Season 1 / Church & Politics: I Think You're Wrong, But... - with Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers

In this episode, Ariana has the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers of the Pantsuit Politics podcast. We go deep into Church & Politics and get to hear their thoughts on how they work together.

To hear more from Sarah and Beth, you can join them on tour, read their book, or listen to their podcast.

Ariana deVries

Welcome, Sarah and Beth. I'm absolutely thrilled that you're on the podcast today. And I'm really excited to hear your thoughts on church and politics. I know you have lots of great insights, because you did write a book, which was fantastic, and I loved it. So thank you for being here.

Beth Silvers

Thanks so much for having us.

Sarah Stewart Holland

Thank you!

Ariana deVries

So since I've introduced you already in the intro, let's dive right in. shall we? So my first question for you is, tell me a bit about yourselves aside from having your own podcast and being moms. So what do you like to do for fun? And what do you do for work outside of that?

Sarah Stewart Holland

Beth, you start.

Beth Silvers

Sure, this is Beth. Thank you so much for having us. I am a business coach and consultant. I started my career as a lawyer, and I did a stint as an HR executive. And now I coach people about communication and business and their careers. But Pantsuit Politics is really my focus. I love getting to travel around the country with Sarah talking to groups of people about how we can have better political conversations and how our politics connect to our values. And then in addition to just being kind of a news and geography nerd, my family likes to kayak. I love to cook. We're very involved in the community. I'm on several nonprofit boards. I have a real passion for criminal justice, and for social and emotional health in kids. And so I spend a lot of time working in the community on those issues.

Sarah Stewart Holland

Beth is also a yoga teacher.

Beth Silvers

Yes, I teach yin yoga, once a week, and every Monday I think, I don't have time to do this anymore. And then I teach my class and I'm like, of course I have time to do this. It's so important.

Ariana deVries

Yeah. I love yoga. So that's fantastic. And what about you, Sarah?

Sarah Stewart Holland

Well, I am also trained as an attorney. I worked in politics on Capitol Hill and then move back to my hometown of Paducah, Kentucky in 2009, when I was pregnant with my first son. I primarily stayed home for several years, did some sides things - I had a blog and I taught at our local community college. I was a city Commissioner for one term, but right now my full time gig is podcasting. I am a very passionate reader. I read about 75 books a year.

Ariana deVries

Oh my goodness. Wow.

Sarah Stewart Holland

I also love yoga. And being out in the outdoors. My husband is a very dedicated hiker. He likes to thru hike, he likes to do the whole thing where we carry all the things on our back. You go and we sleep on the ground, which I do because I love him and I support him, but we we do love to be outside. I think that's it. I'm passionate about politics and Paducah, and my family, and all the things.

Ariana deVries

Wonderful. So you mentioned growing up in Kentucky. You both grew up in Kentucky correct?

Sarah Stewart Holland

Yep.

Ariana deVries

What was it like for you growing up in Kentucky?

Sarah Stewart Holland

It was lovely. I mean, I obviously I felt strongly that it was a great way to grow up because I brought my kids back to my hometown, because that's how I wanted them to grow up. What I always tell people is, you know in Paducah and in small towns, sort of Kentucky life, but I think it's true of small towns all over the country. When I lived in DC, people would ask you who do you work for? And when I moved to Paducah people asked, ' Do you have any kids? Where do you go to church?' I love the the pace of the life here. I love the cost of living and quality of life. You know, what I really love about this place is that you really aren't defined by your job or your success. And so there are people who do work they love but I never saw growing up, and I don't really see now, people who I would describe as Workaholics. So I loved feeling like I had this whole place rooting for me as a kid. I wanted that for my own children. So I really love living here.

Ariana deVries

That's awesome. Beth?

