Let us call each other friends: Allies, friends, and identity in politics and religion today

Stephanie MacGillivray, Research and Policy Officer for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, explores how the social teaching of the Catholic Church can be a helpful source for discussing identity today.

Identity has become one of the most contentious topics of our time, and it is becoming more regularly stated that, due to political and cultural events, people, institutions, and societies are feeling a sense of existential crisis. Examples of this are seen in literature addressing climate change, the rise of terrorism and threat to religious freedom, gender, Brexit, as well as more ‘abstract’ concepts such as freedom and responsibility.

Fuelling this is a coarsening of public discourse which we have seen both politically and socially. Just a few years ago it wasn’t implausible for people of differing religious or political views to maintain friendships. People were more likely to find some merit in aspects of other people’s views, and acknowledgement did not have to mean agreement.

The central premise of this article is that the scriptural and social teachings of the Catholic Church are helpful for discussing identity today. Not only are they useful for understanding self-identity, but they can also make positive contributions to our relationships with each other. Furthermore, I will posit that the increasingly popular language of ‘allies’ over ‘friends’ is unhelpful for cultivating meaningful relationships, and I will advocate for a move towards a discourse of friendship, love and mercy in politics, religion and human relationships today.

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