A Piece of Thought For Republicans and Democrats: An Effective Way To Solve Disagreements
Updated: Sep 10, 2020
“If you have a problem with what would be considered the more extreme whether it's right or left, start looking for the moderates and connect there.” -Linda Seger
What would the world be like if everyone came together for one single goal despite differences in beliefs and opinions? In this episode, Shirley and Linda Seger discuss a very timely and significant topic in our society today. They talk about how we are oftentimes, stuck in our stopping place instead of engaging and moving forward and how we can get past the hatred, biases, and gaps in our society. Our values are expressed in our society but despite these discrepancies, it is possible to resolve disagreements and find that third creative solution. How? Tune in to find out!
02:48 What Do We Really Care About?
06:37 Our Stopping Place
13:23 A Piece of Thought For Republicans and Democrats
18:19 Bridging the Gap
23:00 A Time For Silence
29:36 Do Not Cower
What do we really care about? Join in as SfbaldwinOwens and @Linda_Seger discuss a very controvertial issue in our society today and how we can come together even while having differing opinions and beliefs.
08:26 “We all have stopping places in our lives… pulling back and not engaging instead of moving forward.” -Linda Seger
13:03 “When you feel that hesitancy or pull back, you can be aware that something is changing in you and then attack that head on.” -Shirley Owens
19:03 “Compassionate listening is trying to put yourself into that... experience that form that person.” -Linda Seger
20:20 “If you have a problem with what would be considered the more extreme whether it's right or left, start looking for the moderates and connect there.” -Linda Seger
24:44 “Agree on the big goal. and then start talking about how to get there.” -Linda Seger
25:55 “It's okay to have an opinion and not share it all the time… take that moment, and allow your reaction to be to not react for a minute. Step back. Listen.” -Shirley Owens
26:26 “Let's go for decency and humanity.” -Linda Seger
Connect With Linda:
Dr. Linda Seger is an internationally known author, keynote speaker, and seminar leader on spirituality. Linda holds three master's degrees, as well as a TH.D. in Theology. She is an author of 16 books, has given seminars and speeches in 33 countries around the world, was raised in 1950s Republican, and a Lutheran. Her political and religious evolution led her to become a democrat and a Quaker. She is a Born Again Christian, was a fundamentalist and evangelical for several years in one way or another, and she has been associated with the Southern Baptist United Church of Christ Lutheran Methodist, Presbyterian churches. She serves on the board of Christian Democrats in America. She has also been a County Caucus Chair and has served as a delegate for the Colorado County and state Democratic Convention.
Watch it Live!
Shirley Owens: My guest today is Linda Seger. Linda holds three master degrees, as well as a ThD in Theology and Drama. She is an author of 16 books, has given seminars and speeches in 33 countries around the world. Raised a 1950's Republican and a Lutheran. Her political and religious evolution led her to become a Democrat and a Quaker. She is a Born-Again Christian, was a fundamentalist and evangelical for several years in one way or another. And she has been associated with the Southern Baptist United Church of Christ, Lutheran Methodist, Presbyterian Churches. She serves on the board of Christian Democrats in America, and she has also been a County Caucus Chair, has served as a delegate for the Colorado County and State Democratic Convention.
Wow, welcome Linda.
Linda Seger: Thank you so much.
Shirley Owens: I don't usually do politics on my show and I am not usually super controversial, but for some reason, your book stood out to me, and that book is called, Jesus Rode a Donkey. I think that for me, I have been in a bunch of churches, I've spent my life trying to discover where I fit in. My parents were Catholic and Protestant and I went to a bunch of churches then I joined the Mormon Church when I was 15. I kind of went from like this democratic lifestyle younger, and we were super poor, and I was super helpful to us. Then as I got older, I switched to Republican. But honestly, to tell you the truth, my whole thing is about can we all just love and get along? That's what stood out to me because I think that there's a lot more that maybe some of us don't know where we've maybe blindly followed politics because of religion. I don't know that those two necessarily should mix, but they definitely, right now, are totally controversial. I would love for you to just tell me more about you and whatever you want to say right now that just kinda led up to this interview.