Beth Silvers

I grew up in Livermore, Kentucky, really small town. I always tell people it's about 1500 people, two banks, one grocery store, zero stoplights. And my family had a dairy farm, which was a really interesting and wonderful way to grow up. It taught me a whole lot about consistency. I we we talk a lot about how the cows have to be milked, whether it's Christmas morning, or Easter morning, or just a regular Wednesday. And that was a good precursor to podcasting. You know, you got to be consistent about things. And so I really had a wonderful childhood, a very loving family. There's not a lot of opportunity for work in the area that I grew up in. And so when I left for college, I never really had any expectation that I would move back home permanently. So my family and I live right outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, still on the Kentucky side. So just south of the Ohio River. We always talk about how the river is wide. Kentucky culture is powerful even here in the northern part of the state. And we love it. We have a really wonderful community, we have all the benefits of living near a fairly good sized city in Cincinnati, our family loves the Reds, we go to lots of baseball games, very supportive neighbourhood, you know, my kids get to ride bikes in the cul-de-sac. And then behind us, we have about two acres of land. So it feels like we get a little bit of country and a little bit of suburbs, all right outside of the city. So it's a great place to live.

Ariana deVries

That's really cool. I don't totally know what that kind of culture is like, because I live in the middle of the city in Canada. And I feel like it's a little bit different. So that's cool to hear. What first got you interested in politics?

Sarah Stewart Holland

I think that I was always interested in politics. I mean, I grew up wanting to talk about these things. I have vivid memories as a child of driving around with my paternal grandfather, and we would talk about John F. Kennedy, and we would talk about FDR, and we would talk about how it's important to stick up for the little guy. And I just he always sort of welcomed my voice. And I think that was a really formative experience for me. And so I grew up in, you know, elementary school, high school, always that was what I wanted to talk about. That's what I was interested in. I was a political science major in college. I always wanted to live in Washington, DC. So I went to Washington, DC after college. It's just it's always been something that I'm interested in. And it's been really important to me. Yeah.

Ariana deVries

A little different for me. I think that I grew up really valuing news. My parents had cable news on all the time, as soon as cable news was a thing. And I I remember them being glued to Clarence Thomas's confirmation hearing. And when OJ Simpson was fleeing the police in his Bronco that was on in our house all the time. And it wasn't ever very political, as much as just this sense that we read the newspaper every day, we watch the evening news. When these big events are going on in the world. We want to understand what's happening. And I really maintain that, especially in adulthood, and so on my way to work every day, I have, you know, the news on in the car, and just was really interested in what was going on. And I think from that perspective, I started to understand that it's hard to be invested in the news without also being invested in politics, understanding what's happening politically. So I haven't been as politically active as Sarah, because that sort of understanding came to me much later in life. But I try to continue to have that focus on, let me first be an informed consumer of information, then have my politics grow out of that base of knowledge.

Right. I feel like I would be a little more similar to you, Beth, in that regard. I've didn't really get interested in politics until recently, because my husband really is and he likes to know about everything and really likes to help others No, but everything to which is great. That is great. So important. Yeah. So since this podcast episode is about church and politics, what is your relationship with church and religion?

Sarah Stewart Holland

Complicated.

Beth Silvers

I grew up in a Baptist church. That's good. It's complicated.

So I grew up in the southern baptist church, my father was a lay music minister, my mom played the piano. So I always tell people, we didn't really attend church as much as we were church. I grew up getting ready on Saturdays for what music we were going to do on Sunday morning, I taught Vacation Bible School as soon as I graduated from attending it. And it was really a huge part of my upbringing. And then I went to college and thought may take a little hiatus from this. And that turned into about a 12 year hiatus. I just had a lot of questions about church, I went through, I think, a lot of the same kinds of issues that many people do. Where do you think has church really been a net positive in my life? Looking back now? I would say yes. But I had concerns about doctrine and theology, I had concerns about just my place in a church community. So I took a break.

And then the 2016 election happened. And Sarah and I were having lots of conversations about the role of institutions in America, and how many of our institutions were failing. And I started thinking about the church and what a critical role the church plays in any society and how I can't just sit around and criticize these institutions, I need to be part of them. And so I kind of jokingly but but there's an element of truth in this day that Donald Trump sent me back to church is I felt like I didn't understand the world as much as I thought I did. And I really needed to get back in it and be more participatory.

