Session 11- Transcript

Session 11 – Transcript

Full Transcription of Responses to End Game Questions

End Game Question 1:  What areas of agreement, if any, emerged from our conversations?

LN 1:  Areas of agreement: To be civil; to be respectful; to take fair turns without grandstanding (mostly).  I observed that all wanted the very best for country, culture and Christianity. One person’s style was contrarian but all saw how it was being harnessed to make a point – in this group it worked fine but would probably be counter-productive in many venues.  This group shared most potentially divisive features such as ethnicity, religion and educational experience – that made us easy to like and cooperate with.

MK 1: That respectful conversation is valuable, and is worth the effort.

LS 1: That Trump’s rude and disrespecting communication is not acceptable and is not a Christian virtue.

SE 1: I think I have found agreement with others as it relates to pro-life.  I think we may disagree on some core things still, but I have found that I agree with others concerning the tragedy of abortion and the desire for mothers to feel safe and cared for enough to feel good about keeping their child.


I think I found agreement with others as it relates to Trump’s unChristian-like behavior and that perhaps with at least some folks I have found agreement regarding our expectations of governments to behave within a Christian perspective not being a realistic expectation of our government.


TM 1: I think the biggest area of agreement that we found was that nobody is extremely happy with all the tactics that Donald Trump uses as president.  At one time or another, I believe all of us who support him have said something to the effect of, “as much as I like him, he needs to take a step back from all the tweeting.”  Those who are opposed to Trump, obviously, weren’t going to agree with his tactics.

TA 1: I think we agree the current state of politics is broken and partisan. (We might disagree about the effect of that on the average citizen because an ineffective government approximates in some ways a small government, and we disagree about the size and scope of government.) We also agree that civility in politics and political discourse is in a poor state, although we also agree that it’s been this bad or worse at other times in our history. (That is, it’s probably not “worse than it’s ever been.”)

We seem to agree that President Trump is not a positive role model when it comes to moral character or decency (but we disagree about the degree to which that matters in the presidency).

BE 1: 1. Because not all of us attended every meeting, I might be incorrect that ALL of us agree on the following items. I’m focusing on three areas that matter immensely to me. I trust others will add the areas of agreement that matter most to them rather than all of us attempting to include every area of agreement.

A. Because “successful” abortion always ends the life of a unique human being created in God’s image, abortion is always wrong. There is not one square inch, including the womb, of which God does not declare, “Mine.”

B. Trump has dismayed even those of us who support him by some of his words, deeds, and tweets.

C. It is valuable to meet and discuss with people whose perspectives differ greatly from mine.

KN 1: I think we agreed that our faith has implications for our citizenship, though the nature of those outcomes remain divergent. For example, our common affirmation of God’s gift of life expresses itself in differing and deeply held policy priorities regarding abortion, war, etc. Similarly, I think we have some basic differences, not so much about the legitimacy of borders and national interests in a multi-national world, but what those borders should mean for Christians who are called to love neighbor (even outside our borders) as we love ourselves. We agree that President Trump’s style is no role model to emulate.

End Game Question 2: What major areas of disagreement still remain?

LN 2: Disagreements:  The degree to which we were willing to put faith into action.  I think for all faith informed our positions but the level of engagement differed widely. I observed 3 approaches – 1) faith and politics separate 2) culture indicates relevance & method and 3) Christianity transforms culture.  Maybe not disagreements but different levels of engagement. 

MK 2: Some of us think that because Trump is a (fill in the blank) he should not be president. Some of us think that even though Trump is a (fill in the blank with the same word), he’s still better than the alternative.

LS 2: As no non-Trump member has brought any disagreement with Trump’s policies there hasn’t been any areas to agree or disagree.

SE 2: I think I probably remain an outsider to the conversation around the function of government.  While I believe it’s existence makes sense, I think Christian’s should remain skeptical of and often in opposition to the authority of governments and the actions governments take.

