In a previous post I wrote about my dialogues with a pastor of the church I’d been attending for 4 years. I was a tad smarmy then of course. Thinking I was taking the high road, I see now what an ass I probably was. Last weekend, in a fit of humility and loneliness, I emailed her and apologized for the role I played in that little scenario. She wrote promptly back and graciously said she had put it behind her and I should too. We mutually agreed that we missed the friendship we had and we are letting old feelings past and allow for a renewing of friendship.
Why have I done this? Well, because, I am acutely aware that Christians are the worst when it comes to healing damaged relationships. Don’t get me wrong. Some relationships are irreconcilable and SHOULD BE, especially where abuse is involved. But, in church especially, minor quibbles and spats can quickly get out of hand. No one wants to be the first to back down and say that perhaps they were wrong. In the secular world, it’s even worse. Our culture is saturated with a “me first” attitude in even the smallest areas, like driving. Every single day I see examples of rude behavior, people flipping other people off from their cars, road rage, and numerous instances of non-courteous living. Well, I’m tired of expecting others to be the ones to change. I’m not responsible for them. I’m responsible for my reaction to them. So I could have stewed for years about what happened at my church, but I’m not going to anymore. Regardless of whether I felt hurt or was “right” or how wrong I thought the pastor was, it damaged our relationship and when that happens, the whole church is damaged. Of course, mine was a trivial matter. Other damages in church aren’t so easy to heal, but I am so used to looking out for ME all the time that ME is who I instantly side with in every argument, whether I’m right or not. It’s the way of the beast. I decided not to let that control me.
The same goes with culture at large. I am a person of very conflicted political, religious, and personal beliefs. I don’t write about some of my political opinions because it’s not safe to in this political climate. Thought police are everywhere and conspiracy theories are ripe. Some of my opinions are not popular right now. Neither are some of my religious ones. I don’t write what I really think sometimes I know that a lot of the people I know share different points of view. I’m also very tired of Christians ALWAYS being “the heavy” in the news. All that we see on television feeds into the worst ideas that most Americans have about Christians and conservatives in general. The media take extreme and non-mainstream examples of religious hucksters and conspiracy theorists, play the soundbites ad nauseum, and then act as if everyone in certain parts of the country or all of a race believe this way. If they do that would be scary, but they don’t.
It’s the same with politics. Everyone is playing the moral equivalence game. No one can be criticized, examined, or commented upon without someone else becoming “outraged” or “disturbed” about the “trends” we find in society and the “levels of civil discourse.” Apologies are demanded every day by somebody. No one can have an opinion unless it’s the most popular one. People from the coasts stream into the Midwest to film documentaries about all those strange people in the Heartland of America, as if they were going into the jungles of the Amazon! I can hear them now…Look at those rubes! Oh, how stupid they are! …Such forays only reveal the ignorance of those who believe them or buy their product. It’s a sickening display of hubris for starters and the fool’s way to a quick buck by pandering to your audience for another.
I have never come across anyone in the church community who displays the characteristics of those portrayed on television or in the news. The very reason those media shills and religious hucksters are rich and in the news is because they are tapping into a PARTICULAR message that feeds the fear and paranoia of those who don’t understand them. Sure, we shouldn’t be giving money to people like that. There are better uses of money and time, but people have to have IDEOLOGY in their lives; something that feeds their motivation. Politics is all about this feeding process. Again, I could sit and stew about how wrong the media are on television and how stupidly they portray things they do not understand, but it’s pointless. And because we are being lied to and manipulated this way, we are therefore not responsible for the hatred they create in the world. We are responsible ONLY for our corner of the world.
It’s a manageable scenario that works for me. I cannot trust anyone else for truth out there. I am responsible for discovering the truth by which I live my life. I cannot trust that my money goes where people promise it will go. I’m not letting media of any kind tell me what my beliefs are, how my relationships will work, or even convince me that I play a part in the political system, because I don’t. My job is right here in my small town, in my local businesses, in my local congregation, in my family. My job is to heal the damaged relationships around me one person at a time. My truth is in my corner of the world and the only thing I know for sure. If I can act on it, I can heal it.