Erin and David Leaverton sold their house, loaded their three, young children into an RV, and traveled the country for a year. Their family’s journey is part of the documentary The Reunited States. Erin Leaverton talks with Amy Julia about their search for what divides our nation, the false hierarchy of human value, and the durable power of God’s love to heal division.
Erin Leaverton is a wife, a mom to three children, an interior designer, and a blogger. Her family’s “life-altering adventure, traveling across America by RV for one year to learn about why the fabric of our nation is fraying” is part of The Reunited States documentary. Connect with Erin online:
On the Podcast:
“[Our divisions are] rooted in our belief in a false hierarchy of human value...you can’t measure human life. It’s infinite.”
“We bear the image of an eternal God. That’s incredible. Each one of us. It’s infinitely beautiful and infinitely valuable.”
“The things that I will look for to define my own value is the exact same set of principles I’ll apply on every other person.”
“We do have permission to mourn things that we discover. And we need to. I think that that’s healthy. But we can’t stay there. We have to move through it.”
“Dr. King said, ‘Love is the most durable power in the world.’ And when I heard that quote, what I literally saw was like an actual structure to hold the weight of disagreement. And I think agreement is what we’re building on right now. And it’s so cheap and so flimsy. It cannot hold any dissonance, whereas love can.”
“Respect is earned over time. Honor is something we can give freely, just like love. Everyone is deserving of honor because everyone bears God’s image. Even if they’re committing atrocities—and I know this is a hard thing to say, a hard thing to believe—but even in the act of committing horrible atrocities, no human being is outside the realm of redemption and honor.”
Thank you to Breaking Ground, the co-host for this podcast.
Head, Heart, Hands, Season 4 of the Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast, is based on my e-book Head, Heart, Hands, which accompanies White Picket Fences. Check out free RESOURCES that are designed to help you respond to the harm of privilege and join in the work of healing. Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.
Connect with me:
Thanks for listening!
Note: This transcript is autogenerated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
Hi friends I'm Amy Julia Becker and this is a Love is stronger than Fear a podcast about pursuing hope and healing in the midst of social division, in the Season we're talking about how we can respond to the brokenness in our lives and in our society with our heads, hearts and hands, you can check out my e-book head heart, hands on my website. Amy Julia Becker dot com. If you want a framework for these conversations in today's episode, I get to talk with Erin Leaverton and we are talking about a really counter cultural and unexpected decision that she and her husband Dave made to sell their house and load their three young kids into an RV and travel around the country for a year or so that they could try to begin understanding what divides us on what it might look like to heal.
Those divides. The leverage ones are also featured in a new documentary called The Reunited States. That documentary is streaming now on Amazon, on demand on other platforms. I will repeat this at the end, but you can find out more about the film at Reunited States dot TV, and I highly recommend it, but for now, I'll let you listen in on my conversation with Erin left and I will Hello. My guest today is Erin Leaverton Erin is someone that I have wanted to have in the show for a long time. And she just has given me a perfect excuse because she and her family are featured in a new documentary film that has just released and is called The Reunited States.
0 (1m 34s):
Erin welcome. Thank you for joining us.
1 (1m 37s):
Oh my gosh. I'm so honored. Thanks for having me.
0 (1m 40s):
Absolutely. So I'm going to try and give a little bit of our backstory. We got to meet you and your family when you and your husband, Dave, and you're three children, young children, we are driving around the country in a very large RV two, all 50 States on a quest to try to understand. I think initially tried to understand our political divisions. And I'd love to just start by asking you to tell our listeners what prompted the decision, how you approach that year on the road. Just tell us that story.
1 (2m 8s):
Well, I think the best place to start with that story is with our daughter, grace, she was born with down syndrome. She's our oldest and you know, this story well, but I was very sort of, I had my, my ducks in a row before grace came into my life and she came in like a wrecking ball and messed me up in the best way. And all the things that I thought mattered, stopped mattering as much. And all of the things that I didn't know did matter started to matter to me. And so she gave us, I think the freedom to begin to dream outside the box, because it's kind of the way that she's designed. She's just out of the box kind of person. She got an extra chromosome she's fearless.
1 (2m 50s):
She makes me uncomfortable when the way that she operates. And yet in that she sets me free. Yeah. And so it was grace, I think, who was the ultimate catalyst who kind of took us on a journey of getting to know the heart of God and getting to know what life, what living life is really about. And it's not about sort of checking these success boxes. It's about finding out what you were made for in doing that thing with joy and with surrender. And so that brought us to our dinner table in 2016 during the presidential election. And my husband's background is in partisan politics.
1 (3m 32s):
He was a Republican political operative for over a decade, worked in that world to sow seeds of division because that's what wins elections. Yeah. And basically after a decade or a little over a decade of that, he left that world very sort of disenchanted in the sort of disgruntled realizing that it was causing harm to people and to relationships. And so about six years after he left politics, we were sitting in our kitchen watching what was unfolding on the TV, on a news across the country where people were moving out of disagreement and into violence and hate.
