To my fellow mostly United Methodist definitely Christian and more-or-less conservative friends,
I love you with all my heart because you have always been friends, you have always lived by your consciences, and you have always been loving compassionate people. In one way or another, you have contributed to making everyone’s life better whether through teaching, health care serving, music, intellectual stimulation, or competence at your job. You are among the saints that I have known over my eighty years and I cherish your friendship. I see nothing that will actually change that, at least in the long run.
The short run, well, there are some bumps in the road. I earnestly pray that those bumps will be seen for what they are, temporary differences of opinion over things we have not yet resolved between us but which I hope in time we can.
There is so much going on in the world that there is no way we can agree on everything. Like you, my walk has included some disturbing experiences and some influences that I am not always aware of. So even though we probably agree on 95 percent of what is going on, that five percent can be “stimulating.” Or aggravating. Or sad. But I hope we do not lose sight of the fact that we are otherwise in such close agreement that most people would not notice any difference between us.
In truth, you and I are moderates, in the middle, open to more things than most people are, and willing to test the spirits of those things that unnerve us. Our curiosity and our integrity cause us to be willing to question and disagree with things that don’t “fit” into life as we know it. And we react when our integrity and intentions are called into question.
One aspect of our culture is that so much of it is viewed through the lens of bifurcation. Things are viewed as good or bad, black or white, right or wrong, for us or against us, on our side or on the other side, Saints fans or Packer fans (or Bear fans etc.). And unless we really think it through, we are susceptible to simplifying things by calling them one or the other. And, we tend to be “down on what we are not up on.”
The more we actually know, the more we see the grays, the plaids, the exceptions, the extenuating circumstances, the nuances.
But there are so many more things (issues, alternatives, possibilities, styles, etc.) now that we have no longer got time to know enough about them to go beyond being for or against them.
Do you realize how vulnerable we both are, sometimes more than we realize, to the loudest voices in our ears, to the simplest explanations we are given, to the ones who want to manipulate our thinking and to distract us from thinking things through all the way?
We are trusting souls, you and I. Not entirely, because we have been around long enough to have been foolish about something because we trusted someone we should not have. But basically, we would rather trust than test everything, partly because there is too much to check and partly because we live by hope.
And that is both our weakness and our strength. It can be our strength because it will finally keep us from flying apart as friends, as those who agree on nearly everything, as those holding the central core of love and compassion in an age where those qualities have been distorted and misused for political, financial, or egotistical reasons. But the weakness is that we may trust the very ones trying to manipulate us.
That leaves us with that five percent about which we disagree. There’s a lot of wisdom in simply agreeing to disagree. That gets hard when either or both of us go off on rants about what we are so sure is true but somehow we miss the connector that gets us to thinking and hearing what the rant is about and why the ranting is going on in the first place.
If it weren’t for the core of love and compassion that we hold, there would be less hope for us. What defines that love and compassion is Jesus’s life and teachings, death and resurrection.
So when we face sorting out who we should elect, which party to vote for, we have something to use to compare with what candidates and parties actually have done. That’s what needs our attention.
Promises? Not so much. Platforms? Maybe. Source of financial backing? Hmmm, maybe that’s something to look at. Political ads? Now that’s something to really be careful about. Political posters? Same as with the ads.
Political posters are all over Facebook. Sayings of famous people, images meant to touch our emotions, clever simplifications, juxtapositions of ideas, they all have an impact. And I have happily “shared” the ones I thought were true. (I have not “shared” everything because even though they appeared to support my own opinions, I felt they were not quite true, not upholding my core beliefs in love and compassion.)
I have appreciated those who challenged my choices and my opinions. I have usually enjoyed challenging back because in dialogue we have the possibility of resolving the differences, maybe even finding we are both wrong about something and find a better resolution than either of us had before. After all, as human beings, we sometimes put our foot in our mouths without realizing it.
But there are so many such possible moments of disagreement that we can’t keep up. The subject changes. The time passes. But we don’t leave behind the feeling of disagreement that wasn’t set right or wisely settled.
Like little cuts, they leave us more raw than they are worth but the pain adds a little more distance between us . . . if we don’t look back at everything else we agree about. Then we remember the moments of closeness that really represent our friendship. And the cuts, the disagreements, fall into perspective.
How clearly I remember the warmth with which the adult Sunday School class greeted us when we came back to Slidell. That same warmth was there in the choir as well. I remember eating with you at church dinners or at one or the other of our homes. Or seeing you at a Mardi Gras parade and feeling really glad to see you. And sitting with you in church and not feeling alone.
Those same kinds of feelings are felt when I think of friends from Wisconsin, Texas, Florida, and elsewhere with whom I have been close. Those feelings stay with me even when I see things from you with which I disagree. And you’d be pleased to know how many things you post with which I agree. Even on some of the hot button issues. I disagree right with you with some of my other friends or policy makers or political party
on some things.
It’s that central core of love and compassion that we share.
So forgive me if my opinions ever come across as heavy handed. I intend no cuts and I am still in the process of learning how to disagree agreeably. I do not intend to taint the memories we have of when we were together. I do intend to stay committed to Jesus’s love and compassion because I see you intending to do the same.