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I thought it was just a simple update for my iPhone. You know the kind…it will work better, faster, be more user friendly, etc, etc, etc. When the update was complete, I noticed an icon for a new app. The amazing people at Apple decided I might like the “News” app, the one that would allow me to get personalized news stories. You know the kind…the more I read the news, the more my News-feed will be tailored to my interests.

Wait…what??? So, now there is an app that will feed into my biases, blind spots, phobias and generalized interests without the clamor of thoughts, insights and opinions that don’t support my ideals and agendas? Is it just me, or does anyone else see the audacity and danger in this approach to cementing one’s worldview? The more you read about a given perspective, the more that perspective will show up in your News app to distort it into the only appropriate way to think, feel, behave or react.

We already have a problem with polarization in this country. We shove people into categories based in their political perspective, skin tone, language, age, gender, sexual orientation and, well…the litany of “us against them” divisions grow with each issue presented in our neighborhoods, the media, our families and even our churches.

It has become acceptable for some groups to point fingers at other groups and refer to them as supremacists, homophobes, idiots, greedy, self-centered, rich capitalists while denigrating the targeted group for looking in another direction to make equally absurd assumptions. Really? Are some stereotypes okay? Does it depend on what’s politically correct? How big your groups of followers are or how big your voice is? Is it ever okay to categorize people, no matter what you think you may know?

And, Apple wants me to use this silly app that chooses articles for me based on what I am already reading without counterbalancing those thoughts and opinions with equally important views that I may or may not have considered?

The Pope is in town. Oh, not the town I live in. He has come to visit our country and all forms of media have brought him into our homes so we can feel his presence wherever we are throughout the nation. You would think his presence would remind us to celebrate our diversity and think in terms of unity, reconciliation, grace, and working together on the problems that plague us.

Nope.

Open any Facebook page and you will find rampant finger pointing and scathing comments that only work to divide us even further into our exclusive niches. “Did you hear what he said about…?” “Have you read his perspective on…?” “He didn’t address my concerns about…?” “He’s changing…” “He ate with…” “Did you see how he reacted to…”

It seems to me the Pope isn’t actually taking sides. Smart man! Instead he is speaking from his understanding of grace – what loving God above all things and loving neighbor as self looks like.

Read that again. Instead he is speaking from his understanding of grace – what loving God above all things and loving neighbor as self looks like. Maybe we need to read that again and again and again. Instead we, in our antithetical views, have twisted his words to be about us and our egocentric agendas.

This beautiful creation that God entrusted us with, this place we call home, the people around us – the ones we know, the ones we only read about, the ones who we love and the ones we take issues with – these are our neighbors. These are the people we are to see as children of God, whether they are living in poverty, or wealth; look like us or not; share our political convictions, concept of religion or the constitution…or not; relate to an understanding of gender and family in a conservative way…or not; drive a Prius or a gas guzzling SUV; believe in global warming, climate change, non-GMO foods…or not; are vegetarian, card carrying members of PETA…or not; demonstrate for gender equality in religion or embrace traditionally roles for clergy; speak out on abortion and divorce, or realize that simply navigating life can lead us to places we never expected to be in and don’t know how to maneuver; prefer lemonade or a martini, cats or dogs…or neither…these, friends, are our neighbors. Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

We need to accept the lessons of the Gospel and live as if God’s gift of grace to each and every one of us matters. We need to remember Jesus walked and partied with women, outcasts, adulterers, rich tax collectors and lepers without condemning any of them. He showed compassion for all, not just those who deem themselves to be politically correct. Actually, he had little time for those interested in making and enforcing rules. He was more concerned with people and how they learned to live joyfully and with limitless love for others. He even broke the rules when they led to oppression. Imagine…

I am glad the Pope is here. Maybe he can refresh our perspectives, help us move past our limited views and politicized agendas and encourage open conversation on difficult issues that may guide us toward truly compassionate living and grace which can only be defined as living as if God and the message of love given to us through the life of Jesus mattered.

Epilogue: I have tried to delete my News app. No such luck. Apple made sure it’s there to stay. Maybe that too is a good thing. When I see the icon, I will use it as a reminder of how dangerous it can be to limit exposure to those things that can be used to divide us into dangerous, exclusive groups.

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