1 (4m 14s):
And it was, it felt like we were watching something from one of these countries where that, where the government is like falling apart. Right. And it was so disheartening for my husband, because I think in that moment, he was like, I helped because this, and so I know I was looking at him and it was one of those moments where a question came out in my mouth and I can tell you exactly where it came from. It was like one of those deep sort of moments of just revelation. And I just looked at it and I say, Hey, if we didn't have kids or a mortgage, what would you wake up and want to do tomorrow? And he looked at me without blinking. And he said, I would want to do something to bring healing and unity to our country.
1 (4m 55s):
And I looked at it and I was like, okay, wow. That's like a beauty pageant answer something really nice shifted. And our heart's when he spoke out sort of, I guess it'll be not to get too flowery with this, but like, it was like he was speaking out his destiny, like something just fell into alignment. And from that moment forward, nothing was ever the same. The next day, he's on his way to work. There's this story on NPR about this book called The Reunited, States named markers on Mark ends up meeting with Dave that day. No way.
1 (5m 36s):
They ended up crying in like fist bumping up and like hugging. And it was, it was sort of a nudge, I think from, God's saying you're on the right. Check like, you're not crazy. And so from that conversation, our nights turned into a sort of like a war room of learning and reading and researching, like, what is the root cause of our, why are we wanting to apart? And there was no consensus. I mean, it was all over the map. It was, you know, everybody thinks they have the answer and we just instinctively sort of knew, like we can not solve a problem that we don't understand because after a lot of prayer and a lot of fasting, we came to the conclusion that the only way to learn about division is to go out across the country and ask people.
1 (6m 24s):
And that's what we did. So we really felt prompted and sell your house, quit your jobs, but the equity into an RV and go on about division, like, you know, our financial advisor was thrilled and our parents and our friends, they are like, are you crazy? Or a
0 (6m 41s):
Really popular decision?
1 (6m 44s):
You know, it's not a popular decision, but you know, I think that's the beauty that we have, the, the beauty of what grace gave us. She gave us this courage to do something that doesn't make a lot of sense. Right. You know, our financial advisor was obviously not for this. Right. But it was the best thing for us. It saved us.
0 (7m 4s):
Okay. So tell me, just like, let's do some nitty-gritty. How old were your kid's when you started your trip?
1 (7m 10s):
Yeah. So William was two. He was in diapers and have Passy. So we moved to him out of his crib onto like a pull-out couch on the RV. Grace was So Mary Katherine was five and grace was six. And so they were compact enough to fit into these little microscopic bunk beds that we're on our RV now they wouldn't be fit. Right. And it was the perfect moment when they were sort of in this kindergarten moment of life, when we could, we have the bandwidth to say, okay, well, road school, these kids we'll learn together as a family about our country. And so that's what we do.
0 (7m 49s):
And then how did you map it out and have a plan? Like we're going to do this state and in this one, and we'll, we'll just make some contacts along the way. There was no,
1 (7m 58s):
This is a, a guy who created a, like a program where you could jump on this route anywhere in the country and do his, his was to go to all of a 50 capitals. And so we took his plan and sort of tweaked it because we don't, our goal was to go to the Capitol as it was to go to the, the regions or cities in each state that are the most broken and divided. Okay. So that's, that was sort of the, the loose plan where we started, it, had to do with the weather. So we started in January of 2018. Yeah. And we knew we needed to stay pretty far South.
1 (8m 38s):
Yeah. And by the way, you, by the time you made it up, do you guys, it was this spring,
0 (8m 43s):
Right, right. Yes. I remember. How did you go about saying here's the place where there's division in each state? How do you determine that? Or discern that?
1 (8m 54s):
Yeah. So we were the education crew. We were, the advance team are the podcasters and the bloggers and Dave, you know, it, it, it was, it was all hands on deck. And so at night we would just dive into new stories and Podcast like, we, we, we, we would literally dig up or anything we could find and to start just cold calling and reaching out to people. And, you know, even if you feel like you're network is big, when you're just a private citizen, it's, everyone is pretty homogenous on our, in our tribe. Right. So if you're trying to learn about the vision, the only people we knew, we're like White Republicans.
1 (9m 35s):
So it was a, it was not helpful the way to network, but still, that's still open a lot of doors to just to meet with people. And I really, I really felt like the Lord led us to the gatekeepers in each place. And when I say gatekeepers, I'm talking to him about the people who have, who are sort of hold the gate to the story of why that places is broken. And those we're very rarely like the mayor of a city. Usually someone hidden like an Uber driver or someone who cuts hair or do you know
2 (10m 14s):
You have any like examples that come to mind? Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Tell us a story.
