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Lecturer examines relationship between religion and politics

| Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Julie Hanlon Rubio, a professor at St. Louis University, spoke Tuesday night at Saint Mary’s about relations between Catholicism, politics and finding common ground. Rubio’s lecture highlighted the obstacle of an increasing polarity brought on by social media influences and the current presidential race.

Rubio said that within this country, and even within Catholic communities, the divide continues to grow.

Julie Hanlon Rubio speaks at Saint Mary’s College on Tuesday night. Rubio’s lecture considered the relationship between religion and politics in light of the upcoming presidential election.Allison Culver

Julie Hanlon Rubio speaks at Saint Mary’s College on Tuesday night. Rubio’s lecture considered the relationship between religion and politics in light of the upcoming presidential election.

“It seems the divide is deepening rather than going away,” she said. “We sort ourselves into neighborhoods with people like ourselves.”

Rubio said that we as people today tend to accept that people who are part of a different political party are just fundamentally different from us and that the most we can to is to merely tolerate them. When Rubio asked her students at St. Louis University if they could befriend a person of opposing political views, she said the majority of them answered no.

Rubio said people need to acknowledge that the polarization today actually holds common ground. Most of what is spewed out in the media polls are misrepresentations of those who are actually in the middle on the issues, Rubio said. 

“Those choices do not capture what people actually think,” she said. “When given two choices, you just choose one.”

Rubio moved to discuss polarization in the Catholic community specifically and said that Catholics may disagree on the more political topics but there is common ground once we move past the hot-button issues.

On the topic of marriage, she said while there has been disagreement in areas such as gay marriage and divorce, Catholics can find common ground in that they support marriage. While the specifics might be politically blurred, she said there is hope for common ground.

Rubio said even though politics creates a divide in the Catholic community, Catholics cannot give up on politics, but must instead find out a way to connect faith with politics.

“The best thinkers today are OK to move from faith to politics in public,” Rubio said. “Catholics should bring faith into the public sphere.”

Rubio said the Catholic communities cannot let go of hope when it comes to politics. With politics, Catholics must to find the space between hope and realism, she added. Even though what some may hope for as Catholics never comes true through our political systems and it seems unfair, it’s important for Catholics to accept a modest hope and keep it alive, she said. 

“We are going to have to accept compromise and defeat,” Rubio said.

Rubio then said that Catholics and other Christians that donate to their church organizations sometimes worry about how they might be supporting a cause they do not politically agree with.

“We worry how we are connected to these social and structural issues,” she said.

An easy solution Rubio brought to this issue was getting to the local level and actually talking with people in the community to find out what is really needed.

“We don’t talk much about the local,” she said. “Should we put more energy there?”

Rubio said when she was in college she was invited to a conversation about pro-life and pro-choice points of view. She said she walked in the room not knowing anyone’s opinion on the issue, and they all had dinner together and then came together in a calm conversation.

“It allowed us to avoid binary thinking,” Rubio said. “We were able to ask genuine questions to those on the other side.”

She said the exercise made her realize there are not just two sides to the issue, but a lot of middle ground in which they started questioning what they could do together.

Once we can get ourselves out of the framework of government we can explore what people worry about the most — and at their base they are usually pretty similar, Rubio said.

“People are just frustrated and uncertain about how much is sacrificed to to that.” She said.

At the local level, Rubio said if people really care they will take action and participate in the community to make a difference for the better.

Rubio said Catholics and people of opposing parties should not give up hope when it comes to participating and finding common ground in politics. She said people cannot stray away when it looks like hope is lost, but communication must continue.

“We live in-between” She said “When we lose and we compromise, people suffer, and that is why we don’t like to compromise.”

Politics may seem dirty, but talking about it and creating that common ground is ultimately the solution calming the polarization issue both within the catholic community and between all people of opposing political parties, Rubio said. 

“We need to find space that hasn’t been explored and create conversations with people we never thought we would.” Rubio said.

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