In his inaugural address, President Biden called for unity, quoting St. Augustine as he did so. What, in the face of an astonishingly divided country, can we hope for? Is it possible—is it even desirable—to seek unity?
“Harmony makes me nervous,” said Brookings Institution’s Shadi Hamid, in a Breaking Ground event that took place on Tuesday (you can watch the recording here if you missed it). He and his co-panelists, Christine Emba of the Washington Post and philosopher Samuel Kimbriel, engaged each other and the audience in a fascinating hour-long discussion of the possibilities (and dangers) of unity.
Michael Lamb of Wake Forest University, author of an upcoming book on St. Augustine’s political thought, has higher hopes than Hamid for substantive unity, even in a pluralist society. “Augustine affirms,” he writes, “that the ‘City of God’ transcends any earthly kingdom and sets the standard of ‘true justice,’ [but] he does not dismiss the importance of earthly commonwealths or the goods they secure in this life. And he rejects the idea that politics necessarily requires theological consensus.”
Brandon McGinley, meanwhile, strikes a more sober note: President Biden called us to unity around the truth, but there are truths that, he says, a Biden presidency is asking us to close our eyes to. “Biden promises to return us to a state of plausible deniability. This may be an improvement, but it is not a healing. Healing would take a much higher dose of the love of truth than we seem able to bear.”
But we are called to bear it. And as we at Breaking Ground continue to try to carve out a special space in which to seek truth together, we want to invite you to join us in watching a film, The Reunited States, followed by a discussion with several of the characters next Thursday evening, February 4, at 7:00 p.m. ET.
(Please note that only the first 150 people to access the virtual screening room will be able to watch the film, though anyone is welcome to join us for the panel discussion on Thursday! After you’ve registered for the panel discussion, a link and password to the virtual screening room will be sent in your confirmation email.)
The film follows several individuals: Susan Bro, who lost her daughter in the deadly Charlottesville protests of August 2017; Erin and Dave Leaverton, a white Christian couple who decided to travel in an RV to all fifty states to understand the complex origin and nature of our fault lines; Greg Orman, who ran for governor of Kansas as an independent and wants to shake up our binary dysfunction; Steven Olikara, whose Millennial Action Project is attempting to seed a future of friendship and cooperation across the political divide; and Mark Gerzon, whose lifelong commitment to conflict-mediation and whose book The Reunited States of America inspired the film. You can watch the trailer below.
It should be a powerful evening, breaking through and breaking open the questions we need to be asking with those like and unlike us all over the land. Will you join us?