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If We’re Better Together, Why Are We So Far Apart? The Interplay between Synodality and Polarization

Updated: Feb 23, 2023

by Michael McGillicuddy, LCSW Profiles in Catholicism



This paper reflects on the interplay between synodality and polarization. It is an adaptation of a presentation made to the Archdiocese of Chicago Pastoral Council on March 19, 2022.


I resonate deeply with Pope Francis’ visionary call for each of us “to dream about the Church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust (I digress to say, a commodity in particularly short supply nowadays), to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts, and restore strength to our hands for our common mission.”


In this vein, Pope Francis has invited the universal church to deepen the Second Vatican Council’s understanding of the ecclesiology through the path of synodality, a process of common discernment, formation, conversion and reform of relationships, communication, and structures. In his September 18, 2021 address to the Diocese of Rome, Pope Francis described synodality as an “expression of the Church’s nature, her form, style and mission…based on what can be considered the first and most important ‘manual’ of ecclesiology: the Acts of the Apostles.” The Synod on Synodality’s introductory document describes a synodal Church as one in which “each one has something to learn. Faithful people, Episcopal College, Bishop of Rome: one in listening to the others; and all in listening to the Holy Spirit.”


Drawn as I am to the synodal path, I grapple with the interplay between the inspiring vision of synodality and the reality of rampant polarization, in the church no less than in secular society. I am convinced that synodality and polarization are intimately related, To ‘do’ synodality without understanding polarization would be unwise.


A papal biographer Austin Ivereigh, https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/spirit-assembly, offers an apt point of departure for my reflections. In a 2021 Commonweal article entitled The Spirit in the Assembly, Ivereigh quotes from the synod secretariat’s handbook: “For pastoral leaders, this consultation process will evoke a range of feelings…from excitement and joy to anxiety, fear, uncertainty or even skepticism.” Ivereigh confirms that “the anxiety is real. The Catholic Church is already a deeply polarized place. What if, when people speak boldly, it all falls apart?...Into this vacuum step militants of both sides, traditionalists and progressives.” He points to examples from agendas at both ends of the spectrum: a claim from the right that synods are “a means of dismantling historic teachings,” and one from the left which dismisses the synod as an “absurd process” that is ultimately “pointless.”


Cardinal Cupich’s teaches us that the synod offers “an opportunity to say to ourselves, ‘Who is it that we are ignoring?...How can the church be like Jesus that really listens to where people are?” Herein lies a paradox: The synodal process calls us to listen, really listen to the voices Ivereigh terms ‘militant’ too!


Ivereigh suggests that adaptation to synodality is much like exercising a weakened muscle. “To exercise it again suddenly is no small task; it will be effortful, painful, and initially it may seem hopeless. But it is what God asks of the Church in the third millennium…This is so hard. We have no model for this…This renewal can only come about by ‘doing’ synodality: spending time in human encounter, in the company of our fellow faithful in parish meetings…but also informally: sharing a meal, walking together, and so on.” Yes!


Ivereigh then calls attention to the core challenges: “How to hear the Spirit speak through those who do not usually speak? How to avoid the process being hijacked by the articulate and educated?...All these attitudes can be transcended only by a synodal conversion…”


Ivereigh concludes: “Too much, too soon? Of course. That is the point. The genius of the process is that it will starkly reveal just how little traveled is the road to the synodal Church of which Francis dreams. If…humility and openness to grace should prove the synod’s main fruit, it will yield a rich harvest indeed.”


In his homily for the Third Sunday of Advent in 2019, Capuchin Ed Foley spoke to the question which goes to the heart of every spiritual quest: “Is this the authentic path to truth?... Or do we seek another?” He continues: “For decades scientists have studied the human tendency to look for information or interpret data that confirms what we already believe. The technical term for this is confirmation bias. Multiple experiments…have verified that humans have a tendency to test hypotheses by searching for evidence consistent with our deeply held convictions.”


Father Foley continues: “So while most of us think we are being objective and weighing the facts rationally, whether it concerns global warming or impeachment, we are demonstrably biased, and tend to protect information that supports our fundamental beliefs. Thus, when someone actually asks the (big) question(s in life), is there clear evidence that maybe we are actually open to consider a position or a person, a belief stance or a political viewpoint that is different or even contrary to what we previously held as unwavering truth?” To which I reply: maybe…but maybe not. Navigating confirmation bias is going to be a principal challenge of the synodal path, and success is not foreordained.


