I often find myself frustrated, not happy and often confused. It is not because of anyone person, place or thing – in other words, nouns don’t bother me, rather it is verbs. It is the things that people say, do and think that ultimately cause my frustration, even anger, at times.
We live in a world that is divided between so many lines that it would be refreshing to see anything that attempts to bring people together rather then pull them apart. Yet, whether it is politics, religion or any other social construct, division continues, and division wins.
A little background. I am a Roman Catholic from the southern part of the United States now living in New England. I was raised Protestant – my father was a Methodist minister who later left the Methodist church to become an independent charismatic minister who eventually ended up in a charismatic movement that used the Anglican tradition as its way point into sacramental theology. I was raised on the conservative side of the political scale, and my service in the United States Marine Corps reflected and harbored those sets of values. I attended the University of Georgia, studying history, classical culture and Native American studies and eventually met my beautiful wife and moved to her hometown in New England. Both of these things began a paradigm shift towards both Catholicism as well as a more moderate temperament when it came to politics and life in general. I do not use the term “paradigm shift” lightly – moving from a social construct ideology embedded with politically conservative thought to a more moderate approach is a fundamental change in viewpoints, even with sharing many of the views of those who follow a more “right leaning” approach. All that being said, my views, of course, are my own, and do not reflect the views of all of my friends, family or even my wife. In these differences is where I personally find growth, and instead of harboring resentment, either towards my own past views or to those around me with different view points, I cherish them, even when those views may revile my own personal thought.
As a political moderate, i do not believe that either the Republicans or Democrats are right for the United States. I do believe that some of those in office do care, in some form or fashion, for their constituents, yet it is painfully obvious that lobbies and platforms often cause any personal feelings to erode into a stage of national power. This of course relishes in the divisions between the two parties – it needs them. It is the food for current political thought. Again, that being said, I have friends who are Republicans, i have friends who are Democrats. I have friends who are what i would consider to be far right, and likewise, those who I would consider to be far left. I have friends whose daily lives center and focus on bringing down the other side, or at the very least, shaming them into some form of submission. I find this to be a sickness. The human right to disagree is just that, a right, and we should be thankful everyday that we live in a place that recognizes that right. We should also celebrate those who disagree with us, for it allows discussion to exist. Without disagreement, there is no discussion. However, going to war with those who disagree with us, and it is that, a war, accomplishes nothing other then more division, more hatred and brings absolutely no discussion. We must realize it doesn’t matter if you are right if no one wants to hear you speak. If the only people who listen to us are those who already agree with us, it is not discussion, but rather preaching to those who only offer support as sycophants. Yes, you will be flattered and appreciated by those in your own political coven, but lets be honest, vampires already know they need blood to survive.
As a Roman Catholic, I find myself in a hallway with many doors. Some of these doors are far from Roman, and are there because of my upbringing. I, as I said before, am not a “cradle Catholic,” but rather someone who found Catholicism to be the closest thing to what I believe the Church – as a whole, not just Roman – should be. Yes, it is a personal decision, not arrived to be guilt or because i felt like I was coming home, but rather a more educated choice between where I came from and where I was heading. Where i was heading was not to a place of moral or religious superiority, but rather a place of spiritual enrichment, a place to find life – for me, that life being found in the Eucharist and in the presence of fellow believers. Rome was my choice, not because I felt Rome was superior or more correct, but because I felt that is where God was leading me. In the same way that I find myself frustrated by the sickness that is politics, I find myself frustrated over the sickness that is religion. What i mean is this – just like in politics, I have friends who have different religious views then me. Some because they are Protestant, some are Roman Catholic, some are Muslim, Jewish and even Atheist. In those differences, personally, i find discussion – I do not find condemnation, nor do I feel the need to prove my belief system is superior to someone’s else. That is not to ay I do not belief that i am right, it is to say that I do not think I can convince anyone else they may be wrong with a morally superior attitude. When I see people revile others for not being Catholic, or for being Catholic, it turns my stomach. The issue here isn’t Catholicism, but rather the life of the soul. I belief that life is more cared for where I am at, however, I must also recognize that not everyone else feels that way. Some do, of course, there are millions of Roman Catholics throughout the world, yet in the totality of the human race, all of us who may believe in God, or even those who don’t, are ultimately a minority. Unfortunately, it seems that we would rather argue with those who feel differently then us, we would rather be morally and religiously superior to those who practice their faith differently then we do. This means, again, that we have preaching over discussion.
So, what now? Politically and religiously we feel we are right. We have political mandates and religious dogma to back us up. We have history, we have tradition, we have those of us who belief exactly like we do. We also have a choice. We can continue to walk the path of superiority and shame those who believe differently. I can tell you that as a Democrat or a Republican you are ruining this country, I can keep posting memes and derogatory statements against you and your leadership. I can tell you, because you are not Roman Catholic that you are going to hell, or at best, a second class citizen of the kingdom of God. In this approach I am justified, because it is what the institutions that i follow practice in their methods, even if it is nothing more then at the very bottom of the barrel. On the flip side, i can sit down with you and discuss the political climate in the United State. I can share my beliefs, I can allow you to share yours, and we can come to a compromise – if possible – in our discussion, or at the very least, agree to disagree, and in that, continue to research and promote research into what is going on with this country. Likewise, I can sit down with my Protestant friends and recognize that they, as I, believe in the same God that I do. I can acknowledge that our traditions are different, yet in many ways the same. I can acknowledge that somewhere our view points both failed each other, and in that, have a discussion. From a Christian point of view, anything less would be unchristian. For those who do not share my beliefs in the more traditional sense, we can come together and have a discussion on the beliefs we do share – helping the poor, the sick, the widow… and instead of focusing on what separates us, focus on what can bring us together.
I know what you are thinking, “but I’m right and ______________ (fill in the blank) is wrong, and it is my duty to correct them and show them the truth!” you are both right and wrong. Yes, I may be right, and yes, I should SHOW them the truth, but it showing someone the truth does not mean I give them a discourse on why they are wrong, but rather it means that I actually show them that I believe I am right by my actions. It also means that by my actions I do not attempt to show them that they are wrong, for that will only breed contempt among our fellow man. Apologetics, whether political or religious is not served by condemnation, but rather discussion. Discussion is only served by accepting the fact that others feel and think differently then you do. You came to your own conclusions because of who you are, and they came to theirs for the same exact reason. Your life experience and your education does not trump theirs, nor does it make you a better person. Also, it does not make them less of a person, nor does it make them bad – rather just wrong, and again, wrong from your point of view, not theirs. They may be wrong in totality, but it is not your responsibility to school them, only to sit with them on the bus, and in doing that, discuss why you both are different.
There is no institution or belief system on this earth that is perfect. There is nothing here that has the whole truth, and unfortunately, there never will be. I do believe, again, a personal belief, that there are people out there who “get it,” and I do believe that there are institutions out there that are closer then others, but we must remember that in any institution there have been people who have both succeeded and failed, and if that failure is not corrected, then that failure still exists. We see it in today’s politics, and we see it in today’s religious groups. We cannot use humanity as an excuse for one thing if we are not willing to use humanity as an understanding for something else. For we are all human, and we have all failed, and in that failure we can find truth.
Every institution has some form of truth inside it, whether that institution is good or bad. Both Republicans and Democrats have truths, likewise, so do Roman Catholics, Protestants, and yes, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and even Atheists. In the same vein, all of us also have falsehoods. We can continue to expose the falsehoods if we so desire, but in the end it brings nothing but pain and anger. However, if we truly believe we are right, we will lay down a prejudice and seek out the truths that can be found, an in those truths that we share we can find not only common ground, but a conversion of thought for humanity.