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After decades of "progress" and billions of dollars, 
why are Americans more divided than ever?

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Our perceived perceptions of each other have led to toxic polarization. We take one small thing we know about someone and decide who they are and how they feel about us. Usually negatively, whether that’s accurate or not. Being more online and less engaged with the real world has contributed to this problem of feeling like our differences are just too big and nothing can be done. We don’t see others for who they are and what they do, we only see an online caricature or persona. McIntosh and Lin offer three steps toward overcoming toxic polarization. 

“... our current state of polarization is not only because people have differences, but also because people exaggerate the magnitude of those differences. The distorted perceptions of “the other side” cause the breakdown of trust and partnership, and they can foster extremism, misinformation, and even violence.”

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Something is broken.

 

From the polls to the pews, America has a problem with itself. And the worst part is that we're pretending to solve it. After decades of supposed progress, Americans are more divided than ever.

 

Through non-profits and the government, America has spent billions fixing issues like racism, islamophobia, polarization, and radicalization. But it’s getting worse.

We are Gen Zs and Millennials living in this divided world and we are asking:

Why aren't our solutions working? 

Are the solutions making it worse?

What should we do instead?

How can I make a difference?

WHAT WENT WRONG publishes answers to the hard questions nobody is asking, and advocates real solutions to problems nobody is (actually) solving.

Our focus is two-fold:

1. Uncovering why America's leaders, government, and non-profits aren't successful

2. Advocating fresh solutions worth trying

Our sole requirement is that our solutions apply to all of us: anyone can do them, they cost no money, they aren't for experts.

 

That’s right: We’re fixing America at the kitchen table. No fancy titles, ivy league degree, budget, or fancy trainings required.

From the team at Neighborly Faith, thanks for reading. 

BROWSE TITLES

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We’re used to being told to find friends who are like us, who are in the same season of life as us, who hold similar values, beliefs, and identities. In the world today, that doesn’t seem to helping us as a society. We’re divided, angry, and shouting loudly at the other side about what we want.

Hartley discusses the importance of building friendships with those who don’t look, think or act like us. He wants us to celebrate our unlikeness and use it to bring about a better future.

“Supremacies weaponize our unlikeness, turning us against each other, convincing us we must change or defeat each other. Mutuality is not our utopian past or future. It is only something we can choose.”

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The idea that Muslims are only violent and don’t do anything good for Christians is pervasive among American Christians. Attitudes of “why should we do anything good for them if they haven’t done it for us?” run rampant. Islamophobia runs deep, whether Christians want to admit it or not.

“There are indeed countless Muslims who are concerned with Christian well-being, who are combating Christian persecution, and who are promoting dialogue and understanding.”

Duffner discusses why American Christians won’t engage in Muslim-Christian brigdebuilding and how to approach it to effect change. 

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Reaching across the aisle to collaborate on political issues is easier said than done, especially when one side has caused the other pain and hurt. But success consistently happens when people with diverse views come together. The current political divide and hateful rhetoric makes this difficult, but not impossible. Santos and Marcus list four ways political adversaries can come together on issues while minimizing harm. 


“Power is built not only by uplifting dependable voices within a group, but also by convincing folks on or just outside of the margins that they have a place within the community.”

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Creating authentic interreligious dialogue can be difficult to do, especially when many people just aren’t motivated to participate no matter how much incentive is used. Chitwood calls this the “apathy gap” and explores what faith leaders must do to address it so people will want to engage in interreligious dialogue. 

“In fact, it’s the apathy that can prove more frustrating, and heartbreaking, than any antagonism.” 

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America is deeply divided along racial, religious, and ideological lines. Americans loudly proclaim their identity labels like “anti-vaxxer” and “intersectional feminist” while drowning out other identifiers that matter. People set up camps in these labels, drawing lines and forming an “us vs. them” mindset that polarizes. Unity seems impossible. Beydoun discusses how to find that unity, even amid all the noise.

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Most Christians want a reconciled and fully united Church. But despite investing time and mastering the optics, attempts to bring Christians together are falling short. 

 

Giboney argues that majority church has failed to count the cost of reconciliation. The Church’s history of racism has been devastatingly painful, but Christians often seek painless paths toward restoration. Many Christians very simply don’t want to sacrifice enough to get the job done. 

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The “woke” progressive barista from Brooklyn who champions the de-criminalization of “sex work” may truly have little in common with the conservative Christian mailman from rural Alabama who loves Tucker Carlson.

 

No one ever said these two had to get along or be friends. But can they now even co-exist? 

Walker finds timeless and actionable solutions from the ancient biblical prophet Isaiah, with whom God connects reason with reconciliation.

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Social scientists have identified a phenomenon they call the “false enforcement of unpopular norms.” People who are open-minded are often willing to express a close-minded position because of perceived social pressure to conform.  

When a person privately has an open-minded position and is either discouraged from expressing it or willing to express it but not back up his or her words with action, the possibility of change feels elusive.