So now I attend a Disciples of Christ Church. When I started looking for churches, I looked for churches, led by women ministers, I figured if there was a woman in the pulpit, it would probably address a lot of my concerns. And that's definitely been my experience. And now I'm a deacon in my church and very involved. My kids just love it. And it's a wonderful enriching part of my life. And I do feel like the reason I went back that participation in societal institutions has absolutely come to fruition. Yeah. Wow.

Ariana deVries

That's really cool. How about you, Sarah? You said complicated.

Sarah Stewart Holland

Yeah, I grew up in a southern baptist church. And, you know, it was there were parts of it that were so positive, I had this community of adults that was really rooting for me, I felt them, I felt their love for me, they supported me. In that part of it, I feel like I am still reaping the benefits of. But the doctrine was hugely problematic for me in my life, as a woman who was, or even a young girl, who was interested in politics, and honestly, theology and religion to, I just didn't feel comfortable or welcome. We had Jen Hatmaker on our podcast, probably a year or so ago. And it was like therapy because I expressed to her I felt like I had to pick. I felt like I could stay a Christian or I could stay a strong woman interested in leadership.

Truly, if had been born a man, I probably would have been a minister. But it wasn't something that I felt comfortable expressing or continuing to follow the teachings about sexuality, about sex outside marriage. I got to college, and let me be as blunt as I can, I felt like I had been lied to. Because, you know, I saw people, people I loved. And I felt like the teachings, particularly on sexuality, were so harmful to them. I had premarital sex and did not go directly to hell, which was surprising to me, based on what I'd been taught my entire life. My life didn't fall apart. And so I just all these things that just left me in a place where I was really struggling, really deconstructing my faith, and I just left church, I just left. And I didn't go for 10 years. And my, you know, my mom will tell me that tell you that she thought I would never go back. And so I was happy like that, you know, I didn't feel left out or like I was missing anything, what health lives in Washington, DC. But I had kids, and I came home.

And I realized some of what Beth was describing, that I was telling people to give grace to the institution of the government, or the institution of the media or the public education and saying, you know, you can't throw the baby out with the bathwater, just because there are problems. You can't treat it like a product to be consumed and just throw it out when it doesn't suit you. And I realized I was doing that to church. And that there were that I wanted my children to have that experience of the community supporting them, and all the really beautiful aspects of the growing up in church that I had. I also just feel like if your kids don't learn that language of church, it's really hard to start going as an adult. And if they grow up and never go to church again, that's their choice. But I wanted them to feel like they had that foundation and then could decide what to do with it.

So I really started going back to church, probably in 2011. We started going into an Episcopal Church, because we were talking about wanting to go to church, and my husband was like, 'Hey, I grew up Episcopal, and I don't have all the issues you do. So let's think about that'. And I'm like, Good point. And so we started going in 2011, before the birth of my second son. And I really was like, Well, I'm just going to go for my kids. And we'll just go and leave. I'm not going to get involved. That lasted like two hot minutes. And my church was so lovely. They really, were so welcoming of my questions, and my doubts and my hard history.

Now we've been there eight years. I'm on the vestry, my kids love it, we're all in. And my faith has really grown. It wasn't just that I went to church, and I liked the experience of church so I got involved. But I mean, they really opened up a place for me to grow my faith and think about my faith. And that's truly not just going to church, but it's absolutely the conversations we have on Pantsuit Politics and the work of writing the book and just thinking through these things that was hugely impactful.

Ariana deVries

It's so fascinating to me, both of what you have said, with how community and being able to ask questions is such a huge deal and how church affects you and how involved you are with church. Because I know that's been my husband and my journey with church is the institution of it. And not necessarily the things that are taught from the pulpit are the things that stick with you, and are the valuable parts of the church. It's the people. So it's really interesting to hear you guys say that. So my next question. Beth had mentioned how the 2016 election affected her and caused her to want to go back to church, can you share a little bit more about that and how subsequent decisions made by the current administration has affected you?

