Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Do you have something in my size?

The longer my dad has been gone, the more I miss him and wish for his words and wit to be given from his voice rather than from my memory. But he did give me much to remember, and this story is one of them. My dad’s father was not a kind man, given to anger, probably due in part to the difficulty of his life experiences. He lost everything in the depression, had to move his family west to find work, and eventually stopped in Gila Bend, AZ finding a job as a mechanic. They lived there a few years until they had enough to make it back to Oklahoma. Dad told me one time that he didn’t have shoes that fit for much of his childhood years, because when his dad would take him to the shoe store, he would take the first pair that was brought to him by the clerk. He told me he did so out of fear of his father’s wrath, and that if he said they were too tight or too big, he would be accused of complaining and ungrateful. So instead of leaving the store with nothing, at least he had a pair on his feet, whether they fit or not. The departure from The Church As We Know It is a little like this story. For many of us, we felt we had no other option. The form and function of the present model was all that was available, and according to certain voices in our lives, all there needed to be. If we registered a contrarian view, we were rebuked, corrected, or assumed we were destined for spiritual oblivion. So, like my dad, we learned to keep quiet and just accept what was handed to us as adequate. But as we got older, we learned this was not the case. Our complaint was not born out of ingratitude, but only from a realization that it simply did not fit. Staying in the form of The Church As We Know It made as much sense as walking around in 8D loafers when a 9 ½E looked more like my foot. We can now buy our own shoes. The contrast is a crude one, as it can certainly raise more questions about the movement than provide answers. To any detractors, it would not be a stretch to assume from this story that the guiding force of my life is comfort and doing whatever feels good. But think of it from the point of view of a little boy, living in fear of his dad. There is a generation who is discovering they no longer have to be afraid of the one they call Father.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

This Might Sting a Bit

If you give me a choice between getting my teeth worked on, or engaging in a political discussion, I’m going to opt for the drilling, grinding and Novacaine every time.

I finally figured out why I dislike politics so much, and it has to do with the same things I dislike about religion. Both seem hell bent on converting the opposition, but neither side seems very interested in listening to anyone else. I’m left feeling a little angry, and a whole lot confused, wondering, “Is this the way it’s supposed to be, or is it just the inevitable result of the human condition?”

Last year, I read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, at the behest of an employee. Labeled by many as socialist propaganda, the story looks at the horrendous working conditions in the Chicago meatpacking industry at the turn of the 20th century. Sinclair tells the story of mistreatment and misfortune of immigrant workers by the business owners, and leads you to his conclusion that the only logical answer for such injustice is to turn to socialism.

But Sinclair does what every other politician or pastor does when speaking about the point of view he is defending. He compares the strengths of his doctrine against the weaknesses of his opposition. Socialism, he says, is built on fairness and equality for all people, while Capitalism is driven by greed and avarice of the rich and few. Ironically, even in his own argument, he is in violation the very thing he espouses. He is not being fair to his opponent.

If you want to convince me of your point of view, don’t tear mine down. Instead, try to build a case by first understanding what I think and believe, and then compare strength to strength. Compare apples to apples, not apples to microwaves.

If Sinclair was truly fair, he would look at the strength of his foe, Capitalism, versus the strength of his Socialism. If Socialist doctrine is build on fairness, then to be fair, one must ask what is the equivalent positive trait of Capitalism. Granted, it may be hard to fathom, but it is a system of opportunity, rewarding hard work and determination.

On the converse, continuing to be fair, Sinclair would then compare weakness to weakness. He must admit that his Socialism has a dark side, just as he indicted Capitalism with a verdict of greed. Indeed, making money can lead to greed, but it can also provoke jealousy and envy in those who despise it.

My point is this: Take time to listen and understand those who hold an opposing view to yours. Be secure enough in your own belief to not react defensively, but see if you can clearly articulate back to your rival what it is he believes. Compare strength to strength and weakness with weakness, and don’t confuse the two. See if this leads anywhere.

What have you got to lose? It can’t possibly make things any worse.