I also think my theology differs so greatly from others in the group, that my perspective on the Bible, sin, and salvation often leads me into a position that is drastically different than others in the group.

TM 2: I’m not entirely sure we found much to actually agree on.  We spoke a lot about abortion, and I think we came to some basic frameworks about that topic, but I don’t think we found much agreement on the parameters of when (if) an abortion is justified.  I don’t believe we see eye to eye on the state of the economy, or the legitimacy of the current impeachment debate.

TA 2: I don’t know if any of us changed our minds about specific policies we support or don’t support—at least I didn’t. While I understand better why those who support Trump support him and I have more respect for their reasons, my own lack of support for him or his policies is unchanged.

BE 2: Disagreements:

A. Trump is the only Presidential candidate a Christian can support. All 20+of the original 2020 Democratic candidates and all of those remaining support abortion strongly, as well as having taxpayer dollars fund it. Abortion kills one million Americans annually as well as an estimated 42 million unborn babies worldwide. No human being is more poor, helpless, needy, or at risk than an unborn baby. No other issue compares in importance.

B. God created two sexes, male and female. Any person of whom the doctor declared at birth “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” is male or female, respectively, regardless of his or her feeling otherwise. To add additional “genders” disregards biology as well as the Bible.

KN 2: Regarding policy positions, I don’t think we’ve come to much agreement at all, but ironically, I think we’ve seen that some very similar foundational beliefs and value convictions take us in differing directions politically. For example, Loren and I may agree quite a bit about the constitutional role of SCOTUS yet disagree about what the lines of “legislating from the bench” may be vs. interpreting the constitution.

End Game Question 3: What changes, if any, emerged in your beliefs about “President Trump and Visions for America” as a result of our conversations?

LN 3: Changed beliefs: Two things 1)  The immigration chapter in Harold’s book revealed for me much greater common ground for a partial solution — optimistic now, and 2)  studying the strict constructionist vs  culturally adaptive practice of interpreting founding documents pushed me farther onto the strictness platform as the only way to preserve core values with integrity.

MK 3: I’ve learned that I need to consider carefully the other side’s perspective on things because they feel as strongly about their views as I do about mine. Good people have a different perspective than I do. Even though I feel like I’ve done that, I haven’t seen my thinking shift too much on various policies.

LS 3: None, there were no actual disagreements brought by non-Trump supports to the conversation related to Trump.

SE 3: I think my beliefs stem from core convictions I hold and were not likely to change during these conversations.

TM 3: I don’t find that I changed my beliefs on President Trump or my vision for America as a result of our conversations.  I’ve enjoyed our conversation, but I don’t find that any of the arguments I’ve heard in opposition to my positions are compelling enough for me to change my ideas.

TA 3: I have not changed my beliefs about President Trump, and the divide between what I perceive to be his vision for America and my vision for America remains.

BE 3: I don’t think I have changed.

KN3: It’s hard to admit it, but hearing from people I have come to know about their reasons for supporting President Trump has humanized him somewhat for me; made him more of a person who actually does represent the interests of others somewhat, rather than just a rogue caricature, a social media creation. My conversation partners have led me to take him more seriously.

End Game Question 4: What changes, if any, emerged in your perceptions, of those conversation partners who generally disagreed with you about how well President Trump is facilitating, or not, your vision for America?

LN 4: Perceptions of partners:  The good initial team building meeting provided a foundation for a sense of community and a safe space to explore ideas.  The agreed rules of engagement pretty well “defanged” everyone and comfort grew with each meeting.  Trust developed over time and all seemed to enjoy the interchange.

MK 4: My perceptions, coming in, were already favorable to those in the group who think different than I do. It was good to listen to well-reasoned and at times, emotional, responses, recognizing the passion and intensity of belief/feeling. The change I perceive most in myself is the importance of not slipping into using those comfortable labels to categorize someone who starts using phrases that signal a direction I might disagree with. Rather than assuming I already know what they’re going to say, I need to hold back, listen, and ask follow up questions.