Beth Silvers

Well, it's interesting because I never would have connected my upbringing in church with politics. I think it was a different time and a lot of ways. But I also looking back recognize how my church in particular was, was really apolitical. And I never heard from the pulpit even about marriage equality or abortion, you know, some of the issues that really get indoctrinated in many Southern Baptist churches were pretty absent from mine, my pastor growing up, was focused on teaching you how to live a good life, and not these sort of big, controversial social issues. And I'm really grateful for that. And I think that has been more formative in my life than I've given it credit for. So now, it's interesting, because I think that was so important to me, post 2016, I really do look to the church, to help me process big political issues. It's hard on the Sundays that I go to church after something massive has happened in the news, if it isn't addressed. And it often is, you know, one of the first things that I noticed when I started attending my church after the 2016 election, was that our our elders would offer up prayers for Syrian civilians who were suffering at the hands of the Assad regime. And I thought, wow, something really different and important is going on here. Because as as valuable as it is to show up church and talk about how to personally live a good life, that connection to the larger world is really what I think I was looking for and wasn't able to articulate after Donald Trump's election.

So now church is really instrumental in how I think about what's happening in the world. It's really instrumental in how I think about, you know, what the teachings of Christ are supposed to mean to me, and how I'm supposed to translate those into my life and into my voting. And so it's not that I go to church to receive a prescribed list of here's how you should vote, who you should vote for, or even how you should feel about a particular issue. But it does remind me that part of my call as a person of faith, is to care about those issues, and to engage with them really deeply and to question what my faith counsels about those issues.

Ariana deVries

Yeah, and if we are even doing a small portion of what the Bible says it says, to care for the widows and the orphans and those who don't have that we have, and to be able to actually talk about that is really valuable. And what about you, Sarah?

Sarah Stewart Holland

I think the biggest shift for me is: growing up, what I felt like I was being taught - I've heard this phrase recently, and I think it is the best description - is the gospel of sin management. It's like, what we're really trying to do is to get you to fall in line is as much as humanly possible while you're here, so you get to heaven. That's what we're really interested in. The most important part is what happens after you die. We're just passing through, you know. This is worldly, this is not what we're interested in. What really matters is, fighting, battling out that sinful nature as much as you can for the short moment, you're here because Eternity is on the line. And that was not a fulfilling experience for me! Because it felt like, I always tell people... have you ever seen the movie Saved with Macaulay Culkin and Mandy Moore?

Ariana deVries

No, I haven't seen that one.

Sarah Stewart Holland

It's so good. And people are like, it's like a satire. I'm like, no, it's really not. They didn't exaggerate for effect. That's exactly what it's like. And there's a moment in the movie where the the protagonist, a young girl has gotten pregnant, says, 'When is it ever going to be enough? When am I ever going to be enough?' And that's how I felt, I felt like it was never enough. Never enough. And so when I started going back to church, and when I joined the Episcopal Church, in particular, what just spoke to me was a totally different orientation. And the faith leaders I live to now have a different orientation to the world. It's not this, let's get out of here as quickly as we can and minimize the damage of our sinful nature as while we're here. It's, you know, how do we make God's kingdom here on earth? How do we serve the poor? How do we live good lives, while we're here and be reflective of Christ teachings while we're here?

And so that shift to what we're really talking about is the lives we live on earth helps me. It's the reason I'm back to church. It's the reason I started exploring my faith again, because I just couldn't stay in a space where the only thing that mattered was getting to heaven or not going to hell. And when I became about your values here on Earth, and how do we express faith, hope and love, and charity, while we're here, it felt so much more reflective of my values and how I want to live my life.

Ariana deVries

So do you think that evangelical Christianity has played a role in today's politics? That's kind of an obvious answer, I think. But...

Sarah Stewart Holland

Yeah, absolutely. And I think to the detriment of the church - it's the detriment of our politics. I don't think it's an accident that when Christianity became so political you saw a drop off in church attendance. Because I don't think it's difficult to do what Beth's talking about. It is difficult to walk the line to say, 'We are here to help you express your values and your life, including your politics'. without saying, 'This is political. Everything you do. Your faith is political'. And look, I'm not saying it's not a hard dance. And I'm not saying it's not a complicated balance between giving people the space to find that moral clarity and work out their value without becoming this constant political pressure, or the corruption, you see when you when politics becomes a part of everything. It's really hard. And I'm not saying I have the answer every time, because I do think the answer is not strip all politics out of religion. And nary the two shall meet, because that's not how we live in the world. And that won't work either. But instead of telling people, encouraging people, to live out their Christian values in all ways, what it became was, this is the only way you can express your Christian values. And I think that's what turns people off.

