Staff Pick – Depolarize!

May 25, 2017
Note: Throughout this series one of our staff members will be giving you a recommendation and/or a brief review from the world of music, movies, TV or literature. Hopefully this will serve as a way to see inside the head of our staff members and direct you towards some listening, viewing or reading material for your own personal growth and enjoyment. Today’s post is from our youth pastor, Dave Hallahan.

 

I was reading my daughter, Riley, a bedtime story last night. She has a bit of an eccentric side, whether she gets that because of me or because she’s four is still out for debate. Either way, she wanted to read a Christmas story we have called ‘Wee Three Pigs.’ It’s basically the Christmas version of the Big Bad Wolf. There’s a part in the story where the third pig outsmarts the wolf and they’re able to capture him. The pigs ask, “Why do you want to eat us for Christmas? We never did anything to you.” The wolf responds by saying, “Well, it’s just a tradition in our family to pig out on Christmas. But now that I’ve met you, I would never eat you.” The book is full of pig related puns, but that’s hardly the point.

The point is that much like the wolf, we often draw arbitrary lines in the sand and seek to attack all those who are on the other side. I think this is true in most areas of life, but it’s especially obvious in the political realm. Our most recent political cycle, which has been exhausting and nonstop, was a perfect example of polarization. There was no room in political discourse for people who were lukewarm on either or both candidates. You had to hate one and praise the other. It was that simple. The presidential candidates themselves were no exceptions. President Trump spent his time campaigning and in office calling his opponents “losers,” “fake news,” “crooked,” and a slew of other names. And we had Hilary Clinton on the other side calling “half of Trump’s supporters” a “basket of deplorables” adding that they were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.”

If you happen to align yourself with either candidate, you probably agree with their assessment and are appalled at the others. And that’s exactly the point. Statements like these serve as a form confirmation bias, they harden your heart to the other side and strengthen your stance. Our entire political system has suffered from a severe polarization. The two sides cannot seem to work together on anything meaningful. Media coverage and the candidates themselves only further the divide amongst the general populous.

Enter my recommendation for this week the Depolarize! Podcast. The show description is listed on their website as follows:

Our national discourse is more divided than ever. Host Dan Koch moderates discussions with brilliant guests, using reason and storytelling to improve arguments on both sides, create empathy, and build bridges.

I’ve been listening since before the national election in November and Dan Koch has definitely done a good job at humanizing both sides and creating empathy. In one of his most recent episodes his guest said, “We have to solve polarization before we solve anything else…You’re not going to change society by having animosity toward the other side.”

As someone who has struggled to understand “the other side” in this political climate, Dan Koch and the Depolarize! Podcast has really encouraged me not to rush to assumptions or buy into generalities. At the very least, I try to think through where they could be coming from and, when I’m feeling especially ambitious, I will seek out those who I disagree with and ask their opinion. I seek to understand and love them as people.

There’s a strong pull for many of us to compartmentalize our political opinion in the church. I think there are times where this is necessary and a good thing. It can allow us to focus on what is most important, the cross and cause of Jesus Christ, but often what happens is our differences are left unspoken but not unfelt. The separation and line drawing is still happening, we are just doing it internally instead of out in the open. The healthier way is to get to know people as people not as affiliates to a political party. Then we automatically cease becoming opponents to be defeated and we become people to be loved.

If, like me, you’ve struggled with empathy and love for those on the “other side” of the political aisle, I strongly suggest the Depolarize! Podcast. Dan Koch is a Jesus follower who is putting into practice the other-centered love shown to us in the person of Jesus. His voice is a calming one in an otherwise chaotic arena.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and probably anywhere else podcasts can be found.