May 2019 – How to Create Community in a Time of Division

May 2019 Inter-Belief Conversation Café

How to Create Community in a Time of Division

  Monday, May 20, 2019
  7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
  Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul
1671 Summit Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55105 (View Map)

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in”. So said Robert Frost in his poem, “The Death of the Hired Man”. What is home to us? Is it enough to be our community or does community mean something more? Is it the whole world? Our country? Our state? Our city? Our neighborhood? Our religion or place of worship? Our like-minded friends? A meetup group? Can we only have a community through exclusion? Is it always us and them? Do communities thrive on division because we can more easily define who isn’t part of the community? Or do communities cooperate with each and ally to make larger, more inclusive communities?

There is a perception that America is polarized into two or more antagonistic communities. Possibly the discord goes far back in our history. But, weren’t there moments like immediately after 9/11 or World War II when we all came together? Or was this an illusion forgetting attacks on Muslims and Sikhs or the internment of Americans of Japanese descent after Pearl Harbor? What would it take for a Trump supporter or a fan of Ilhan Omar to be part of one community? Can one watch Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC without smashing the TV set? Can we lose family ties or close friendships over our political differences? Or does community transcend these disagreements as ephemeral in light of what binds us?

Just as a frame defines where the picture ends and the wall begins, don’t we need boundaries to our community? Is it true that the earth is one community and all humankind its citizens? Is this hopelessly naïve or a recipe for chaos? How big can a community be and still have cohesion? Possibly we are members of many communities and our existence a juggling act? To create a community don’t we first have to know who we are? How easy is it to say, “This is my community.”? Can we truly welcome other ones?

Can we create communities of common purpose? Can Planned Parenthood and fundamentalists work together to find parents for abandoned children? Can we agree to help wounded veterans even if we opposed the wars they fought? Should those who leave water in the desert for illegal immigrants be praised or arrested? Do guidelines of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, comforting the afflicted, and visiting the prisoner apply to all whether theist or atheist? Who exactly are our neighbors, and do we really have to love all of them as if they were ourselves? Aren’t some of them too flawed to love?

On Monday, May 20 from 7-9 PM at Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul, 1671 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, Inter-belief Conversation Café will try to create community and avoid division. Agreements of open-mindedness, acceptance, curiosity, discovery, sincerity, brevity, and confidentiality seek to bind us together. But even if it all falls to pieces; we will have treats!