Posts Tagged ‘Democrats’

If You Ever Wished You Could Quit the Human Race…

…join the crowd.

I’d be happy to take a long hiatus from the current version of homo sapiens, because we’re a hot mess. The rage and hatred in the public square are becoming unbearable. As if that weren’t bad enough, I see this same spirit infecting other parts of our life together. Even in my beloved hobby, whose members are family to me, the charges and countercharges, white-hot social media fury, choosing up sides and fighting are on full display.

Now, with the news of the past couple of weeks—pipe bombs in the mail, lives lost at a Pittsburgh synagogue—all of this has shaded into a new level of violence. As it had to. Spew enough words, create enough rage, and weapons often follow.

Bottom line, we’ve done a lot of damage in the past two years. We’ve wreaked a lot of havoc. The damage will take time and space and work to heal. And until we heal, we’ll be very vulnerable to further pain. No wonder people are hiding out, keeping to themselves, refusing to converse, bowling alone.

With all my heart I want to join them. Two things give me pause, and they both came up in silent prayer recently–where so many things come up, courtesy (I believe) of the Spirit.

Thing 1: notice the pronouns two paragraphs above. We’ve done a lot of damage. We’ve wreaked a lot of havoc. Like it or not, I’m one of them—one of us—which means I have to own my own inner dross. It’s true that I make a point of not spewing rage and drama. But the seeds of it live in my heart too, just like they live in most everyone’s heart.

In short, I’m stuck with us. We’re stuck with us.

Thing 2 comes from my orientation as a Christian. Just by our species’ status as still alive and walking around, it’s evident to me that God has not given up on the human race. Quite the opposite when you consider Christianity’s central story: that God, in the person of Jesus, became every bit as human as you and me. That he drank the human experience to its dregs, right down to a humiliating public execution. God is quoted as saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” and the Christ story proves it.

If God’s sticking with us, and I have to imitate God (Ephesians 5:1 from the Christian scriptures), that obliges me to stick with us too.

Do I have enthusiasm for this? Oh hell no. Sometimes, though—especially in the chaos that rage and hatred inevitably cause—it’s good to throw a stake in the ground and say, “I have to stand here. I cannot do otherwise.” Then, with that stake keeping me tethered to the good and true, I can do the inner work to figure out how on earth I’m going to follow God’s call with a whole heart.

 

Rules and Rascals and the Dialogue Between Them

We all have our own “folk wisdom” about the way the world works. As we live out our lives, we observe things and create hypotheses from them. I suspect that most of this folk wisdom holds at least a grain of truth and a dollop of wisdom.

One of my folk wisdoms goes by the name of “rules and rascals.”

Here’s how it works. Many circumstances in the human condition—particularly the social, political, and religious dimensions—are subject to the interplay of two forces. The rules express the way things are, the conditions at the time, the “shoulds” of our life together. In some cases, the reasons are clear and the rules compelling. Thou shalt not kill is as relevant today as when God handed down the message to Moses millennia ago. In other cases, the rules were established in a completely different time and place, sometimes for reasons now lost to history.

Meanwhile, the rascals are those people who push against the rules, test their validity, and toss out directives that no longer apply or, worse, have destroyed people’s lives. The word rascal is often thought of as pejorative, but not here. Under this definition, Martin Luther King, Jr., was a rascal. So was Gandhi. The rules they confronted absolutely had to come down.

Alas, the “right” or “wrong” of any given rule or rascal is not always as clear as Thou shalt not kill or Dr. King’s mission. Some workplaces, for instance, might push the ideal of collaboration into every practice and procedure. A rascal might push back on that, not by rejecting collaboration utterly, but by pointing out the value of solo work and how the two ideals, working together, might produce a better result in the long run. In such cases, the action of the rascal might modify a good rule to make it better, rather than eliminate an evil practice like segregation.

Here’s the bottom line. Most of the time, in the grand interplay of rules and rascals, we need both.

It is so easy to lose sight of this. In my deepest self, I tend toward the rascal side of the spectrum (and it probably is a spectrum, rather than an either-or). I chafe against rules that seem to make no sense. But then, on occasion, a “rule person” will give me the context for a given rule, revealing to me the value in it. Then I get it. I may even become a defender of that rule.

The problem comes when I forget that we need both: when my mindfulness of this need gets overwhelmed by my frustration or defensiveness or fear. When those forces take over, they prevent me from remaining open to the person on “the other side”…the very person whose perspective I need to hear…the person whose wisdom I could tap in dialogue.

Of course, this lesson extends well beyond rules and rascals. It’s hard to fathom at this point in history—when people on both sides of whatever just want to throttle one another—but Democrats could benefit from perspectives that Republicans can provide. Conservatives can make use of insights that liberals have to offer. None of us has enough perspective on an issue that we can look at “the other side” and say, “I don’t need you.” If, however, we acknowledge that need and approach the other with curiosity and openness, we begin to discover more of the truth—or at least more about the other person—and to build a bond that stretches across divides.