Help my unbelief

The other day, one of my church members came to me and let me know that she had been reading this blog. That has happened a lot in the past week — something that was a bit of a surprise to me since no one ever gives me feedback on my thoughts (there is a reason for the commenting feature, although some friends are moving away from that).

Anyway, this person (who I will let be anonymous) came up and said, “Wow! You’re a Democrat. I thought I was the only one around here.” But then she offered me a word of caution. “You’ll want to be careful,” she said. “Some folks around here think that you can’t be a Democrat AND a Christian.”

I’m not worried. I am who I am and can’t be anyone else. I’ve already been accused of being soft on Communism by a local radio talk show host, so being called a Democrat is a step up (I guess).

What’s interesting though is my reluctance to categorize myself one way or the other. I dislike the labels (as I’ve said before). They aren’t helpful, and aren’t especially descriptive.

Take my position on the lottery for example. I was against the lottery in Tennessee for issues of social justice, not reasons of morality. Yet, I was repreatedly lumped in with the right wing in news coverage on the issue, with reporters assuming that my opposition was based in a belief of gambling as sin. I’ll never forget the day during the campaign when I received an e-mail calling me a right wing zealot comparable to Jerry Falwell, and another e-mail saying that I was a left wing whacko. That was when I decided that I must be doing something right.

The fact is, I’m nervous about zealots on eaither side — conservative or liberal. Why? Because both sides so easily move to demonizing their opposition, totally flying in the face of Christ’s call to love our neighbors AND our enemies. There are human beings (flawed I know) on both sides of any issue. It’s easy to dismiss a label. It’s much tougher dismissing a human who shares the same genetic code as me.

Again, I learned much in the lottery campaign. The head of the main anti-lottery political organization was a man who had been identified by the left in Tennessee as a right wing extremist because of his work on the tax issue. So, in an attempt to get this guy, they were distributing an “expose” attempting to link this guy with the “Chalcedon” movement of Christian right-wing extremists. It was an expose without any references, and when I attempted to check out the details, I found that many were not true. Later, as I got to know the man, I discovered that he was a dedicated Roman Catholic, who (while economically conservative) opposed the death penalty and was not as extreme as the characature made him out to be. This man would eventually be abandoned by the right because (as a faithful Roman Catholic who believed in Just War) he questioned the moral justification of the war in Iraq. Anyway, what I experienced was the left (who should have naturally been against the lottery for justice reasons) removing themselves from the debate because they couldn’t associate with their “enemy.”

What does that accomplish? Does any positive change come to the world when we cut off conversation? We may have differing beliefs, different points of view, but if we can’t try to find some small miniscule bit of common ground, how can we bring forth God’s kingdom here on earth?

John Wesley used to talk about “Christian Conferencing” as a means of God’s grace (that is, as almost a sacramental act). This belief suggests that the act of sitting down at the table, even if there is a disagreement, is how when discern God’s will for the world, and how we experience God’s grace. I believe in Christian conferencing. We may not agree. But we’ll learn something about God if we can just sit down and talk.

So am I a democrat? I don’t know. I question quite a bit of the agenda of the current administration, but there were parts of the agenda of the previous administration I questioned. What I am is a person who is trying to be faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Sometimes that makes me conserving. Sometimes that makes me liberal. My hope is to be faithful.

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