Former Gov. Bill Haslam tackles public divisions, politics, and religion in upcoming book

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is using his time outside of elected office to find solutions for the political polarization facing the country. He outlines some of the reasons behind the growing division and ways he believes faith can change the dialogue going forward in his new book, “Faithful Presence, The Promise and Peril of Faith in the Public Square.”

“I think almost everybody in the country, no matter where you are on the political spectrum, is bothered by how polarized we are today. We’re not just incredibly partisan, but we’re mad at the other side. We even think the other side has bad motives.”

Bill Haslam, Former Tennessee Governor

While he acknowledged the political arena has been a blood sport for some time, he does think there are biblical solutions. In his book, Haslam cites scripture to give an alternative to the way we approach political disagreements today. “We’re supposed to actually act different,” he said.

“My position is that we need to separate those things we believe as a matter of policy from the things we know are clear biblical truth. Our clearest Christian call addresses the way we conduct ourselves. The call to be different, to love our neighbor regardless of political and cultural differences, and to walk with humility and kindness is not up for political debate.”

Excerpt from “Faithful Presence, The Promise and Peril of Faith in the Public Square

The book outlines how civility, even truth, has taken a back seat to attack ads, misinformation, confirmation bias, and hostility on social media.

Haslam makes the case that Christians are called to speak the truth with love, and emphasized the importance of observing both.

“I would say that if we would all enter with a different spirit of humility, I think we could have a different level of discussion,” he said.

While Haslam said it’s important for a person to stay true to their convictions, he believes it’s also important to approach disagreements and policy discussions with an intent to “actually hear the other side of the argument.”

He thinks the same biblical-backed method should be applied when considering racial issues.

“I’d argue part of the gospel message is to not just look through the world in our own eyes and realize if you’re a person of color life is probably harder…it’s still way too hard to be Black in America. That’s just true…I think it’s that living with sympathy and empathy that should define us,” he said.

The former Governor believes there is an appetite for this style of civility in leadership because many are “exhausted” with the ongoing divide.

“I think the passion that we have brought, the people of faith have brought, to some of these issues because they do care, we do care so much, has left us coming into those debates without that humility and meekness that scripture is clear about. there are some other things Scripture is not clear about, but it’s really clear about those things,” he said.

Haslam wrote in his book the motivation for the publication is rooted in a deep concern for the direction of the country, not a quest for another public office. While he has no immediate plans for public office, he is keeping an open mind.

You can find the book in stores May 25.

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