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Norman Public Library hosts workshop on engaging with "right-wing religious" voters

Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report
Ivan Wohner on a video conference call at the Norman Public Library Central.
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NORMAN, Okla. – Indivisible Oklahoma recently organized a video conference with Ivan Wohner on “How to successfully engage with the religious right” at the Norman Public Library Central.

Wohner is a former Baptist evangelical missionary living in Washington, D.C.,  who joined the resistance against Trump’s agenda. Wohner used his previous experiences as evangelical to teach progressive Normanites how to change the way people to interact with each other via multi-sessions classes.

"If you've ever thought that discussing politics with a religious voter was like engaging with a cult member, you're more right than you know. The techniques that the evangelical Christian extremists use to ‘win souls for Christ’ are the same ones they use to create political disciples,” Wohner said.

Wohner said the main problem encountered when talking with someone with an opposite view, in this case, a progressive and a religious right person, is the lack of trust leading to the impossibility to interact. And therefore, subjects of discussion such as environment, abortion and immigration often turn into trench warfare.

“I am afraid that as a country we are splitting ourselves in a way with somebody ideologically online with who we are,” Wohner said. A feeling that is amplified by Trump’s rhetorics.

However, former evangelic Wohner pointed out that the religious right shouldn't be confounded with a religious person or a religious Republican. The religious right has been taught than one day their faith will be challenged, therefore are ready to fight against any threat.

Then Wohner described four criteria points needed when talking to someone with a different point-of-view; empathy, patience, love, and unity. Another point not to neglect, the Kruger effect, the psychological phenomenon of illusory superiority.

"You need to know what motivates a person and why they want what they want," Wohner said, adding the most important is not to try to convincing everyone but rather "to change people's minds in a more effective way."

Besides data and other information about the religious right, Wohner described the concept of DADE cycle for Discern, Analyze, Determine, and Engage. A code inspired from the Airforce, called OODA loop. The decision cycle as for purpose "to reach a decision, implement results, learn from those results, and connecting those outcomes toward the process of making new decisions."

The session was well appreciated by the attendees, even if some admitted that it still will be difficult to talk rationally with a religious right people because of their strong commitment to their beliefs.

Attendees present at the workshop at the Norman Public Library Central. (Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report)

Wohner who received a religious education due to his father being a pastor comes to switch side when he started questioning himself about the real meaning of love. After years of research on the Bible, other religions and questioning his faith, he finally agreed that "everybody is wrong."

Indivisible Norman Oklahoma is part of the national Indivisible including over 40 groups in Oklahoma for a total of 5,983 groups nation-wide. 

The role of Indivisible is to stop Trump's agenda by pressuring the members of Congress to resist Trump's agenda by participating in town halls and other local public events, visiting the district office and organizing coordinated calls to elected members, similar tactics that made the Tea Party successful. 

For more information go to Indivisible’s website

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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