I lost a friend today. An old High School friend of mine wrote to me via facebook this morning to tell me he was angry and insulted by the postings from some of my more liberal facebook friends. Not only did he find those postings offensive, but went on to say that I appeared to him to be just as liberal, unbalanced and evil as them, and so he wanted nothing to do with me in the future, either.
I find this both puzzling, and sad.
Puzzling because a recent attempt of mine to become associated with an organization was derailed (at least in part) by some of its representatives who did not seem to believe that I could be appreciative of a number of conservative Christian organizations (that I’ve either worked-for or been a member-of in the past) and yet still consider myself a progressive Christian. They seemed troubled by my refusal to denounce those organizations and what they stand for. Instead, I emphasized the positive things that I found in them and my admiration and respect for the earnest and godly people that work for and support them.
So, I am apparently seen as too liberal by some and too conservative by others: I guess I must be doing something right.
What I find sad about my friend’s rejection, and about the other challenge I mentioned, is that in both cases I was dealing with people that I find to be dedicated, intelligent, wonderful human beings. They are all very sincere and heartfelt in their beliefs and very dedicated to the causes they support. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it is a good thing. Further, there are many things that each of these people consider to be heartfelt values that I also value. In fact, I see more commonality in their respective values than I do difference. My sadness here is because it seems that in both cases they do not see the commonality I see. Worse still, there is a refusal to acknowledge that the “other side” has any legitimacy at all. And so, rather than seeking to understand, respect and embrace their fellow human beings – something I believe the Bible teaches us we must do – they are both not listening to each other and are each seeking to cut off debate before it has begun. They are both refusing to allow relationship to occur, perhaps knowing in their hearts that entering into relationship means taking the risk of being changed by that relationship. In both cases, it seems they have decided that change is something they will not be open to, except on their own terms. There is a refusal to learn and a refusal to appreciate that the spark of the divine exists in all of us, and needs to be valued by all of us.
Now, I want to be very careful in saying all of this – as I am sure I will receive critical comments both from those who are more conservative and those who are more liberal, each concerned that I am supporting the views of the other “side.”
What I’m getting at is that to me, there is no “side.” We are all human, we are all pathfinders on this journey we all share called life, and we are all imperfect. We need to support, learn from and share with each other. We need to listen to each other, and we need to love each other. We all stand equal before the divine, whether you identify your conception of the Divine with the term “G*d”, “Jesus”, “Allah” or “Brahman”. For me to criticize the wonderful people I have worked with in the past would be, to me, a betrayal not only of my friendship with them and my appreciation of the wonderful people they were and are, but a violation of Christ’s command to love one another. Similarly, I see both wisdom and willful blindness on both sides in the rancorous political debates occurring within our country at the present time.
All too frequently I run into folks who do not seem to realize that they are being just as obstinate, close minded and reactionary (in the sense of reacting before thinking) as those they condemn for being so on the other side of the religious and/or political fence. It’s time to listen to one another, it’s time to show each other the radical love that God wants us as Christians to have for each other. It’s time to moderate our own voices and listen to what our fellow human beings have to say.
We may not like the causes they espouse, but behind each person’s support of any cause are hopes, dreams and fears. There are reasons why they feel those causes are legitimate. What I have always found is that when one starts digging into those reasons, to see behind what is being said to find what is being felt, to really listen, there is much more that we share than not. It is time to focus on that commonality and to act upon it, realizing that we cannot get agreement for the solution we see as ideal, but also realizing that we do not know the whole story, and that the only way to get a fuller understanding is to come to understand and appreciate why those we differ with believe as they do. This is what the founding fathers of this country believed, and their wisdom has stood the test of time.
So, I will remain “radically moderate” – always (I hope) willing to listen, willing to learn, and willing to love.
Copyright (c) 2011, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved. I’m happy to share my writings with you, as long as you are not seeking (or getting) financial benefit for doing so, and as long as proper credit for my authorship is given (via mention of my name on your site, or a link back to this site).