1 (10m 19s):
Okay. So we roll into Charlotte, North Carolina, which is, you know, in many ways the banking capital of America. And there is a, that is one of the most gentrified cities in America. And most quickly gentrified, like overnight, I'd say it's a, it's a really fascinating study on gentrification. So we pulled in and Dave was taking a course on the history of racism in America, but it was like a 45 minute drive away. And we had one car. And so he ended up Ubering back and forth. And his Uber ride on the way back from the first day, ended up being this black woman named Layah.
1 (11m 3s):
And over the course of this 45 minute car ride, the two of them just, I mean, became instant, best friends. So she ended up, I ended up spending the whole week with her essentially. And she, as an Uber driver who was also, it also has a law degree and has done all this work in new Orleans with the people who were displaced after Katrina. And he, he was just an incredible human being. And we hit the jackpot with that Uber ride, because you taught us this intricate, hidden history of the city. We never could have learned from anyone else.
1 (11m 43s):
And at the end of it, you know, and we, and she took us to see black Panther that week when she'd come out to theaters. So it, that was one of the richest in, you know, you can't orchestrate this, you can't, you could never plan that out. All right. And she's a dear friend who I really go to still, to this day for advice and thoughts and feedback. Because again, like if our worlds are isolated and insulated, then we're not getting these other perspectives and it really, we have blind spots. And so it's great to have people who we trust and who trust us with their story and have to go in and say, Hey, so tell me how this is hitting you right now, like an attack on our capital or right now, whatever it is that's happening in our world.
1 (12m 33s):
0 (12m 33s):
Absolutely. All right. Well, I want a pivot. I know if we can just keep talking about your trip, which we will, we'll come back to that, but I want to talk a little bit about the film, which I have had the chance to watch, and I really appreciated it. I've already recommended it to multiple people for screenings. And I am so glad that it was made. I'd love for you to just give kind of a bird's eye view of what the film is, because it's not just tracing the two of you or you're the five of you as you travel across the country. But can you explain who it is, how it came to be, who it profiles, what it's about.
1 (13m 7s):
And I am so thankful for that because it's, it's a beautiful film in which the director have been, recky really weaves together several narratives of different people who are playing their part in bringing us together okay. Across our differences and healing. Our divides that film was birthed out a, a talk that Susan Bro gave that Ben actually got to hear. He was in Bro as the mother of Heather Hyer, who was killed in Charlottesville in 2017. And Susan story really sort of anchor is I think the entire film in the sense that there's some, and you can weigh in on this because I would love to hear your thoughts, but there's something about motherhood sort of supersedes the difference and it cuts across all the barriers.
1 (13m 59s):
Right. You know, it was, it was actually stories of the mothers that gave me this on ramp to connection and in almost every place that we went. And, and so Susan's story sort of collides with our story, right. And Ben found out about us while we were traveling from our friend markers on who wrote the book The Reunited States.
0 (14m 22s):
So that was not, you are not planning as you set out to like the film wasn't already in the works at at least it wasn't already knowing that you'd be an amendment. Wow.
1 (14m 31s):
We had filmed a little bit at the beginning thinking, I wonder if we can do like a Kickstarter and, you know, you do a film and kinda share what we're learning with the world and the kid for a failed. And so we just kinda went on our way and had a pile of footage and we didn't know what to do with it. And then then picked up around state and number 25, And literally got on a plane the next day. Like we had a phone call and he get on the plane and the next day we were filming and, and it was really neat because Ben wasn't looking for an angle. He just wanted to follow and see what happens and let the story tell itself, which I think takes a lot of humility as a filmmaker.
1 (15m 13s):
And it took a lot of, I think, trust on our part to let him into our world, because it was a lot of tender, intimate moments. All right.
0 (15m 22s):
And a lot of processing as you go, I mean, which is part of what you get to see as a viewer, but there's also some sense of, you know, if you had made a film afterwards, then you could curate the story right now
1 (15m 36s):
A little bit more or less vulnerable could be more like, here's what I learned, but when you're in the middle of it, its just a hot mess and you know, and it was a hot mess. I'm not going to lie. I'm not going to lie. But then the other two narratives are an amazing guy named Steven Olikara who was a, he hit his parents. So he is a first generation American and he has brought so much cohesion to young legislators across the country and in state legislatures across the country, through his millennial action project. And then Greg Orman is the other narrative and he is a, a, an independent candidate who ran for governor of Kansas and lost.
1 (16m 21s):
But he, he has a really powerful argument as to why we need a third force and our politics. So there are all amazing people, amazing stories.
0 (16m 32s):
Yeah. And it's blended together really, really beautifully. But I agree that Susan's story as a mother who lost her daughter, but who is also a really clear that if, if her daughter has not been a white woman who was killed, that she would not, she Susan would not have the same, a public platform that she does and she's used at well in how that well, but really humbly. And yeah, I mean, so much of that footage has just so poignant and you're right. It's just so very, very real, well, I want to talk about this. I think the point in the film where you say that when you started out, you thought our divisions were rooted in politics and that over the course of your travels begin to believe they were a symptomatic of something deeper.
