Paul Brandeis Raushenbush on How Interfaith Friendships Can End a Civil War Before It Starts

Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, speaks at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference in Washington, D.C. on June 29, 2019. | Samuel Smith/The Christian Post

Paul Brandeis Raushenbush is senior adviser for public affairs and innovation at Interfaith Youth Core and former president of the Association for College and University Religious Affairs. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.

Civil war is in the news. On Sunday (Sept. 29), Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress warned in a television interview that if the current impeachment inquiry ends in President Donald Trump being forced from office, it could lead to a “civil war like fracture in this nation from which this country might never heal.”

Not surprisingly, Trump tweeted Jeffress’ comment out to his millions of followers.

Jeffress’ rhetoric is reckless and is meant to intimidate — but it isn’t all wrong.  We are at historic, civil war levels of animosity and distrust between Americansbut the divide is not because of the impeachment, or even Trump.  On Election Day of 2016, the University of Southern California released a report specifically called Political Polarization Is at Its Worst Since the Civil War.” Two years later, 1 in 3 Americans told pollsters that they felt a civil war was imminent.

The most obvious and ominous reason for this deep division is that even as the United States becomes more diverse, we are not turning that diversity into a productive and positive pluralism. Instead, our diversity is being manipulated to produce fear and distrust, reinforcing our tendency to retreat into bubbles of people with whom we most closely identify.

According to a startling Pluralism Survey completed this year by Public Religion Research Institute, only 50% of Americans say they have meaningful interactions with religious groups outside of their own more than once a week. One in 10 Americans, PRRI found, say they never have any interactions with people whose religious backgrounds or worldviews differ from their own.

For Americans ages 19-29, the numbers are even lower. Despite their connectedness online, younger generations are actually worse at interacting with people of other backgrounds. Instead of weaving together a unified tapestry of a nation, we are creating a ragged quilt with only the loosest of strings holding together our proximate, discrete parts.

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Source: Religion News Service