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Research shows that when it comes to their engagement with diverse belief systems, young evangelicals may be a step above their peers. Yet, a new study from Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) also suggests that the language used to describe this engagement is more likely to lose their interest than energize them.

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NF launched an online periodical asking experts to explain: "What Went Wrong?" How come Americans are so divided despite the best efforts of most of our institutions to bring us together? Why are charities and the government failing to bring people closer together?

Here's a summary of what we learned so far. 

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Tolerance is talked about a lot, but when it comes down to it are people really practicing it? What about in more idealogical or elite spaces? Waggoner shares about a volatile experience at Yale Law School, and how people can exercise "neighborly faith" even when a mob is trying to down them out.

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Our perceived perceptions of each other have led to toxic polarization. We take one small thing we know about someone and decide who they are and how they feel about us. Usually negatively, whether that’s accurate or not. Being more online and less engaged with the real world has contributed to this problem of feeling like our differences are just too big and nothing can be done. We don’t see others for who they are and what they do, we only see an online caricature or persona. McIntosh and Lin offer three steps toward overcoming toxic polarization. 

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We’re used to being told to find friends who are like us, who are in the same season of life as us, who hold similar values, beliefs, and identities. In the world today, that doesn’t seem to helping us as a society. We’re divided, angry, and shouting loudly at the other side about what we want.

Hartley discusses the importance of building friendships with those who don’t look, think or act like us. He wants us to celebrate our unlikeness and use it to bring about a better future.

“Supremacies weaponize our unlikeness, turning us against each other, convincing us we must change or defeat each other. Mutuality is not our utopian past or future. It is only something we can choose.”

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The idea that Muslims are only violent and don’t do anything good for Christians is pervasive among American Christians. Attitudes of “why should we do anything good for them if they haven’t done it for us?” run rampant. Islamophobia runs deep, whether Christians want to admit it or not.

“There are indeed countless Muslims who are concerned with Christian well-being, who are combating Christian persecution, and who are promoting dialogue and understanding.”

Duffner discusses why American Christians won’t engage in Muslim-Christian brigdebuilding and how to approach it to effect change. 

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While we have access to more people, cultures, and stories than ever before, people continue to base their understanding of the world on their personal experiences. People draw battle lines and wage war against each other because of these limited perspectives, refusing to listen to each other. Then nothing gets solved. Prior discusses this predicament and how we can expand our finite view. 


“Yet, we seem to be in a place today where truth matters less and, consequently, facts, formal arguments, and reason itself have been reduced to mere baubles and sequins, going in and out of style faster than it takes a Twitter timeline to refresh.”

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Reaching across the aisle to collaborate on political issues is easier said than done, especially when one side has caused the other pain and hurt. But success consistently happens when people with diverse views come together. The current political divide and hateful rhetoric makes this difficult, but not impossible. Santos and Marcus list four ways political adversaries can come together on issues while minimizing harm. 


“Power is built not only by uplifting dependable voices within a group, but also by convincing folks on or just outside of the margins that they have a place within the community.”

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Multi-faith leaders strive to build bridges and reach across the aisle, but it seems as though it isn’t working. It feels like America is as polarized as ever and efforts to bring civility to the conversation are worthless. Darling addresses 5 common mistakes made when bridgebuilding to reach civility.

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If America is to make gumbo, both theologically and politically, its factions must be willing to come together and work together. When do we stop buying-in to wedge issues? When will Christians look for commonality, as fellow siblings, with God as our common parent? Augustine explains how, if the church can make a good gumbo, she can be an exemplar and serve it to society-at-large.

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Creating authentic interreligious dialogue can be difficult to do, especially when many people just aren’t motivated to participate no matter how much incentive is used. Chitwood calls this the “apathy gap” and explores what faith leaders must do to address it so people will want to engage in interreligious dialogue. 

“In fact, it’s the apathy that can prove more frustrating, and heartbreaking, than any antagonism.”

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Working together has never been easy, but add in politics and people’s passions and it becomes downright difficult. This is especially true when it comes to important issues that affect everyday lives in America. Using a Dungeons and Dragons analogy, Rabbi Holzman explores why America continues to be divided and polarized and what must be done in order to effectively work together again. 

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America is deeply divided along racial, religious, and ideological lines. Americans loudly proclaim their identity labels like “anti-vaxxer” and “intersectional feminist” while drowning out other identifiers that matter. People set up camps in these labels, drawing lines and forming an “us vs. them” mindset that polarizes. Unity seems impossible. Beydoun discusses how to find that unity, even amid all the noise.

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Most Christians want a reconciled and fully united Church. But despite investing time and mastering the optics, attempts to bring Christians together are falling short. 

 

Giboney argues that majority church has failed to count the cost of reconciliation. The Church’s history of racism has been devastatingly painful, but Christians often seek painless paths toward restoration. Many Christians very simply don’t want to sacrifice enough to get the job done. 

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The “woke” progressive barista from Brooklyn who champions the de-criminalization of “sex work” may truly have little in common with the conservative Christian mailman from rural Alabama who loves Tucker Carlson.

 

No one ever said these two had to get along or be friends. But can they now even co-exist? 

Walker finds timeless and actionable solutions from the ancient biblical prophet Isaiah, with whom God connects reason with reconciliation.

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Social scientists have identified a phenomenon they call the “false enforcement of unpopular norms.” People who are open-minded are often willing to express a close-minded position because of perceived social pressure to conform.  

When a person privately has an open-minded position and is either discouraged from expressing it or willing to express it but not back up his or her words with action, the possibility of change feels elusive.

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BY NF STUDIO

Do you think you know everything about Muslims? Probably not. In fact, there are a lot of things about Muslims that Christians don't know- and that's okay! We're not supposed to know everything. But what we should do is learn more about our Muslim neighbors, especially if we want to love them well.

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BY NF STUDIO

You may be wondering how to best show love for Muslims in your community in culturally appropriate ways. If so, you’re already on the right track: having humility, self-awareness, and a willingness to learn are a great foundation for making thoughtful friendships.

 

Here are seven actionable ideas for how to love your Muslim neighbors. Why not start today?

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BY NF STUDIO

When you think about Muslims in America, what imagery and ideas come to your mind first? Here are seven interesting facts about Muslims in America that defy common misconceptions. 

The next time you hear someone perpetuating a myth or stereotype about Muslim Americans, you can help them and your Muslim neighbors by sharing information that many people may not know.

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BY NF STUDIO

Making friends with people of other faiths and cultures is a great way to become a more well-rounded person and even gain insight into your own faith and culture.

 

Here are some things you may not know you share with your Muslim neighbors and how you can build meaningful friendships with them.