[from the Albany Times Union]
Better Angels was founded in the battleground state of Ohio during the last presidential race by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump supporters worried that rage was ripping America apart. It’s become a nationwide interfaith, diverse group. In 2020, the name was changed to Braver Angels to reflect the courage often required to bridge political and religious divides. Just before the pandemic lockdowns, David Rowell and Bruce France were spurred by their religious beliefs to found a chapter in the Capital Region.
Q: Could you please describe your religious backgrounds or spiritual practices and how they prompted you to join this effort?
Dave: I’m a parishioner at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Albany. I believe that each person is made in God’s image. Braver Angels treats all people with respect and dignity despite political differences, which reinforces his faith.
Bruce: I attend Emmaus United Methodist Church in Albany. Many United Methodist congregations, like other denominations and faiths, are divided politically. These divisions beg to be addressed by a framework that addresses compassion and understanding. I believe we are called to love our God and love our neighbor. Many issues can only be addressed with appropriate listening and speaking skills which are the heart of the Braver Angels philosophy. We can’t be listening if we are shouting at each other. There is a great need to look for what we agree on and not what we disagree on. That is how we show love for our God and our neighbor.
Q: What’s happened since the first workshop? How many attendees self-identify as blue, how many red?
Bruce: We had a Skills for Bridging the Divide Workshop designed to improve communication skills for people with different views. That was followed by a Red/Blue Workshop in Guilderland where people of opposite political persuasions had conversations to understand their differences and find common ground. Seven “reds” and seven “blue” attended it.
About ten people then formed the Capital District Braver Angels Alliance. Before the pandemic, we held 15 general information sessions, nine skills workshops, four Red/Blue workshops and two debates. Our debates don’t have winners or losers but aim to better understand competing views about a topic. Events were spread around the Capital District as far north as Glens Falls.
After the pandemic hit, Braver Angels suspended in-person events and had three Zoom workshops online. We hope to resume workshops very soon and expand to activities such as policy and book discussions.
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