Monday, January 26, 2009

Liberals, Schmiberals

I've about had it with the liberals.

I mean, I really thought the conservatives had the market cornered on asshishness (yeah, I invented that word), but I don't know anymore. There is such freaking hubris on both sides.

My colleague Christopher wrote this great note on Facebook about the dangers of triumphalism, centered on the email that's been floating around apologizing for America's "service outage" over the last eight years. Now I'll admit it was kind of funny and cute. These things were...before we "won." Now it just seems obnoxious.

There are actually people (not many, but a few) in this country who didn't vote for Obama, and who maybe are even a bit pissed off that he's president (or at least worried about it). I remember how much it sucked to be on the losing side, to feel completely unrepresented by my government. I'm thrilled not to feel that way anymore. But I still feel the same way as I did back then about the gloaters - it's poor sportsmanship and it's not going to win anybody over to your side. Sure, we can celebrate and feel great about ourselves. But we have to stop short of actually putting people down who disagree with us, or acting like everything is going to be all perfect now, because it's not.

And thankfully, our president knows that and has tried, it seems, to stem the tide of worship towards himself. I have the Michael Franti "Obama" song in my head a lot (it's too damn catchy), but it kind of represents the problem. Not that he's being rude about it - it's a very joyful song - but it's basically a praise song to a human being. Which, to a person who worships a deity, is a bit scary. And is probably also scary to Mr. Obama.

God, he's under a lot of pressure, isn't he? All I can do is pray for the poor man. And roll my eyes a lot. :)

But anyway, back to the annoying liberals. So we were at dinner the other night with people from our new church. And we were talking politics, and J ventured an opinion something to the effect that Obama gets his values from his faith. And wouldn't you know - the people acted offended by this statement! Like only an idiot like Bush could possibly get his values from religion - Obama is way above such blind nonsense. They pointed out that his mom wasn't religious and had a big influence on him, and all these other examples of ways that they believed he was "safe" for the secular establishment. I'm not really sure why a room full of Christians felt the need to defend the secularity of the president, but it was all very PC.

These are the same people who get really nervous when you talk about Jesus being God's son and the way to the Father, or the Bible being true (and not a "conversation" as they like to put it), or that you might possibly need to change something about yourself to live more abundantly into God's love. What I mean is that the main message is "God loves you exactly as you are" and that's really a great message sometimes for some people at certain points of life, but it actually has an expiration date. One day you have to put aside that kind of milk and take on some meat, accept the fact that you might have to change yourself, that God might be calling you to a different way of living - of course, all in order to help you be more you - or be the "real" you if you prefer, or live the most abundant life, or however you want to put it.

I'm finding myself surrounded by people who have no doctrine of sin. It's totally weird, coming from a culture that is obsessed with it. Suddenly there's nothing wrong with anybody - and all the ills of the world are either these big societal issues (war, global warming, economic collapse) which really we can't be blamed for, or they are the fault of the bigots and fundamentalists. I swear, if I hear one more time the words "Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian" followed by some prejudiced blanket stereotype I'm going to scream! They are talking about a tiny fraction of the population of Evangelicals, and they have no interest in learning about the diversity of opinion that is actually reflected in that segment of Christianity.

Weird that I actually became sensitive to that when I was at Fuller. Here I thought I'd head off to "my" people at the liberal seminary, feeling all safe and warm with my other kooky universalist pantheists, and instead I wind up defending Evangelicals all the time!

But anyway, this whole lack of sin doctrine is a real problem. To allow "nice" God to prevail shortchanges the complex and deep relationship God can truly have with us, and it prevents humans from reaching their full potential as servants (of both the divine and the world). At least this past Sunday the preacher sort of touched on this and allowed for the need, sometimes, for change, and then a woman - a recovering addict - got up after the sermon and flat out said that being an addict teaches you that you absolutely must become different sometimes, that you cannot go on a certain way no matter how loved and accepted you are, because you are self-destructing.

And that's really just what sin is, isn't it? Self-destruction? It really seems to be less about offending God (she's a big girl, I think she can take it) and more about hurting ourselves. As a mom, I finally understand how I can love my daughter to pieces and be terrified that she will hurt herself, and I anticipate how some day I will want to strangle her because I'll see her doing something bad for herself and it will make me SO mad that she's using her free will to choose pain instead of happiness. I don't think God gets mad at us for sinning, but I think he probably is disappointed and hurt and angry when we reject the life he so wants us to have, the life of harmony with the earth and communion with one another and relationship with divinity.

