Dividing or Uniting Americans: Trying to Recruit Two Northwest Iowans

The following was published in the September 8 issue of the Capital Democrat in Orange City, Iowa

It has been accurately suggested that a rapidly emerging problem among Americans is that half of us don’t want to talk to the other half.

As some readers of the Capital Democrat may recall from previous pieces I have written, for the past decade or so my primary passion has been to try to create safe and welcoming spaces for persons who have strong disagreements to talk respectfully to one another about their disagreements, as a deep expression of love. The results of five such past conversations (called eCircles) can be accessed on my website, www.respectfulconversation.net.

I would now like to design a sixth such conversation, precipitated by a criticism I have of President Biden’s recent speech about “The Future of Our Nation.” Biden’s speech presented a strong critique of the extreme MAGA wing of the Republican party as posing a severe threat to democracy in America. I happen to agree with Biden about this severe threat. But my criticism of Biden’s speech is that, as one interviewee on Fox News said, in this speech he was serving as a “Divider-in-Chief,” not as the “Uniter-in-Chief” that he has promised to be. Perhaps Biden has given up hope that MAGA Republicans want to talk to those who disagree with them. I cling tenaciously to that hope.

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Divide or Unite: My Invitation to MAGA Republicans.

The impetus for my invitation is the speech recently given in Philadelphia by President Biden on the topic “The Soul of the Nation” and two criticisms of that speech, one by a Biden supporter and one by a non-supporter.

Biden’s speech was a blistering criticism of those he views as extreme MAGA Republicans; while acknowledging that there are many Republicans who do not fit into this category. In strong language, he stated his view that these extreme MAGA Republicans are a severe threat to Democracy in America.

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Forthcoming Book

As of July 31, our ecumenical conversation on what highly regarded representatives of twelve Christian traditions believe worshippers in their traditions mean when they aspire to be “followers of Jesus” has been completed. One of our conversation partners (CPs), Randall Balmer of Dartmouth College, my very helpful consultant for this project, concluded that “the year-long conversation was a smashing success.”

As indicated in the “Overview” document that can be accessed below, the next step for this project is to capture the highlights of this conversation in a book that is tentatively titled “Following Jesus: Perspectives from Twelve Christian Traditions.”  A first draft of this book is close to completion.

My current plan is to submit a Book Proposal to one or more potential Christian publishing houses by early October. I will let readers of this website know the results of this publishing exploration.

Harold Heie

Twelve Month Electronic Conversation starting on August 1, 2021

Following Jesus: Perspectives from Diverse Christian Traditions

Moderator: Harold Heie

Twelve Month Agenda

Leading Question for the first of the month (Directed to the conversation partner for the tradition being featured for the month)

What are the various views of those who worship in your tradition as to what it means to “follow Jesus” and what is the primary view?

Leading Question for the 15th of the month postings (Directed to the other eleven conversation partners)

What major agreements and disagreements do you have with the views expressed in the posting of the conversation partner who submitted the first of the month posting as to what it means to “follow Jesus,” and what have you learned from that posting that has the potential to enrich, or possibly provide a corrective, to the primary view of those who worship in your tradition as to what it means to “follow Jesus?”

Leading Question for the final day of the month posting (Directed to the conversation partner being featured for the month)

As you review the eleven 15th of the month postings from the other conversation partners, what were the main things you learned from other traditions that will be helpful to those who worship in your tradition as they seek to faithfully follow Jesus into the future

Readers of this website can participate in this conversation by submitting a comment (Reply) at the bottom of any posting (see the “Comment Policy” below).