A few years ago the Miller Brewing Company had an ad campaign out that touted the virtues of its Lite Beer. One school of thought said Lite Beer was better because it tasted great. The other school of thought said Lite Beer was better because it was Less Filling. Passions ran high on both sides. Soon the ongoing debate gradually escalated into a loud shouting match as to who was more right. It didn’t matter that both sides were talking about the same can of beer. Owning the label meant more than the contents inside the can. 

This caused me to reflect on the age old question concerning personal Lenten disciplines. Do you give something up for Lent or do you take something on? There are those who firmly believe it cannot be a real Lent unless there is a measure of self-denial involved somewhere in the spiritual equation. Then again, there are others who passionately believe that true spiritual growth comes from taking on new disciplines. Keep in mind we are still talking about the same individual here. 

In classic American thinking it’s an us against them world. It’s our side against their side. It’s good versus evil. It’s light versus darkness. It’s a constant battle for the triumph of the American Way! But is that really how things are? Is the world irreconcilably divided into two camps? Is it always right against wrong or are there various shades of grey in between? 

One of my favorite memes frequently seen on the internet reminds us of the folly of this form of dualistic thinking. The question is posed: “What if I were to tell you that the left wing and the right wing, both belong to the same bird.” Now I realize for those who want to divide people into opposing forces that categorize our neighbors into Red or Blue this is an easy and convenient path to take in life. It is considered heresy to entertain the possibility that both Left/Blue and Right/Red, might not contain all the truth or answers for our complicate problems. It’s also entirely possible they both sides might be wrong. 

This is where doctrine and dogma will get us all into to trouble. If we allow doctrine and/or dogma to have the final say over our right relationships, then we have totally missed the message of Jesus Christ: We are to love God and love one another as he has loved us. The world is seldom either/or. More often than we realize the world is actually both/and. 

So maybe it doesn’t really matter if Lite Beer tastes great or is less filling. Maybe it really doesn’t matter if we give up red meat, chocolate, and alcohol for Lent or if we choose to read a chapter of the Bible every night and walk 30 minutes every day. As long as we are striving to live better lives and helping others are doing the same, we might actually be happier if we encouraged each other regardless of our political persuasion. 

One thing is for certain. If the left wing and the right wing absolutely refuse to cooperate with each other, then the same bird to which they are both attached, will never be able to fly. That sadly enough would be our great shame.  

Peace, Mark+