Egalitarianism vs Complementarianism. Democrats vs Republicans. Christians vs Muslims. Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice. Calvinism. Birthers. Feminists. Redlines for the Iranian nuclear program. Gay marriage.
I don’t remember ever feeling this tired in late October of an election year, or in relation to my religion.
Usually, both politics and religion give me a conversational shot of adrenaline. I love talking about my opinions, listening to others express theirs, and keeping up with the latest happenings. These topics, though controversial and highly personal, usually make me feel that, “Now we’re getting somewhere in this relationship. Now we’re talking about the things that really matter to us.”
Lately, though, I’m worn out. Deflated. Discouraged. Uninterested in engaging in the kinds of conversations I usually love. I have quit Facebook until after the election because it was becoming yet another means of feeling worn out.
I look at Democrats and Republicans demonizing each other and I wonder, “Do they even remember that we’re all Americans? That, technically, no one here is an enemy? That, not to put too fine a point on it, every person running for office loves this country, even if we strongly disagree with the candidate’s stance?”
Christians argue, sometimes viciously, about whether women should be allowed to preach to men, about whether gay people should be allowed to marry, about whether coverage for birth control affects religious freedom. I understand both sides of the arguments for each of these issues; I love people who hold opinions on both sides of all these issues and more. But lately, instead of reaching for my own opinions and joining in the conversation, I watch, thinking, “Where did we lose the humility inherent in Paul’s statement, ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.’?”
I see people holding strong, unvacillating opinions, unwilling or unable to see any nuance in the issue at hand that might allow for the possibility of another opinion being well-thought-out and reasonable.
And I wonder, like never before, if there’s something wrong with me.
I live in the land of doubts. I have a (moderate) political affiliation, and I’m married to someone with the opposite (moderate) political affiliation. I’m a Christian, and I just cannot give up Jesus; some of my fellow Christians make me wish I could. I’ve lived overseas, and under the auspices of the U.S. State Department, long enough to have both a strong affinity for my home country (the United States, in case I’m leaving any doubt in your mind) and an awareness that we’re neither the “hope of the earth” nor the “one indispensable nation.”
I believe in right and wrong, in taking a stand and staking my life on it. I also believe that it’s possible that I could be wrong about what I take my stand on. Not likely, of course, wink wink, but possible. That possibility, calculated very scientifically by thinking back on other times when I turned out to be wrong, motivates me to try to maintain a low-key, respectful demeanor when I talk about other people’s beliefs. If I have to eat crow, I don’t want it to be too bitter. If I turn out to be right, I don’t want it to collapse like a soufflé because it’s full of hot air.
But I don’t see much of that these days, and frankly, I don’t have it in me to fight for civility, for respectfulness, for measured, nuanced thinking. “Fighting” for those things seems to negate them, in any case.
What I have in me is exhaustion.
I’m still voting. I’m still attending events at my church. I’m glad others speak their minds in heartfelt ways about the issues.
But as for me, I can’t work on convincing anyone else that I’m right on the issues. Leaving space for hearing other viewpoints has enriched my life too much for that, and listening to those who are completely assured has worn me out too much.
I pray God’s blessings on us all.