In the past couple of weeks, we have become very aware of scars in our nation. Anyone who knows me, knows I have strong opinions…always. But this isn’t the place for my opinions. It is also not the place for any of my political views…or any specific political discussions. That is not the purpose of my blog and it distracts us from our purpose here on earth.
I have also been finding that declaring my own political views can often be detrimental to others. This is difficult I have to say. I have usually lived in places where it was safe to be able to discuss politics. Frankly, I find it interesting…and I learn a lot from it. However, with the coming of language and views that have been described as “politically correct,” I have had difficulty.
Largely because I have lived overseas, I have never fit politically correct categories on either side of the aisle. I register for a party because it is easier to vote in primaries, but over the years, I have voted for candidates of both parties for different reasons. During the times I have been able to participate in calm discussions of politics, I have learned a lot.
Have you been able to learn to discuss a political topic where you have a different opinion simply so you can learn from those who have a different opinion from you? That means not making a case for your belief, but asking questions to draw out their belief.
For example, we are not gun people, but we were finally able to have a discussion, a calmish one, during our later years in TX, about guns. I learned a lot about why those who feel so strongly about guns want them. These were not maniacs or crazy people as presented in the media at times. I don’t expect to be buying a gun anytime soon. But I gained insight into some new dimensions on why they feel they are important for protection. I know others who have the same or similar views who don’t live in TX…or even in the South! It isn’t simply a southern view or even a view held by purely conservative voting people.
GOD puts us in places where we are forced to learn things we never expected to in ways we didn’t want!
In terms of government help for the poor? I never liked it. Then I met my husband. His mom was widowed young with two sons left to raise. She was working hard–2-3 jobs at times. She was teaching in a country school and going to college in the summers to finish off her degree. If it hadn’t been for widows benefits from social security to help with her two sons, she would have had an even more difficult time. (This was in the 1950’s.) They helped her get them through college along with their working, of course. Those benefits were not a hand-out for some lazy person sitting around doing nothing. She needed the help. She was working harder than anyone I could imagine! Once again, I was silenced. I needed to have my preconceived ideas challenged.
Once again, after we returned from Jamaica as missionaries when the government wouldn’t renew our work permits, we were out of work for nearly 2 years. During that whole time Ron was looking for work. (It takes a long time for ministry positions to process.) I was working as an RN. He took the time to finish the D.Min he had started, hoping to make himself more marketable. (Instead, it often worked against him.) We had free rent for 1 year at some missionary homes. We would get right down to the last minute, then, the job would fall through! It was 2 years of roller coaster living!
The second year, we were not able to live in the missionary housing. Where to live? We had to live in government assisted housing. My income wasn’t enough to pay for the rent. Ron got a part-time job at Sears as well. We still didn’t make enough money. I think that was one of Ron’s darkest days. For me, I knew we couldn’t work any harder than we were. We still had a pre-schooler so between the two of us, we needed to take care of her along with our other two kids when they weren’t in school. When we moved there, we thought it would only be a few months. But once again, another promising job fell through! GOD teaches us things we don’t always want to learn. He also gives us compassion for people we don’t expect to care for too!
Can’t our churches help more? Or cooperate with government plans?
Yes, our churches do help some people. Yes, some take advantage by working the system by being lazy. I totally know that. But it seems that we need to have something in place to help the innocent and huge number of single moms. I have worked with many of them in the hospital! Child care for them, is a nightmare! They often need to work extra shifts to keep managing. This makes childcare even more difficult! Of course, it would be better for the some, to be getting married, not using drugs, getting jobs, etc. But help is needed for many who are trying to work to keep their families surviving. The fact is, it is a pro-life issue too!
Another truism is this, we live in a horribly fallen world and culture. Somehow, we need to find a way to care for some of these people better than we are now. I think the Church could do a better job. So could the government. Some communities do a better job of working together on it than others. I would love to see the two work together somehow. I fear that may be a pipe dream since our hands are tied in terms of sharing the gospel. But there are a lot of creative people working together in some communities. I applaud them and love it!
Is there a way we can learn to discuss political issues as issues and not attack each other? I didn’t say it is easy. But it is a skill we all need to learn if there is going to be progress in solving some of these problems.
Talking about politics calmly, helps us discuss these problems as problems vs. attacking people who think differently about these issues and calling them stupid. That is just horrid. Just because my solution is different from yours doesn’t make me any more intelligent or any more or less caring than yours.
People who want to encourage people to work more vs. living on hand-outs care about them and want them to have the feeling of pride in a job well-done. It does a lot for a person’s sense of self-worth to do a job well and get paid for it. Particularly for men, they can come home and feel proud that they did a day’s work and look their wife and kids in the eye with pride. But in all this, we need to meet people where they are and work in the areas where they feel there are problems first.
The whole concept that a person can’t disagree without it being personal is just…well, a little weird! We all have different perspectives on life. Surely, we can understand that by the time we get to adulthood, we will have different perspectives. One person is more concerned for one aspect of the community than others, another has a different concern. By the time you put a group of 20 adults together, you will have 20 different opinions on how to do something. They won’t all be radically different, but they will have differences based on differences in life experience, temperament, faith beliefs, skills, talents, etc. you can imagine my horror when I see Christian attacking the political views of others online as being stupid or dumb simply because they are different from theirs. It is just not loving or Christ-like.
Bridging the gap? Unlikely to be done by talking. Logic doesn’t help emoters. Emoters don’t help logicians. We tend to talk on different planes. Crossing over doesn’t happen often. Touching hearts is even more rare.
As I think about how to bridge the gap, I don’t think any amount of talking will work…by itself. Part of the problem is that one group is more oriented to facts and logic. The other group is more oriented to feelings. This isn’t hard and fast, but generally, this seems to be the case. So the more the fact people talk and give their logic, the less the feeling people hear them and in fact, the more irritated they become!
And the opposite happens. The more the feeling people emote, the less it registers with the fact people. Not many people are able to bridge the gap and when you toss in people with nefarious motives, looking to secure their power structures for example, and there are some in the mix on both sides, you have higher and higher walls being built between the two divides making communication more difficult as motives are questioned more and more.
That’s when the Scripture we read below is so wise!
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves,
and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
II Chronicles 7:14
What is He telling us to do?
Humble ourselves. Listening instead of talking is part of humbling yourself. It also has to do with an attitude that says, “I don’t know everything. I need to learn from you.”
Pray and seek my face. GOD is so much bigger than our personal abilities to debate or convince others. GOD is able to work…in history, in people, in circumstances. He is able to change our hearts and cause us to repent as well! Where are our blind spots? He reveals them. Where are we failing to be obedient? He will make it clear.
I will heal. This is what will come of our prayers and the humbling of ourselves.
Call to Action: Start practicing listening more and speaking less, particularly when it comes to political conversations. I’m hoping to take my own advice. Let us remember that we are not simply listening in a vacuum. We are going to be learning to be humble. How can we learn from the perspective of someone else? What are the needs and concerns of others?
See Part II, Part III