“What do you think about….”
That’s how the conversation started. I was standing at the back of the church, as I always do, welcoming people as they came in. One of the members of the congregation came in the door and said “What do you think about this whole immigration business.” I wasn’t quite mentally ready for such a question. I was expecting a “hello” first. But that’s the way life is sometimes.
So I stammered a little bit, caught off guard. “I…uh…well…” I was forming thoughts in my head but they weren’t ready to come out yet. That’s when I stopped and realized, I have no idea what I was walking into. So instead I responded by saying “Why do you ask?”
The gentleman proceeded to express his opinion about the matter, expressing fears that he had and questions that probably have no answer. I just listened. I felt compassion for him and I acknowledged the concerns that he had.
I don’t think he really wanted to hear my thoughts on immigration. I think he needed someone to listen to him and the concerns and fears that he had. In the end I never expressed what I thought about immigration. It wasn’t necessary for me to.
But do I think about divisive issues we face in our country. Issues like abortion, gay marriage, taxes, immigration, defense, the environment, foreign policy, the judiciary, etc.?
I have thoughts about each of these, but I’m coming to realize a few things – I’m a bit surprised by how long it has taken me to realize this. I think that if we assume changing one law or policy is going to change the situation, we are fooling ourselves.
These issues are far more complicated than just having the proper law or policy. There is no silver bullet that will solve all of our problems, even for one issue.
I think we place far too much trust and hope in our politicians and system of government to come up with the solutions to the problems we face. I think we shift responsibility onto them to solve our problems for us. That way we can either experience vicarious victory because they did what we like, or we get to whine and moan because they didn’t.
I think the more importance we place on our national political leaders, the further detached we are from the solutions. I think we ceded our responsibility to act when we see an injustice around us or we expect someone else to help someone in need. It’s their responsibility after all – that’s why we pay taxes right?
I think we think our role in society is to voice an opinion on every issue we are presented with and have a firm answer. It’s what we expect of our elected officials to do, don’t we?
I think we think too short term because our attention spans are minuscule. So many of these issues are long term and deal with historical trends, culture, and so much more – they are very complicated. Yet we seem to expect that they can be reduced down to something so simple and clear.
I think we place our faith at the foot of partisan loyalties. When the reverse should be true.
I think we forget that there are more options than just either being for something or against something.
Let’s take one complicated issue for example – abortion. What do I believe about Roe v. Wade. Am I for the law or want it overturned? I think we spend far too much time fighting over the legality, rather than actually dealing with the situation. I want to get society to a point where it doesn’t matter what the law is because we’ve changed society so that abortion isn’t even needed. I want there to be unconditional support and love for mothers and their children so that whatever needs they have, they are taken care of. I want us to do that because we actually follow through on our belief that life is precious and to be cared for. I want there to be a situation where our culture changes to support life at all stages because this is what we believe. This requires a change in the whole culture though – from entertainment, to insurance, to health care, to work, to pay, to neighborhoods, to taxes, to everything else. I think it’s real easy to sit around and debate a law and expect that a law is going to change people just because the law changes. I think it’s far more difficult, but more worthwhile to see a change in our culture. Maybe I’m just ignorant, but I see this as what we are called to. I don’t think we are called to place all hope and salvation in the law. Should we have laws, sure. Should they change – if that will actually help. Should we place more trust and hope in them than they deserve, no. The law is just one piece of the puzzle. Maybe it’s a start. But so often it seems like once the law has changed the clamor for the issue at hand vanishes. We changed a law, all of our problems must be solved.
I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t do anything on these issues because they are too big. Instead, I’m arguing that the law is just one piece, one part. And honestly, I’m not convinced it is the most important part. How we live and interact is far more important I think. That goes beyond a law or policy.