Ah. I'm just not a bay area type, I suppose. Maybe I'm a closet fundie. Or maybe I just can't stand fundamentalism of any kind: conservative or liberal. We have to keep our minds open to the other side; we have to always know we can learn something from them. We have to acknowledge our own complicity in what's going wrong in the world, in our communities, and in our hearts. And we have to strive to change, to do better. But most of all, we have to live our lives out of love. Not out of fear, or hate, or anger. Only love will help us reach across divides. Only love will help us stop labeling, stop stereotyping, and stop blaming.

I know "they" do and say things that hurt us. I know "they" are intolerant. I also know that the height of hypocrisy is to only tolerate those who tolerate you and call yourself tolerant. Wouldn't it be great to move past "tolerating" one another?

I don't know; this is all jumbled up and not nearly as eloquent as it sounded in my head. But if anything resonates for you, I would love to hear that.

Now I need some cookie dough.

15 comments:

twocents said...

I SO feel you on this. I think engaging in critical thinking with regard to both sides of the spectrum ultimately makes you demand nuance across the board...something in which the extremes are sadly lacking.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

I have made the same argument myself--that for so many people in the church, "sin" means big, abstract things, and we don't want to talk about individual sin. It seems so...narrow-minded. (Having spent the formative years of my life in a fundamentalist church and school, my theology of sin is quite...well-developed.)

But I think you need to cut people some slack on the Obama thing. The relief is palpable for a lot of people. It's not that we simply disliked George Bush. It's that he and his cronies nearly destroyed the Constitution---while, I might add, our "liberal" representatives in Congress sat back and let him do it. President Obama has already demonstrated that he knows what the "rule of law" means and many of us are celebrating that. I don't have to see him as the Messiah to know that things are VERY different in Washington after this week.

For my part, at least, that "gloating" you hear is nothing more than relief that the country I love still exists. There are hard days ahead of us---give people a few days to revel in the change they sought. They'll get it soon enough--and we'll be back to the old business of tearing down the very person we worked so hard to elect.

My ex was fond of saying "The only person who likes change is a baby with a wet diaper." And I often had to remind him that neither of our children much cared for being changed even then...

Pax,
Doxy

boit said...

I really like this post, a friend of mine posted in on facebook. Stepping outside of someones "world view" is what is needed more and more everyday to help 2 sides agree on things, but that's assuming that all issues are in the grey area. Homosexuality and Abortion are two major issues I can think of that are some feel are black and white issues, there is no compromise. Until peoples hearts change to issues, instead of discussing them and nodding, will your post and its words actually take flight and have meaning.

2 more things
47% of this country voted for mccain...I think thats more than a few
and
considering Obama hasn't been to church since he left Father Wrights church, I don't know how much his faith really plays into his policies. Unless you count liberalism as a faith.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Ummm...since when does not attending church mean you have no faith?

Doxy

B-W said...

Thanks for sharing. Trust me, you're not a closet fundie (or, at least, if you are, what does that make me?).

I spent some time at another seminary before coming to Fuller (two, actually, both on opposite ends of the spectrum, this is the more immediate one) that I came to describe as espousing a "liberal closed-mindedness" that I found troubling. I'm glad not to have that problem so much here.

Of course, I've found that being at Fuller creates a different kind of problem. I'm not entirely sure where I "fit" anymore. Trying to be fair to all sides seems not to be a very popular option....

boit said...

When you are constantly in the public eye...thats when...for all I know, he could be a wicka...

The Feminarian said...

Yay! I love reactions.

I get the thing about finally feeling relief and joy about the election and hope for the future of the country. I feel it too. I have just been in the company of some people who have crossed the line from celebrating to gloating, and it's not polite.

I wish the Christians could just get along (they'll know us by our love?). I complained to J that the Evangelicals have become the easy target group for everything the liberals hate, and he pointed out that the reverse also holds true.

So I said, "Why can't we all just agree to pick on the atheists? They're the ones being stupid."

(no offense to my atheist friends. just making a point)

Wormwood's Doxy said...

When you are constantly in the public eye...thats when...for all I know, he could be a wicka...