Ariana deVries

Right.

Beth Silvers

Yeah, I want to draw a distinction between being political and being partisan, because I think that's part of the path out of this. Yeah. And I think this is also related to what Sarah was talking about with sort of the gospel of sin management, because when you're in that frame of, we're just here to manage our sins, so that we can get to an afterlife with God. It does force you into constant dichotomous thinking - things are right or wrong, they are good or evil, they will lead to heaven or hell. And when you're in that kind of, everything falls into this or that space, you start to accept what is unacceptable in pursuit of the end goal. And that leads you to a really blind partisanship that I would argue is false idolatry. I think that's entirely different from churches being political and engaging with hard questions about how we live in community with each other. Hard questions that don't fall into this, that camp. There are so many issues on which reasonable people with exactly the same framework in terms of their values, can disagree about how we facilitate and prioritize those issues. And Church has to be willing to have some ambiguity, I think, in order to talk about politics in a way that draws people in instead of turning them off. And in a way that is contributory to democracy, instead of one that I think really is pushing us down the scale of theocracy and authoritarianism.

Ariana deVries

Right. And you even say, in your book, that the word politics has just become a catch all for any human interaction we don't enjoy; not necessarily the values and the ways that we are doing things, but it's just what we don't like.

Beth Silvers

Yeah, we say we don't like it. And I think that's because we have attached partisanship to all of it. I think we don't like it, because it feels like you always have to pick a team. Yeah. And it's disconnecting.

Sarah Stewart Holland

Because I think what we hear a lot from our listeners, is, I want to think through these things. I don't want you to tell me what to think. And that's what they feel. They feel like I'm being told what to think, as opposed to this is hard and complicated. And we welcome you to the conversation. It's, this is easy. And if you don't see the answer, you're an idiot. For better lack of a term, their bullshit meter goes off. Like they say, 'No, that doesn't sound right to me, that doesn't feel right to me'. And they don't like it. People want to be treated as if they have something to contribute, and they can be trusted to work through these hard things on their own. And right now, they're not being treated like that.

Ariana deVries

Yes, so true. So then do you believe that the church has a role in politics? Or should church have a role or stance on political issues?

Beth Silvers

I think there's a role more than a stance.

So Sarah was just talking about how people don't want to have their political postures prescribed to them. I think that's true about their spiritual postures to, you know, I think if church is not leading people through genuine inquiry, about their calling, about their purpose, about the way they spend their time, about what they believe about their relationship to other people, then the church isn't performing much of a spiritual roll either. And I think that's part of why we see at least in the United States, a decrease in church attendance, people don't want to show up and have the rules read to them, as much as they want to be led on a journey. That's about living out your calling. That's what I see from church. And I believe lots of other people do, too. In that sense, I think that churches have a very meaningful role to play politically. Because it's almost the same question. What's my calling here? What is supposed to inform my work in the world? How am I supposed to view myself in relationship to other people? And I think church is better equipped than almost any institution to lead us through those questions, if it's willing to do that. It does require a spiritual reframing in many congregations. And that's hard work.

Ariana deVries

Yeah, I've even seen that in the church that I attend, is being able to have those conversations is often very difficult.

Beth Silvers

Well, it's a little scary, I think, because to have church acknowledge that some things are hard, and some things are unclear. And some things are unknowable. Challenges not only the structures that govern many of our denomination, but it also challenges like a lot of our basic assumptions about the Bible and and what we're all doing here. And so it's, I get the resistance to it. And and I get how scary it is. I also think it is necessary and a wave that the church can evolve and really do good in the world.

