Our first book “How to Heal Our Divides: A Practical Guide” is now available (Paperback or eBook) on the Writing for Your Life bookstore on Bookshop, and on Amazon and IndieBound! And check out the free Discussion Guide that accompanies the book – download it for free here. Also please check out additional books from our Featured Organizations and Contributors in our Bookstore.
Our country has become quite polarized – what do we do about it?
Recent times have put a spotlight on the deep divisions in our society. Much has been written that acknowledges and describes racial, political, religious, and other divides, but there is little practical information on what we can do about them. How to Heal Our Divides highlights organizations that are taking real action to address these issues and heal divides in effective and practical ways. See how you can help make the world a better place.
“There is much love expressed in this book, made all the more potent by the presence of real, brave, and beautiful struggle alongside it. May the stories and reflections gathered in this volume aid us all on our rocky path towards peace.” – Frederick Buechner
“Jesus’ final prayer with his disciples (John 17) asked for one thing: that we his followers demonstrate a profound unity that will both convict and attract the watching world. In this time of deep division, this book shows how to do exactly that.” – Philip Yancey, author of “What’s So Amazing About Grace”
“Creed and community remind me that changing habits is hard, and practicing solidarity involves wrestling with my own failures. But, with the help of others, each one of us can mend the fault lines in our own lives and lend our hands to repair the world. Read these essays and discover you are not alone. You have friends, co-workers, mentors, and guides for the way.” – Diana Butler Bass, author of “Freeing Jesus” “Grateful” and “Grounded”
“A brilliant and loving collection of real stories, “How to Heal Our Divides” shows what brave, humble people are doing all over the world to heal hurt and build bridges to restoration and peace. With inspiration on every page–written by some of the world’s most renowned authors–here’s a source of hope and healing that arrives just when we need it most.” – Patricia Raybon, award-winning author of “My First White Friend: Reflections on Race, Love and Forgiveness” and “Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace”
“This volume brings together a diverse team of creative practitioners of un-division. All of these practitioners are translating peace-making theory into practice on the street, in the neighborhood, and in the human heart. Not only that, but they are developing and revising theory through their practice. That’s what makes each contribution so powerful.” – Brian McLaren, author of “Faith After Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do About It”
“Wow, what a beautiful collection of humans who offer and call us to wrestle with the complexity of what it will take to find healing and wholeness as individuals and communities. ‘How to Heal Our Divides’ does not offer false promises of a guaranteed linear progression towards healing, but an invitation to see that healing will only come about when we can fully and truly see that our collective paths are fueled by risking the unknown, unexpected, and possible.” – Bruce Reyes-Chow, author of “In Defense of Kindness: Why It Matters, How It Changes Our Lives, and How It Can Save the World”
“For twenty-five years, the Center for Courage & Renewal has helped people reclaim the wholeness that is everyone’s birthright gift, so they can bring their identity and integrity more fully into their personal, vocational, and public lives. I am happy to participate in ‘How to Heal Our Divides’ to come alongside other organizations working with similar goals.” – Parker J. Palmer, Founder and Senior Partner Emeritus of the Center for Courage & Renewal
“A vast book of diverse and accessible ideas the world needs right now!” – Mark Schaefer, author of “Cumulative Advantage”
“Projects like the ones in this book are healing the world. My own work as an activist has been shaped by stories like the ones in this book. This is holy work we are doing. It begins with humility.” – Shane Claiborne, leader of Red Letter Christians
“Stark divisions tear asunder the Body of Christ, our political life, our cultural fabric, our economic life, and the global family. Healing those divisions is imperative for any hope of a sustainable, shared future. This book doesn’t just say this is necessary. It shows how it is being done in concrete stories close to the ground.” – Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, author, “Without Oars: Casting Off into a Life of Pilgrimage;” former General Secretary, Reformed Church in America
“The courageous work of antiracists engaged in the ongoing struggle for racial liberation saves lives. Literally. The work of the diverse organizations highlighted in this volume, and many others who are not, is vitally important.” – Michael W. Waters is an award-winning author, professor, activist, social commentator, and the founder and Lead Pastor of Abundant Life A.M.E. Church in Dallas, Texas
“Visionary, practical, and invigorating, these essays are a rich source of encouragement and direction. The range of approaches these activists and advocates take to healing our painful divides reminds us how layered and complex are the problems we face in a culture riddled with faultlines and fissures that make the public square dangerous for so many. It invites each of us to find our place of participation in the shared work of healing in a moment of extraordinary crisis and extraordinary opportunity. A valuable handbook, guide, and testimony to how healing is happening even now, in the midst of it all.” – Marilyn McEntyre, author of “Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies” and “Speaking Peace in a Climate of Conflict”
“‘How to Heal Our Divides’ is a desperately needed book in these troubled times. Its pages are full of stories of people who are pursuing justice and healing through a wide variety of creative initiatives. If you’re discouraged by the state of the world, this book will bring you hope, inspiration, and ideas for how you too can become a peacemaker.” – Lori Erickson, author of “Holy Rover” and “Near the Exit”
