It seems like today our country is more divided than ever.

As Republicans move further to the right and Democrats move further to the left it can be hard to find any sort of common ground.

How do we develop compassion and empathy for those whose views seem so different from our own?

I have recently read a book entitled “Red State Christians” by Angela Denker, which is about conversations with those who live in Red States, voted for Donald Trump, and identify as Christian.

I am sure that would include many folks within our local community.

Written from a journalistic mindset, the idea behind the book is to understand better where people are coming from.

The hope is that liberal-minded Christians, like me, might better be able to understand and have conversations with Christians on the other side of the aisle.

I found the book extremely helpful in understanding what motivated folks during the 2016 election and how those issues might play into our elections this year.

Calling all Trump voters racist is surely not a good place to start.

Rather, I want to look at other issues that inspired voters like abortion (a shared concern), immigration, Isis and a fear of a rising social liberalism.

One thing of note in the rise of Trump is the dangerous role nationalism has played in the election.

The marriage of church and state that continues in many of our evangelical churches today is something to be wary of.

Throughout the gospels, Jesus warns of the power of Empire.

We need to pay close attention to and question the role patriotism plays in many of our churches.

Now more than ever I feel it is important for us to have conversations across the political divide.

Sometimes we need to quiet our own voice and listen to the voices of those around us.

For those who voted for Trump in 2016, help me understand where you stand today.

Is he still the best leader for our country?

Tell me why.

And for those who are considering voting Democratic, we need to be wary of our own divide between the progressive and moderate factions of our own party.

We are hardly a united front.

I know many people think pastors shouldn’t talk about politics, and I will never endorse a candidate from the pulpit, but these are real issues facing us today and like many Americans, my faith plays a big role in how I vote.

How does your faith influence your vote and why?

I am eager to have these conversations so we can foster greater understanding across the divide and within our local community.

As the threat of COVID-19 looms, now is a good time to remember that we all have more in common than not.

We are all in this together and we all stand to rise or fall as one.

Let us make choices that benefit all of our fellow citizens (wash your hands) and let us seek conversations across the political divide.

These issues matter and these discussions need to happen.

Please, let us reach across the political divide and seek understanding.

Let us not assume the worst of our neighbor but rather attempt to really listen to their heartfelt point of view.

I imagine we could all stand to learn from each other and I believe it is the only right thing to do.

If we are to remain the “United States” then we need to make a personal effort to keep this union together.

Rev. Heather Jepsen is the pastor at First Presbyterian Church, 206 N. College Avenue.

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