Linda Seger: I switched to being a Democrat in the 1970's and I got attracted to the social justice issues. So I began to expand my consciousness. If you grow up white middle class, you might not necessarily know other places in the world. I would say my consciousness really expanded when I got a master's degree in Feminist Theology. That was my third masters, I already had two and I had a doctorate. We had other people in the class, they were African American, Spanish, some of them were poor. And I went to the Philippines to do 10 days working with the charity, it was actually a Catholic charity. And again, finding out about the world and the problems and becoming much more empathetic, also I began to think about how our religious values become expressed in society. So when we vote, we are doing values, meaning, what do we really care about? Do we care about the environment? Do we care about the poor? Do we care about racism? Do we care about sexism? What are those many, many issues? So Jesus Rode a Donkey, which is the fifth edition now, I expanded and I have a chapter on immigration, but welcome the stranger. So I began to feel my values aligned more with the Democrats just as I looked at a number of social justice issues. Then the first edition was done in 2006, huge, huge research for that edition. I was not really into politics, but I was asked by a publisher to do a book. Original idea was, Jesus was a Democrat. And I said, well, I can't do that one because I think Jesus was [inaudible]. But I said: "I know what you're getting at, and if you can come up with a title that I would like, I'm all in." They gave me 10 titles and I said: "I love Jesus Rode a Donkey, it's like light hearted humor." And I then got incredibly interested in how our democracy, how our Christian values, how the political party all come together.
Shirley Owens: Wow. Yeah, it's interesting because I think that for the most part, we don't do a ton of studying. I mean, I'm just speaking for myself. I definitely was not a middle class white American at that time, I was definitely low class living in a little bit more upper class. I think that we kind of just go with what we're told to go. That goes with a lot of the things I teach, kind of getting rid of that story of what we're told and actually becoming aligned with who we actually are. I think that this is super important because I do believe that values on both sides are getting a little bit out of control. And I always had this question, my son who's 24 always questioned everything, he was here the other day. He was just saying like, I don't understand why we have to believe one way or the other? Why can't we have our own values, but still vote with whatever we want to vote for? What if one of our values doesn't align with that? So speaking to that a little bit more.
Linda Seger: Well, we are influenced by various people. Sometimes we say, I really like that person. I like the way they think. And a couple of people that influenced me, I had a magnificent mother. We grew up Republican, the whole family, and my mother and I became Democrat and my sister and my father stayed Republican. Although my sister would occasionally say, I'm an independent, I don't think she ever voted other than Republican. But I had an uncle, he was a very renowned professor at University of Virginia in the area of American History and Diplomacy. He was a Democrat from way back.He influenced my mother, my mother influenced me, not by things we said, but just maybe discussing what in the world and in our life, and you think about it. One of the things about Jesus Rode a Donkey, since it's written obviously in a Christian view point, every chapter begins first with scripture. What does the Bible say about immigration, abortion, homosexuality, war and peace. Then the second thing is, well, what does the politics say about it, and how do those line up when you look at various political parties? Then the third thing is, what is my experience? So if I have an attitude, let's say I've never met a gay, it would be really good for me to meet one before I actually decide where I fit.
“We all have stopping places in our lives… pulling back and not engaging instead of moving forward.” -Linda Seger
I'll just recount a story that happened in 2016. I have a theory that we all have stopping places in our lives, these boundaries and these places where I am not sure about going there. For instance, growing up in a white little town, I had a stopping place for African Americans. I'd never met any. Got to college, I wasn't friends with anyone, then after a period of time, I have to get over this sense of, is this person black or not? I really worked on that. I joined a group that was black and white together, and I kind of worked at how do I engage? How do I move forward? And over the years, now I'm going to move forward. So my thing that happened in 2016 was transgender. I had never met a transgender person, and being part of a Caucus Chair, I actually met two and there was a third one where I had a very brief interaction, I think the person was selling popcorn or something, and I realized I was doing the same thing. I had this stopping place where I was pulling back and not engaging instead of moving forward. One of these transgender women did a speech and it was a very good speech. I ordinarily went into this and told her that, and instead, I just sort of pulled back and I said: "Linda, get over this. Stop it." Because I don't want to have other people as what I would call the other indifference. There's a saying that says nothing human is foreign to me, or nothing foreign as human to me. I want to say, nothing human is foreign to me.