0 (17m 16s):
And so I'd love to hear you talk a little bit about what you learned about divisions and what those deeper divisions are about. And H how, how is that your understanding of divisions changed as you travel?
1 (17m 29s):
Yeah, that's a really good question. Yeah. I mean, I, we started out with a hypothesis and I think it's okay because you have to start somewhere and our experience was politics. And so the, the assumption was if we can just bring Republicans and Democrats together over dinner, they will suddenly magically see one another as human. And by the week, by the time we have dessert, we will have solved our divisions. And you know, this is, this is, I think tells all of the fact that we live in a dominant culture where, where things have worked well for us. And so division feels like a small thing when you haven't been at, at the brunt of that.
1 (18m 17s):
So when we sat down with the people, the gatekeepers we started to meet with, we immediately began, began to hear it a completely different narrative. No one was talking about politics, no one wanted to discuss abortion or gun control. I mean, people were crying out with a story that reaches down into the depths of who we are as a nation all the way back to the very beginning. And before the beginning, I mean, we're talking when this land was, there was not a single white Euro European set foot here. It was, there was a place. So it's a story that we don't really know fully.
1 (18m 59s):
And so what we began to learn and discover through just listening to people's stories is that our divisions are rooted in a belief system that we have about human value. And I'll unpack that for you. Are you okay?
0 (19m 18s):
I would love, yes, I would love. And my other question for you had to do with humanity and Val, so yes. Please keep going. Yeah.
1 (19m 27s):
Yeah. So what we discovered is that, you know, and it was, it was kind of like an onion and we were peeling back layers and we would see, you know, here's a city that's divided like saying let's take Louisville. So Louisville has a really hard line of demarcation. It's the Knights, it was called ninth street Divide and they have done studies on this. And it was, it was a line separating w that was used as a redlining tool to separate the white part of town from the black part of town to pay. There is a, there was a difference in the life expectancy from one side of that road to the other 15 years. Wow. So we're looking at the long lasting effects and things like this.
1 (20m 10s):
And, you know, just because it happened and we decided, Oh, well now black people can cross the line or white people. It doesn't change the, the lasting impact of these to see ends. And so our big question, as we went from place to place as, how did it get this way? And the first layer that we hit was race. But then as we began to dig deeper, we realized that's not the root cause of our division, which was really frustrating. Cause you think you've landed on it. And then it kind of slides out from under you, you, and you realize, you know, it goes deeper than this. And what we began to discover as we listened to more and more people is that this is actually rooted in our belief in a false hierarchy of human value.
1 (20m 53s):
Right? And there's a whole lot of like bullet points on that hierarchy, socioeconomic status, education, skin, color, sexual orientation, like these are all sort of marks that are either going to work for you or work against you and how valuable your life is. And the flaw and this entire scheme is that any life can be measured in value. You can't measure in life. It's infinite, you know, it's, there is no, but we do it every day. And our subconscious,
0 (21m 26s):
They think that the value comes from society rather than that. So first of all, if any idea of measuring a human life, especially as one being more valuable than another is false, but also the idea that where we find our value is from what other people or our society, as a whole decides to give us as opposed to the value of being implicit and bestowed upon us by God. Really?
1 (21m 53s):
Yeah. Well, and I think this taps into the reality of image bearing. Yeah. I mean, we're, we're, we bear the image of an eternal God, that's incredible. And we don't eat all of us and it's, it's S infinitely beautiful and infinitely valuable, you know, and we're not finding that in each other. We're not seeing that in each other. And what you just said hits the nail on the head. The, the things that I will look for to define my own value is the exact same set of principles I'll apply on every other person, which is why grace wrecked my wife, because she messed at my list of principles of what gave me value ultimately.
1 (22m 35s):
And so we all have this working in us. And I think this is part of why I don't like this idea of influencers and sort of people in the world who are untouchable, or just up here on this pedestal, because it reinforces this lie and this idea, and we don't need influencers. We need leaders who need mothers and fathers, and we need people who are willing to get down and roll up their sleeves and be in a relationship. That's how we are. I think Heal is a country. And I'm so there's, there's a whole lot. I mean, there's so many different facets we could go dive into on this. But ultimately the, the biggest thing that I discovered is that the thing that fuels this false hierarchy is our belief in it.
1 (23m 26s):
And if we stop believing in it, it could go away.
0 (23m 30s):
And this is skipping ahead a little bit, but I'm curious whether you've had ideas about what it would take to stop believing in it and to believe something different, but also that the going away or the, the, the dismantling. Yeah. I mean,
1 (23m 46s):
I've thought about it so much. And you know, Dave and I have referred to it as we need, we need a human value, herd immunity, you know, kinda of like the, the coronavirus. Like we, there's a tipping point right now, right?