I could go on for hours about polarization and its discontents but I’ll spare you. Please permit me a few minutes to explore this conundrum: “If we are better together, why are we so far apart?” There is an accelerating crisis of polarization in America and American Catholicism today, laying to rest any pretense that the conflicts among us are in the tolerable range. Many of us have come to regard ’the other’…party or race or region or gender or generation or religious faction…as a threat rather than as a neighbor. We are retreating into parallel universes.


From a 2019 study entitled “Lethal Mass Partisanship,” https://www.dannyhayes.org/uploads/6/9/8/5/69858539/kalmoe___mason_ncapsa_2019_-_lethal_partisanship_-_final_lmedit.pdf, we learn that 42% of the people in each of the major American political parties view the opposition as ‘downright evil.’ Nearly one in five agree with the statement their political adversaries “lack the traits to be considered fully human – they behave as animals.” More than 15% of each party think, on occasion, that the country would be better off if large numbers of the opposition died. And get this: It was disproportionately the best informed of each party’s voters who were the most partisan and hostile to the opposition.


Sobering, no? But it gets worse: Before the 2020 election, more than 13% of sampled Rs + Ds reported that violence may be justifiable if the opposing party were to win in 2020. January 6, 2021, should not have been a surprise! (Aside: I know these data are about politics but as we’ll soon see, political polarization bleeds into other zones in life, including religion.)


What is going on? Why are we choking on outrage? We have to figure this out. As James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” I am struck by the number of people who are wounded by polarization. One in six family members have stopped talking to each other. How about the sick feeling in the pits of our stomachs when we realize that if we state our truth we will give offense and they will take offense. We will both be hurt and risk the permanent loss of a valued relationship.


So let’s dive in. Polarization means a sharp division into two profoundly distinct social groups which emphasize differences and minimize commonalities. Please imagine that I have in my hand a jar filled with metal shavings and then pour them onto a table. The shavings would mound in the center and trail off on the sides, forming a normal curve of sorts. This configuration suggests the distribution of opinions on a ‘new’ topic absent polarization. But when a horseshoe magnet approaches this mound, the shape of the shavings changes. The magnetic force reshapes them into two clusters. And so it is with polarization: consistent with our mental wiring, a powerful dualistic mindset pulls everything - people, organizations, concepts, and commitments - to one pole or the other. Once sorted, elements tend to remain fixed there even when there is no intrinsic relationship among them. Like powerful currents, they keep us in tow.


There are benefits to seeking out those who ‘get’ us and centering our lives around them. Picking sides satisfies our need to belong. It offers the expectation of unswerving support and addresses our need to manage complexity. When the issues confronting us are far more vexing than we’d like, pre-packaged answers to complex questions can be very appealing indeed.


And yet these benefits must be weighed against the costs we incur from tribal affiliation. We come under tremendous pressure to suppress uncertainties, to refrain from public criticism of allies, and to minimize within-group differences.


The tribe, then, demands a united front. Disputed territory, won at great cost, must be defended. Lost respect, integrity and security demand retaliation. Most people who care deeply yield to this pressure. “This is our story and I’m sticking to it.”


United front? Disputed territory? Retaliation? Sound like war? It is like war, culture war. The phrase ‘culture war’ captures the dramatic realignment which has split American politics and culture into two warring camps defined by profoundly contrasting worldviews. This culture war mindset scorns nuance, crushes ambivalence, and suppresses nonconforming views. It is so destructive, so regrettable, and yet so deeply embedded in our discourse.


Bill Clinton captured the moment, noting that we're less racist, less sexist, less homophobic than we used to be, but one remaining bigotry seems to be intractable: We resist being around people who fundamentally disagree with us.


The trajectory is unmistakable. The ramifications are enormous. People living in homogeneous communities grow both more extreme and more certain in their beliefs. And even without intending to, they hurt each other. As we all know, hurt people hurt people.


In his book Love Your Enemies, economist Arthur Brooks argues that we are beset by a pandemic of contempt, a toxic brew mixing anger with disgust and scorn. Brooks argues that when someone treats us with contempt, we never quite forget it. This reminds me of Maya Angelou’s famous dictum: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”


There are many theories as to why polarization is increasing today. One places the blame on the disappearance of large-scale unifying events such as World War II. Another focuses on the fragmentation of information sources, essentially cable and the internet. Also implicated are the purification of our political parties and penalties which partisans levy against attempts at compromise.


