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Reviews |  We’re not meant to be fanatics

The program ended with a “deep dive into the criminal justice system – we met correctional officers, visited prisons and went to the state capital of Michigan,” Alexis Lewis told me. , who graduated from Spring Arbor this spring and participated in the program. She said the discussions “could get uncomfortable at times”, but was surprised at the honesty and mutual understanding expressed by the participants. “I think we dehumanize ourselves when we have different opinions, but in Bridging the Gap we started out by telling our stories, and that made you care about each other,” Ms. Lewis said. “It wasn’t about trying to change someone’s perspective, but realizing that the truth you have may not be the whole truth.”

Join Michael Barbaro and the “The Daily” team as they celebrate students and teachers who end a year like no other with a special live event. Meet students from Odessa High School, which was the subject of a Times audio documentary series. We’ll even get some noise with a performance by the award-winning Odessa Marching Band Drum Line and a special celebrity opening keynote.

I’m convinced – well, I’m trying to convince myself – that most Americans are like Mrs. Lewis. They are tired of culture wars; they want to understand and get along with people who are different from them. It is true that a few zealous transform political ideas into infallible dogmas because they seek the sense of community once offered by traditional religion, and because they seek ideological substitutes for the doctrines of original sin, predestination and of divine justice – that perverse mixture of control and victimization. that tempts humans when the prospect of taking real responsibility becomes too frightening.

But a much larger proportion of Americans want to regain their sense of free will. They belong to what More in Common, the organization I mentioned earlier, calls “the exhausted majority”. The recurring theme of my conversations with young religious believers left and right is their longing for freedom to escape political tribes. Their refusal to be bound by the habits and fears of their parents’ generation echoes the special role that young Americans played in the relaxation between Catholics and Protestants two generations ago – and perhaps that history interfaith conflict has something to teach us about rebuilding working relations between Republicans and Democrats.

When today’s hatreds seem inescapable, it’s heartwarming to remember how far Americans have come since, say, 1960, when John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign prompted evangelical Protestants to stage a warning media blitz. voters that a Catholic president would be a Vatican pawn, that fruitful Catholic families were taking over the country, and that patriotic Protestants should not let accusations of anti-Catholic bigotry stop them from sounding the alarm bells. “Are we entering an era of Roman Catholic rule in America? Harold Ockenga, a prominent evangelical pastor, asked in a rousing speech several weeks before the election. “Will there be a denial of rights, liberty and privileges for non-Roman Catholics?

Although an occasional anti-Catholic bias persists in some circles today, many Americans hailed the Catholic faith of our 46th President with a collective shrug. Over the decades, a complex series of socio-economic, cultural and ideological changes have enabled Protestants and Catholics to recognize each other as human brothers capable of cooperating in the democratic process and even of uniting their families. Young lay believers have contributed at least as much to interfaith understanding as bishops and theologians. Protestants and GI Bill-funded Catholics sat side by side in college classrooms after World War II; they walked side by side in the civil rights movement; they worshiped together in the charismatic renewal movement of the 1960s and 1970s, when Pentecostal-style revivals swept through all Christian denominations and had a special impact on college campuses.

It is crucial to see that young Catholics and Protestants were not simply emissaries of an inevitable generational change. In the interfaith friendships they made, the spouses they chose despite their “ethnic” surnames – in the countless small compassionate interactions that distinguish a flourishing civilization from a crumbling civilization – they made the deliberate decision. to reject the prejudices and assumptions of older generations.

“I think a lot has changed with my peers,” Aberdeen Livingstone, a rising junior at King’s College, a Christian liberal arts school in New York, told me. “There is this rising desire to engage politically, but also a growing awareness of the dangers of tribalism. A lot of my friends are trying to get back to something that defines their values ​​other than politics. “

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