Sarah Stewart Holland

Well, and it should be hard. Of course, it's hard. I mean, not to lean too heavily on A League of Their Own. But the heart is what makes it great, right? I mean, if you're not struggling, I think that humans think we want easy answers. But we're never satisfied with that. We're never satisfied with that.

Ariana deVries

That’s very true. I really liked what you said in your book that said, 'Grace isn't rolling over and acquiescing to those that have completely different views than we do. It is simply seeing our shared connections and acknowledging each other's human dignity so that we can continue moving forward'. And I've really liked that, because that's like bridging the divide so that we can join the two and understand that it's way bigger than just this one small thing.

So I have a question that someone actually requested that I ask of you is, ‘What would you say to someone struggling to communicate well with someone of opposing views, and are fearful of how it may affect their relationship? Or perhaps people we know and love are in agreement with someone or political stance that is actively harming others? Where's the line between being empathetic and taking a stance against something that is borderline evil?’

Sarah Stewart Holland

I mean, I think the most important thing to always remember is that this is a long game, especially if you're in the relationship with someone. Yeah, it's not going to happen with one conversation. It's going to take a long time and building trust and listening and being able to speak to that person's priorities and concerns, fears in order to make progress, right. And sometimes you're going to go backwards. And sometimes you're going to think, why am I even bothering?

But, you know, sometimes, and in long journeys, the only way we make progress is holding our ground and saying, I know you feel this way, but I'm just showing up to say not everybody feels that way, and I find your views problematic. Sometimes it's just about disruption, and just being a witness to like, Hey, I'm not trying to convince you. But I want you to know, like one of my favourite phrases Beth uses is 'I don't see the truth in that. I hear you. But I don't see the truth in that.' Sometimes that is all that you can do. And it's worthy. That's a worthwhile endeavour.

Beth Silvers

I think that's right. And I love how Sarah talks about just disrupting people's ideology. I don't think that we have to have empathy for every position. I think there are things that we can look at, a person we love, and genuinely love that person and still look them in the eyes and say to them, 'I think you're wrong about that'. I mean, that's why the title of our book is I Think You're Wrong, but I'm Listening. It's not but I'm listening so that you can persuade me. It's I'm listening, because I recognize that the only way that we're going to influence each other, is by staying connected to each other.

I was doing some reading this morning on mass migration patterns, it's going to be a little bit of a stretch, but just walk with me for us. And everything that I've read - going back to Middle Eastern refugees fleeing to Europe, from Syria, to the Rohingya, to migration out of Africa - the pattern is that putting up walls, and cracking down on the number of people that we allow in our country's never works. It just makes the migration more dangerous. But people are coming, whether you try to keep them out or not. And the best way to help them - to help the problem, to help alleviate pressure - is to create safe modes of transportation, and community support centers, and opportunities to help them decide where they're going and get there. And I think that is a perfect metaphor for what we have to do politically. Because putting up walls and saying, 'You're wrong, you're wrong, you're wrong, you're evil. I can't deal with you. Canceled.' Whatever it is, they're still going to hold those views, and they're probably going to hold them in an even more intense way.

We see this a lot with people who are diehard Trump supporters. The more you talk about those people as problematic, supporting evil, whatever labels you apply, the more you see them hardened into 'Well, I must have been right. Because you wouldn't come at me with such vengeance.' There are lots of words being used about this dynamic, if I weren't right. This reinforces that this really is a battle, it really is a culture war, it really is good versus evil, you know. So we have to be bridge builders. That's not everyone's work to do. There are some people whose identities are genuinely threatened in political discussions. And so I would say to them - Sarah says this so brilliantly, 'Some people are called to be safe'. For those of us who are not, though, I think, keeping that connection while still saying, 'No, I think you're wrong. I think this is unacceptable. But I will still be in relationship with you through this. Because I'm not going to be part having you double down on this belief, I want to show you that I have some room, and maybe showing you that I have some room, creates some room around you. And maybe eventually that room expands so that you can shift a little bit. And maybe you'll teach me something that causes me to shift a little bit in this process to not in the direction of what I find completely unacceptable, but in other directions, and maybe we can enhance each other through this process.'

