As A Liberal, I Need Conservatives: Rejecting Political Homogeny In The Church
I was walking through Barnes & Nobel the other day and saw a book titled, “Adios, America: The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country into a Third World Hellhole.” My first reaction was sadness. Sadness that book titles have now somehow been reduced to clickbait article headlines.
But then, as I stared at Ann Coulter’s face, I started thinking to myself, Does this women genuinely believe that I am attempting to destroy America? That I wake up and hit the floor with my first thought being, “What can I do to make my country worse?” After all, the word “plan” in the title implies that I have some sort of “Ruin America” checklist….
Yes, I am a liberal. While in the American system I’m an Independent, since I won’t register for either party, my political leanings are very left. I’ve said it before, but people have a hard time swallowing this. And by people, I mean the very conservative indivduals I associate with. After all, as Ms. Coulter once said, “If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans.” (She really can come up with book titles…) Most of these people don’t think I’m an idiot, so I must not be that liberal. As a culture we have come to assume that a person who is intelligent will think the same as we do. After all, only an idiot would think something else.
Liberals are painted to be devil worshiping-bleeding heart-lesbians by the right, but I am aware that conservatives are seen as gun toting-sexist-greedy-one percenters. As much as I disagree with them on pretty much everything, I do not believe they all fit this picture. I don’t see them as stupid. I don’t even think they are wrong.
“Wait! But you said you disagree with them!”
Yes. I do. But I can listen to them and make a genuine effort to understand why they believe what they do. When any of us do this, which requires listening without arguing or trying to change someone’s mind, we can see that those we disagree with are often fully rational people. You have to go into the conversation with no desire to prove someone wrong, but only to connect with another human being’s thought process. It can be difficult, but it’s worth it.
I hang out on Mormon Newsroom a lot. It’s a side effect of having a background in public relations. Well, that and being a Mormon. Earlier in August, Michael Otterson gave an hour long talk on current issues the public affairs department is working with right now. At one point he discussed common questions he heard, such as, “Can a member be a Democrat and a good Mormon?” His response was,
“That one makes me smile, because if the members who ask it could travel to some countries of the world and meet faithful members of the Church who belong to their national communist parties I fear their blood pressure might be permanently damaged.”
Why is that? Why would our blood pressure be damaged? How is it that we are so incapable of understanding that people can come to different conclusions about the world we live in, but still be good, intelligent, and well rounded?
Within the church, perhaps it’s because we are used to the notion of absolute truth. However there is no current political or economic system in which that can be found. So, reject the idea that you must belong to only one ideology to be a member in good standing.
But this concept that the other side of the aisle are fools for thinking unlike us is not one that is unique to Mormons, as pointed out earlier. Between sensationalized news and polarizing elections, most of America has come to view those with political differences as the enemies to all that is good and right. We are not a team that bring different views to the table to come up with the best solution representing as many constituents as possible, but rather opponents, waging a constant war in which compromise is not a sign of intelligence, but rather weakness.
I want to tell you a story about a friend of mine. To give you an idea of how far we are apart on the political spectrum, she didn’t like Mitt Romney because he was “too left” while I am sitting here happy that I can finally vote for a candidate that willingly identifies as socialist, (looking at you Bern.) She works for a Pro-Life firm here in D.C. and believes deeply in this cause. I respect her, and what she is trying to do. I don’t think she hates choice; I think she is an incredibly compassionate person who feels it his her moral obligation to give her voice to the voiceless. She isn’t trying to set women back 100 years; she is trying to stop what she sees as a horribly violent act.
I’m Pro-Choice, but I don’t think she looks at me as if I’m desperately trying to encourage infanticide. Probably because I’m not. I believe that making abortions illegal is an ineffective way to go about stopping unwanted pregnancies. Also, between rape, incest, and medical issues, there are plenty of times in which I could see supporting that decision, and therefore it needs to be kept as an accessible medical option. And even when I wouldn’t “support” abortion, I still remember what Frederica Matthews-Green once said,
“No woman wants an abortion like she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion like an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg.”
This isn’t intended to be an abortion debate, so please don’t email me about this. I’m not looking to argue, simply to say that this, like so many social, economic, and international political issues, has multiple sides that can be reached by fully functional individuals.
Any desire for America to reach only one political party, or to paint one side as being always in the wrong, is ridiculous, and frankly, to quote everyone’s favorite overused declaration, “not what the founding fathers intended!” We need each other. We are each other’s checks and balances. No one party has all the right ideas. The other side is going to be right. A lot. In fact, we may even be right at the same time. We may be wrong at the same time. But the point is, mature people should be able to sit down with others and acknowledge what they have to offer, and see how that can compliment what they have.
Perhaps asking America to put aside political differences is a bit much. I hope not. However, it certainly isn’t too much to remind people within the church that a variety of political opinions are perfectly ok, and in fact, good. It brings greater diversity of thought into our meeting houses and enriches all who have the privilege of existing in that kind of environment. It allows our opinions to grow and change as we seek to see the world through the eyes of another.
We are all children of God, and none of us are identical. He did that on purpose. Do not try and limit His creations by forcing them into sameness.