LS 4: Hard to answer as I didn’t know any of the conversation partners or their views prior to our conversation so I didn’t have any perceptions.

SE 4: I think my perspective is wider now.  When liberal leaning friends have spoken with bewilderment at conservative perspectives, I feel like I have a stronger grasp on why folks might hold that conservative position and am able to communicate that more clearly and with less disdain.

I think my compassion for those we conversed with is deeper.  I want to be someone who loves my neighbor. Those who I disagree with are my neighbor and these conversations have increased my capacity to listen, desire to understand, and ability to love those who are different than me.

One thing that I feel like has emerged from this, but I want to be careful not to speak for the group, is that I think we all see each other as part of the same “Christian family”.  Like…I think some of us feel like really distantly related cousins, but I think we see in one another a genuine love of Christ and an authentic desire to follow Jesus. And really, I’m not sure I could want more than that from a conversation.  To be able to see one another as co-citizens of the kingdom of God is a great conclusion to any conversation if you ask me.

TM 4: I found that I can disagree respectfully, and have good, spirited debate with people that I have very little in common with politically, so I’m glad for that.  I think going into this, I expected intelligent people who see the world in a different way than I do, and that seems to have been born out.  I’ve always been one to be willing to leave tension where it exists, so I’m OK with that.  I’ve never harbored ill will toward those with whom I disagree.  I don’t think that’s healthy.

TA 4: I admire my conversation partners’ passion and depth of knowledge—both those I disagree with as well as those I agree with. I knew KN and SE before we started, so I already admired KN’s passion for reconciliation among God’s diverse creatures and creation, and I admired SE’s passion for creating space for the marginalized and his eagerness for engaging with anyone, including those he disagrees with. As I got to know the rest of you, I came to admire TM’s logical mind, calm demeanor and inviting sense of humor; BE’s passion for the unborn;  LS’s knowledge of Scripture and the Belgic Confession; LN’s fair-mindedness and lawyerly authority on questions about the Supreme Court; and MK’s political middle-ness and wise cautions about wielding the power of language.

All that said, I hope—although it may be less apparent to my conversation partners than to me—that the biggest change brought about through this experiment has been in me. I still disagree with many of the policy positions of those who support Trump, and I disagree with their reasons for supporting him. However, when we started, I not only disagreed, but I was disagreeable. I know I am still disagreeable at times, but I hope I have become less disagreeable, or at least that I am becoming less disagreeable. Through this process, I was able to see more clearly my own contribution to the winners/losers, point-scoring approach to politics that I believe is a loss for everyone in that it harms community and discourages compromise and collaboration. I am committed to being more aware of that in myself and resisting the temptation to participate in debate-style conversation that only serves to further entrench both sides.

BE 4: A perception that was confirmed was that those conversation partners who disapprove of President Trump, even when acknowledging his actions with which they agree, would still qualify that approval with criticism of Trump or his motives. Also, I expected those who disagree with me to rely on feelings rather than facts. This happened repeatedly when discussing abortion: “How would you FEEL if the pregnant woman were your wife/sister/daughter?” or “How would you FEEL if the father were a rapist/relative/abuser?” Those hard situations never change the FACT that abortion is always wrong because of what it is.

KN4: I think we heard from each other and came to understand each other’s rationale for varying positions better. I think we somewhat experienced how such a conversation can be civil, but I think we’ve still struggled with just how honest we can be about our convictions while maintaining the civility and personal respect.

End Game Question 5: What, if anything, did you find to be profitable, from your participation in our conversations?

LN 5: Profitable:  I was re-energized to continue conversations with diverse viewpoints, not getting stuck in the same tribe every time. Diversity adds flavor to the blend of opinions and beliefs. The common law judicial system believes that truth is found by contest, each side strongly supporting their view, within set rules of evidence, and the jury of peers making the decision.  Not a bad way to do business. Sorry for the aside.

