A public conversation between religious and secular society is needed to move beyond the polarization in this country. Religious affiliation was never a predictor of political party affiliation in the US before the 1970s, but the so-called “God Gap” has increased ever since. Today, the largest religious group of Democrats are the religious “Nones,” while the largest religious group of Republicans are Evangelical Protestants. This divide needs to be crossed, but not by arguing the contentious issues that our government has already proven intractable or by asking why some think the way they do in order to change them. Rather, it should be by learning to understand how the other side thinks without passing judgement.
Communication is at the root of this problem, and there are a number of challenges that need to be surmounted for such a conversation. First, we lack the basic language that is required to have a conversation. There no agreement about the basic definitions of loaded terms such as “God,” “religion,” “spiritual,” or “church,” let alone words such as “liberal” or “conservative.” Yet, people have connotations of these words that seem to prevent any deep conversation about their meaning to occur. Additionally, it is difficult to agree on basic facts in the deluge of information that exists. It has reached the point that people have declared the present to be a post-truth era.
The question is: “How can such a conversation be created?”
Are new terms needed that do not have the baggage of the past? Must we accept that truth will always be beyond our grasp? How can we learn to coexist?