0 (24m 2s):
At which point Enough people believe this, that it actually changes things. I actually wrote a little Instagram post or something about Love and herd immunity. Like if we had an Enough people who were living out of the, an ethos of Love and of common humanity and all the things we're talking about, that it would be like, herd immunity. You don't actually need everybody, but you do need a big portion of the population to be, you know, bringing the both protection and yeah. Care into the society in order for that to happen.
1 (24m 36s):
Yeah. I think what it ultimately boils down to is a decision that we each have to make on why we matter, like why are alive, can't be measured and believing that not just theoretically In are cerebrally. But understanding that in the depths of us, I think part of what the love of Jesus does in setting us free, like Jesus, didn't come to give us life. He came to give us abundant life. And I think that is marked by fearlessness in knowing that you are loved, that no outside factor could change that, you know, how many likes you have, or even, even what you did well or what you didn't do.
1 (25m 19s):
Well, you know, I mean, you and I have talked a lot about performance and the hamster wheel of just getting out there and wowing people that builds in us a false identity of why we matter. And then we impose that on other people without even knowing it. And so this is something that I'm not yet free from. It's something I'm working out, I'm working out my salvation with fear and trembling. And, you know, there is, I think there's probably a lot of keys hidden in scripture to go and hunt down like treasurer, to find on how we do this. And like you said earlier, I don't think this is something we do as an Island.
1 (26m 3s):
I think this is something that we do together. And I believe it's something that we as mothers can do together, because if we had discover the infant nature of our value as mothers, then we will automatically pull that out on our children in one generation. This could change. Yeah.
0 (26m 21s):
So I'm curious, obviously you've done a ton of reflection and there has been a lot of change in your life in the past five years, if we want to put a timeframe on it. And I'm wondering if you look back at yourself, you know, in, before that a 2016 dinner conversation, how do you now
1 (26m 44s):
About what you didn't know then it's like such an intense question. I know, I know I've gone through moments of really hating my former self. And I went through a period in which I actually suffered from a form of post traumatic stress called pits, which is a trader induced traumatic stress, which was basically me associating myself as a white Anglo-Saxon, you know, female with the perpetrators have great violence and our history, especially a violence sort of driven at, at the helm of the church and just being utterly crushed and devastated to find that narrative over and over and hope that that would be the last one.
1 (27m 36s):
And then finding it again and realizing that we, as a, as, as, as the church, as the American church have a lot of reckoning to do. And this isn't about shaming, the church, this is about healing us in setting it up. And that's, that's something I want to touch on. I don't think after I went to this whole period of pits, and actually it was a native American friend of ours who helped me identify that I was having nightmares. I wasn't sleeping. I was having trouble like digesting food. It was getting real late. It was manifesting in my body and you're suffering from pits. And he said, listen, anger is like a hallway that you need to pass through.
1 (28m 20s):
Nobody sits in a hallway and it's, you have to go through it, but don't sit down in, It taking you somewhere. And it? That, that actually key for me. Like those words helped me so much because I think we do have permission to mourn the things that we discover and we need to, I think that's healthy, but we can't stay there and we have to move through it. And I think that's true for anger with yourself. And I think it's also true for, you know, if you have been victimized, like it's not good to stay under this victim mentality, you got to move through it.
1 (29m 1s):
Otherwise you're gonna get stuck and leave that we all collectively, as the church need to go through that process. And the people who took me on that journey were gracious enough to not shame me. They held me accountable and accountability is about calling you higher, not keeping you down. And I've heard a lot of people call for accountability in recent days over what happened at the Capitol. And I don't know that we mean the same thing. When we say accountability, I think the word accountability is often sort of like a word people hide behind to say shame on you, but Shane will not produce change in people's hearts.
1 (29m 45s):
Right. And in fact, it says in scripture, it's kindness, that leads us to repentance. Yeah. So people were kind enough and patient Enough with me to walk with me through this learning process and give me permission to be where I was in learning it more and where at mourn it and then discover what I can do about healing it. So, yeah, I don't, I actually forgot what the original
0 (30m 16s):
Is. Just how you feel about yourself. When you look back to who you were five years ago.
1 (30m 21s):
And to answer your question, I have a lot of compassion for myself and you don't know what you don't know and shaming people for not knowing something, they never produce transformation in their hearts.
0 (30m 34s):
My, my husband, Peter, and I talk a lot about this because we were in a somewhat similar space of having, you know, as almost middle-aged white people really began to reckon with what it means to be privileged white people and having a lot of people in our circles who haven't even done some of the reading and thinking and praying and working it out that we've done and their can be such a impetus to judge, to shame, to point fingers, all that you said. And Peter keeps saying, you know, with beginners, you begin at the beginning, which sounds so, I mean, it's such an obvious statement. And yet there is a sense of wanting people to like accelerate to step number 70 to when they're on step one and you can't manufacture that, but people can take the next step.
