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Christian leader breaks down cultural divide and reveals what he says 'crossed the line' this election season

Posted October 19

Gabe Lyons is known for fostering Christian dialogue on some of the toughest sociopolitical issues. Now, he's using his voice to try to heal the political divide.

Lyons, founder of Q Commons, an organization that calls itself a "learning community that mobilizes Christians to advance the common good in society," is committed to helping foster discussion on contentious subjects.

He spoke with "The Church Boys" podcast just hours before holding his "Engaging Our Divided Nation" event Thursday night — an effort to bring together Christians of all stripes to discuss the divisiveness plaguing America.

"I think the feelings are so visceral for people right now on so many fronts," Lyons said, going on to note one thing Americans do agree on. "We do know that 72 percent of Americans know the country is headed in the wrong direction."

Interestingly, he also noted research that shows — despite disagreeing on quite a bit — 95 percent of Americans concur that people on the extreme ends of the conversation "get all the attention and they label one another so severely it makes finding common ground impossible."

Listen to Lyons discuss these issues here.

While he said Obama intended to bring people together, he believes the civility situation has actually worsened over the past eight years.

In addition to oft-times harsh public debates, Lyons said the culture is losing trust in institutions, including religious ones. Just consider a Barna Group study that found only 30 percent of millennials saying churches have their best interests at heart; other generations had slightly higher proportions.

"People are feeling at a loss, they have angst, they have fear and concerns," Lyons said. "They really don't know where to place hope anymore."

But despite the dire situation, he believes Christians can make an impact by helping bridge divides and by navigating people through their uncertainty.

He said people of faith have confidence in their future based on their belief in the Almighty — a confidence that could come in handy after the election when "half this nation is going to feel misrepresented," feeling as though the country is going in the wrong direction.

"There's going to continue to be a sense of hopelessness about it," Lyons said. "We have a real role to play in healing and bringing people together."

Lyons is also hoping to encourage Christians to be informed, to listen to one another and to realize that people who disagree with them on the social and political front aren't automatically their enemies.

As for the 2016 presidential campaign, which has, no doubt, increased the level of dysfunction and debate, Lyons said he's been most surprised by one specific facet: Evangelical leaders who have fervently come out in support of Trump.

While Lyons understands the "lesser of two evils" argument, he said he's been troubled by the more overt and passionate support.

"I think the public advocating through using ministry platforms or using even faith terms to try and make the case for why Donald Trump is going to be a great executive leader of our country — I think that's crossed the line," he said.

Lyons believes "a lot of public witness is on the line," and that these faith leaders could end up regretting their handling of the campaign.

In the end, though, he believes everything that's happening in society right now could lead people to start digging deeper into their own beliefs and worldviews.

"Now, we're having to ask some big questions like, 'What am I here for? What is my purpose? ... What is causing all these problems?'" Lyons said. "Is it just policies or could there actually be something called sin that human beings fall into and that actually creates all kinds of problems?"

He believes Christians, themselves, will also be having some important conversations moving forward about how to handle involvement in politics.

As for those who are worried about the future and about Christianity facing increased scrutiny, Lyons reminded listeners that the New Testament was written to "a minority living in the midst of an empire."

"The church actually does really well under that kind of pressure," he said, noting that, while people don't want to see their rights eroded, Christians can have confidence that they'll be just fine in the end.

Find out more about Lyons' 2017 Q Commons event here.

Email: bhallowell@deseretnews.com Twitter: billyhallowell Facebook: facebook.com/billyhallowell

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