“There is a time and a season for both advocacy and activism. Both approaches are crucial to creating lasting change in our world and to following a radical rabbi who engaged in both activism and advocacy throughout his ministry. Christians should always be seeking to raise our voice and build relationships across divides – because this is how we will transform the world.” – Rev. Brandan Robertson is a noted author, activist, and public theologian, working at the intersections of spirituality and social renewal
“Now, more than ever, we need thoughtful practitioners who are modeling imaginative, innovative and collaborative ways of healing the divides and renewing our shared commitment to the common good. This resource features some of the most trusted thought-leaders and change-makers of our generation who are engaged in the daily work of shaping a just and compassionate world for generations to come.” – Mark Feldmeir, author of “A House Divided: Engaging the Issues Through the Politics of Compassion”
“‘How to Heal Our Divides’ is an antidote to the poison of division that is bringing civilization to its knees. Its wide ranging and courageous collection of voices of reason and compassion comprise a call for action rooted in fresh thinking about and daring reimagining of what it can be to be human in the 21st century. Don’t just read this book; live it.” – Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Director, One River Foundation for the Preservation and Promotion of Perennial Wisdom
“If you are looking for hope in our polarized times, you must read ‘How to Heal Our Divides.’ The peacemakers in this book offer their unique, real-world, practical solutions to heal our broken world. At a time when we only hear too much from those seeking to divide us, this book reminds us that many leaders are out there trying their best to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.” – Rev. Rich Tafel, Pastor, Church of the Holy City, Washington DC
“The Mission of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing is to provide tools and experiences that allow faith communities – and the larger community of individuals – to engage in dismantling racism through education, prayer, dialogue, pilgrimage, and spiritual formation. We appreciate the opportunity to participate in ‘How to Heal Our Divides’ to help spread the word about the work of the many outstanding organizations featured in the book.” – Dr. Catherine Meeks, Executive Director of the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing
“The Better Arguments Project is a national civic initiative created to help bridge divides – not by papering over those divides but by helping Americans have better arguments. We appreciate the opportunity to participate in ‘How to Heal Our Divides’ to illuminate the many ways in which organizations are effectively working to improve our country’s civil discourse.” – Seth Henderson, Program Manager at the Aspen Institute’s Citizenship and American Identity Program
“‘How to Heal Our Divides’ is a timely toolkit for building bridges with empathy and action. Through compelling narratives and accessible wisdom from the authors, theologians, activists, advocates, and allies living this work, this encouraging book deserves many readers. – J. Dana Trent, Professor of Critical Thinking and World Religions, author of “Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk”
Selected Chapter Descriptions
Here are a few chapter descriptions from our new book “How to Heal Our Divides: A Practical Guide”:
A Holistic Response to the Harms of Social Divisions – Amy Julia Becker
This essay offers a brief description of a comprehensive way for leaders to equip people with the framework and tools they need in order to respond in practical, lifelong, and life-giving ways to the harm of social divisions. I will lay out how people can respond with their whole selves, head, heart, and hands. I will offer examples of people who have put this framework into action on an individual, influential, and institutional level to take small but meaningful steps towards change in schools, workplaces, families, churches, and more.
America Doesn’t Need Fewer Arguments – It Needs Less Stupid Ones – Seth Henderson and Erik Gross
The Better Arguments Project is based on the idea that one key to addressing division is for more of us to learn how to communicate better with those with whom we disagree. But to do that, we need to change how we have arguments. Better arguments—those that seek to learn and expand knowledge, rather than to ‘win’ or convince others—embrace three dimensions: historical context, emotional intelligence, and the recognition of power dynamics. By taking winning off the table, they are more intellectually honest and empathetic. Better arguments are about prioritizing relationships and listening passionately, paying attention to context, embracing vulnerability, and making room to transform. Arguing, if done right, can humanize those that we disagree with and bring people together in the common pursuit of truth, rather than dividing us further.
Building Reconciling Communities – David Bailey
When Arrabon founder David Bailey considers the significant and pervasive divides in our nation and communities (particularly in areas of race, but also in all manner of relating to one another) he sees how the Church’s neglect of spiritual formation and discipleship in the foundational areas of peacemaking and reconciliation has left us ill-equipped to reckon with our nation’s history, which is indelibly marked by our racial caste system.
Arrabon works to heal these divides on spiritual, interpersonal, and institutional levels by developing trainings, tools, and resources to build reconciling communities—communities marked by their acknowledgement of the depth of brokenness in our world as well as their active participation in God’s invitation to bring healing to the brokenness.
How Conflict Deepens Our Faith – Michael Gulker
The Colossian Forum, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, uses traditional Christian practices to turn conflict over deeply help views into opportunities for growth and discipleship rather than disruption and division. This chapter will show how they have done that within conservative churches who were deeply divided over issues of creation vs. evolution as well as sexuality.
