The Hard Work of Getting Along

I recently got unfriended. And blocked.

I could venture a guess as to why. The person who deleted me from their online life was pretty instrumental in me being asked to resign from a pastoral role several years ago. (Back then, I had the audacity to — in this same blog space — warn Christians about blind political allegiances, suggest our church should address the refugee crisis, and refuse to condemn people to hell with whom I disagreed.)

I haven’t worked at that church in a while now, but I didn’t cut anyone from there out of my life. I stayed friends with all the people who took exception with my “liberal” views. I was nice when I saw them out and about. I’m not sure what I did to offend this particular person recently, but apparently I crossed some invisible line.

Have you been blocked lately? Unfriended (what a cruel word). Have you done any blocking, unfriending, muting, unfollowing? Do you have people you’ve stopped hanging out with? People you no longer respect?

This needs to be said — sometimes we need to set boundaries in our lives. Sometimes people are abusive. Sometimes it’s legitimately not safe. And sometimes, it’s just not good. I’m not talking about that.

What I’m talking about is how we can’t seem to stand having people who disagree with us in our midst. It’s not that we need a different thing to think. It’s not about convincing everyone we’re right and they’re wrong. I think what is imperative is that we need a different way to think. The system we’re using is broken. This dualistic, Us vs. Them, exclusionary methodology we’ve brought to our discourse and — by extension — our relationships is going to further alienate us from one another. It won’t end well.

The natural conclusion to this divisive relational system is the death of all our previously reliable systems.

“A house divided against itself shall not stand,” Jesus said. Lincoln famously echoed it.

The reverberations of those words rings all too loudly in our ears. Government is buckling under the weight of partisanship. Churches are asking staff members to leave because they disagree. Families can’t get along. Communities are reeling.

And yes, we’re simply blocking and unfriending people because we disagree.

We have to do something.

It will, of course, take work. Fortunately, there are several voices prompting us toward a fresh path. I have discovered three at the intersection of faith and politics. If you are interested in finding a new way to discuss, relate, and include, getting involved in these three organizations would be a great place to start.

The Center for Action & Contemplation

The “CAC” is a faith-based organization in New Mexico which teaches the Franciscan tradition of non-dual thinking. Refusing to choose between right behavior and right belief, they openly admit that the most important word in their title is “and.” We have to “include and transcend” the dualistic ways of modern thinking. They produce daily e-mails, online courses, a rigorous “Living School” and multiple quality podcasts.

Their founder, Richard Rohr, is a notable Catholic who has grown a large following of non-Catholics (and non-Christians) because of his inclusive message. I have found no greater encouragement than in his books and teaching as I find myself entering into the second half of my life. If you are a person of faith looking for language to unpack your hunches around our modern methods of disagreement, the CAC provides a valuable theological foundation.

The And Campaign

Is The And Campaign a theological organization that talks about politics, or a political organization that talks about theology? I don’t know, and I don’t care. What I do know is that they have been an organization that has helped me feel not crazy. Again, “and” is a key word in all this. If we can’t figure out how to embrace the good in both (all?) sides of our political discourse, we’re doomed for more of the same.

They have also published an outstanding book called Compassion & Conviction: The And Campaign’s Guide to Faithful Civic Engagement. It was a beautifully written, thorough treatment of a lot of the subjections that we often avoid because of the degree of difficulty reasonable conversation demands. If you want to stop avoiding those convos — this would be a great place to wade in and gain some skills.

National Institute for Civil Discourse / Common Sense American

I recently ran across Common Sense American. They are an extension of University of Arizona’s National Institute for Civil Discourse. With members of every political persuasion, they are about conversation, compromise, and beating back partisanship. You join, view policy briefs, and give feedback. No one calls you names, and the discourse has a totally different vibe.

They desire to “move past partisanship,” an echo of the CAC’s desire to “include and transcend.” That’s why I love all three of these organizations.

We can spend our time writing people off, or we can figure out a way to get along. It seems to me that we should be striving toward the latter rather than the employing the easy cop out of the former. Writing each other off is easier than staying engaged.

Sometimes the most worthwhile efforts are the most arduous.