is applied, while a verdant culture is pliable. The flames of gossip and rumours get snuffed out when we attribute good intentions to our colleagues. Accusations and disagreements that in the past might have sent everyone to their corners are defused when we set a third table that tries to hear out the concerns and find common ground. Soft answers turn away wrath. Choosing kindness over retaliation heaps burning coals. Turn the other cheek. Those who make peace are blessed.

It turns out many of Jesus’ commands in the sermon on the mount were a preemptive strike. Remember a decade ago, Barack Obama ruffled a lot of feathers by pointing out that Jesus’ sermon was so radical it’s doubtful the Defense Department could survive its application. I doubt Putin’s defence department would fare any better. While it’s highly unlikely the U.S. government will deploy Christ’s admonitions to love and mercy against Putin’s strategies of division, it’s the Church’s best course of action.

Second, we can fight back with bold collaboration. To deliberately seek to come together is to defy Satan’s schemes. Last week I listened to a panel discussion that brought evangelicals and Catholics together in Montreal. One made a point that our default, what he called "maintenance mode,” is to see other churches or organizations as competitors. But when we switch to mission mode, realizing we are all minorities in a de-Christianized society, we see others as collaborators. After all, division is a luxury of peacetime. When we realize we are under attack, we unite to oppose a common enemy.

In this generation, Wycliffe wants to end Bible poverty worldwide by facilitating the translation of God's Word among minority language communities. Reaching all people with the Gospel in their language requires a global movement working together. Egos and brands are secondary, sometimes getting in the way. We unite behind a common cause.

Remember two thousand years ago, Jesus said Hell's gates would not prevail against a mobilized Church. What are the weapons God has given us against division? Let’s take full advantage and get Satan back on his heels.


1 Isaac, Mike and Wakabayashi, Daisuke. Russian Influence Reached 126 Million Through Facebook Alone. New York Times. Oct 30, 2017.
2 O'Sullivan,  Donie; Griffin, Drew and Devine, Curt. In attempt to sow fear, Russian trolls paid for self-defense classes for African Americans. CNN Money, Oct 18, 2007.

Roy Eyre is a student of leadership, design thinker, follower of Christ, husband and father. He has served as president of Wycliffe Canada since 2011. For more, see his full profile or read more of his President's Blog and leadership blog.

 

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