Bridging the Racial Divide with Food – Mark Cryderman
Dinner Church is a national movement aimed bringing people together to share a meal as a form of worship. By providing a safe place for people uncomfortable in traditional Christian churches, it often creates opportunities for understanding and healing between people who once considered each other enemies. This chapter will look at ways Dinner Church Detroit has bridged the gap between black and white Americans.
The Julian Way: Discovering the Gifts of Diverse Embodiments Within All of God’s People – Justin Hancock
This chapter will discuss how the mission of the Julian Way is to empower and educate around disability and the wider world, discover the gifts of persons with disabilities, and help expand the concept of diversity throughout God’s creation.
A Bridge Over Troubled Waters: The Power of Empathy To Transform Hearts and Minds – Brandan Robertson
In this chapter, Rev. Brandan Robertson shares lessons learned from over a decade of working to build bridges of understanding between conservative people of faith and the LGBTQ+ community.
Spiritual Entrepreneur Leadership: Integrating the Inner Life with Outward Action – Rich Tafel
Church of the Holy City in Washington DC developed a spiritual entrepreneur incubator model to bridge the gap between the desire to grow our spiritual life and make a true lasting impact in the world. Until this divide is bridged we will not have leaders with skills to match the complex challenges in our world. We discovered that most of our spiritual leaders have done intense work on their inner life, but lack the basic organizational, business and political skills to have an impact outside their thoughts. We’ve also met many young leaders raised in our material culture who have become experts in productivity, entrepreneurism and climbing the ladder, but lack any connection to their soul. Using our church as a spiritual entrepreneur incubator we coach, train and mentor leaders on how to bridge the gap between a deep inner life with actual impact in the world for good.
Toward a World Beyond Enemies – Michael McRay
In 2015, I traveled to divided societies around the world to listen to and learn from peacebuilders who were finding ways to live together without violence. I wanted to discover what wisdom their experiences might have for the wounds of my own country. I published those stories in an award-winning book in 2020 called I Am Not Your Enemy. In this essay, I will take the reader back to some of those places, as well as some new ones, to shine a light to on people doing impactful work to make the world safer and more just.
The Peace Path Model: Bridging The Muslim/Christian Divide – Jeff Burns
Dr. Jeff Burns is a peacebuilder between Muslims and Christians in the U.S. and abroad with over fifteen years of experience. He believes that most conflicts and misunderstandings can be solved over food and developing close friendships with the other. This chapter will show ways that Dr. Burns, over the past fifteen years as a peacemaker, developed a peace model and has identified a core message that Muslims and Christians can agree upon and four practices that will help bridge the gap between Muslims and Christians in America.
Healing the Divides Within Ourselves – Molly LaCroix
The Internal Family Systems (IFS) psychotherapy model integrates beautifully with Christianity, providing a spiritual practice supporting healing. The IFS Institute provides education and training about the model, with a mission to bring this perspective well beyond therapy to education, organizations, and the world. The model’s view is that divides exist because our ability to see “the other” in the fullness of their humanity is blocked. Healing divides requires engaging with curiosity and a sincere desire for connecting with another person. The spiritual practice based on IFS provides the pathway for restoring Spirit-led leadership in our inner family so that we can connect with the parts of ourselves who hold fear and pain – the things that block our ability to engage with an open heart. This chapter will provide an overview of the model, emphasizing how it helps heal internal divides that promulgate external divides. Interviews with Dr. Richard Schwartz, founder of the model, and others who have successfully used the model to heal divides will provide specific examples of the model’s impact.
Forming Peacemakers, Transforming Conflict – Todd Deatherage
Telos forms communities of American peacemakers across lines of difference, and equips them to help reconcile seemingly intractable conflicts at home and abroad. We began this work twelve years ago with an emphasis on America’s relationship to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In recent years, we’ve offered program experiences in other parts of the world, and are now applying our model to domestic challenges here in the U.S. like systemic racial injustice.
Though we work with a variety of communities, we believe peacemaking is particularly essential for Christians who seek to become disciples of Jesus. Peacemakers enter into the brokenness of the world, examine their own biases and complicity, pursue justice and bridge divides, all in ways that are oriented toward reconciliation and mutual flourishing. At Telos, we envision a world in which leaders and their communities claim the requisite drive, expertise, and relationships to effectively and relentlessly wage peace.
To create a shared future, you have to shift whose voices are welcome at the table. – K. Scarry
When a 2017 USA Today study named Erie, Pennsylvania, the worst place in America for African Americans to live, the Erie Mayor’s office tagged in The People’s Supper team to help bring residents together to examine their community and to forge a collective future that would work for all residents. Thinking about whose voices represent the larger community, using carefully curated questions, and both bridging and affinity gatherings allowed 80 participants across lines of racial and ethnic identities to forge a new Erie together. The People’s Supper team distills in this chapter some applicable learnings, and how we might think about the link between bridge building and systemic change, helping others learn how the work of relational repair is the foundation for building communities where all residents can flourish.