Earlier I quoted Father Ed Foley on confirmation bias, a topic so consequential that it requires further consideration. We are all subject to confirmation bias, the tendency to seek out and interpret new evidence in ways that confirm what we already think. We differ on so much, but in confirmation bias we are united! I don’t think we appreciate how it impacts our lives. We wear confirmation bias filters. They influence us to understate evidence contradicting our beliefs and overstate evidence confirming them. They filter out inconvenient truths and reinforce convenient untruths, making them difficult to dispute. Will we name confirmation bias as a challenge as we proceed on the synodal path?


People are hurting, disunion is rife, so a faith community response would certainly be called for even if there were no direct applications to religion…but of course religion is anything but exempt from polarization. Lutheran church historian Martin Marty characterizes church polarization as The Greatest Divide. He writes, “There, least of all, do people evidence openness, humility, and readiness to hear viewpoints with which they might disagree, even when these are voiced by fellow-believers.” Harsh? Perhaps, but not so very far from the mark. If faith builds on nature, should we expect that this dynamic to be absent from a Church seeking to be synodal? And if it emerges, how are we prepared to deal with it? How, for example, to resist the temptation to identify ‘our’ views with those of the Holy Spirit and ‘their’ views as discredited ones?


Let’s reflect for a moment about the demise of the neighborhood parish without subjecting this trend to judgment. It is becoming increasingly common to choose churches which conform to our politics and worldviews, thereby avoiding churchgoers of the opposite persuasion. Partisanship has become such a defining part of our identities. When our political and religious identities conflict, party affiliation is increasingly the more durable one while religious affiliation is more likely to change. So I wonder: What might we miss when we sort ourselves into religious enclaves of the like-minded?


Where do we go from here? I propose five paths to depolarization, five steps to becoming culture peacemakers.


Path #1: Seek first to understand, to open our minds. It’s challenging to break free of comfortable thought patterns downloaded years ago. Pero si se puede. Yes, we can. One key to understanding another worldview is to discover what values and beliefs its adherents hold sacred. Honoring the sacred in the lives of ‘The Other’ is essential in synodal conversations.


That, and renouncing simple, black/white perspectives in order to explore more complex and nuanced ones. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn famously wrote, “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”


The Understanding Challenge, then, is to learn to state contrasting views so comprehensively and so fairly that proponents of such views acknowledge that they have been heard and understood. Doable?


Path #2: Seek next to empathize, to open our hearts. Imaginatively entering into the feelings of others is particularly challenging when their views are jarringly dissimilar from ours. And yet so much wounding results from our inability to imagine how it feels to be ‘The Other.’ How can we cultivate empathy?

Empathy flows from naming the wounds we have sustained in life - the letdowns, the emotional scars, the ridiculed beliefs, and for some, the abuse – and acknowledging these wounds in others. Empathy grows from naming the wounds we have inflicted as well. The heart is where we wrestle with The Other. Heartbreak is what happens when this wrestling leaves us wounded…leaves all of us wounded. The deep feelings of estrangement that progressives experience in some conservative settings are identical to those conservatives experience in some progressive settings. No tribe has a lock on heartbreak.


The Empathy Challenge is to imagine how it feels to be ‘The Other.” When we enter into the deep story of others - their hopes and fears, their pride and shame, their resentments and anxieties - we can climb over the wall of obstacles to solidarity and make heart connections. Possible? Francis believes so. Our task is to allowing the Holy Spirit to open us to the deep stories of those unlike us.


Path #3: Seek then to befriend, to build relationships. For synods to flourish we must build up our communications repertoire. That involves setting an appropriate tone, putting conversation partners at ease, attending to power and privilege imbalances, and ‘leaning in’ in order to test whether it is safe to speak openly. When, inevitably, profound differences become apparent, bravery and grace are important strengths to draw upon. Above all, we need to be better listeners, a point we’ll soon address together.


What a blessing is friendship. But friendships are under unprecedented strain today. So many friendships have withered, casualties of the culture war. It can be easier to loathe and caricature the other than to accept each other as complex and contradictory children of God. How can we come to regard each other as friends, even as kin? We need models.