Sarah Stewart Holland

And I mean, it's not like people of faith and religious people should be unfamiliar with this approach. That's the approach that works best with religion, too. Right?

Ariana deVries

Right, totally.

Sarah Stewart Holland

Has anybody shamed someone into regular church attendance? I don't think so. It doesn't work like that. It's a journey. It's a walk. And so unless you can accept the vulnerability of that process, except the patience requires in that process, except that the process, not the outcome is the point. Then, what do we all do in here?

Ariana deVries

Yeah. I don't know if you've listened to Krista Tippett's podcast, but she has one article on adventurous civility. And that's basically exactly what you're talking about, is encountering people as full human beings and not just the other side and some people are called to be safe and others are called to take chances. And she says, The first step to being adventurously civil is to be self aware and bring forth your best self before a word is even spoken. frame your actions and frame your space. And I really liked how she says that because so many times we're already projecting things before we even say something.

Sarah Stewart Holland

This is a Krista Tippett friendly space here. We love her. Yeah, I was just thinking one of my favorite things she says is the problem with science and religion is not that they are reaching different conclusions is that they're asking different questions. Yeah, and you know what, I think you can say the same thing for politics and religions, and religion, right? It's not that we are reaching when you talk about abortion. It's not that politics and religion are reaching different questions, or that people who are Christian and pro choice are in some sort of conflicting position. It's that politics and religion are trying to do different things. And they're trying to answer different questions. Yeah, especially with something as complicated as abortion. And so instead of deciding that you're an idiot, and you reach a different answer, what if we just said, 'Hey, these spaces are asking different questions, they're trying to solve different problems.' And so the tools that work for one are not going to work in the other space, and vice versa.

Beth Silvers

I was just going to add that civility, I think, is a word that we're struggling with in America right now. And maybe elsewhere. I think that a lot of people interpret civility as just being nice, and things will work out. And I think it is so much deeper, which is why we tend to use the word grace. Because it isn't always nice, there are moments when you have to say no, that is wrong, I do not accept that, I will protest that I will use my body to protect people from these actions that you are doing that I think are wrong. And I will still uphold your dignity in this process, I will still look at you as an entire human being, I think that's where it gets back to you, I will still experience you, as more than just my opponent on this issue. I'm not going to be nice in the process, because sometimes nice doesn't get it done. But I will not disconnect from you, I will not make you other than I will not engage in that war of good and evil with you. I will see us as two people in very different places, who are both acting out of what we think is right here in this moment. And I will work against you sometimes. And then at the end of the day, I will still see you as my fellow human being.

Ariana deVries

That is so valuable. And something we need to always keep in mind when talking to others. So my next question then is, are you ever fearful of where things are headed in today's political climate?

Sarah Stewart Holland

Only every single morning.

Yeah, of course. I mean, I don't think that you look at the world we live in and read a headline, and think everything's great. But what I try to remind myself of is that, you know, I'm not even sure at any point in human history, people woke up, I woke up and weren't anxious about the world. I'm sure during the Black Plague, people were pretty filled with anxiety. Even in the 50s, which I think it's this sort of reputation as paradise in American history, they were hiding under their desks, because of the Cold War as if that was going to protect them from a nuclear Holocaust. So I think that there's always anxiety, there's always concern, and we do the best we can and we keep going. Because I'm not sure what other option is available to us.

Ariana deVries

Right. So then how do we handle the fear of every day's problems?

Beth Silvers

You know, for me, I think a lot about the difference between happiness and joy. Because there are lots of days when I don't feel very happy, especially being so deeply engaged in the news. But I do feel joyful in the sense that I think my purpose here is pretty clearly to just leave the world better than I found it, I cannot solve all of this. Even if I do my very best work every single day of my life, the world has bigger problems than I can handle. And relinquishing some of that control helps me stay in a sustainable place to do my very best work. I think if we become overwhelmed by it, or paralyzed by it, then what are we here for? So keeping a sense that it is my job to discern my calling, live it out every day, and trust my fellow human beings, and trust my Creator to sort out the rest and know that the rest will not be sorted out while I'm alive - it just will not. There's a poem that I love that talks about taking your place in the flow of grace. That's what I want to do. There is a place for me in all of this. And I am far from the sum total. And that's how I manage it.

