Prayer overcomes partisan division on climate legislation
“We Don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell,” my friend and fellow climate advocate emailed me concerning our effort to advance a bipartisan bill with a particular legislator. I knew what she meant. The acrimony between some members of the opposing parties had been referred to as a civil war, and our issue, climate progress, had become particularly polarized. All opportunities to unite the parties behind a good bill seemed to have dried up.
Previously, in 2018, I had run for state representative, despite facing a heavily favored incumbent. He was uninterested in climate action, and for years my state had failed to pass meaningful climate legislation. Running for office seemed to offer an opportunity to effect a change I felt was needed. In the end, the current state representative didn’t seek reelection, so I ran against someone else from his party.
I prayed to approach my campaign from a spiritual perspective. In my study of Christian Science, I had learned that everyone is God’s offspring, the expression of His being. On this basis, I affirmed the true, spiritual nature of all the voters. I talked individually with several thousand people, striving to find common ground with each. My opponent won, but the campaign got me praying more consistently about politics.
During the 2019 legislative session, the new state representative and her party opposed the main climate bill. The fight over this bill heightened animosity between the parties. Once again, the bill did not pass.
During 2020, I occasionally advocated for solutions with the legislators in my district, and late in the year I was invited by a climate group to request a meeting with my state representative about a different bill. It was then, because of the previous partisan division over the issue, that my friend made her comment quoted earlier.
Throughout this time I prayed about perceived impediments to our success. I knew that if the bill was a right idea, then it was not at the mercy of human opinions. I’d once heard a Christian Science lecturer share that in a thermal, some gliders or airplanes move to the left, while others move to the right, but all are ascending. Similarly, everyone, whether their party is on the right or left of the political spectrum, can be spiritually uplifted. God’s spiritual laws govern us universally and impartially; they help us right where we are in our lives—whatever our politics, opinions, or challenges—and they lead us to absolute Truth. God, being infinite good, can help each of us with our diverse needs, with no conflict whatsoever.
Christ Jesus prayed that all followers of his teachings, then and to come, “may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:21 ). And Jesus’ devoted follower Paul preached that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 )—to which I added, “There is neither Republican nor Democrat; there is neither holder of this opinion nor promoter of that opinion.”
Paul’s guidance to an early Christian church dealing with conflicting opinions also became meaningful to me, especially as it is rendered in the paraphrase of the Bible called The Message:
“Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with . . . . There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience. . . . None of us are permitted to insist on our own way. . . . So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other” (Eugene H. Peterson, Romans 14:1, 5, 7, 19).
As we respect one another as God’s diverse expressions, we naturally respect each other’s views and ideas, too. Differing spiritual perspectives or judgments are naturally harmonious. As expressions of the divine Mind, God, we fit seamlessly together; we understand one another; we work in unity; and we value each other’s participation.
As we respect one another as God's diverse expressions, we naturally respect each other's views and ideas, too.
In the fall of 2020 my state representative met with us and expressed support for our bill. In February, she gave the first positive testimony that anyone could recall from her party for a climate bill. She added, “In closing, I would like to thank . . . my opponent from my 2018 campaign. [She] introduced me to the [bill]. . . . She refused to be drawn into fear or anger, and instead she built bridges across party lines, persistently advocating for bipartisan progress on climate, and for that, I am grateful.”
This representative’s testimony began building bipartisan support for climate legislation in our state. I could see how my and others’ prayers had helped break through the fear and anger that had kept us apart.
In January 2021, my state senator resigned, and my former state representative, who had not sought reelection in 2018 when I’d run for his seat, was appointed state senator. As my colleagues and I reached out to him without any response, I steadily kept my thought aligned with God. After a month, the senator met with us and took a positive view of our bill. Soon he became the first sponsor of our bill from his party. In April, the bill passed the Senate with a majority of both parties.
Through prayer, my experience with my two former political opponents was brought full circle from opposition to appreciation, common ground, and support. Like an orchestra conductor’s right and left hands working together to direct great music, the parties in our legislatures, seen spiritually, can function harmoniously and productively.
This step of progress in overcoming polarization makes me expectant of more. It shows how spiritual thinkers in nations around the world can work to heal division and hate, to love members of each party, to find our spiritual oneness, and to pray for the ability to work together. We can and will harmoniously address our world’s issues together.•