Friday, September 19, 2008

Reaching Across the Divide?

After my last post, I almost hate to post this----but I need to get it off my chest.

I've been trying to generate more light and less heat in the political arena. Easier said than done.

On Tuesday evening, I had to attend the annual Open House at my daughter's school. While I was there, I ran into a neighbor---someone whom I can't help but like, despite his red-meat politics. He and his wife have been good friends since my divorce--their daughter and mine are best friends, and I see them quite frequently.

We've talked politics in the past. His wife once told me that she'd never seen anyone render him totally speechless, the way I did when I told him I was a liberal because I thought my faith demanded it of me.

On Tuesday, he seemed to rediscover his voice.

He started trying to needle me about my progressive politics, and I said "We've already had this discussion, my friend. You know why I vote the way I do."

Whereupon he put his arm around me, and started talking in this sing-songy voice:

"Why can't we all just get along, and be nice to each other? Why don't we just have a group hug?"

My response?

I looked him straight in the eyes and said "Jesus said: 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall see God." And turned around and walked away.

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The more I think about this, the angrier I get.

My friend has never shared with me his reasons for voting the way he does. He's retired military, but that--in and of itself--doesn't give me any reason for his stance. He wants me to justify my views, but offers nothing about his own.

I can actually understand why someone would vote conservative based on their faith. I don't agree, of course. But I can talk about that---lay out my own case that caring for the least of God's flock requires progressive politics. I can argue with the best of them.

What I cannot do is mock people's faith---the way my friend did mine.

It is hard to reach across the divide when someone you know and like can patronize and mock you for your beliefs. When people who know and spend time with one another can be so dismissive of each other's beliefs, I'm afraid it doesn't bode well for our country.

I'll keep trying. I'll try to follow the sensible (and spiritual) advice of Sara Miles.

I just wish it wasn't so damned difficult.