I’m fascinated by improbable friendships. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson began as friends, but the frictions of that era damaged their relationship. A common friend intervened and persuaded them to reconnect. Adams then wrote this to Jefferson, “You and I ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other.” After years of silence, they were in correspondence for the rest of their lives. Wow! Despite starkly contrasting judicial philosophies, Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg sustained a warm friendship rooted in intellectual heft, mutual respect, and love of opera. Let’s name and lift up worldview diverse Catholic friendships. May they grow and prosper and become models to all of us.


The Friendship Challenge is to seek out viewpoint diversity in our friendship networks. Widening the circle of those we befriend recognizes that we have much to learn from each other and many stories to share about our formative experiences and shifting identities. Embracing this challenge may mean reviving a strained friendship or laying the groundwork for a new one. Any takers?


Path #4: Seek also to cooperate, to build bridges. It’s not enough to just talk. We also need to cross tribal boundaries to do things together. This requires erecting controversy free zones in our lives. Cooking is one, gardening is another. Sports was until recently and I hope it will be again. Volunteer service in truly diverse settings humanizes everyone involved. I am an Ignatian Volunteer, convinced that feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and protecting the vulnerable demand no particular party affiliation or theological orientation.


To everything there is a season. Right now we are in a season for speaking truth to power, for grappling with enormous disparities, for coming to grips with racism. I would never want to diminish the gravity of this moment nor quell the intensity in the air….but it is no betrayal of this moment to also propose a season for cutting slack, for bracketing differences so that we can be in each other’s lives. Curbing divisive rhetoric requires discipline; who doesn’t like to talk smack now and then? And yet…restraint in certain moments is critical to the healing and bridge building moments at the heart of the synod.


The Cooperation Challenge is to identify common threats which cross over cultural, religious, and political boundaries, then carefully frame responses which respect diverse core beliefs and identities. Any buyers?


Path #5: Seek always to intercede, to draw upon faith. While the specter of polarization is cause for alarm, it is not cause for despair for those who put their hope in God. Could the synodal path be what the Holy Spirit has in mind, nudging us to surpass our divisions. I think so, but we will need to be patient and tolerant as we await its unfolding.


Pope Francis’ devotion Mary Untier of Knots offers another path. I consider her the patroness of the painfully polarized. Here is an example of overcoming division from our Catholic tradition: In 17th Century Bavaria a husband contemplating separation from his wife sought counsel from a Jesuit who lifted up the couple in prayer: “In this religious act, I raise the bonds of matrimony, to untie all knots and smooth them.” The marriage healed. Years later their grandson commissioned a painting in memory of this reconciliation. Pope Francis, then a young Jesuit studying in Germany, viewed the painting in the church where it hangs. Deeply moved by both the painting and the story it depicts, he brought devotion to Mary Untier of Knots, Maria Desatadora de Nudos, home with him to Argentina. Now it is spreading around the globe.


The Intercession Challenge is to pray, alone and together, for the untying of the knots of polarization, for the wisdom to discern our role in the revolution of tenderness, for the humility to recognize that we need each other, for the grace to love through our differences, and for the transformation which may be the first fruit of synodal participation.


In Conclusion: There are few more keen observers of the present moment than Greg Boyle, the Jesuit founder of Homeboy Industries. Here’s his read: “America has rarely seen more division, polarization, and disunion than at this moment. And yet our best selves long for connection. Deep down, we know that separation is an illusion, that there is no us and them – just us. We want to remember that we belong to each other no matter how we voted.” Or, I would add, no matter which theological formulations most resonate with us.


I am entranced by Pope Francis and convinced that the synodal path he commends to us is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, I am persuaded that the synodal path demands exceptional attention to the challenge of endemic polarization. It requires careful, creative preparation and skilled leadership. The tendency to caricature and dismiss ‘The Other’ is deeply rooted, particularly targeting those whose worldviews and religious sensibilities diverge sharply from our own. For a synodal Church to take root, one in which “each one has something to learn,” we must confess and amend these tendencies in ourselves rather than deplore and castigate them in ‘The Other.’

Come Holy Spirit!


