I’ve continued to reflect deeply this week, as I imagine you have also, on the violence visited upon the Capitol on January 6 – what it means about that state of our democracy, the state of race relations, the state of our political relationships, and the role of religious extremism in this country.
I mentioned in my sermon last week that these events have moved me to renew my engagement in the work of Braver Angels (formerly known as Better Angels) whose mission is to depolarize political life in America by bringing people into respectful, honest, challenging conversation and ongoing relationships across our political divides.
The work of Braver Angels is the work of peacemaking. It is not a matter of sweeping differences under the rug or ignoring or condoning violence or the horrific implications of what we think people on the “other side” believe; but engaging people across the chasms between us in a way that re-humanizes us to each other. To me, this work is a critical part of building Beloved Community.
I still believe there’s much to be done to hold people accountable and tell the truth about the twisted hold that white supremacy and Christian nationalism have in our country. But we also need practices that help us re-build what we have lost (not that we ever fully “had” it) – i.e., a basic sense of respect for other human beings.
Too many of us have allowed ourselves to hate “those people” on the other side, or become convinced that they are stupid, or deluded, or evil – and possibly all three. When we add in the fear that the other side is striving to obliterate everything we believe in and cherish, this is a recipe for serious, ongoing conflict. Even war.
The efforts of Braver Angels to re-humanize the other doesn’t solve every problem, but it does begin to de-escalate conflict. It is long, hard work to re-humanize the “other side”; but what is the alternative? Have your efforts to convince, argue, educate, or shame others into your way of thinking led anywhere but to greater distrust and alienation? Mine haven’t.
If you’d like to learn more about Braver Angels and consider whether we might practice this work at St. John’s, please join me on Zoom this Sunday, Jan 17 at 7:30 pm.. Details are in our Weekly eNews and on our website calendar.
This comes with Love, (and Hope)