That’s how I feel right now when it comes to politics. I’m just sick of it all. Left, Right, you name it.
Buffalo Springfield had a great line in one of his songs that summarizes the situation:
There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
(Source: Buffalo Springfield, For what it’s worth. Released Jan. 1967.)
I’m tired of the political maneuvering and distractions about things that don’t matter. I’m tired of people pitching a fit over these things and not paying attention to things that do matter. I’m tired of policy that divides people and appears to back up the claims of those who hate us.
I’m tired of people all of a sudden discovering the constitution and being opposed to executive orders when they had no problem with them just a couple of months ago. I’m tired of people all of a sudden forgetting the constitution and being silent on the use of executive orders when they were vocally opposed to them just a couple of months ago.
The hypocrisy is getting to me. The lack of respect in how we treat each of is getting to me. The finger-pointing, blaming, shaming, and demands for conformity of thought are getting to me. I don’t know if I’m in a first grade lunch room with no lunch monitors or if I’ve been plunged into a psych ward where the patients are running the show.
Christians – I have some pointed questions for you. Does what Christ calls us to be only impact the private part of our lives? Does it go beyond that? All the way to politics? Or is there a wall a separation between our private lives and politics and partisanship? I’m not talking about whether we have a responsibility to oppose unjust policies. I’m talking about the way we do that. The same applies to those Christians who support these controversial orders – how are you interacting with opponents?
I’m starting to think that there are many Christians who have interpreted Christ’s call to love each other as only applying to those who think correctly – which happens to match up with their political ideology. That’s not Christ’s teaching, that the Pharisee’s teaching. We are called to love our enemies because they are children of God too. That doesn’t mean you have to like them or what they stand for. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. You could very easily think they are completely wrong. That’s not the point. They, as a person, still deserve respect. Forget about how they treat you. Christ’s teaching isn’t about that. Christ doesn’t teach karma, but rather grace. It’s a call for each one of us to live what Christ teaches. It’s not about going around and trying to change everyone else. You can’t. Take a look around at our political discourse, that’s proof enough isn’t it?
Do you honestly expect to change someone’s opinion on a religious or political matter? How do you go about doing that? Do you focus on being right? Do you expect people to give up a belief about politics or religion and adopt your way of thinking on any given subject by approaching them as an enemy, attacking them with facts and figures like they are bullets and bombs, and then throwing insults at the person like hand grenades? How well do you think that will work? If this is your method, how well has it worked so far? Made any converts? Or maybe you’re just not interested in converting anyone – you just want to point out how wrong they are and assume they will figure out that you are right and come on over on their own. This is insanity.
Imagine if I wanted to convince you, an apple eater, that oranges are better. Using the above method, I’d probably throw around a few facts about vitamin C, about the benefits of citrus, etc. I’d also probably then want to point out how terrible apples are and then throw a few insults at you for be such a Neanderthal for continuing to eat apples – I might even through a few dehumanizing labels at you for added effect along with a meme that has a snappy one liner that essentially claims that anyone who believes that apples are better is an idiot. I wonder, would this be convincing to you? Did I convert you?
Yet, this is the method that I see play out every single day – in conversations, on the radio, on social media, on TV, in churches, with sports, regarding politics, etc. We’re verbally hitting each other in the gut, over the head, in the face, and kneeing each other where it hurts and expecting the other person to just give up their beliefs and come to our side. Why? Who in their right mind would? When did “might makes right” become a Christian virtue and teaching of Christ? When we attack someone or make threats against them and their identity, their human nature to fight or flight kicks in. There is not human natural reaction called “let’s sit down and talk about this like adults.” That’s a learned behavior that apparently needs a great deal of work.
Yesterday I asked a question – do the ends justify the means? If the ends justify the means, then you should have no problem with the attack approach and you should expect it from your opposition. Never mind that there are people along the journey. When our beliefs become most important, people are just check marks, or tools, or bumps in the road – objects to be dealt with.
But if the process and how we get to the end matters, then the people along the way matter. And when people are involved, it’s going to be messy and take a greater amount of time, require forgiveness, reconciliation, listening, and understanding. There’s no nice and easy straight path from point A to point B.
But I can hear the whining now – “But they started it.” Enough already. When will this cycle end? Waiting for someone else to take the first step? Why can’t you? Or is this whole Christianity thing a bit too much for you? Maybe you’re starting to get an inkling of what Christ meant when he said “take up your cross and follow me.” It’s not fun, it’s not easy. It’s not feeling all righteous. It’s not about being justified in responding to violence and hatred with hatred and violence – either verbal or physical. It’s not an eye for an eye. It’s an end to the way of death that all of that leads to.
If we treat people with respect, even and especially those who are our enemies, by listening, forgiving and asking for forgiveness, showing mercy, etc., the message you are sending is that you care very deeply about the person. It’s also a huge risk. Apparently a risk not enough Christians are willing to take. You don’t have to agree on anything else, but I can tell you that over time, this method will work much better thank bashing other people. It works because what really happens is we let go of believing that we have all the answers and instead we learn and we care and follow Christ’s self-emptying example. We learn how issues are about people and are messy and that what we thought we knew for sure is just not that simple. And so do those that interact with us. And we move closer to the truth – which is what we’re really seeking isn’t it? It’s just that so many would rather believe that they have the Truth already and they are not required to change ever – those other wrong-headed people need to change. But that isn’t a recipe for life. Things that are alive grow and change and adjust. Things that are dead never need to grow – they just decompose and fall apart and are consumed and disappear and are forgotten.
I’m tired of feeling like the adult in a room full of sugared up three year-olds. I’m tired of listening to the name calling, the insults, the power struggles, the drama, the power plays, the screwing with people’s lives, the anger, the fear, the mistrust and disrespect. I’m tired of feeling anxious every time I open Facebook because I see the level of interaction getting worse and thinking about where that inevitably ends. I’m tired of the demands for conformity of thought and belief. I’m tired of the left vs. right. I’m tired of trampling on people because they are different. I’m tired of the spin and lies. I’m tired.
Yet, I’m also called to be in this world, just like you are. I can’t do this alone and neither can you. We have to find a way to live in the same neighborhood. The only way that I know of where people can live peacefully with differences is the way that Christ laid out. The focus of his message wasn’t on badgering and beating people into submission – but to change the world by being different, thinking different, and as a result acting differently towards one another, ourselves, God, and the rest of creation. Can we just give it a try? We’ve been trying this whole war/conflict model for a long time now and it doesn’t seem to be working.
I’m not going wait for your answer – I’m just going to start. I hope you’ll join, but regardless, I’ll still listen, seek understanding, ask questions, attempt to show mercy, forgiveness, and love to you. I may not agree with you – I may think you are wrong on any given subject. That’s ok. You probably think I’m wrong too. Great. Let’s talk like adults. I still love you and want the best for you and your family. I’ll pray for you – an honest prayer, not one that tries to manipulate God into changing you to be like me. I’m going to screw up along the way, and I hope I have enough courage to ask for forgiveness. This is what I understand Jesus’ call to be for my life. And with the Spirit’s guidance and God’s help – I’ll respond.