The Binary Lie
You sit in the optometrist’s chair and they say, “A or B?” as they flip lenses. The choice is binary, one or the other. You cannot pick both. You cannot say, “Neither.” When our son was young, we learned never to ask open ended questions like, “What vegetable do you want for dinner?” We said, “Peas or green beans?” Our whole data driven world is binary – ones or zeros. Binary choice. We humans like binary choices.
Our world is often ordered into binary choices of right or wrong, good or bad, black or white, in or out. We do it to everything. We do it to each other. We do it with complex things, like moral decisions, hoping to make them simple. Pro-life or pro-choice, pro-gun or anti-gun, black lives matter or blue lives matter. Frankly, it is all very stupid. There, I said it. Is anything resolved by such over-simplifications? Does anything good come from such blatant reductionism? The result is division and hate, not order or knowledge or truth.
In scripture we see the unfolding story of God and the human struggle with stupidity (aka, sin). Humans divide between male and female, Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ismael, Esau and Jacob. If you read the stories, however, you see that God, at every turn, messes up the neat categories and simplistic binary choices between one and another. Jesus reveals the same disdain for binary categories as he erases boundaries between Jew and gentile, clean and unclean, sinner and saint, and finally, life and death.
Paul calls the people of Christ to be one, unified, at peace. He charges the Ephesians to the work of “making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3-4) One might say that Paul is just talking to the followers of Christ here and perhaps advancing division. He is not. Paul sees the Church, the body of Christ, as a manifestation in the present of what God plans in the future for all humanity. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
We do not live in a world of black or white. The world is an endless spectrum of gray. In the same way, after our recent election, it is a lie to say that this nation, a state, a city, is “red or blue.” The division is wishful thinking for those that want winners and losers. The division is harmful to a country rooted in democracy. We are, in fact, a nation of every shade of purple. The map produced by the New York Times tells the truth. Our divisions are of our own making. There are not “white” or “people of color.” These are deeply rooted labels that keep us from seeing that each and all display color across the beautiful spectrum created by God.
The only future our nation, and humanity in general, can forge is beyond the binary lie. We must live together with all our differences in peace and mutual respect or we are doomed. Thanks be to God that Jesus showed us the way out of the lie and into the truth. We are all and each beloved creatures of God.
Tim Olson, Lead Pastor
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