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Finding Common Ground

I read a few things that stuck with me this week. I am rereading Chronicles, mostly skimming because the names and places don't really mean anything to me. The idea of being recorded and remembered totally does. When my kids are in a school performance, we scan through the program to find their names and they love this because it offers proof of their participation.

I also read an article in the NYT about why white evangelical Christians still back Trump. People are quoted as supporting him because he promises to protect the values they care about: not allowing non-Christians into a Christian school, not forcing them to hire gay teachers at their Christian schools, keeping 2 types of bathrooms- boys and girls. These are the day to day, very up-close things that matter to them. While they may or may not like children being separated and held at the border or racist and sexist behavior, (the article doesn't address their feelings on this), these are problems that hurt people far away and are easier to dismiss than the things happening in their own lives. Therefore, they support a man who helps them keep what they want, regardless of the cost to others.

As a Christian, I don't agree with this, but I do think I am just as guilty of doing things that benefit me while others suffer. There are many injustices and atrocities going on in the world but if my corner of the universe feels safe to me, it is kind of easy to block out the rest. For instance, I do not always buy fairly sourced clothes though I know I should. If somebody points out areas of hypocrisy in my life, it feels almost natural to get defensive, protecting my point of view, rather than listening and trying to understand them.

When I see this behavior in my children, it drives me crazy. These are two people I love ferociously, who are either not listening to their sibling's point of view or not giving them the benefit of the doubt. As an adult who loves both of them, knows their strengths and weaknesses, and sees the truth to both sides of the argument, I can usually see a way forward that doesn't require insults or tears. I start from a position of loving both sides.

As a grown-up disagreeing and fighting my own battles, I am not so different from my kids. My side seems very clear to me, the other infringes on something I believe in or want to protect. It is hard to see the other side with the same amount of love and grace as I offer myself. I am working on this. I never want to compromise my ideals but realize my opponents feel the same way. The people in the NYT article want to pass their values on to their kids. So do I. They want their kids to go to schools that teach things they believe in. Me too. We all want our kids to succeed. How we get there is different.

I think if we look for similarities with people we disagree with, then it gives us a foundation for conversation. I can't really have a conversation with someone I have already decided is pure evil. But I could ask another mom why she feels threatened by the sexual orientation of a teacher. And I could actively listen to her answer. Then I could respond with my own perspective. And she could listen. We might never get to a point where we agree with each other. That wouldn't necessarily be the goal. Instead, the goal would be to give people a chance to talk and be heard. If we did this regularly, we might not have such hatred and division in the world because we would see each of us as human.

If people living thousands of years ago wanted the same thing we do, to be remembered and heard, it makes sense that all of us today would want that same thing, regardless of political viewpoint. Some things, despite time or culture, are universal. We all love our children even if we have different ways of promoting and protecting that love. So let's listen and ask more questions. Let's teach our children that the person they are arguing with is also a person divinely designed by God. Let's reach out to each other to bridge gaps. We don't need to cross to the other side of our morals, but we can clearly hold hands with all people to keep a connection so we can clearly see their perspective and humanity.

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