February 1, 2024 | Uncategorized
Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

The logo for Braver Angels, which will hold a series of three workshops in Owensboro this spring. COURTESY OF BRAVER ANGELS

‘Giving people hope it can happen’

Braver Angels to host three free Owensboro workshops on bridging the political divide  


Amid ever-growing polarization and tensions with this election year, the organizers of Braver Angels hope to help Owensboro and Daviess County residents “give one another grace.”

“I have seen this polarization in faith communities. I’ve seen pastors really stressed by this. The divisions are far-reaching in both Protestant and Catholic communities,” said Carolyn Dupont, the Braver Angels Kentucky state coordinator, who will help lead a series of three free workshops.  

Braver Angels is a national organization dedicated to bridging partisan divides. Founded in 2016, it works from the grassroots to help Americans see one another with less rancor and more empathy. 

The Diocese of Owensboro and Brescia University in Owensboro are partnering with Braver Angels to offer the workshops, which will be held on Saturdays in February, March, and April. The workshops will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and lunch is included. Advance registration is required and may be accessed at http://tinyurl.com/yc7n7z5d.

Dupont, a professor of history, philosophy and religious studies at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Ky., has worked with Braver Angels for about five years.

She ran for election to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 2020, and while she did not win, “I had so many conversations with people whom I wouldn’t have ordinarily,” she said.

This taught her something significant.

“We’re all living in intellectual un-information silos,” said Dupont. “That reinforces our biases that we are right.”

Braver Angels provides a setting “to have conversations with people you don’t necessarily agree with, but it is a safe place to do so,” she said.

The series of three workshops coming to Owensboro are Feb. 3, “Red/Blue”; March 9, “Skills for Bridging the Divide”; and April 13, “Can we agree about abortion?”

She said the Red/Blue topic is typically offered first in Braver Angels’ workshop series, since it is a good introduction to the experience.

“I think people come to this extremely skeptical,” she said, but “the goal of this first workshop is to give people hope that it can happen.”

Dupont said that the first time she led this workshop, people were amazed and “could leave feeling like they had been heard and could hear others in a human way.”

“It can be such a refreshing experience to talk with people who think differently than we do,” she said.

One of the lessons Dupont has learned through participating with Braver Angels is that “for politicians, there’s an advantage to painting every issue as black and white. So then you start to think of every issue in such dichotomized ways.”

“Every issue is very complicated and every issue is multifaceted,” she said, adding that “this polarization is making us less informed.”

In terms of the final workshop, Dupont said she is aware of the divide between Kentuckians on the topic of abortion. However, she said the rationale is that “if we can talk about this, we can talk about anything,” she explained.

She encouraged individuals who are on the fence about participating to still attend. She said there is also a possibility for people to participate as observers, even if they do not wish to actively participate in the workshops. Those interested in this option can email her at [email protected].

“Show up, even if they don’t believe it can happen,” she said. “Give it a chance. My own journey with Braver Angels is what makes me continue to do this, and why I do this. It has changed me, and I really love that.”

Dupont said Braver Angels “helps people perceive other people as real human beings. I wouldn’t say my political opinions have changed much – but I love the fact that I have real, ongoing conversations with people.”

“Maybe, we can work our way out of the mess we’re in,” she said.

Originally printed in the February 2024 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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