We are living in divided political times right now. We know that I don't need to give a long explanation as to why. There is a schism happening between the right and the left of the political spectrum and we are having a hard time meeting in the middle.
We are isolating ourselves from one another because of our views and this is not okay. Everyone goes on and on about how there is a need for a bipartisan Congress, but yet, we refuse to discuss political ideas with anyone who doesn't share our same beliefs. By doing this, Americans are contradicting their own desires.
This past Sunday I was looking for someone to talk to at my church's coffee hour when a new parishioner approached me and started a conversation.
Very quickly it became extremely evident that this individual and I do not share many of the same beliefs. From some of the things this person was saying, I was uncomfortable and wished to disengage from the conversation.
I stayed though.
At one point in the conversation, this person provided the disclaimer, "I know my views are different from many of the people here, and some people are uncomfortable with them, but I am not afraid to speak up and share my opinions."
I was impressed with the individual's awareness and silently applauded them for acknowledging that their views are in the minority in this community, yet they are still willing to share them.
It is good, and necessary to hear both sides of an issue.
In response to the individual's disclaimer, I brought up the fact that recently our congregation had a discussion where the point was made that it is important to engage in discussions with people of different beliefs, backgrounds, and be open to hearing what others have to say.
Nonetheless, though I was still uncomfortable with a large part of what this individual believed in, I entertained the conversation because I felt like it was important to put myself in this place of discomfort because I thought I could learn something from it.
I didn't feel like this person's opinions belonged in this community, as they were so extreme, but at the same time, it doesn't feel right to make a person leave or feel unwelcome because their viewpoints differ from my own.
This caused me to ask myself, how do we create communal spaces and communities that are open to everyone?
I think it is typical for everyone to create social circles in which they surround themselves with like-minded people. There is something to be said for surrounding yourself with these people, but I believe it can be isolating at times.
It can be isolating to ourselves, but also to the people who have opinions that differ from our own.
For ourselves, we no longer are open-minded if we don't surround ourselves with people who have diverse opinions from our own.
For others, they are excluded from groups and made unwelcome because their viewpoint is not our own.
We live in a partisan society, yet we want a bipartisan Congress.
These two things do not add up.
If we want to have a bipartisan Congress then we need to be bipartisan in our everyday lives.
Our coffee shops, schools, churches, neighborhoods, workplaces, community centers, etc. need to be safe spaces for everyone. Where everyone's opinions are respected, heard, and digested.
I realize right now that I surround myself in a pretty homogenous place where my viewpoints are the same as those around me.
I also realize that the place I exist in right now is homogenous because I am still young. As a 20-year-old, my views of the world have been informed by those around me, therefore, we share many of the same views.
However, I want to make my surroundings more heterogeneous. I want to continue to have conversations where I feel uncomfortable. I want to try to understand other opinions that are out there.
I am curious to know how if I expose myself to other opinions I could adjust my views to be more inclusive of everyone and therefore discover compromises.
We first have to stop isolating ourselves though.
So, the big question that I leave you with is, "How do we create spaces for all opinions to be welcomed in?"
I don't know how to answer this question, but I want to do more to find an answer.