How do we engage with people who part of this movement we call Christian nationalism? In this interview, Doug Pagitt helps us understand engagement and empathy, which he urges as our response to the people.
Doug Pagitt is the Executive Director and co-founder of Vote Common Good – an author, pastor, and social activist. A leading voice for progressive Christianity, Doug makes frequent national media and speaking appearances. He has a new book, Outdoing Jesus. Visit his website to learn more –DougPagitt.com.
Doug calls himself a possibility enthusiast. For two decades, he has been leading the conversation on progressive faith and politics. Through creative, entrepreneurial and generative efforts, he works to enlist people to join in the hopes, dreams, and desires God has for a more beautiful world.
“The threat to democracy,” Doug says, “comes when government begins to do its work in order to fulfill its purposes by Christian means,” but not everyone in the movement is in agreement about how to do that. “There’s a continuum of where people are and the kinds of ideas they hold. There’s not a unified view in the movement, and people are not motivated by the same thing. They fight with one another.”
Watch this interview with Doug, then read more below the video about the kind of response he recommends.
How do we engage with empathy in our personal relationships? Political or governmental engagement is important, but personal engagement remains critical to making a difference. Convinced that people cannot be persuaded to change their minds or their beliefs, most of us do not even try. Here’s what Doug said: “Many people are ready to swap one belief for another, but we all need a meaningful alternative belief before we let go of a harmful belief.” So personal, empathetic engagement may be saying to someone: “I have a different way to look at this. Would you mind looking at it with me?”
Empathy includes understanding why people believe what they do. We need to put ourselves in their place as much as possible to have a sense of why they say or believe what they do. One question to ask, Doug says, is this: “What function does that belief have in your life?” It does something for them. It provides something important in their lives. What is that and why? Once we have a good idea about the answer, we can talk with them about it.
Another fascinating idea in the interview is that most stories have heroes, villains, and victims. None of us sees ourselves as the villains, of course – just a hero or a victim. We sometimes do, however, see other people as villains, which is never helpful. “We must engage people as heroes or victims,” Doug says, “in whatever role they see themselves. Replace the hero narrative with another hero narrative, not make them villains in a story.”
Toward the end of our interview, Doug focused on what he calls “a sojourner narrative,” – a narrative of shared experience. Rather than heroes, villains, or victims, can we see ourselves as sojourners on a common journey? He suggested looking to migrants for help in this. What is their story as they learn “to live in a new land”?” What could we learn from that story about being sojourners together on a path to a better life, a better future?
If you find this interview helpful for considering an appropriate response to people involved in Christian nationalism, you might want to visit the Vote Common Good website. They offer a free course on “Confronting Christian Nationalism” that you might also benefit from. Thank you for watching this interview.
Another resource you may want to explore is a free eBook called “One thing YOU can do,” available for download here. Learn the 2 ways to do that one thing and when and how to do it.
You are invited to join our new Imagine Learning Community where you will find interviews and resources from a variety of leaders and groups engaging with people in this movement. Click here to learn more.