Healing Division In Divisive Times
In a recent poll, around 50% of both Republicans and Democrats think that members of the other party are "ignorant." Just over 20% in both parties think people from the other party are "evil." In polls dating back to 2014, there has been a growing level of distrust between the two major political parties in the U.S. Since that time, 50% or more of each party say that they are "afraid" of people from the other party. Is there any way to heal such deep divisions?
Imam: Within the Islamic tradition, the Second Commandment of the Ten Commandments -- that's the Second Commandment, not the Second Amendment -- states, "Love your neighbor as yourself." In a time of such great division, it is more important than ever that we practice this commandment. We are not called to love each other because of our political parties; we are called to love each other because that is God's intention for all of us.
Rev: Loving each other is important, especially with the kind of love that comes from the center of our spiritual traditions and understanding. But of course, that isn't just a sentimental notion. The kind of love that faith teaches is not necessarily about a reciprocal kind of love. That's the easy kind of love, and we should feel very fortunate if we have the opportunity to love those who also love us. But God's love is of a much higher order. And it's a lot harder to do than reciprocal love.
Rabbi: The belief that if someone thinks or believes differently than you, then one has to fear the other is an extremely dangerous mindset. Faith, the kind that we talk about as part of "Good Religion," does not teach us that we have to fear someone who has a different belief, but rather that we should have the goal of trying to understand them. And if we believe they are headed in the wrong direction with their thinking, it is our responsibility to have an open and inviting conversation and discussion with that person.
Imam: This is about the responsibility of love. When we can get past our likes or dislikes about someone's political party, or beliefs regarding religion, or philosophical understandings and so on, then we begin to learn to love the way that God, through faith, calls us to love the other person. We love them simply because they are a fellow human being with whom we share a great deal in regard to hopes, dreams, fears, needs and so on. This is the kind of love that tries to see the real person under all the other facades and masks.
Rev: It just seems that we have become far too comfortable with, at the very least, writing off someone who has a different viewpoint than we do, and, at worst, demonizing them. Faith calls us toward greater compassion. And we can do that without sacrificing our principles or our deepest beliefs. In fact, as we talk about this deep belief in the power of love, we can be open and welcoming to the other, even if we disagree with them.
Rabbi: Recently I had a conversation with one of my friends in the Jewish community about percentages of Republicans and Democrats within Judaism. The statistics are that somewhere from 70% to 80% of Jews are Democrats, while somewhere around 20% to 30% are Republicans. This person was very upset about the 20% to 30% who are Republican within the Jewish community (this individual was a Democrat). And I reminded this individual that if anyone knows the danger of prejudice against a minority group -- in this case Jewish Republicans -- it should be Jews.
Imam: It is very easy in our world to look at recent history -- think Rwanda and Burundi, for instance -- where such deep divisions between people became deadly. We see this happening to some degree in our own country, and it is terrible. We have come to believe that people who think differently than we do or believe different things are, as the statistics indicate, "evil" and "ignorant," and we become afraid of them.
Rev: This is perhaps the most significant challenge we face as both Americans and more importantly as human beings. We have to get our anxiety under control, we have to learn to calm our minds and our spirits (a spiritual exercise), we have to be willing to listen and to have meaningful conversation, and we need to be committed to building bridges, especially with those with whom we have the greatest and most profound disagreements.
Rabbi: The willingness to heal divisions and to not participate in this divisiveness is perhaps the most important spiritual practice into which we can put our efforts going forward. The cost of continuing on this road of division and mistrust will by no means lead us where good and honest faith calls us to go.
The Rev. Bryan Fulwider, Rabbi Steven Engel and Imam Muhammad Musri are The Three Wise Guys. Their website is at http://twgradio.com/. You can email them at email@example.com.
(c) 2019 Rabbi Steven Engel, Imam Muhammad Musri and Rev. Bryan Fulwider
Distributed by King Features Syndicate