Logs and specks, anyone? And it's "Wiccan," just FYI.

So I said, "Why can't we all just agree to pick on the atheists? They're the ones being stupid."

(no offense to my atheist friends. just making a point)


To be honest with you, I find that statement much more offensive than people gloating about the election. Atheists have good reason to fear people calling themselves "Christians," and they often don't differentiate between "fundamentalist," "evangelical," or "progressive." To them, we all look alike--and when a nominally progressive person makes a joke like that, I can see why.

Given what "religious" people have done to this country over the last 30 years, I think I would rather have the atheists in charge. At least when they did evil, they wouldn't do it in the name of God.

Doxy

The Feminarian said...

Oh for crying out loud. It was a joke. The truth behind it is that most Christians DO think atheists are being stupid, because they are ignoring the abundant life possible through God's presence. And most atheists I've talked to REALLY think Christians are stupid, because we believe in fairy tales and all that hoo ha. I'm pretty sure my atheist friends (I'm not making them up) would understand what I mean...but it is hard to read tone into writing sometimes. At any rate, there is a basic disrespect of one another's worldview that naturally arises when said views are such polar opposites; my POINT was that the Christians have far more in common and therefore should stop picking on one another. What sucks is that I find myself getting along better with the atheists than the Christians a lot of the time. My comment was satirical/hyperbolic (exaggerated to make an effect): we should be able to agree on same basic level. Though clearly that is difficult, as this conversation attests.

Seriously, after all this time, if you think I'm "nominally" progressive, you either haven't been reading very carefully or you have a strange definition of progressive.

As for the "wica" comment, I generally ignore ignorance like that, and I suggest you do too. Life will be much simpler. Not that education isn't important, but probably my blog's comments aren't the appropriate place (esp considering the commenter probably won't ever come back to see your correction). I find that actually helping people learn tends to happen in person, and back and forth of this nature online often causes deeper retraction into one's original viewpoints, no matter how incorrect they may be. Just sayin'.

And frequent readers of my blog know my position on faith in politics - that Christians have no place in public office. To truly represent this pluralist nation, one must put one's own faith aside. I at least couldn't do that, but I can't speak to the faith of those who've been elected. That's totally between them & God. One thing I WILL say is that if they claim their actions are arising from their faith, it better darn well be consistent. And I don't find it offensive in the least to say that Obama might get some of his values from his faith, because I believe that that is one of the helpful things about having some measure of faith as a public figure - it does ground you in a moral compass. [Which you can totally do if your faith is based in humanism as well.] But the point in my post (which this is all about, right?) was that I couldn't believe Christians themselves would be offended that someone might say Obama has a faith-based moral compass. Sure, I can see how a non-religious person wouldn't like that, but why would a Christian be threatened?

Because of Bush? Please. Let's just get over it. We knew all along he wasn't truly acting out of his faith, at least not the way we "nominal progressives" understand the faith to be, so let's not give him that much credit. He can't spoil faith-based action for everyone. And it's our job as Christians (as it has been these many years past) to show our neighbors how real Christians believe and behave.

OK I am now officially tired of hearing myself think.

B-W said...

It occurs to me that the comments in this blog might be rather appropriate to this conversation.

The Feminarian said...

Yes, that is good - thank you Mark!

We all do realize that I'm going on about 3 hours of sleep, right? And writing in between crying jags (sometimes even the baby's)?

OK. Just wanted to get that out there.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Hey, you SAID you loved reactions! ;-)

Since you said you are tired and the baby is crying, I won't fire back. I've been there and I remember...

Prayers for you, for Maggie and J, for the obnoxious liberals, and for all who need them.

Pax,
Doxy

The Feminarian said...

Thank you for that grace. The point of the post was to talk about the loss of a sense of personal responsibility in the mess of the world, and a bit of complaint about the triumphal attitude I've been hearing (my colleague Christopher Evans wrote about it much more eloquently on Facebook, but without being his friend, I don't know if you can see his note).

Anyway I didn't really want the conversation to go the way it has. Although I still will stand by my wish that we won't be so tainted by W's errors that we refuse to admit one can garner one's values from one's faith. That's all.

(since it's my blog, can I have the last word? :)

grammygail said...

Enjoyed your post and all the comments.

grammygail said...
This comment has been removed by the author.