The Two Churches

A short story

American politics has reached a point of stagnation. Liberals and conservatives stand in perpetual opposition and display no intention of pursuing thoughtful future avenues. The wisdom of past voices is forgotten and identity is defined in terms of difference and not shared dreams. For both liberals and conservatives, there is a dire need for redefinition. But recognition must come first.

There are two churches standing on opposite sides of a road. One is a simple concrete structure that, on all accounts, looks like an office building. The only thing that gives it away is a sign by the entrance that says: “Enter if you believe in equality, freedom and progress. Do not let the past stand in the way of the future!”

On the other side of the road there is a more traditional looking church. It has steps leading up to a large arched entrance where there is usually a man handing out pamphlets grieving the lost morals of the age.

In the beginning, the two sets of believers walked opposing paths. One sought freedom, the other equality. Members of the churches were devout and when the two churches confronted each other, they ran out with a sparkle in their eye, trusting that their conviction would plant the seed of change in the scorched ground under their feet. Those were the days of faith, when noble dreamers taught of mythical promise lands with honesty and vision. The end for the believers did not come with the trumpet sounds of triumph, but with the silent recognition of great sacrifices made for greater freedoms yet to come.

With the passing of the years, the stone of hope has lost its shine and despair has grown again. In these days of lost companionship, each church seeks creation through the destruction of the other, not realizing that they fill the cup of bitterness and hatred by keeping men apart. Leaders believe themselves the saviors, but too often view their supporters as playthings within false dreams of reborn greatness. Or alternatively they say to their followers, to the future we will go, while looking upon all others as figures who belong in a basket of deplorables that should be left behind.

Nowadays, the two churches stand opposite each other like reflections in a mirror. A move by one triggers the same response in the other. But in the reflection, believers don’t see men of flesh and blood that are exactly as themselves, they see themselves disfigured, more animal than man, and quickly strike the mirror to break the image that they don’t think they can be. Those who hold the mirror, get sliced by flying pieces of the reflection that can’t be.

Most tragic are those who are able to gaze upon the mirror. These unlucky few will pause for a moment and see that they’ve become the blinded extremists they had sworn to keep away. Upon seeing this, the weight of empty dreams and ended friendships will carry them out of the churches to sit alone in broken homes. With wrinkled hearts, there will be silence once more, and new ideas will be able to take hold.

Christina Egerstrom

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