Shirley Owens: I love that.
Linda Seger: So I purposely started to engage and if I saw either [inaudible], I would say hello, how are you? I started to engage at one point, for dinner or dinner party. I really liked her. I thought she was very smart and I felt privileged in a sense to get a sense of that journey. So one of the things, when you say about getting along is we all have stopping places. Republicans and Democrats have stopping places against each other. There can be so much hatred. One of the things is, how do we learn to get past that and engage and say, I don't want stopping places in my life.
Shirley Owens: Oh, my gosh, it's so good because it kind of takes everything, the argument out of it. I vote Republican and yet there's this cognitive dissonance in me because I have a brother that's gay, I love him, he's one of my best friends, I love his husband. Race has never been something that was foreign to me, it's always been something, sometimes I want the skin color that's darker. I'm like, I lay out in the sun all the time. I don't know, I've just never really separated that in my mind at all. Maybe it was the way I was raised. Maybe it's just like my personality. There is like this cognitive dissonance in me because I always think like, am I supposed to be separating people from me? Am I supposed to be against my gay brother? Am I supposed to not have friends that are other races or have gender issues or whatever. But for me, it's always been super neutral. Like we're just all the same. And I don't think it even became different to me until I hear all this fighting and arguing. And I keep thinking inside me, like, are people really like this? Like, like this stopping point really makes sense because I think sometimes maybe they don't even know that they're doing it. When you feel that hesitancy or you feel that pull back, then you can actually be aware, and awareness is my favorite word ever. So you can actually be aware that something is changing in you. Then actually attack that head on, what is it and how do I make this different? Where's it coming from?
“When you feel that hesitancy or pull back, you can be aware that something is changing in you and then attack that head on.” -Shirley Owens
Linda Seger: Well, part of what's going on now is we're having this huge shift with black lives matter and protest. Michigan started something that was called, Implicit Bias Training, meaning, they don't actually use the word racism, but what they're really saying is we carry around these implicit biases. And it might not just be about race, it can be about gender, it can be about political parties, whatever it is, we have learned that. There's a wonderful song specific about, we've got to be carefully taught to be afraid of people [inaudible]. So we grow up with a certain influence, a certain attitude, and then at some point, let me take a good look at that. I've had people [inaudible] and had said: "It really opened my eyes because I hadn't thought of it that way." Because we get into a certain group, we're in a category, people shift our thinking and all of a sudden we're thinking a certain way as theirs. And I went through that spiritually because I grew up with friends, my grandfather and my family. My father was Presbyterian, and when I was in my 20's, I inherited my religion, like inheriting a political party. First, the question was, do I want to remain Christian? So I spent six months looking at religion and then I did the church search. I went to a whole bunch of churches, the whole continuum from super crazy on both sides. I went to a Quaker meeting and went in and sat down. This is what fits me. I think a lot of spirituality, a lot of political parties have to do with, do they suit me? Do they fit me? Do they help me express who I truly am?. Well, at the same time saying, I want to be open. One of the tests that I do that I suggest for both Republicans, Democrats, for people on both sides to think of someone from the other party you really like to respect. And if you cannot think of anybody, that's a real problem. I do that little test for myself. I actually, I respect Mitt Romney, for instance. Policy-wise, we would be on the same page, but I really respect his decency and his thought fullness. I really liked John Kasich, the former Governor of Ohio. So you sort of make your list and say, I gotta make sure I have somebody on my list from the other side. It would be the same thing if somebody were even [inaudible], start making your list, slightly different, but I've been through a whole lot of stages in my life.
