Sunday, January 10, 2021

For the First Time in My Life I Don't Feel I Can Speak My Mind

I have always been a very open person.  I share my opinions whenever I'm asked -- and often when I'm not.

So it's been a really weird world for me the last few years.   Our country is getting increasingly more dichotomized and it is making it more difficult for me to express my opinions about things that matter a lot to me.

Why?  Because for the first time ever I cannot see both sides and because I love you.

I love you whether or not you agree with me, but I am afraid that if you know how much I disagree with you, you might not want to love me back.

How did we get here?

I have an amazingly diverse group of people who are my Facebook friends.  I have friends who are drag queens, atheists, agnostics, people of other world religions, transgendered, and friends of all races.  I have friends who are the most conservative and the most liberal on the spectrum between the two.  And I love them all.

The ironic thing is that if I post all over my Facebook about the things that are very much "Christian" my atheist, agnostic, and other-world religion proponents are ok with that.  They accept me for who I am and don't want to end their relationship with me because I disagree with them.

But I am very cautious to put anything out there that might offend my Christian friends.  I am afraid that I might lose their respect or their friendship if even hint at not agreeing with them 100%.

How did we get here?

When I look at what happened this past week at the Capitol, I ask myself how in the world we are going to be able to convince the world that Christianity stands for mercy, forgiveness, peace, and most of all, love.  Somehow Christian has begun to equal a particular political party and the ideals of the most extreme members of that party.   We are losing ground as a church.

How did we get here?

I don't know how it happened, but suddenly I am occasionally ashamed to be a "Christian."  This doesn't mean that I am ashamed of the gospel -- because the gospel and the way that Christianity is being proclaimed right now don't even match up.

I feel compelled to write stuff, but I guess I don't trust the people I love so much to respond in a way that would be affirming or helpful based on what I have seen them post on Facebook, and so I feel like I shouldn't say anything.

I'm actually hoping nobody reads this.

But I think it is time that we who are able to be Christians without tying it to politics need to stand up and say "this is not OK" without fearing that there will be repercussions from people that we love.


Servetus said...

[1/2] "There is a second like it: Love your neighbor as yourself," I had to memorize as a child. "All the Law and the prophet hang on these two commandments." Lately, when seeing what many of my Christian friends are experiencing, I often think of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (or however the US title is) where Dumbledore awards Neville points and says "It's hard to stand up to our enemies but it's even harder to stand up to our friends." It seems to me that many Christians made a Faustian bargain -- they traded their capacity to think and live according to actual Christian ideals for the sacrifices they had to make to get (the feeling of) political power. If I wanted to be brutal: they traded their spiritual integrity for the capacity to force the rest of us to live according to their ideals. But many of them seem to have reduced Christianity to anti-abortion or homophobia, as if those positions were either essentially Christian or the most important ideas that Christianity has to share. That is a misrepresentation of the religion and the ideas originally at its core.

I've been reading you since the "puke on a blog" days, though I don't follow you on FB. I also have not been a Christian for more than thirty years, but I am still a Christianity-watcher and very interested in US politics. I take the central point of Christianity to be the sacrifices G-d made on the part of sinful humanity, i.e., John 3:16: i.e., unconditional love that gives up everything to help others, no matter what. There's a lot of admirable teaching in the Gospels, but I think humans in general and many Christians I know in particular cherrypick. I know you are "pro life" and I don't agree with that, but your account of your experiences with your children reveals that you are not in the camp of the people who just choose the parts of Christianity they like or that are easy, and ignore the rest of it. You really are forgiving your brother 70 times 7, 24/7. And I don't have the impression that you're trying to force anyone to live according to your ideals. If I didn't have that impression, I wouldn't bother leaving this comment.

I don't see a lot of "love your neighbor as yourself" in the public face of Christianity these days, at least on the national level, and I don't know why so many actual Christians on the ground appear not to notice what's really happening, or else don't think it's significant enough to intervene. There's an "ends justify the means" rationality at work that is entirely alien to the Gospel among much of the most prominent Christian leadership. As long as they get their pro-life judges they can live with the rest of what's being done in their names.

It's really not an excuse to say that humans are sinful (the president, his supporters, etc.) and that Christians aren't better than others, "just forgiven." One can't be forgiven before one repents of sin (it's sort of like the implausibility of a self-pardon in advance), and forgiveness is supposed to be, sooner or later, transformational and sanctifying for the person who's forgiven. I don't see a lot of that these days, either.

Servetus said...

The question is what would have to happen for Christians to change, and from my perspective a huge piece of the problem is that all of us (not just Christians) have given up Matthew 18:15. It's so much easier on social media just to complain about other people's behaviors and beliefs than it is to address them directly about them. So people feel attacked all the time because they see themselves in the complaints. Correspondingly, what I find is that when I talk to someone directly about my issue with them, it's seen as too confrontational. It becomes impossible for anyone to change their behavior because it becomes impossible to have conversations about it.

As far as worrying about what your friends will think -- I think it's important not to be inflammatory or sarcastic. That's delegitimating to one's own position, esp for Christians (how can you say "love one another" when you're pointing your fingers at everyone else but yourself?). But I do think we all have to ask who our friends really are and figure out what we can and can't accept in them. "You cannot serve G-d and Mammon." Substitute "a political party" for "Mammon" in this sentence. Everyone's going to have to decide (not just Christians).