Using our hearts to heal our divisions
By Rev. Jan Chase
Minister of Unity Church of Truth
Many of us may ask why does the world seems so divided at this time? Even simple conversations with friends and family can be fraught with difficulties and unexpected innuendos.
I spent the last weekend of February in Minneapolis with my family who are all Democrats and my ex-husband’s girlfriend, Peggy, who is a Republican.
My children—all in their 40s—were keen on protecting her from our political rhetoric. When I brought up a subject they interpreted would be politically hurtful or divisive, they almost put a gag in my mouth. “No Mom! Don’t go there!” That shocked me. I don’t recall ever censoring my children or telling them what they could say. It became very clear to me that we need tools to learn to talk to each other across political divides.
When I returned to Claremont, I took advantage of the six-hour course taught by Frank Rogers Jr. from the Claremont School of Theology and the Center of Engaged Compassion called “Engaged Compassion and the 2020 Election: Learning to Talk with People Whose Politics You Hate.”
Held at Claremont Presbyterian Church, this course invited us to shift from demonizing thoughts and language of “others” into a deep understanding of our own political positions and some of the unconscious reasons we hold them based on our own experiences. Then we were called on to speculate about the possible deep needs and experiences of those who hold positions we hate.
The interesting thing about this work is that it takes us out of our “dug-in intellectual positions” and into “fluid, heart-felt understanding.” Just what the world needs—less “need to be right” and more “need to understand and care.”
Although our minds are important, they lie to us. It is critical that we check out our presumptions by going to our hearts, and even to our souls, for deeper understanding.
The issue I was trying to share with my family was a documentary I had seen at the University of La Verne called Free Trip to Egypt, made by a young Muslim businessman, Tarek Mounib, who hated the divisions he saw in this world. He was given a “divine idea” that would not let him alone until he acted on it.
So he attended a Trump rally to offer free trips to Egypt and took video of the responses he got. There was a lot of fear of “other” expressed. Only one young man and one security guard from the event signed up.
Using other marketing tools, Mr. Mounib got a small plane full of volunteers with “right leanings.” Off they went to meet their counterparts in Egypt—Muslim Egyptian families they would tour with during their stay. This film shows the miraculous things that happen when people come together in shared experiences, despite ideology.
This is the basic premise of Restorative Practice Circles, which are becoming popular in communities and schools to help form and heal relationships. Despite differences, when people sit in a circle and share from their hearts, bonds are formed that transcend intellectual stances. Something sacred within each individual is seen and celebrated by the group.
To not be dissuaded by my family in Minneapolis, I ventured out into the politically rocky territory of talking about Free Trip to Egypt knowing that I shared many values with Peggy. I did not share it with the intent of making her wrong or changing her mind, but of showing that humans naturally connect when they take the time to get to know each other.
Being a world traveler herself, Peggy already knew this. We became even deeper admirers of each other. What my children and I learned is that deeper conversations around political issues can bless all, when they come from the heart.