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Bipartisan Congressional Committee Creates Unity

It’s in political news to note that Americans are hopelessly divided, and that this division is manifest in the lack of collaboration across the aisle in Congress. But Washington Post columnist Amanda Ripley might disagree that our situation is hopeless.

That’s because Ripley did a deep dive on the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, a bipartisan collection of twelve lawmakers. This year’s committee has made over 200 recommendations to revamp Congress processes and practices, most of which have already been accomplished or put into motion. By comparison, the last committee assigned to do similar work disbanded in 2018 after making exactly zero recommendations.

So, what made the difference? A series of bold steps to overcome the toxic division and promote dialogue and cooperation. Committee chair Derek Kilmer met with each committee member separately to gauge their willingness and/or optimism. Initially, it seemed bleak, particularly in the wake of the events of January 6, 2021. One Democrat told Kilmer: “I feel like not only was I in a relationship with someone who cheated on me; I was in a relationship with someone who cheated on me with someone who was trying to kill me.

After those initial conversations, Kilmer said, “We’re going to have to do some stuff differently.” So, what was different? They engaged in practices that promoted listening and building trust in relationship. There was a joint retreat for mutual bonding. They created neutral zones for conversation and collaboration without the pressure of television cameras present, so that members could have real conversations. And they had another debrief and listening retreat after the January 6th attacks, so that each lawmaker could hear and be heard.

Several people commented on the results: “It felt like someone turned the air conditioner on. You saw people starting to be curious about each other again.” “The conversations were quite remarkable. They surpassed my expectations.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

Being effective requires trust, empathy, and teamwork. When we respectfully listen and engage, we are modeling the behavior God desires.

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