By Aaron Earls
Americans don’t agree on much except that they don’t agree on much.
According to an IPSOS study that includes 28 nations, more than half of Americans (57%) say from what they see on TV, in the news media and online, and in conversations with others, they believe the country is divided by “cultural wars.” Only two other nations — South Africa (58%) and India (57%) — have a majority who agree their nation faces such a division.More than half of Americans (57%) believe the country is divided by “cultural wars," according to an IPSOS study. Click To Tweet
The U.S., along with Great Britain and Australia, is also one of the most evenly divided nations over whether the way people talk needs to be more sensitive to those from other backgrounds. Among Americans, 49% say people are too easily offended, while 45% say people need to change the way they talk.
U.S. adults are more likely than the global average to say their country has tension across 12 traditional areas of division, according to the IPSOS study. In half of the issues surveyed, the U.S. ranked in the top five in half of the issues, based on the percentage of citizens who said their country was divided by that issue.
Based on the survey, more diverse nations are more likely to feel tension surrounding those areas of diversity. Monocultural and monoethnic countries are less likely to notice such issues.
These national divisions can obviously cause problems, but they also create an opportunity for churches and individual Christians to showcase a biblical perspective on conflict and provide a way forward between groups that feel as if they are in conflict.
Nine in 10 Americans (90%) say the country has tension between people who support different political parties—the highest percentage for any issue. Globally, 69% saw this as an issue in their nation. South Korea (91%) and the United States were the most politically divided. Few in China (38%) or Japan (31%) saw politics as a source of national conflict.Nine in 10 Americans (90%) say the country has tension between people who support different political parties—the highest percentage for any issue, according to IPSOS. Click To Tweet
Americans (85%) are ranked third in the percentage of citizens who see division between those with liberal or progressive ideas and those with more traditional values, behind only South Korea (87%) and Chile (86%). Those in China (38%) and Japan (34%) aren’t likely to see this division.
Americans (83%) are the most likely to say there is a great deal or fair amount of tensions between different ethnicities in the country. The global average is 62%. The U.S. and South Africa (79%) top the list, while China (31%) and Japan (26%) are the least likely to say such tensions exist nationally.Among nations surveyed by IPSOS, Americans (83%) are the most likely to say there is a great deal or fair amount of tensions between different ethnicities in the country. Click To Tweet
For 81% of U.S. adults, tensions exist between the rich and poor. Americans ranked ninth in that category with a global average of 74%. Chile (91%) and South Korea (91%) are most likely to see those wealth divisions. Fewer say it exists in Japan (54%) or Saudi Arabia (50%). Still, it is the only issue over which at least half of the citizens of every nation said tensions existed.
More than 3 in 4 Americans (78%) say there are divisions between immigrants and people born in the U.S. Globally, 2 in 3 (66%) say the same about their country. South Africa (89%), Belgium (81%), and Peru (80%) are most likely to see such tension, while Japan (35%) and China (35%) again rest at the bottom of the list.
Similarly, 76% of U.S. adults say there is tension along the lines of social classes, compared to 67% around the world. Chile (88%) and South Korea (87%) are most likely to have such divisions, while around half of those percentages say the same in China (43%) and Saudi Arabia (41%).
Almost 3 in 4 Americans (73%) believe there is national tension between the metropolitan elite and ordinary working people, with 62% seeing such division in their country around the world. Chile (84%) and Russia (82%) are most likely to see such national tension, while those in Japan (39%) and China (37%) are least likely.
More than 3 in 5 U.S. adults (63%) say they see tension between different religions in America today, which is slightly above the global average of 57%. South Korea (78%) and India (75%) are most likely to note such divisions, while China (35%) and Japan (23%) aren’t likely to say they see such tension.More than 3 in 5 U.S. adults (63%) say they see tension between different religions in America today, which is slightly above the global average of 57%, according to IPSOS. Click To Tweet
Globally, 46% say there is tension between old and young people in their country. In the U.S., 54% agree. South Korea (80%) and India (61%) are the most likely to say such tension exists in their nation, while few in France (31%) and Sweden (29%) say the same.
Slightly more than half of Americans (53%) say national tension exists between men and women, compared to 48% globally. South Korea (80%) and South Africa (71%) top the list. Around a quarter see such gender divisions in Russia (27%) and the Netherlands (25%).
Half of U.S. adults (50%) say there is a great deal or a fair amount of tension nationally between those with a university education and those without it. Among the 28 nations surveyed, the average is 47%. South Korea (70%) and Peru (66%) are most likely to spot such division, while few in Russia (30%) and the Netherlands (27%) agree.
For 46% of Americans, tension exists between those in cities and those outside of cities. Globally, 42% felt the same. The highest recognition of such national tension exists in Peru (66%) and India (61%), while the lowest is in Spain (29%) and Germany (25%).
Takeaways for your church
Pastors and church leaders should recognize such tensions exist within their community and even within their congregation. Protestant churchgoers are split, appropriately enough, on whether they’d prefer to attend a church where people share their political views (46% agree and 42% disagree), according to a 2018 Lifeway Research study.
As you teach and discuss issues that could potentially be divisive recognize that many may not share your perspective on “country folks” and “city dwellers” or any number of other items. Make sure you stay committed to what Scripture says and avoid unnecessary controversy. The gospel is a stumbling block by itself, we don’t need to add extra barriers in front of it.In a world rife with tension, Christians can demonstrate the difference Christ makes and work to reconcile groups that are in conflict. — @WardrobeDoor Click To Tweet
To help those in your congregation see past labels and recognize the image of God in others, consider partnering with churches in different context than yours. If you’re in the suburbs or rural areas, cooperate with an urban church for an outreach event. Host joint worship services with churches of different ethnicities. Connect with ministries serving immigrants and refugees to provide hospitality and avenues for the gospel among those who aren’t Christians.
In 1 Corinthians 5:18, Paul says God has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus and has given us the “ministry of reconciliation.” In a nation and world as rife with tension as ours, Christians can demonstrate the difference Christ makes and work to reconcile these groups that feel as if they are in conflict.
Aaron is the senior writer at Lifeway Research.