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Grace-filled Political Conversations – Practice #2
By Betsy LaVela
During this election season, our 10 AM Sunday Adult Forum is taking on the topic of how we can bring grace to our political conversations. How can we as Christians, bring humility, forgiveness and even reconciliation to the one area of our lives that seems the most broken. Join us as we explore 8 practices that with God’s help, can transform our political conversations into something that might actually bring us closer together, rather than drive us apart. For more info, or to watch past of future installments: https://christchurchcranbrook.org/grace/
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. John 13:43 NRSV
Find your Why- That’s the goal from chapter 3 of I Think You’re Wrong (But I am Listening)-A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations. To do this will some require some deconstruction of our politics, lots of introspection, and a willingness to delve deeply to consider what would happen if we allowed our values to drive our decisions. Deconstructing our politics will involve defining our core values, sharing our personal stories with another, identifying themes and then landing on a guiding WHY statement.
I suspect your politics may not come into play for many of the decisions you make on a weekly basis but that some of your core values do. Why then would you allow a politician, or a single issue, or a political loyalty be what drives you in the voting booth?
Today’s political rhetoric is so polarizing, that the thought of engaging someone with opposing views may seem futile. You may think that you simply could not have anything in common with someone who tends to vote much differently than you do. Yet if you dare to be so bold, you may be surprised to find that finding common ground is possible.
Political Jerseys Off
Finding common ground begins with truly taking your jersey off. (See last week’s first practice) We are going to be delving deeply to uncover the values that matter the most to us. We are going to dare to question our own stance on key issues that we may never have explored ourselves. Studies have shown that we have failed to do this introspection ourselves and have just aligned over a party banner. Or that some of us have allowed one issue to reign supreme. You’ll need to open yourself up to the idea that your core values can do the driving. When we put our values into play, we can focus on that bigger picture and release ourselves from canned positions that we might not really hold.
Until we are able to go beyond talking points, many of us may not be capable of digging into a topic with an open mind or an open heart. Finding common ground takes a mutual agreement to seek to find that common ground.
Uncover your Core Values
Think of your core values as the rocks that serve as the foundation of our lives as a world citizen, as a US citizen, as a Michigan (or insert your state) resident, and as a beloved adopted son or daughter of God. Below is a sampling of core values:
As a person of faith, you might want to pair the list down. Here are some key Christian values:
Your core values may pop out at you at this point or they might not. You can refer to these values as you seek to define your why.
Share your stories
The authors of the book point us to Simon Sinek’s TED talk on leading with your why. Sinek says that your why propels the how and what. Think of your why as a vision statement. In a follow on book, Find Your Why, Sinek provides two methods to help us to define our core values: plotting peaks and valleys of your life experiences or using memory prompts. I added a third method: finding your driving sacred stories.
Sinek suggests doing this delving with a trusted listener – someone who might not know your personal story and who can listen with ‘fresh eyes and ears.’ Make sure when you share these stories that you are referring to specific experiences, that happened in certain places, and identify those people that have played critical roles in those stories.
Identify themes from your stories
Once you have shared your stories, lean on your listener to help you identify themes and the core values that are coming into play. You may want to refer back to the listings of core values above.
Craft your Why Statement
Then use your themes to help craft your WHY statement. An ideal WHY statement will look something like this:
Finding common ground with ‘the other’
When I think of those that have excelled in finding common ground with others these are names that spring to my mind: Jesus, Saint Paul, Nelson Mandela, The late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Corrie Ten Boom. Seeking common ground as a basis for discussion on thorny issues becomes much easier when we trust each other’s why.
The example the authors use is the issue of health care. When they first tried to discuss their positions, they were using political talking points. Their jerseys were on. They found that it was possible to find common ground and have useful dialog when they came at the issue from the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Using this parable, they found that they could start from a place of compassion and love for others. This made a huge difference.
Common Ground Allows for Fruitful Discussion and Friendship
Let your values take the wheel in guiding your opinions rather than your loyalty to a political leader, to a single issue or to a political team. When we allow our values to drive discussion with others who may disagree with us, it is more likely that we might find some common ground so that we can have a fruitful discussion. This does not mean that you compromise your values or change your stance, this means that you open yourself up to the possibility that there just might be some common ground. (A story that might help you with this is the story of Peter’s encounter with Cornelius the Centurion in Acts 10. God gave Peter a dream that helped him to see beyond the rules he was living by. In so doing, Peter discovered some of his core values, made a new Gentile friend, and changed his perspective.)
Questions for further reflection: