Wow. There is so much is happening in the world and in the media right now that is making my head spin. Election season is upon us, add to that recent world events including the new issues such as do we let Syrian refugees in our boarders? (to be fair, another viewpoint) and if you haven't heard there has been a lot happening in the LDS or Mormon church these past couple of weeks that is really causing some unprecedented (but not uncalled for) waves in our faith community. There is so much to think about, process, wade through, consider and most days my head is like an alphabet soup of mixed up ideas and ideologies that I can't seem to string together.
But I don't want to talk about religion + politics per se, I want to talk about how we talk about religion + politics. Or how we don't talk about them as the case may be.
I was not very politically minded as a youth, and so when I finally became interested in political issues as a young adult I started to ask questions. Especially when someone was really sure about a particular stance and I considered them to be a smart, thoughtful person. I wanted to know why they felt this way! And how they arrived at this conclusion! Was this this truly something they felt would be better for the whole, or just something they preferred themselves and didn't care how it affected the whole? My brain naturally switches to a devil's advocate mentality when I'm trying to figure out what I believe--I do this to myself inside my own head all the time as I turn an issue around and try to look at it from all sides--So naturally I did the same thing to the people around me by asking tough and challenging questions about the issues, without trying to come off as personal attacks or challenges.
Except, I found out that I wasn't very good about that second part.
I quickly learned that when I asked these kind of pointed questions people tended to believe that I was attacking them, or perhaps they were just uncomfortable with my passionate debating method... not sure which. For years I would say that all my Democrat family and friends thought I was a Republican, and all my Republican friends thought I was a Democrat. Looking back I wish I would have prefaced these conversations by simply letting them know I didn't really understand this issue (or I just wanted to know more) and would they mind if I asked them some challenging questions? Yeah... in hindsight that would been too easy. Glad I didn't go that route!
The problem is, instead of figuring out a way to have these deep and potentially powerful conversations, I learned to stop asking questions. I took the idea to heart that you don't talk about politics and religion in polite conversation. (Except that sometimes I still try and thankfully with some groups of friends I have been able to have some wonderful and enlightening conversations surrounding touchy subjects.) There are so many things that I haven't really worked out in my head and so many things I would like to discuss with intelligent people who are really educated about specific issues but I don't feel like there is a great way to discuss these things without stepping on toes or bruising friendships. Which probably has a lot to do with me and my style. That being said, even when I try to bring up sensitive topics in a sensitive manner, I often feel the room shift into nervous energy and I think, Oh! I'm making everyone uncomfortable...I guess we're not supposed to talk about this!
Ugh. Lets just all agree that the constant smattering of political and moral agendas can get a little annoying. From BOTH sides of the fence. But it can also be a great way to have these uncomfortable conversations as well. We all know the pitfalls of safely hiding being behind a computer screen makes it all too easy to say too much and to be too honest, but in certain cases that safety allows us to share, read and view opinions that we and others might not otherwise feel comfortable saying out loud. Yes I could and perhaps should do my own research to form my own opinions, but in our information overload age that's actually quite difficult. Added to the fact that different media sources are biased. (And please, it's not just Fox news...though yes, them too.) But I really just want to talk about these things, like civilized
Honestly, I'm a sucker for good, meaty conversation but it's been so long since I've had a group of friends I could sit really dig into the juicy stuff with. Yes I find these kind of conversations fascinating, but they also help me fetter out my point of view and really decide how I feel about an issue. I would also add that I don't enjoy having 'conversations' with people who don't really want to converse or tell you about their beliefs as much as they want to convince you of the rightness of their way of thinking. When this is the case, I avoid political and religious discussions like I avoid bad breath. Like I said, I'm happy to hear from people who are passionate and well educated about their beliefs as long as they aren't pushy about it or offended when I'm not on board. I don't want to be coerced into someones point of view, but I do enjoy a back and forth, even passionate debate. Mutual respect and an underlying friendship that won't be broken over differing points of views is key to these kind of conversations don't you think? Even then it can be tricky.
I am so curious, who do you talk to about your political + religious beliefs? Is it productive--meaning do you enjoy the conversations and do you feel like the conversation actually helps you figure out what you believe? Do you ever change your opinions? Do you have a safe person or a group of friends you can share your thoughts with, even when they are still in their fetal stage--meaning they're not fully formed and maybe even a bit crazy looking? Ha! I feel like I'm in that stage a lot and am always grateful for the few people I can really talk these things through with!
And if you want to know if I'm a republican or a democrat... I'll tell you. I'm neither. :) I'm a registered independent. I have to say I often find our polarized political system baffling and I have little tolerance for people on either side of the fence who can't admit any fault in their own party or see any good in the opposing party. I really don't get that.
art: Untitled, Lygia Pape, 1958