****


Please feel free to contact me with questions, comments, and requests: Michael McGillicuddy, LCSW, michael.mcgillicuddy@gmail.com


Selected General Polarization Bibliography*


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Bishop, Bill. 2016. “Caught in a Landslide.” The Daily Yonder: Online. November 21, 2016. http://www.dailyyonder.com/caught-in-a-landslide-county-level-voting-shows-increased-sorting/2016/11/21/16361/


Blankenhorn, David, Noha Eyada, David Lapp and Willard Spicer. 2017. “Post-Election Healing.” The American Interest: Online. February 18, 2017. https://www.the-american-interest.com/2017/02/18/post-election-healing/


Blankenhorn, David. 2017. “The Seven Habits of Highly Depolarizing People.” The American Interest: Online: February 15, 2017. https://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/02/17/the-seven-habits-of-highly-depolarizing-people/


Blanda, Sean. 2017. “The ‘Other Side’ is not Dumb.” Medium.com: Online. Undated. https://medium.com/@SeanBlanda/the-other-side-is-not-dumb-2670c1294063

Boyle, Gregory. 2018. “How to Bridge the Gap between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’. Online. November 28, 2017.

Braunstein, Ruth. 2018. “A Crisis of Political Arrogance.” The Immanent Frame: Online: January 11, 2018. https://tif.ssrc.org/2018/01/11/a-crisis-of-political-arrogance/


Brooks, Arthur C. 2019. Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt. New York: Broadside Books.

Brooks, David. 2017. “What Moderates Believe.” New York Times: Online. August 27, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/22/opinion/trump-moderates-bipartisanship-truth.html.


Bruzzone, Victor. 2018. “How to Escape the Partisan Mindset and Why You’ll Probably Fail.” Areo: Online. September 20, 2018. https://areomagazine.com/2018/09/20/how-to-escape-the-partisan-mindset-and-why-youll-probably-fail/.


*Electronic links were active when added to this resource list but tend to be unstable. If so, alternate resource links may be located by placing titles into a search engine.


Chua, Amy. 2019. Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations. New York: Penguin Press.


Coleman, Peter T.: The Way Out: How to Overcome Toxic Polarization. New York: Columbia University Press.


Cox, Ana Marie. 2016. “Krista Tippett Thinks We Can’t Change One Another’s Minds.” New York Times: Online. December 14, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/14/magazine/krista-tippett-thinks-we-cant-change-one-anothers-minds.html


Douthat, Ross. 2017. “Our House Divided: Is There a Path from the Trump Era to Civil War?” New York Times: Online. August 16, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/16/opinion/trump-charlottesville-civil-war.html?emc=edit_tnt_20170816&nlid=39267626&tntemail0=y


Edsall, Thomas. 2019. “No Hate Left Behind.” New York Times: Online. March 13, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/13/opinion/hate-politics.html


Edsall, Thomas. 2019. “We're Staring at Our Phones, Full of Rage for 'the Other Side.” New York Times: Online. March 15, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/15/opinion/social-media-polarization-democracy.html


French, David. 2020. Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation. New York: St. Martin’s Press.


French, David. 2022. This July Fourth, Meet Three Americas: The Red, the Blue, and the Tired. The Dispatch: Online. https://thedispatch.com/newsletter/frenchpress/this-july-fourth-meet-three-americas/


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Grant, Adam. 2021. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know. New York: Viking.

Greenblatt, Alan. 2013. Why Partisans Can’t Kick The Hypocrisy Habit. NPR It’s All Politics. Online: 6.14.13.

Guzmán, Mónica. 2022. I Never Thought of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly C https://www.city-journal.org/html/age-outrage-15608.html

Haidt, Jonathan. 2012. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. New York: Pantheon Books.

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Hawkins, Stephen, Daniel Yudkin, Miriam Juan-Torres, and Tim Dixon. 2018. The Hidden Tribes of America: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape. Online: Undated: https://hiddentribes.us

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Hunter, James Davison. 1991. Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. New York: Basic Books.

Illing, Sean. 2017. “20 of America’s Top Political Scientists Gathered to Discuss our Democracy. They’re Scared.” On line, October 13, 2017. https://www.vox.com/2017/10/13/16431502/america-democracy-decline-liberalism

Jefferson Dinner. Undated. “Thomas Jefferson: The Hypocrite.” Online: Undated.

Kalmoe, Nathan P. and Lilliana Mason. 2019. Lethal Mass Partisanship: Prevalence, Correlates & Electoral Contingencies. On line; https://www.dannyhayes.org/uploads/6/9/8/5/69858539/kalmoe___mason_ncapsa_2019_-_lethal_partisanship_-_final_lmedit.pdf


Klein, Ezra. 2020. Why We’re Polarized. New York: Avid Reader Press.

