Last week at Symposia, VP of Student & Alumni Development Paul Steinke said, “We boldy send our alumni out as deep lovers to love the world. And deep love changes things.” Here, David Rice (Master of Divinity, ‘10), Pastor of Markey Church in Michigan, offers a pastoral call to lean into the kind of division-crossing love that might help foster a new kind of discourse.

We hear in David’s words a reminder of the tension-holding and bridge-building that is so core to The Seattle School’s mission. However, that does not mean negating or silencing the deep expressions of grief and anger that confront systemic harm. On Monday, we’ll share an essay from Assistant Instructor Jennifer Fernandez about a theological frame for women’s anger—and the validity and necessity of that anger.

It’s been a gray and rainy autumn thus far here in Northern Michigan. The cloud coverage has been pretty dark and oppressive. Feels like a Pacific Northwest winter, for sure.

It’s also been a traumatic time in our common, political life. No matter how you see things, no matter who you listen to, or who you believe, I think it’s pretty certain that the past few weeks have only further entrenched you within your ideological camp. It’s been pretty predictable who will take which sides. It has been for sometime now.

If you get your news from Fox, Breitbart, and the rest, you support Kavanaugh, to some extent. If you get your news from CNN, MSNBC, The Times, or the Post, you support Dr. Ford.

My guess is very few people were able, or willing, to cross the ideological lines and, with empathy, put themselves in the shoes of the other camp. We’re pretty terrible at that sort of empathic activity these days in our culture.

To be sure, I have strong opinions on Dr. Ford, Judge Kavanaugh, Donald Trump, Susan Collins, Mitch McConnell, Diane Feinstein, and the rest.

I think women are to be believed, I think due process is important, and I think what has unfolded over the past few weeks is directly correlated to the refusal to give Merrick Garland a hearing a couple years ago, which was in retaliation for Obama’s progressive executive orders, which were a direct result of a GOP-controlled Congress who refused to work with him, which happened because Obama won the election in 2008, which was a direct response to a Bush Administration that lost all ability to govern, which was a direct response to entering into two misguided wars, which was a direct response to 9/11, which was a direct response to the U.S. being irresponsible with our foreign policy, which was a…you get the idea.

Ideologically motivated tribalism within the modern political machine is a ruthless, soul-crushing space to stay in too long.

I prefer to fish with people who see the world differently than I do. To build relationships. To find something that we both have in common. So that’s what I did a couple weeks ago: I stepped into the river for the morning—the famed Au Sable, that runs through and in and around my part of Northern Michigan.

You can have important and productive conversations with people you disagree with if you’re willing to find common ground on things that you both love. My guide was younger than me, and surely more ideologically conservative than I am. But we went to the river. We shared an experience. We both loved something together.

“You can have important and productive conversations with people you disagree with if you’re willing to find common ground on things that you both love.”

When you choose to find something you love that someone else loves, who you normally wouldn’t spend time with, then you have a place to start. If fishing isn’t your thing, maybe cooking is. Or fan fiction. Running. Road trips. Baseball. Knitting. Poetry. Hiking. Or even the grandkids.

More and more I’m convinced that so much of our political divide is baby-boomer parents experiencing a prolonged and delayed adolescent differentiation from their young-adult children (20-40 somethings). This certainly doesn’t account for the entire divide, but I think it explains a lot.

To my progressive friends, especially on the coasts: you are likely becoming more ideologically fundamentalist than you realize. Your insistence on purity within your ranks is the broader definition of fundamentalism. And it’s really destructive. I think you should try something different to engage people who see the world differently than you do. Very few people will change their minds because you yelled at them, or shamed them.

Love changes minds. Empathy moves hearts. Faith can move mountains, but you gotta start somewhere.

To my conservative friends, especially in the middle of our country. I don’t think you realize the damage that’s been caused by the people you’ve allowed to carry your namesake. It’s too easy to put on your blinders and only listen to the opinion folks on Fox (yes, Tucker and the rest are not journalists—they’re opinion/performance personalities).

Take a trip to New York, or Seattle, or Portland. Rub shoulders with the locals. Better yet, go with your young adult children, and do all that you can to see the world through their eyes, especially if you don’t see eye-to-eye with them politically.

Things are bad for many of us right now. I’m afraid for what the future holds. I’m afraid for my friends who are female, people of color, and LGBTQ the most.

I’m concerned that if we don’t stop reading our preferred news sources, and getting all of our information about the “other side” from opinion folks, or our crazy uncles on Facebook, then we’re never going to get anywhere new. We have to be outraged enough to put down our devices, leave the comfort of our communities, and spend time with people we would rather not spend time with.

If you’re progressive, and you don’t really know how to have conversations with people who live in the “fly-over” states, reach out to me. Let’s be creative on how we can help each other.

If you’re conservative, and your opinions about liberals are primarily formed by social media and Fox news, reach out to me, and I can put you in touch with some of the most thoughtful, kind, and godly people I know, who happen to identify as liberals.

Let’s stop letting our opinions of each other be formed primarily by the worst that the other side presents. It doesn’t have to be this way, but we have to choose a different path if we’re going to get anywhere new.

We’re better than this. We need to be better than this. We CAN be, if we have the courage to move to a different place, and move toward the people we’ve come to loathe the most.

May God give us the courage to step into the hard places.
May God give us the wisdom to engage with the people we like the least, with kindness.
May God give us the ability to discern when to disengage.
May God give us the strength to speak truth to bullshit.
May God grant us the ability to love people who assume the worst about us.
May God go before us, come behind us, and be to our left, and to our right.

And may we hear the invitation of God’s Spirit to head to the river, more than we currently do, and to respond accordingly.

May God’s Spirit be yours, forevermore. Amen.