In my lifelong journey of soul-searching, I’ve recently become intentional about being sensitive to narrative. What is the overarching theme of connection in various situations, various people, and various events?
Unfortunately, we as humans neglect the narrative, and in many of our interactions, we zero in on the immediate circumstance and form all our judgments based off of that.
I live my life by questions. I ask why and how and where and when and what do you think and I wonder and I ponder and I look and I inquire about anything and everything. I may regret this at times, but I hope my children are the same way.
Recently, I made the foolish decision to ask a question to the Facebook world about how people’s faith in Jesus influences their decision to vote for a particular candidate. Most people just liked the question, probably because those who feel the same as I are the only ones who haven’t hidden me from their feeds. Two women, however, were deeply offended. And nobody, absolutely nobody, answered my question.
I want to interrupt this story to say that I know how text alone can be very misunderstood. With internet communication, we have no tone, no body language, and no facial expression, so with that in mind, I measured and analyzed each word placement carefully before I hit “post.” I wanted to be as clear as I could that this was no more than a question to this candidate’s voters that was formed based off of observations of this candidate and nothing more. No judgments about them, no assumptions about them, just questions for them.
These women were offended that I was questioning their faith, and I was confused by that. Why is it offensive to question someone’s faith? Shouldn’t we take it as a compliment that we have an opportunity to explain how and why our faith influences the choices we make? A question is, at its core, a search for knowledge, a “quest” to know more (hence the root of the word, duh). And yes, many times when a question is asked, there are assumptions and agendas as the motive, but is it fair to assume that in response to a question that is asked of us? I don’t think so, and even if that is the case, the fact that you have been asked a question is your chance to dispel those assumptions if they aren’t true or inaccurate in some way. If they thought that I doubted their faith, I could understand being offended, but since when were doubts and questions the same thing? At what point did a question go from a quest for knowledge to doubting what we already knew?
The fact that someone was offended by my search for knowledge was deeply troubling to me. And what was more, in their responses, they still couldn’t answer my question. They reversed the question, which I answered, proceeded to tell me I was wrong, and still neglected to answer my original question.
I tell this story for three reasons. First, when you know you’re about to do something stupid, don’t do it. Asking a question on social media in the hopes of having a serious, intelligent, and informative dialogue rarely works, so just follow your gut when it says “this isn’t going to work” next time you want to do that.
Second, the “block” option is wonderful.
Third, I was given another insight into the narrative of faith and politics in our country in the 21st century which I would like to discuss here.
These women were offended because somehow, a judgment of this candidate was a judgment on them. By criticizing a candidate, I was criticizing them. I realize that a vote is a personal thing, but I didn’t realize that for some people it was that personal. We bind our choices to our values, and our choices do define who we are, but at some point, there needs to be a separation between the person we choose and the choice we made for them. Stating the obvious here, but that candidate is not me. My choice for his or her policies is me, but that person is not. And my observations about a candidate embodying everything that is the opposite of my faith should not be perceived as an observation about his or her voter’s faith. In fact, I’m giving you an opportunity to show me how your faith is honored by supporting a particular candidate. I will tell you how my faith is honored by voting a particular way, if you ask me, and I will gladly engage in our disagreements in hopes that we can educate each other and become more empathetic to different views. But I don’t take personal offense when someone disagrees with me. My views don’t have to be validated by everyone, nor do I want them to be. But what I realized by this interaction is that we are becoming less and less interested in gaining knowledge for ourselves through good discussions and we are playing into the divided system that wishes to divide us. We forget that you can have unity without uniformity.
Instead of taking my question as an opportunity to explain how their faith promoted one candidate, these women wanted to explain how they were against something.
And I get that. Sadly, the polls reflect that the majority of Americans will be casting a vote against instead of for.
And my hope was that in these discussions, we could all take a step back and look at the overarching narrative we are allowing our government to tell us. My hope was that we could take a step back and look at the ways we are letting ourselves, our lives, and our choices be molded by this narrative of a two-party system that does not represent the people anymore. And we can take responsibility for the way we contribute to a narrative that we don’t like anymore.
That was my hope.