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Sponsored


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Pew Research Center Report. 2017. “The Partisan Divide on Political Values Grows Even Wider.” Pew Forum: Online. October 5, 2017. http://www.people-press.org/2017/10/05/the-partisan-divide-on-political-values-grows-even-wider/

Porter, Tenelle and Karina Schumann..2018. “Intellectual Humility and Openness to the Opposing View. Self and Identity: Online: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15298868.2017.1361861?journalCode=psai20

Ripley, Amanda. 2019. Complicating the Narratives. Solutions Journalism. Online: January 11, 2019.

Ripley, Amanda. 2021. High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out. New York: Simon & Schuster.

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Vance, J.D. 2016, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. New York: Harper.

Varol, Ozan. 2017. “Facts Don’t Change People’s Minds. Here’s What Does.” Heleo: Online: September 8, 2017. https://heleo.com/facts-dont-change-peoples-minds-heres/16242/

Wehner, Peter. 2017. “The Quiet Power of Humility.” New York Times: Online, April 15, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/15/opinion/sunday/the-quiet-power-of-humility.html

Wheatley, Margaret J. 2002. Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.


Wright, Robert. 2013. Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? The Uncertain Biological Basis of Morality. The Atlantic: Online. October 23, 2013. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/11/why-we-fightand-can-we-stop/309525/

Zenger, Jack and Joseph Folkman. 2016. “What Great Listeners Actually Do.” Harvard Business Review: Online. July 14, 2016. https://hbr.org/2016/07/what-great-listeners-actually-do

Selected Religious Polarization Bibliography


Clarke, Kevin. 2012. “Lent in a Time of Catholic Culture War.”. a OnFaith: Online. February 22, 2012. https://www.onfaith.co/onfaith/2012/02/22/lent-in-a-time-of-a-catholic-culture-war/11127


Coolman, Holly Taylor. 2015. “At Notre Dame, Discussing the Problem of Polarization.” America: Online. May 12, 2015. http://www.americamagazine.org/content/all-things/church-divided-notre-dame-discussing-problem-polarization.


Dreher, Rod. 2017. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. New York: Penguin Random House, LLC.


Green, Emma. 2017. “We’re Headed Toward One of the Greatest Divisions in the History of the Jewish People.” The Atlantic: Online. July 16, 2017.

Jinkins, Michael. “The First Shall Be Last: Tribalism and Christian Faith”. HuffPost: Online. September 27, 2016.

Konieczny, Mary Ellen. 2013. The Spirit’s Tether: Family, Work and Religion Among American Catholics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Konieczny, Mary Ellen, Charles Camosy and Tricia Bruce (eds.) 2016. Polarization in the US Catholic Church: Naming the Wounds, Beginning to Heal. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

McElroy, Robert W., John T. McGreevy, Cathleen Kaveny, and Matthew Sitman. “Civic Virtue & the Common Good.” Commonweal: Online, May 25, 2018. https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/civic-virtue-common-good


Chicago: Sightings, University of Chicago Divinity School. https://divinity.uchicago.edu/sightings/greatest-divide-%E2%80%94-martin-e-marty

Pew Research Center Forum on Religion & Public Life. 2016. “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.” Pew Forum: Online. December 16, 2010. http://www.pewforum.org/2010/12/16/american-grace-how-religion-divides-and-unites-us/

Putnam, Robert D. and David E. Campbell. 2010. American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. Robert D. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Rubio, Julie Hanlon. 2016. Hope for Common Ground: Mediating the Personal and the Political in a Divided Church. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Schlabach, Gerald W. 2016. “The Virtue of Staying Put: What the ‘Benedict Option’ Forgets about the Benedictines.” Commonweal: Online. September 28, 2016. https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/virtue-staying-put


White, Christopher. 2016. “Maintaining Friendship and Civility When Politics Gets Personal.” Millennial: Online. March 10, 2016. https://millennialjournal.com/2016/03/10/maintaining-friendship-and-civility-when-politics-gets-personal/

Wildman, Wesley J. and Stephen Chapin Gardner. 2009: Lost in the Middle? Claiming an Inclusive Faith for Christians Who Are Both Liberal and Evangelical. Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute.

Wildman, Wesley J. and Stephen Chapin Gardner. 2009. Found in the Middle: Theology and Ethics for Christians Who Are Both Liberal and Evangelical. Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute.



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