In these Days of COVID-19, you’re probably sequestered with somebody you know well. You know their favorite (and least favorite) foods, music, TV shows, movies, and clothes. You know their opinions on how the pandemic is being addressed and those making the decisions. You know what will set them off and what will pacify them. You probably know more about those folks than ever before.
And you’re probably craving contact with another person, even a stranger whose likes, dislikes, opinions, and behaviors are a complete mystery to you. You may even have forgotten that sometimes those kinds of contacts don’t go well. On a larger scale, our society can’t even agree on how much credibility to give scientists and public health experts when they advise us to stay home or wear masks when we’re out. Common sense has become politicized and divisive.
We live in a world where the way we relate to each other is very much under reconstruction. How we will interact when these quarantines end is as unclear as the timing for when life will resume its old rhythms. When Amanda Henderson shared her ideas for what became Holy Chaos: Creating Connections in Divisive Times with us, she had envisioned a different vision for a shared future. The executive director of Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, Amanda works across the religious spectrum leading an organization that helps people transform faith into action as a force for good. That’s a very optimistic place to live a life! Amanda brings joy and wisdom, selflessness and moxie into situations that are often analytical, political, and ruthless in their actions and outcomes.
Amanda, with her husband Kyle, is also a parent of three and a daughter with views that differ significantly from many in her family. The book opens with a story that may resonate with you: The morning after the 2016 presidential election, Amanda struggled to process the stunning results while waiting with her parents as her father prepped for surgery. Both her parents had voted for Donald Trump, and after a tumultuous election cycle, she needed to step away from the divisive rancor to be in relationship with her parents that morning. The story serves as a parable: How we can set aside our differences and act with compassion and love? There will be plenty of time for arguing later.
Holy Chaos describes Henderson’s vision for this kind of life. “I have come to believe,” she writes, “that finding peace in the midst of the chaos is what our lives must be about. Finding connections in the midst of the division. Experiencing healing between the breaths of exhaustion and suffering. Working for ways of loving—personally and systemically—in the midst of the overwhelming fear, anger, and division that swirl around us.”
She also gives plenty of room for grace, understanding we will never be perfect in our effort. Our messy world just doesn’t work that way.
Prophetically, Holy Chaos is a book for our times. Henderson takes a “dive deep into the very personal realities and struggles of finding a way forward in multiple contexts with integrity and love.” She looks at the relationship between religion and politics, searching her own roots, navigating fear and cultivating curiosity. She shares stories of success and failure. “In everything I write here,” she says, “my goal is to spark our imaginations as we move forward together and begin to wonder what might happen if we brought our full loving selves into the difficult, holy, and chaotic political spaces of life.”
Even as we sit still, sheltering in place, we continue to struggle to find connection across our many differences. Divisive political rancor seems to have no end in sight. We can foresee:
Regardless of which candidate you support, either of those statements can apply to both major parties; it’s just a matter of your own preferences. Take a moment to try seeing things from “the other side.” It’s challenging, but possible.
The time is coming, and soon, when we will be engaging in dialogue over electoral politics with people outside our Zoom-restricted bubble. Holy Chaos provides a new framework, a lesson in civility, that we can all use in a time when frustration and exacerbation lurk behind our mask-covered facades, that we can all use regardless of how the election turns out.
Holy Chaos is a perfect book as we relearn how to relate to those we love and those we don’t know. Everything is different now, and Amanda Henderson is teaching us how we can contribute to making our world better, one relationship at a time.
Holy Chaos: Creating Connections in Divisive Times is available now as an ebook. Print books will be available July 14.