0 (31m 24s):
And I, I give myself the comfort in that in terms of like, yes, I'm still learning and growing and what's the next small step. But also when I look back at other people who are like me and I'm like wanting to rush them along to be able to similarly say, yeah, with compassion, begin at the beginning and take one small step, and you'll be amazed at actually, where are you end up one small step at a time. Absolutely. I've a couple more questions just in terms of that sense of growth and transformation for you. One is that you mentioned at the end of the film, you're a, the 2016 election and how you've you're view of politics has changed.
0 (32m 5s):
So I'm curious if you can just talk about like, what went into the decision that you made in terms of voting and the 2016 election and how has your approach to political decisions changed over the course of these past few years?
1 (32m 20s):
Yeah. Okay. That's a good question. So I'm the film bin, of course, through Amanda of the bus and put into the film who I voted for in the 2016 election, which I was like, thanks a lot, buddy. No, I, I made that decision out of Fear, which I think a lot of people have voted out of fear or a all the time out of fear. Like you're not voting for anything you're voting against something And.
0 (32m 44s):
So will you speak a little bit to that? Like going back to 2016, what were you afraid of? What are you voting against
1 (32m 50s):
In 2016? I think it was, I was voting. I was voting against all the things that I was hearing would happen to me and my family and our country. If the Democrats won that election, I mean, this is the narrative, this is the age-old narrative. Like they are going to take away your guns. They're going to take away all your rights now that I have to
0 (33m 10s):
Again, but, but somehow that it felt scary.
1 (33m 15s):
It's just the fear mongering, but gets it, that drives this wedge and to your heart. And so you're not for anything you're just against some. And that's, that was really, I think what compelled me to vote that way. I did it in that election then of course, fast forward to 2018 and traveling and learning and realizing that, you know, being paralyzed by fear is never going to be the way we can move this country forward. You know, scaring people into voting a certain way. That's a really unhealthy, right. You know, like, do you think about a relationship like a marriage if you're making decisions in your marriage out of fear, fear of what could happen?
1 (33m 56s):
I mean, it's, it's just an unhealthy, it's a, it's a really bad way to live. Life is actually bad for your body and your mind and your soul. So, you know, I think a lot of people have said, so are you guys Democrats now? And the thing is, I know I really have moved away from this idea that any person can be summed up by a political party. I mean, we are, again, we are human beings. We are multifaceted reflections of the image of an infinite God. And so I have really Dave and I have both sort of move out of the realm of like right or left or even centrist.
1 (34m 37s):
This isn't about losing who you are and moving somewhere towards the middle where you are just vanilla or this is about whether or not you are willing to come to the table with your full self and an open heart. Yeah. I think the conversation needs to shift out of right left into openhearted or closed hearted because if we get stuck between these two binary options of right or left, then we're now going to see the beauty in one another. And, and I, I think the business world has really grabbed a hold of the fact that diverse teams make the best decisions. Right? You think about companies like CEOs who succeed, who have incredible track records, surround themselves in their boardrooms with dissenters, with people who have a different opinion are a different perspective.
1 (35m 26s):
And that really leads to the best business decisions. We have not picked up on that as a society, right? And we're afraid of anyone who disagrees with us and the problem that is our differences. And you'll appreciate this as a mom of penny, our differences are our power source. That's what makes us magnificent in different places. Don't have to divide us. They can bring us together into this beautiful broad space of creative thinking and problem solving. And you know, we're, we're not there yet, but that's the vision that I have is that you don't need to lay down your political views to be friends with him, with me, to have a conversation about how do you feel about things 'cause Love has, you know, Dr.
1 (36m 13s):
King said Love is the most durable power in the world. And I, when he, when I heard that quote, what I literally, I saw, it was like an actual structure that could hold the weight of disagreement. And I think agreement is what we're building on right now. And it's so cheap. And so flimsy It cannot hold any dissonance. Whereas love can
0 (36m 38s):
So many things that I want to say in response. Like I'm because I'm so on board, I've got a, a quotation from Bishop Michael Curry, literally posted note on my window in front of me, I'm going to read it. And he said, love is not a sentiment. It is a commitment. Our democracy may well hang upon. And I think that just speaks to what you're talking about in terms. And I'm honestly, the name of this Podcast love is stronger than Fear came out of an essay. I wrote right the week after the 2016 election, because I similarly saw fear on both sides. I had Trump supporting friends and Clinton supporting friends and the reaction on both sides.