MK 5: See #4. Plus realizing that this is a lot of work! We spent almost an entire session talking about how we should do this! What luxury to have that kind of time and space just to lay some ground rules for future dialogue. It’s rare, indeed, to play in a playground like this.

LS 5: Was good for me to have to actual listen to viewpoints that I disagree with and to respond in a respectful manner.

SE 5: It is difficult to find folks you disagree with that are willing to sit down and talk/listen about the things we disagree about.  Now I feel like I know several people I can continue to talk to when new things emerge in the news in order to continue my learning about ways of perceiving the world that are different than mine.

I also think I learned a lot about other perspectives which has sparked so much curiosity in me.  This curiosity has spilled over into other settings and I have found myself asking all sorts of people why they think what they do.  These conversations have developed that habit of staying curious and listening, which I find to be very profitable.

TM 5: I think it was good to talk to people with whom I disagree, in a constructive way.  It’s always good practice to employ civility in these conversations.  I think too, it is helpful to listen to how other people think about things, and that goes for everyone in the conversation group.  I’m always interested in hearing what people have to say, even when I disagree and I hope to learn something from everyone, and I believe I have.

TA 5: I learned so much from this experiment and each of you. Especially as we head into another election year, I was convicted to do more political homework to be able to back up the ways I feel about candidates with concrete evidence of their histories, character, worldviews and policy ideas. I have been disheartened by evangelicals’ support of Trump and the effect of that support on the broader Christian witness in the world. But through listening to Christians who support Trump, I can say I understand better where you are coming from and why, as a Christian, you approach the question of supporting Trump different from me, also a Christian.

BE 5: I have spoken and written against abortion for over 30 years. I have appreciated how those in this conversation group who disagree with me have done so civilly. That is rare and wonderful and contrary to my experiences with newspaper columns and letters to the editor, as well as Facebook conversations. I must add that I expected gracious interaction because of Harold’s expectations and guidance and based upon already knowing several group members.

KN 5: It was very profitable, but more as an exercise in civil discourse than in building consensus. Even the deep disagreements that temper my naïve hope that good conversation can cover all ills is, I think, profitable in that it grounds such attempts better, makes them more realistic. I think my conviction is deeper that the point of this is not so much to persuade as to exercise our ability to see and hear from one another, particularly amidst our differences.

I’m very thankful for my weekly Friday lunch dates with Harold where often we process our interactions here. Similarly, Tamara and I have had two or three very clarifying conversations while we’ve been on this journey. In some ways it feels unfaithful to our “bi-partisan” commitment to “caucus” with those I identify with most.  Is it retreating into likeminded silos or figuring out how to engage our respectful conversations better? I’m not sure, but I know it’s been very helpful to me to get clearer about what I feel and think is going on for me in these conversations.

End Game Question 6: What, if anything, did you find to be unprofitable, from your participation in our conversations?

LN 6:  Towards the end of our sessions we began to re-plough old ground.  Maybe a wider range of topics or shorter time frame (but then the ease of exchange might not have developed).

MK 6: I wouldn’t use the word “unprofitable.” That implies it had no worth. It all did. I think higher fences (or, to use a different metaphor, a referee with a very loud whistle) would have helped us cover more ground.

LS  6: That we spent little to no time discussion actual disagreements with Trumps policies.  Any discussion about policies was related to the difference between Republican and Democrat philosophies and ideas.  The non-Trump participants were not able to communicate any clear areas of policy dislikes but were instead very philosophical with no concrete positions or ideas.

SE 6: I exposed myself as a dangerous anarchist and now I’ll never pull off burning a building down without all of you assuming it was me.

TM 6: Combining 6 and 7 a little bit, I believe it would have suited the purposes of conversing about Donald Trump a little more if instead of the broad topics that we ended up discussing, we could have found some specific policies that have been enacted and discussed those.  We spent a lot of time (or so it felt to me) discussing theology (not that that’s a bad thing) and deep in the weeds on some other topics that, while productive, did not particularly seem to hit the heart of what I thought I was getting into, discussing my opinions and beliefs about Donald Trump.