Ariana deVries

Yeah, I like that. Take your place in the flow of grace. Wow. So before we end, I have one more question. How can we get others to see the importance of politics in your daily lives? And what can we do to effect change in our communities?

Sarah Stewart Holland

We had an interview at our live event this weekend. And it was with this wonderful woman named Reverend Vivian Nixon, and she's got a lifelong experience with activism, and as a Reverend, the intersection of politics and religion. And she had this great term that she used called moral joy. And the idea that it's that feeling when you can participate in something and see your impact and see the good you're doing in the world, and how rewarding that is. And I just I think we have to - to fully integrate the language of politics and religion - we just have to be a witness and show people what that's like. And if showing someone how you have participated in politics and seen an impact of your actions, felt that moral joy, and what it's like to feel like you're making an impact, to do all of that and just let people see it; to share what that's like, is going to be more valuable than all the preaching, or the long reads and the articles you share. You're just gonna have to show up and let people see what that looks like.

Beth Silvers

Yeah, we talk a lot on our show about just finding your work to do. Because I think a lot of people have us have a sense of, here's what it looks like to be involved in politics, you must constantly post on Facebook about it, you must knock doors for candidates, you must be angry about something all the time, you know, and I think that it's, it's more important to figure out what is your place here. And that might mean that you really care about immigration, or that you really care about the environment or about poverty, and you kind of go with that issue, it might mean that there is a candidate who really inspires you and you go to work hard for that person, it might mean that you're just someone who wants to help educate other people and help them find their work.

So we shared at our live event, again, over the weekend. Before every election, I do go on Facebook, and I do a post, but it's not a partisan post, I just say, 'Friends and neighbours and my community; here is what's on our ballot this time. And here's a link to some articles.' And I go through the comments, I comment on my own post. I say, 'Here's who's running for sheriff. Here's a link to their websites. Here's the best article I found about this race.' And it is just to inform people and to remind them that we're going to vote and to give them a little bit of information ahead of time that they can read through quickly; instead of doing a couple hours of research that most people aren't going to do. And that feels like my kind of work, just get out there and educate people the best I can so they can make their own decisions. So I think that if we can all like reframe what it means to be political, and put it in a context that suits our personalities and our gifts, and what breaks our hearts. We're going to get closer to being positively influential instead of being your annoying political friend.

Ariana deVries

Right. Yes, and that's not who I am. 'm not the type of person that's going to go blabbing all over Facebook about whatever I'm passionate about, currently. I'm more of the let me show you by being with you, and spending time with you.

Beth Silvers

Yeah, and that's so much more effective, the annoying political friend gets muted - as a practical matter- and also gets marginalized in terms of what people can take in. And I think when you're doing your work authentically, it's just so much more effective.

Ariana deVries

Right. So before we close, I just want to read one more quote from your book that I loved. And it says, 'Curiosity is an inherently connecting motivator, by getting curious, you're stretching, you're reaching out for information and understanding that no longer matters if the foundation you're standing on gets rocked because you've moved forward toward learning toward others toward a deeper understanding of yourself and the world.' And I've really liked that, because it's not about what I believe, what you believe, what stance you take, what stance I take. It's not about this side or that side. It's about being curious and being okay to be uncomfortable a little bit.

Sarah Stewart Holland

Absolutely.

Beth Silvers

Well, thank you. I mean, I think that's very relevant spiritually too, right. There's another place that church can really inform us. So if churches are willing to get curious about doctrine in Scripture, they can teach us a lot about how we want to interact politically.

Ariana deVries

Totally. Well, thank you so much, Sarah and Beth, for being with me today.

Sarah Stewart Holland

Of course! Thank you for having us.

Beth Silvers

Thank you for having us.

Ariana deVries

I really enjoyed our conversation and the insight that you both share and the wisdom that you have on this topic. So thank you.

Sarah Stewart Holland

Thank you.

Beth Silvers

Thank you.