0 (37m 19s):
It was so much fear of the other side, as opposed to a real commitment and love to whatever principal's they were about as well as an ability to love across those divisions and commitments. Even though I really do think that we can do that, especially as we discover that common humanity that can, as you were saying, it doesn't make us all the same. It doesn't mean we don't see a difference. What it means is it allows us to actually celebrate that diversity because there's a freedom in it in recognizing I have needs that you only people who are different from me will be able to Phil and vice versa. There's like, I mean, you know, it can obviously sound really Pollyanna-ish, but I do think there is a beautiful vision of mutuality that can emerge if we are really digging down into and trusting.
0 (38m 10s):
And I love your idea of love as a container like that. It is able to bear the weight of, of all of it. Yes. I have like two more things I want to try to just squeeze into our time together. And the first one is just to ask what has been, what has been like the costs and the gains of making this change, because it's not just that you, I mean, it is you sold your, do you guys moved and you know, S broke ties with friends, family, whoever, at least in a physical way in terms of leaving. But I'm just curious, like, what does it cost you in whatever way you want to see that are to answer that.
0 (38m 50s):
And then also what has, what have you gained?
1 (38m 53s):
Well, I can sum it up really quickly for you. I lost everything and except my family and I gained everything. I mean, Jesus said, do you have to lose your life to find it? And that's unwittingly unintentionally that I stumbled into that, you know, I had no idea what that I was actually losing my life. Right. But it was, I, I lost all the things that I didn't realize we are giving me value. And I didn't know when we left Dallas that people living on RVs are considered like according to the national housing, whatever as homeless, which was really racked me when I found that out about it, I was like, Oh my gosh. But you know, these are these sort of stigma attached to us, our, our, our, our own value completely unknowingly it's in our subconscious.
1 (39m 42s):
And God loves me enough to push me out out of that safety boat and all of the things that I thought I needed to sort of keep me, like, what does the word safe even mean? Right. And so I lost everything that I didn't know is defining me. All of these other things that I was missing came swooping in and showed me what my life has really made for and, and what, what, what I want to live my life to do, which is to serve in any way I can to help bring people back to this place of our sin. What I call are sacred in an inner connectedness, love that I'm in you and you're in me.
1 (40m 26s):
And no matter how much I yell and scream at you, I can never change the reality that we are won. And this was the Jesus prayer that we would be one, is he in the father and Holy spirit or one. And that is what I have now committed my life to at great cost and it's worth it. Right. Right.
0 (40m 45s):
Well, just as we come to a close, I, I think it was Steven the head of the millennial action project who said, but it might not have been him. I'm not sure. It's also actually the very, very intro to the film when Van Jones does the, a little clip just to introduce it. It might've been in that scene. I can't remember who said this, but somebody said ours is a government of the people. And what that means is that change starts with us. And I was kind of haunted, like I fat by that line because I was like, that's a little bit scary, but it's also really empowering and hopeful. This thought that yes, we do elect people, but we are the ones that are doing that work. Like, and, and it's not just in terms of our political system in our elections, but in terms of just like what we are, how we are living in what we are caring about and where were putting our time and money and attention day in and day out.
0 (41m 36s):
And so I would love to end just by asking on a, you know, nitty gritty or a pragmatic level, like how you now are participating in the change that starts with us, and whether you have any advice for other people who are in that place of like, I want to take the next small step towards unity towards, you know, a Love all of the things we've been talking about. Right.
1 (41m 60s):
Well, I think we can start with our words. You know, it's so simple, but what we say, what we tweet, what we share, how do we go about addressing people who are, they might disagree with? Yeah. How we talk about them in front of our kids. These are the little sort of microscopic day to day decisions that are lumped altogether, make up a life. And my mom and my life to be marked by love. And Honor for my fellow human beings. Even the ones who are vehemently disagree with no one, no one has been neath deserving honor. And an honor, and respect are two different things.
1 (42m 43s):
Respect is earned over time. Sorry, my dog's barking, but Honor is something we can give freely just like love and Everyone is deserving of honor because everyone bears God his image. And even if they're, you know, committing atrocities, and I knew that this is hard, this was a hard thing to say. It's a hard thing to believe. But even in the act of committing horrible atrocities, no human being is outside the realm of redemption and Honor. And I think if we can start there and just say that out loud, right. Maybe just say it until you start to believe it. Well.
0 (43m 19s):
And even as I'm thinking about the pray for your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, right? Like anyone who I am tempted to call these people or those people, you know, anyone I'm tempted to put into some sort of oppositional group that I just have nothing in common with. It's like, okay, maybe how, what would it mean to Love? Honor pray for conceive of them as your a common image bearer.
1 (43m 48s):
I actually, this is crazy. I wrote a poem this morning, which is I haven't written a poem in like 10 years. But if you mind, if I share it with you, don't have it at all and dumb, but it gets to this exact point. It's called swords into plowshares. What are our weapons of warfare are words. Our freedom to speak has morphed into a license to kill. As we strip our fellow countrymen of the dignity inherent to their existence, we use our words to fight, to incite, to tear down. We use our words to wound, to attack, to maim and to shame no longer, or our disagreements, the vast places where we meet to explore and expand.
