Dear Hyde Park Family,

So, did you watch survive the first presidential debate?

People may have disagreements about political ideologies and policies, but perhaps we can all agree that this debate was the single worst political spectacle we have ever seen. For me, it was worse than appalling or exasperating. It was harmful. Harmful to a democracy that hinges on an engaged and informed electorate. Harmful to a society yearning for decency and dignity to bridge our ever-widening divides. Harmful to viewers like you and me who expect better from our leaders, especially President Trump, who appeared to me to be more intent on disrupting and instigating, rather than on earnest debate. And yes, it is also true that words like “shut up” are below the decorum this kind of event warrants.

We are a congregation of people whose views cover a wide political spectrum. Political homogeneity has never been – and never needs to be – a characteristic of the body of Christ. Disagreement can actually make us stronger, when engaged with empathy and civility. It is how we live out two of core values, to be warm-hearted and open-minded. So, in our unified desire for decency and holiness in our private lives and in the public sphere, I offer a few resources to guide our hearts and minds.

HOW TO HAVE A BETTER CONVERSATION

I commend to you an excellent Ted Talk by Celeste Headlee, a radio host with National Public Radio. We shared her “Ten Ways to Have a Better Conversation” [1] with a gathering of our church leaders back in 2018. I encouraged them to use these principles in our various meetings, as it offers helpful ways to have civil discourse with others:

  1. Don’t multitask.
  2. Don’t pontificate.
  3. Use open-ended questions.
  4. Go with the flow.
  5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know.
  6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs.
  7. Try not to repeat yourself.
  8. Stay out of the weeds.
  9. Listen.
  10. Be brief.

BISHOP KEN CARTER, ON THE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Our Bishop Ken Carter offers excellent guidance [2] for our interactions on social media, particularly in the way we identify and respond to “trolls,” who seem more intent on commandeering our posts and raising the temperature of the conversation. It is also a helpful way of naming how we are susceptible to being “trolls” ourselves.

VOTE!

Regardless of the incivility of our political leaders’ discourse, we have the ability to speak into the moment through the voice of our vote. Bishop Carter and the Florida Conference’s Task Force on Anti-Racism [3] is advancing an initiative called Faithful Voter, [4] which calls on people of faith to vote and to combat voter suppression, particularly for communities of color.

Regardless of your political convictions, and regardless of who you choose to vote for this November, let us each do our part to be the kinds of people that we long for our leaders to become.

Grace and Peace,

Magrey

The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist

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