Braver Angels works to promote understanding among those with different views

Pastor Steve Weaver prayed the invocation on the first day of the 2021 General Assembly Session in the Kentucky House of Representatives on Tuesday. (KET Screen Capture)

Steve Weaver, pastor at Farmdale Baptist Church, has a unique view on issues dividing America.

In addition to being the pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church, Weaver is the state minister of Kentucky with Capitol Commission.

“I’m a minister at the state Capitol,” Weaver said. “I’m around Republicans and Democrats all the time, and I’m hearing and understanding different perspectives.”

With the idea of helping others experience that, Weaver and Father Peter Doddema of the Church of the Ascension hosted a Braver Angels workshop Saturday at the Church of the Ascension.

“What I wanted to happen is for people to see that they have different perspectives, but we’re not as far apart as we think we are,” Weaver said.

The red/blue workshop participants identified as Democrats (blue) or Republicans (red) and engaged in two exercises to foster an understanding of the other side’s views.

The object was not to change anyone’s minds, but to listen and be heard in a civil manner.

Doddema and Weaver both participated in the workshop.

“Within my congregation there are all sides of political beliefs,” Doddema said. “I want the tools to be able to listen better and minister better.”

Braver Angels was founded in 2016 after the November election as a way to help with political depolarization. The group is recognized nationally and tries to foster civil discussions among those with differing viewpoints about faith and politics to promote learning and understanding.

Weaver and Doddema became involved when Carolyn Dupont, Kentucky coordinator with Braver Angels, reached out to them.

“We became friends on Facebook, and she reached out to me,” Weaver said. “I think she saw some of my posts on issues on social media, so she reached out to me and it seemed like it would be good to be involved in this.

“She reached out to Peter, and we got together on Zoom a couple times. We had a social media post (for the workshop), and we invited individuals. I recruited the reds, and Peter recruited the blues.”

During the workshop, participants took part in a stereotypes exercise, where the red group and blue group met in separate rooms to come up with a list of what they felt were the most common false stereotypes about their side, why the stereotypes were inaccurate, what was the truth instead and what the kernel of truth was in each stereotype.

The groups then got together to discuss their findings.

They also participated in a fishbowl listening exercise, with one group in an inner circle discussing why they thought their side is good for the country and what reservations they have about their political party.

The two groups then switched spots, and there was no interaction between the groups during the exercise.

Eugene Rutz, of Cincinnati, was one of the moderators of Saturday’s workshop. He’s been a Braver Angels moderator for six months.

“I say I’m really looking forward to doing these and I’m terrified,” he said. “I want it to have a good outcome for people, and so far I haven’t had a bad outcome.”

Rutz had another good outcome Saturday as participants used words like hope, civility and compassion to describe what they were taking from the workshop.

Weaver and Doddema would like to see a Braver Angels chapter in Frankfort.

“I felt like it was a good start,” Doddema said. “It was one three-hour meeting, but it was a good start. I have hope.”


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