1 (44m 30s):
Our hearts are closed. Our minds made up, you have no beauty or brilliance. You have nothing to teach me. Your pain means nothing. Your story has no worth. You are dead. To me. The problem with this assessment is that no man can be dead to me no matter what he's done, because if he is dead then, so why am I? We are linked, woven together. Inextricably tied. We are, one of my life is wrapped up in his and his and mind to say his story has no worth to say he is dead his to say the same of myself. When I use my words to destroy my enemy, they work as a Slingshot coming back to destroy. None of them. And then me last year, enemies, pray for those of you or to hurt you.
1 (45m 12s):
This is the Slingshot of abundant life of the better tree. The beloved community stands before us beckoning us higher to find the better way this is the love. That believes all things that hopes all things. This is the love that never fails. It is not beyond our reach. It is not outside our door. It is here staring back at us in the face of it. That the one we have decided to destroy it, it is here. This Love this insane idea that I can love my neighbor as I love myself. Not because he matters, but because he matters to me, we are at a crossroads. It is time to make a choice. We use our words to liberate or use them to destroy us. We have to pass before us.
1 (45m 52s):
One is the easy one is hard, but to, to beat these weapons into Ploughshares is the best idea I've heard you see when you were made for each other. Me for you. And you know, for me, your story is my story. So without you, I'm in complete, we built a nation on shards of pain, generations of suffering generation's to blame the road ahead is filled with the stories that led us to today. Every one of the vital piece to the puzzle that we've made. So if you want the path ahead to lead to a brighter days, we can't take one more step until we look at the mistakes we've made not to shame us are to harm us or to bring this to our needs, but to show us and to heal and to grow us and to heal us of this disease sphere has been the fuel that forged these weapons.
1 (46m 37s):
We still use, but love can break them down to Ploughshares use them in ways we never knew. So let us sit together in that vast expanse of love and light. Let me hear your story in learn to listen. Instead of fight, there's so much living yet to do so much good to be done. Let's choose the path of freedom, where our words become the Ploughshares that feed us and make us one in every chain of the past can finally be broken. Every curse turned into prays of the beauty of the majesty of my brother's on display. Our differences are a gift meant to forge us to something new. They shape us in the fire to form the best me the best you Fear will only Rob me of the beauty that's within that love.
1 (47m 21s):
Can you give me eyes to see that being different is how we win. So as we stand in silence, staring at these paths ahead, I confess with all heart that I'm in you you're in me. Let us be one. As we were always meant to be
0 (47m 36s):
There's a lot in there that relate to a lot in there. Yes. Talking about no, I just, the Slingshot of Love, something like that in the air, like towards the end there and the beloved community is so beautiful. Thank you. Yeah.
1 (47m 49s):
Thank you for sharing that. Just, it just struck me. It was like, this is so deeply in my heart that I'm writing poetry about it. I'm not really into poetry, but yeah, no, that verse about being the, our plan, our swords into plowshares is that we read that verse in this. I was talking about our words,
0 (48m 7s):
But what we use to cut with one another down instead can be transformed into what we use to plow together to actually create something that is sustaining right now.
1 (48m 18s):
0 (48m 21s):
Yeah, absolutely. That's beautiful. Well Erin thank you. Thank you so much for your time. But also I'm just for your willingness to tell your story in multiple forms here on this podcast, but also in the film. And I do want to just make sure that our listeners know how to find out more about you. So will you just give a little plug for your website and so forth?
1 (48m 44s):
Sure. So our non-profit is undividednation that us and then I'm blogging and Erin Leaverton dot com and we're just, you know, we're, we're happy to serve in any way we can. We're we're working on a couple of projects to try and put tools in people's hands and I'm working on a book about motherhood. And I think motherhood is one Avenue that we can pursue to bring healing to our country. So awesome. Well,
0 (49m 18s):
So when that book comes out, we'll have to officially talk in a recorded way again, but hopefully if you and I will get to talk in between, so thank you again for your time.
1 (49m 27s):
She's like having me so much fun.
0 (49m 32s):
Thanks so much for listening to love is stronger than fear. I do again, want to encourage you to take the time to check out The Reunited States it's a film Reunited States that T V is the website for the film that you can go there, stream it on Amazon on that website. Reunited States that T V there are resources for having bridge-building conversations. And I would love for you to check those things out. As someone who cares about participating in healing and our country. I'd also love for you to share this episode, subscribe to this podcast. And of course, just give it a rating, give it a review wherever you find your podcasts, so that even more people can benefit from these conversations.
0 (50m 14s):
I always want to think our cohost Breaking, Ground my editor, Jake Hansen, Amber bury my social media coordinator and all of you, our wonderful listeners, as you go into your day to day, I hope you will carry with you. The peace that comes from believing that love is stronger than for you.
3 (50m 34s):