How to Heal Our Divides Today

Thought leadership from organizations and individuals dismantling walls

It is well beyond time…

This book puts forward a simple proposition: it is time – indeed, well beyond time – for white Christians in the United States to reckon with the racism of our past and the willful amnesia of our present. Underneath the glossy, self-congratulatory histories that white Christian churches have written about themselves is a thinly veiled, deeply troubling reality. White Christian churches have not just been complacent; they have not only been complicit; rather, as the dominant cultural power in America, they have been responsible for constructing and sustaining a project to protect white supremacy and resist black equality. This project has framed the entire American story. 

From “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity” by Robert P. Jones

If we are to survive and thrive, we must hold its divisions and contradictions with compassion, lest we lose our democracy.

I discovered a book that helped me understand how heartbreak and depression – two of the most isolating and disabling experiences I know – can expand one’s sense of connectedness and evoke the heart’s capacity to employ tension in the service of life. Lincoln’s Melancholy, by Joshua Shenk, is a probling examination of our sixteenth president’s journey with depression. What was then called “melancholy” first appeared in Lincoln’s twenties, when neighbors occasionally took him in for fear he might take his own life. Lincoln struggles with this affliction until the day he died, a dark thread laced through a life driven by the conviction that he was born to render some sort of public service. 

Lincoln’s need to preserve his life by embracing and integrating his own darkness and light made him uniquely qualified to help America preserve the Union. Because he knew dark and light intimately – knew them as inseparable elements of everything human – he refused to split North and South into “good guys” and “bad guys,” a split that might have taken us closer to to the national version of suicide. 

Instead, in his second inaugural address, delivered on March 4, 1865, a month before the end of the Civil War, Lincoln appealed for “malice toward none” and “charity for all,” animated by what one writer calls an “awe-inspiring sense of love for all” who bore the brunt of the battle. In his appeal to a deeply divided America, Lincoln points to an essential fact of our life together: if we are to survive and thrive, we must hold its divisions and contradictions with compassion, lest we lose our democracy.

From “Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit” by Parker J. Palmer

The binary of white/nonwhite

Let’s take the binary of white/nonwhite – you know, as a totally random example.

Whether you’re ready to admit it yet or not, there’s a hierarchy built in there. Everything about whiteness is perceived as better than nonwhiteness according to our hot little socialized norms. White is equal to “good guys,” to “purity,” to “closer to the divine.” Nonwhite – regardless of the shade and its implications – is considered less than, Stained. Impure. Definitely not good. At least, not as good as white. 

From “Good White Racist? Confronting Your Role in Racial Injustice” by Kerry Connelly – Westminster John Knox Press

Your three-member committee

Your singular human brain functions like a three-member committee. Each of your three primary modules includes many distinct submodules that in turn contain even smaller submodules, and the interactions among these modules and submodules are so fast, so complex, and so overlapping and interconnected that your brain can hardly even begin to understand its own inner workings. 

Your oldest primary module, sometimes called the primitive or reptilian brain, includes your brain stem and cerebellum. It controls your basic bodily functions, including a highly evolved set of unconscious reflexes and responses to novelty or danger: alertness, hunger, thirst, sexual desire, anxiety, fear, terror, panic. This instinctive brain comes online before you are even born, and its job is to keep you alive in a dangerous world.

Next, shortly after birth, a second member of your brain committee wakes up and becomes engaged. This mammalian or limbic brain module orients you toward attachment by generating emotions that strengthen relationships, relationships that are necessary for a helpless infant’s survival. The need for connection, for example, draws you toward caregivers who offer comfort, companionship, and protection. Feelings of affection and loyalty keep you from easily discarding these essential relationships. Like the reptilian brain, this mammalian brain operates at super-high speeds, deeper and faster that you can consciously keep track of. For that reason, we can call this second member of the brain committee the intuitive brain.

Before you even learn your name, before you are even conscious of your own existence as an individual, your instinctive and intuitive brains are already hard at work, forming connections, learning to work together, keeping you safe, and keeping you connected with those upon whom your survival depends. Then, gradually, especially after the age of about two, your third brain committee member, consisting of the neocortex and its components, begins to assert itself. Often called the primate brain, it’s the logical, rational, analytical member of your brain committee. This module is the seat of intellect, and it enables you to use language and to think critically and creativity. This intellectual brain is essential to help you become both an independent self and an interdependent agent in human society.

People sometimes refer to these three committee members as the gut (the instinctive brain), the heart (the intuitive brain), and the head (the intellectual brain). We could also refer to them as the survival module, the belonging or relational module, and the meaning module. When we speak of healthy, mature, or well-rounded human beings, we are referring to people who integrate their survival, belonging, and meaning modules (and all their submodules) in ways that bring benefit and pleasure to themselves and others. 

From “Faith After Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What To Do About It” by Brian McLaren

Some Assumptions In This Book

This book is laid out upon a few assumptions. FIrst is that in order to be a Christian, one must read, know, and follow the words and commandments of Jesus Christ. I am making the case that calling oneself Christian does not make it so. Celebrating Christmas and Easter does not qualify one for Christian status. It is Jesus the Christ who teaches us, in the Sermon of the Mount and throughout the Gospels, that love is or should be the foundation of all that we do. One of the sources of the gospel is that Jesus is shown to have not only talked with, healed, and fellowshipped with society’s outcasts – the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40) – but that he did so in spite of being severely opposed and challenged by the powers that be both in the church and in the state. For this writer, it is the Gospels, specifically the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7, that the primary and central message is found. Jesus’ command to love our enemies, to pray for those who do us wrong, and to forgive (not once but for as long as we need to) are the foundation, this book will argue, of the Christian faith. Reading the Synoptic Gospels leads one to a belief that Jesus is a proponent of social justice. 

From “With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America” by Susan K. Williams Smith

Until We Weep

by Shannon CrossBear

Let us weep

For what has been done to the children, to the mothers, to the fathers, to the sons and daughters

Over generations, across continents and oceans

in the name of the Doctrine of Discovery

Let us weep

And with those tears nurture right relationship

Remembering what it means to be a human being, a good relative,

Where difference does not mean division

Let us weep

Into the rivers and streams, water the earth with our tears

As we recall that we are all related, we belong to each other,

The tree, you, me,

we

Until we weep

We are destined to repeat

That which has been done

Let us weep

And heal as we discard the last domains of the doctrine of discovery

And embrace the doctrine of recovery.

#water #firstmedicine #sacredsubstance #waterislife