TA 6: I don’t think trying to limit ourselves to talking just about Trump via policy agreements/disagreements was necessarily unprofitable, but I think it was minimally profitable. I feel like one of the things we proved was that just limiting conversation to policies, without also allowing for and validating personal stories and experiences as well as emotions, led to conversations and perceptions of one another that weren’t holistic. It enabled us—perhaps to the detriment of our potential relationships and deeper understanding—to remain at a more surface-level of conversation. We regularly had the chance to “say my piece,” which feels satisfying. But I wonder how many of us also felt at times, “I wasn’t really heard/understood.”

BE 6: I found it frustrating when feelings “trumped” facts. See above regarding abortion. Another example was the assertion repeated at several meetings that Trump deserves impeachment, but no evidence was given of impeachable behavior.

KN 6:  I recognize a freedom there of feeling a bit closer to understanding and being understood than I often feel in our conversations here where I’m more likely to feel frustrated and bewildered following. It’s common for me to attribute such anxious confusion to the differing positions we’re trying to engage, but my conversation with Tamara yesterday clarified and confirmed that I have not succeeded very well at our initial commitment to both express my convictions, respecting myself, as well as I’ve tried to listen respectfully. Too often, I think I have sacrificed my voice & views in favor of a false civility, being “nice” in the interest of “peace,” prizing rationality on issues over truly expressing my values & convictions whether or not they seem “reasonable” to others. I don’t need much help in choosing a shamed “civil” silence; compliance and conflict avoidance may have been the most important unspoken commandments in my family and culture.

End Game Question 7: If you decided to facilitate a similar conversation among a new set of conversation partners, how would you structure such a conversation (drawing on your responses to the above questions)?

LN 7: Suggestions for structure.  I would start exactly where we left off.  Maybe more written preparation.  I do better work when I need to write something. I liked the circle without tables – exposed, vulnerable and need to trust are developed. No hiding, of self or beliefs – in the open. I liked the format of looking for something I agreed with first, and then something I did not agree with – discernment required. Created Balance. I wonder what effect a group of 6 or of 10 would do to the dynamic?  I would do 6 before 10.  Better control of rules of engagement.

MK 7: I would try very hard to have the same gracious tone Harold set with this one, coupled with higher fences to keep the conversation corralled and moving to a preset place.

On that note: Thank you Harold, for all the time and thought you put into this, for bringing us along on this unique journey, and for making this possible. I have no doubt that you just multiplied your efforts eight-fold.

LS 7: Well define the topic and require the conversations to be related to the topic.  Require participants to clearly define their position on the topic.

SE 7: I love the way this was structured.  I think my own preference would be to go deeper more often.  I think this could be achieved by having less people. One idea I am curious about is pairing people up to have a one-on-one conversation that goes 2 hours and then they come back to the larger group once a month and have to explain the other person’s perspective.  It would allow for people to get to know each other better, hear perspectives and have a chance to flesh that out with questions, and would demand a level of listening that results in being able to explain a perspective that is not our own.

I think this would set an end goal around understanding and not necessarily in seeking areas of agreement.  Though, I would not be surprised if that happened.

TM 7: Combining 6 and 7 a little bit, I believe it would have suited the purposes of conversing about Donald Trump a little more if instead of the broad topics that we ended up discussing, we could have found some specific policies that have been enacted and discussed those.  We spent a lot of time (or so it felt to me) discussing theology (not that that’s a bad thing) and deep in the weeds on some other topics that, while productive, did not particularly seem to hit the heart of what I thought I was getting into, discussing my opinions and beliefs about Donald Trump.