Owens: Wow. I think I have to, I mean, I would say I tried out a bunch of different churches when I was younger and I don't know, nothing like a 100% resonated with me. I feel like it's because I take from this and I take from that. And even world religions, I love Buddhism. I love so much about Buddhism and I used to be like, can I be Mormon Amish? And what I've realized is I can be whatever I want it to be. I don't have to be defined by one religion, or one thought process, or one political party, or like that does not define me.
Linda Seger: Right.
Shirley Owens: Never way I vote or whichever church I attend on Sunday. I still am me and I definitely pull from so many areas. I don't know, I think one of the things that I read when I was reading about your book was about how we can bridge this. Like right now, the gap is so wide. I don't know that it's ever been this wide and maybe it hasn't, maybe I just haven't been aware of it. Give me some ideas from your point of view, you've obviously spent way more time than I have. But tell me, bridging this gap, is it possible?
“Compassionate listening is trying to put yourself into that... experience that form that person.” -Linda Seger
Linda Seger: One of the things that I liked in the previous, I mean, there were several previous editions, but before the 2020 edition was the 2016 when Hillary Clinton was running. And before that, she was running for Senate and she did what she called a listening campaign. She said: "I'm here to listen to the people and see what their concerns are." What happens? We get so much into our position. We hold it so tightly, and we're so immovable. We really don't want to hear from other people or only if they agree with us. So I think one thing is listening. Quakers have something which is not just Quakers but compassionate listening is trying to put yourself into that position. Sometimes I try to listen to what's the experience that formed that person, or maybe the fear for, sometimes people might say, well, I really don't want those immigrants coming, terrible, terrible anyone coming into our country in that way. But you listen to us, what are we so afraid of somebody else, the person different than us? Part of us of course, is to bridge the gap by us having some experiences about that and to listen. I think another thing is to recognize there are some people we really won't be able to relate to. So I have trouble relating much, but maybe I don't need to do that. What I need to do is to look at who are the moderates, and can we cross over the aisle with them? There are moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats, so we'll start there. So if you have a problem with what would be considered the more extreme, whether it's right or left, start looking for the moderates and connect there. It's the same thing with people in Congress. Instead of throwing up their hands, I can't talk to anyone, we'll look for the people you can talk to because they really are there. There are some people. So I had the experience of going to the Iowa protest and I went to hear Joe Biden speak as an undecided voter. One of the things that happened was there was a heckler in the audience and the person yelled out something. The crowd started to have that little titter that crowds sometimes do like shutting the person up. And immediately Biden said: "No, no, it's okay. It's okay." And it was like he had turned this person around, I thought that's such a kind and caring thing as he brought the person in. And when I walked out, I said to my friend: "I am a better person walking out of that building when I walked in because my better angels came to the forefront." And I think we really have to work on that. We just work on how to get my better angels to come to the forefront because there's so many forces right now trying to make us hate each other.
“If you have a problem with what would be considered the more extreme whether it's right or left, start looking for the moderates and connect there.” -Linda Seger
Shirley Owens: Yes.
Linda Seger: Let's get our better angels.
Shirley Owens: Linda, you're really talking to me in my language right now, because I talk a lot and I teach a lot about perspective. Not only are all of our perspectives completely different because of our experiences, our life, our story, everything that we were taught and told, but are whole life, all of us have been told that there's a right box and a wrong box, and everything has to fit in one of those boxes. And if we're right, that makes every other thing or person wrong. So I like to just separate those boxes and have this huge space in the middle for justice, and that's where compassion comes in. That's where we learn to love. other people in the space that they're at, and that they're just perfect where they are. And it doesn't matter if they don't agree or believe what we agree and believe in. I think that this is such an important thing for people to listen to right now and that is, where did that person's perspective come from? We don't know, and it's okay, they're perfect right where they're at. We might actually learn something.
