Sunday, February 21, 2010

Half the Sky

I am currently finishing "Half the Sky," a fantastic book about global gender equality by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I just read a section entitled "Family Planning and the 'God Gulf'" in which the authors talked about the difficulty of getting anything done on maternal health and population control issues due to the deep seated distrust and differences between conservative evangelicals, and secular liberals. They say:

"...There is a "God Gulf" in American foreign policy. Religion plays a particularly profound role in shaping policies on population and family planning, and secular liberals and conservative Christians regularly square off. Each side has the best of intentions, yet each is deeply suspicious of the other--and these suspicions make it difficult to forge a broad left-right coalition that would be more effective in confronting trafficking and overcoming the worst kinds of poverty."

I feel like I am in both of these worlds right now. In some ways I feel a part of both of these groups (there are people I love and respect who strongly represent each side) and I feel like I can envision a world where they could work together on this issue. But it is so sticky and difficult. Kristof and WuDunn go on in the chapter to give examples of each side's excellent work, as well as pitfalls. At the end of the chapter they say:

"If there is to be a successful movement on behalf of women in poor countries, it will have to bridge the 'God Gulf.' Secular bleeding hearts and religious bleeding hearts will have to forge a common cause. That's what happened two centuries ago in the abolitionist movement, when liberal deists and conservative evangelicals joined forces to overthrow slavery. And it's the only way to muster the political will to get now-invisible women onto the international agenda."

I agree whole-heartedly. And here I am, feeling like I am in both of those camps at the same time in different ways, and all it seems I can do is make everyone confused by "what side I am really on." Is it completely impossible to not take a side? For these sides to acknowledge their differences, yet find common ground in education? In saving the women's lives that they can?

Diverse groups waging war on social ills instead of each other. Eboo Patel talks about that a lot. Many people I respect talk about that a lot. I talk about that a lot.

Is this idealism, or a real vision of what the future is? I pray I can do my part to help to make the latter the reality.