TA 7: I think it was valuable to try a face-to-face version of the conversations Harold has facilitated via his website. If I decided to facilitate a similar conversation in the future, here are some things I might do:


  • Although it adds to the time commitment, I might require (or strongly encourage) that each of the conversation partners meet one-on-one with everyone else in the group at some point during the span of the experiment for coffee, over a meal or whatever. Those one-on-ones wouldn’t have to involve talk about the conversation topics, but they could. They could also simply be a chance for the conversation partners to get to know one another better.
  • Related to that, while we’ve gotten to know one another better over these many weeks, I wonder how it would work if the original recruits were 2 Trump supporters and 2 non-supporters and then each of them were asked to invite an “opposite” they knew. I feel like inviting an “opposite” who I already know and care about being in relationship with would increase the stakes in a positive way, and one take-away from the experiment might be deeper understanding between two friends of opposite political persuasion.
  • If I were facilitating/moderating such a conversation, I would try to be as wise and gracious as Harold. I would also try to be more “aggressive” as moderator about stopping comments/conversation any time they veered away from or violated the rules for respectful conversation we all agreed to. I know I should have been called out more times than I was J. I’ll be honest and admit I don’t know if I’m quick-thinking enough to carry off such careful moderation of a conversation in progress. That’s why, if I were moderating such conversations, I think I’d do better moderating written convos like those Harold has done via his website.
  • I’ve come to believe that you can’t really have a respectful conversation without intentionally trying to nurture care and respect for the person you’re conversing with. Thus, I might add something like this to a facilitated conversation like ours: After a person, let’s say Tim, shared his response to an assigned question like those we answered in turns, I might take a moment to go around the circle and ask each of the others to answer these questions:


1) What did TM’s’ response tell you about him and what he values?

2) Did that foster any new appreciation for TM or TM’s insights; if so, share that.

I feel like in our insistence to stay focused on the issues rather than on each other, we may have missed some opportunities for further understanding and appreciation of one another 

BE 7: I think I benefitted most when we each came with a prepared statement and each partner could read those online afterwards when preparing responses. I would follow that example. In addition, I would expand the conversation, if discussing a President, for example, by comparing and contrasting the victor with the challenger. Since Hillary Clinton is an ardent abortion advocate, her contrast with Donald Trump, the most Pro-Life President ever, is relevant. Since every current Democratic Presidential candidate supports abortion, how can any consistent Christian caucus for any of them?

KN 7: Structural Suggestions:

But there are some dynamics in this group that I wish we had better addressed throughout to make a better attempt at it together.


  • I wish we had worked more on hearing each others’ stories and values, the convictions that shape us, than our focus on the issues themselves. I think our first meeting built a good base, but as we’ve settled into sharing our “views” on “issues” it’s skewed the field away from our hearts to our heads. I think both are important, but I think we have overdone rationality at the cost of hearing our deeper values.
  • I think we have too easily strayed into “us & them” talk, disparaging other views rather than exercising curiosity about them, and that has contributed to an “on-guard” carefulness for me about what is safe and not safe to share.  I wish we’d revisited our foundational commitments more often, and worked at checking each other on it when we seemed to be crossing a line. But I think that’s largely uncharted territory. In something I was reading this morning I wrote in the margin, “The biggest lie is to disparage one another’s humanity, and in so doing to lose our own.” The ground rules are good, but I’m not sure that we lived into them as well as we might have. It became easier to try to focus on our differing views on the issues. I’m not sure if this represents truly differing approaches to “process” vs. “outcomes”, “means” vs. “ends,” or if it’s just easier for many of us to take that path, even though we realize it’s what is increasing the polarization in our society. I believe we really need another way, but it’s so different that it may require more structure and discipline.
  • I realized that convening this conversation around our reactions to Donald Trump, while clarifying, skews the conversation from the start. I think we would agree that, regardless of whether we tend to support or critique him, he is not “middle of the road” in most any way. Thus, some of the same “fault lines” (for lack of a better term) show up in our discussion, both in content and style of representation. I think to have a better respectful conversation requires us to “try on” each other’s perspectives, to some extent. I think we heard without fighting, but I think we’re a ways from actually reasoning and feeling together. And Donald Trump is certainly no model for that.