Working to Heal Political Polarization in the United States
by Amy Uelmen
March 11, 2020
- Brief background on the challenges that we have experienced within society, the Church and the Focolare movement in the US
- Methods proposed in Workshops on “Citizens for a United World”
- Increasing challenges in a university environment
- Disorientation exacerbated by the pain of the clergy abuse crisis - huge hit to the credibility not only of the Catholic Church, but institutions of all kinds - sports teams, the Boy Scouts of America, choral groups, US Gymnastics, etc.
Current efforts, in light of recent political climate:
- Honesty about the challenges
- Conversations with communities in different regions
- Launch of the Focolare Forum for Dialogue and Culture - in San Antonio, Texas - close to the border, with the title: A Hearth for the Human Family.
In the midst of heated political and cultural polarization, can we say anything about the world today – political questions, economic structures, and what should be our guiding sources of orientation – without hunkering down into ideological camps?
We can draw our own history: The Focolare Movement emerged during an intense global crisis – the ruins of World War II. Within her own family, with a socialist father, a partigiano brother, and a traditional Catholic mother, Focolare founder Chiara Lubich learned to navigate sharp political differences. Huddled in the shelters, she and her friends understood that a lifestyle based on the gospel value of love could guide their response to the concrete needs of their neighbors.
But we still have a gap. We may all agree that love is the answer, and we may even be deeply committed to living love in our daily lives, but we still find ourselves fighting about politics within the movement, and with our friends, relatives, and colleagues.
Method for holding and working through our disagreements and a shared vision of the unity of the human family:
1) Create conditions so that we can slow down enough to listen deeply to each other.
2) Create and nurture spaces where we can work together on shared projects for the good
3) Bring together those who work on a grassroots level with those engaged in academic reflection and business and economic life.
4) Young people out front: let their questions, urgency, way of working and seeing be a driving creative force in what we do together.
The physical design was to sit together at round tables of 8-10 people, a “hearth,” a “Focolare,” a space to come together for warmth, joy, support, insight.
1) Reflection on the insight that emerges when we try to identify, acknowledge, face and find meaning in suffering, and to help others do the same.
2) Reflection on the trust that emerges when we try to create warm and open spaces of concrete support and love, grounded in love of neighbor and what we call “the art of loving” – so as to be attentive to people’s concrete and spiritual needs
3) Reflection on the power of genuine reciprocity, where marginalized people who would otherwise be pegged as a burden are valued for the real gifts that they bring – and so moving us far beyond philanthropy into what some traditions term a life of “communion.”
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