Linda Seger: Yes. And all of our decisions as Quakers are made with consensus. You could imagine being in a business meeting and you're all going to find agreement somewhere and Quakers in a sense learn not to be hot heaven, we tend to be very tolerant. But one of the things we do is if there's things that start bubbling up where it's just kind of getting contentious, we go into silence and we just center and we say, okay, it's time for us to listen to that spirit inside. And a lot of times a third way comes forward. This can be a really big decision . Are we going to take the stand on immigration then, how are we going to word this in taking the stand? Or it can be, are we going to paint the walls yellow, blue or green? Then somebody says, how do we feel about light lavender? Oh, I'd like that. So there's always that way where you can find that third creative solution. If you say, let's agree at least on the goal. I mean, right now we want to help people in the United States that are suffering. If we could agree on that goal, is that true for all of us? No. Let's start talking about all the different ways we might do it, but do it with a certain sense of what we all want to. We don't want more people dying. We don't want more people sick and can't pay their rent and are ready to get evicted. We do develop that compassion and then say, let's agree on the big goal and then we can start talking about how to get there.
“Agree on the big goal. and then start talking about how to get there.” -Linda Seger
Shirley Owens: I love that so much. I totally agree on that. I think that there is a time where we need to listen, and I've struggled with social media lately because so many people want to voice their opinion but it's coming like anger, and hatred and negativity towards others. There's just so much of that coming out right now that it's like, it's okay to have an opinion and not share it all the time but then the other side will say to me, well, I need to fight. If I don't stand up, who will? And I'm thinking, well, there's 5 million other people that are right now too. But it's really nice to take that moment. Like you say, allow your reaction to me than not react for a minute. Step back, listen.
“It's okay to have an opinion and not share it all the time… take that moment, and allow your reaction to be to not react for a minute. Step back. Listen.” -Shirley Owens
Linda Seger: And it's almost like stopping yourself and saying, no, let's go through decency and humanity. We have that saying in my office, we treat everyone like a decent human being even if they are no.
“Let's go for decency and humanity.” -Linda Seger
Shirley Owens: I love that.
Linda Seger: But I had an experience in 2006, when Jesus Rode a Donkey first came out. I got an email, her name is Lisa from Ohio. She just slammed into me in this email and I was quoted in the wall street journal, and she slammed into that and said, what an awful person you are and she went on and on. It took me two days to quiet down but I said, I'm going to calm down. I was saying, I answer all emails. I don't necessarily engage for 16 emails, but I will answer them. So I wrote Lisa and I said, do you know, they kind of misquoted me in that article. If you want to have an article book burning, I will join you because I'd like to burn that article too. And I said: "But you're also wrong about me. You're reaching a conclusion about me that's not correct. Go to my website, read about me. Don't buy the book, you will not like this book. I just want you to be accurate in us to be truthful."
Shirley Owens: Yeah.
Linda Seger: And she wrote me back and she said: "Well, you certainly took the window to my sales." And she thanked me for a respectful reply. She said, I'm not going to buy the book, I'm not going to read it, I'm a Republican, I'm going to stay that way. But she said, thank you. I think going to that place like this other person really is a human being. The Quakers have a saying, we speak to that of God in everyone. Not always an easy thing to do, but we work at it.
Shirley Owens: So it's funny because I was a little nervous having this interview because I'm like, Oh, this is going to be political and controversial. And I'm just like a lover. I want everything to be about love, humanity and beauty. And that's what it ended up being. I'm so grateful for your insight because I feel like our world could really use more of you.
Linda Seger: Thank you.
Shirley Owens: No reason why we have to fight back. My biggest thing is if we change our perspective, we change our reality. I also believe that who we're being in any relationship is how the other person is acting, reacting and being back. And you just proved that, you just showed that by that response so who we are, which I believe that you, to me, you seem like you're just full of love, understanding and facts. And you really have dug deep into facts. But even though I know your opinions are probably very strong, they're coming out as love and kindness, and being friendly to everyone. And I know that's a Quaker trait. You're friends of spirituality and everything.
