In an increasingly polarized America, powerful forces in politics, media, and culture advance the notion that those with whom we disagree are the “other” and should be reviled and ridiculed. Increasingly, we interpret not just current events but our fellow citizens through the prism of what political scientist Lilliana Mason calls partisan “mega-identities”: identities that fuse party affiliation to ideology, race, religion, gender, sexuality, geography, and more. This grand division of American society bifurcates religious and racial communities in a manner with which we are all too familiar: Christians are associated with the Republican Party and religious minorities are assumed to be Democrats; whites are presumed to be predominantly conservative and racial minorities are supposed to be predominantly liberal.
Yet, we all know the inadequacies – and dangers – of such a simplistic analysis. In this opening charrette, George Yancey (Baylor University) and Asma Uddin (Aspen Institute) will explore how religious identity can sometimes transcend, and thus serve as a bridge across, these partisan divides. Drawing from their experience, they will examine 1) how the frame of “religious liberty” can unite conservative Christians and religious minorities; and 2) how shared religious commitments can provide a platform for interracial engagement and reconciliation. Charrette participants will be asked to ideate how increasing the salience of religious identity in their own contexts could expand the discursive space for bridging otherwise polarized partisan identities.