Divergent Thinking

I just finished reading Veronica’s Roth’s bestselling book, Divergent. In a divided world, supposedly factioned in order to maintain peace, the main character, Tris, finds herself as a biological and social oddity – a Divergent – who cannot be categorized within the either/or thinking dominating this post-apocalyptic civilization.

As a Divergent, who cannot be categorized, and therefore will not easily fit into any of the five camps of the society (Erudite, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Candor), Tris is actually a threat to the harmony of social order.

What makes a person Divergent is that the aptitude tests which place a person within one of these five factions come back inconclusive – meaning that they cannot be controlled by the penta-partisan thinking that keeps them divided and, therefore, easily controlled by the powerful in the society.

While the book is a bit elementary and predictable at times – and even more so the movie – the cultural insights Roth utilizes in her narrative are especially prophetic for our highly divided, bi-partisan world.

Let me illustrate: Just recently I was involved in two discussions regarding the Death Penalty. My position is that the Death Penalty is contrary to Christian ethics. I understand that other Christians disagree, and I’m fine with that.

But when I voiced my position with my fellow Christians, immediately the conversation jumped to false dichotomies and polemics. I was suddenly accused of not caring about justice, or the victims, or society. I was suddenly accused of just wanting to let murderers and rapists go free with no consequences, as if I had absolutely no moral compass whatsoever.


I never said anything for the sort. My position was nuanced and thoughtful. My position required patience to understand. 

But in this country, nuance, thoughtful dialogue that requires patience has no place. We’ve reduced ourselves to a bunch of partisan hacks who cannot even hear one another. Nuance is lost in our sound-byte ethics and politics. And though most of us are even speaking the same language, we’re just as incapable of communication as those at the Tower of Babel.

And this is not just an American culture problem. This is a church problem.

We cannot handle nuance in a discussion of LGBT issues, the Death Penalty, Just War, racism, poverty, health care, Civil Rights, or abortion.

Any word of “nuance” that questions the position we already hold dearly – no matter which side of the partisan divide we’re on – is lost in the outcry of “LIBERAL” or “HATER!”

And in comparison to Roth’s post-apocalyptic dystopian world, our world is much more degraded and hopeless than five factions that have the high quality values of intellect, self-denial, truth, compassion, or bravery.


Why do I say we’re more hopeless?

Because neither of our parties care about intellect – they care about ratings.

Because neither or our parties care about self-denial – they care about self-promotion.

Because neither of our parties care about truth – they care about spinning the truth for votes.

Because neither of our parties cares about compassion – compassion is just a  rhetorical weapon to use against the other party.

Because neither of our parties care about bravery – they care about conformity.

What our world needs is divergents. We need prophets. We need more people who cannot fit in a political mold. We need more people who can’t be checked off as an automatic blue-stater or red-stater. As the  divergent character, Four, says in Roth’s book,

We’ve all started to put down the virtues of the other factions in the process of bolstering our own. I don’t want to do that. I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and kind, and honest.” 

I wish these things were as tatooed on our hearts as they are on his body.