Linda Seger: I think there's a fine balance too, because I decided this year that I was not going to court. Because I think what sometimes happens when somebody gives their opinion and we just smile and be nice even though we really don't agree with it, we don't agree with that value, I decided that I will always speak up, but not argue and change someone's mind even if it's a simple thing. Like my computer guy was saying, he hates the protesters and they all should be shot, or he says something. I just said, we love protesters in this household. And didn't go any further with that, he knows where we are, he's been in this house, he probably saw my book. He has a Confederate flag up and we're really nice to each other. So there is a thing too and I tell friends who are Republican, I said, I will really try not to start anything. But if you say something, I will respond. I said, I'm not going to hide the fact I wrote a book of Christian Democrats. So with my Republican friends I sometimes say, well, I was in a really good interview this morning about Jesus Rode a Donkey. We don't have to discuss it or anything, but it just says, I am not going to pretend I didn't write this book. For many years, I kind of hit it a little bit. I said, I don't want to do that anymore. So there is that fine line that is firm, but we try to be kind.
Shirley Owens: I fully understand that because my book is called Get What You Want from Your Man, and it definitely is not what you think it is by the cover. But yeah, sometimes I'm like, I didn't really, I'm not really an author. But I think that there's a really good way. And I have learned this too, we can respond, we can have our own opinions and we can be super powerful in our place without being angry, or mean, or hateful, or also without degrading the other person for having a different opinion. Because I'm opinionated too but I also used to not stand up for myself and it got me in a lot of trouble over the years. So I've learned how to stand up for myself, stand up for my beliefs, but at the same time, like to really love other people for where they're at in their beliefs and their understandings. And I think that that's such a good balance.
Linda Seger: I learned an important lesson many, many, many years ago. I had a friend, we were both Christian and then she became Baháʼí. I got very threatened and we were talking one night and she kept saying, well, as we all know, and she would say Baháʼí belief, which was not mine. I was sort of doing my cowering routine, and [inaudible], there's gotta be a way that we can talk about our religion because we're both very committed to who we are. And I said, let's figure this out. And we sat there, looked at each other and we finally started saying, I said, why did you choose Baháʼí, and why did you leave Christian? And I will tell you why I stayed Christian. It was a three hour, one of the best conversations in my life, I said, I never want to argue politics and religion anymore. I'm happy to state my opinion, I'm happy to talk about it, but not to argue it because people have formed their opinions through one way or another. And we're talking, someone asks a question and you give the reply, I said, I like that. Let me go look at this in more depth, but it's not about arguing.
Shirley Owens: That's beautiful. Thank you so much for bringing who you are to this conversation today. I feel super enlightened, and I believe that whether you're Republican, or Democrat, or Christian or not Christian, this book will give you some insight into another person's eyes and beliefs, and I think you can learn something from it. So tell us how we can get your book. If you have a website or anything else you want to share about yourself.
Linda Seger: So it's, Jesus Rode a Donkey: Why Millions of Christians Are Democrats. My name is Linda Seger, S-E-G-E-R, it's like Bob Seger, but we're not related. It actually a book award for Christian living from what conservative--
Shirley Owens: Wow.
Linda Seger: --this award, Illumination Book Awards, and it's on Amazon. So just look at Jesus Rode a Donkey, look for the 2020 edition, which is the fifth edition of this book because all the additions come up but the 2020 should come up first. I think that people who read this also, I really work hard on the tone to not have an angry [inaudible] book but to really talk about it in a good way. So I think even a Republican can read this book and not feel threatened about it and say, Oh, yeah, so conduct my eyes and maybe make the change, but maybe not. We understand each other better.
Shirley Owens: I feel honored to know you and to have had you on the show. I'm super grateful for you being here. I am going to read your book because, I don't know, I love everything about you so thank you so much. And I hope you have a lot of success with it.
Linda Seger: Oh, yeah. Thank you, and I enjoyed talking to you, Shirley. Thanks so much.