Sorry, But I Don’t Hate Mitt Romney

flickr: mafleen

This past weekend, I had the privilege of spending 36 hours in Ohio. Apparently they are getting a good deal of presidential election attention. In fact, I came “this” close to being at a joint Paul Ryan Rally and Pumpkin Chucking event.

Good times in Ohio. I am sure the election season can’t be over soon enough for my Ohio friends.

While I was there I had a good talk with a friend about what seems to be a genuine HATRED of President Obama. I realize that during election season there is always some level of mud-slinging and personal attacks, but the tone this year feels different than just trying to sway voters. This year it feels like the disdain and hate of Barack Obama is clogging up whatever free-flow of public debate that was left. I almost don’t care about why the hate seems to be so strong and I am not so naive to think we can all “just get along,” but I do think this tone has to be challenged and we must all refrain from stoking the fires of hate.

This past week, with my “People really HATE Barack Obama” antenna up, I clicked on an article, Fear and loathing in campaign 2012: As patriarchal, Christian dominance fades demographically, its backlash politics have only become more vicious by Arthur Goldwag, author of Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies.

…the kind of hatred that I’m talking about goes way beyond ordinary politics and deep into the realm of abnormal psychology. In its full-blown manifestations, it is akin to what an ophidiophobe feels at the sight of a snake: visceral and existential; categorical and absolute. It turns on the gut certainty that your adversaries aren’t looking just to raise your taxes but to destroy your whole way of life: that they are not only wrongheaded, but preternaturally evil. Comparatively few people experience these feelings on a conscious level, but they lie latent in many more of us than we might suspect.

Now I have been pretty clear that I am not a Romney Supporter. I would say that I am an Obama supporter, with a soft spot for Stein. And while I vehemently disagree with what Romney stands for on marriage equalityimmigration, government programs, etc. and think his election would be horrible for the United States in so many ways, I can honestly say that I do not hate him. In fact, I am one of those people that does not hate anyone. Be it political, professional, or personal, hate is a waste of my breath, a waste of my energy and a dishonor to God.

  • I don’t hate the girl who dumped me in high school.
  • I don’t hate the colleague who I think is incompetent.
  • I don’t hate George W. Bush, who I believe a horrendous President.
  • I don’t hate the person who beat me as a child.
  • I don’t hate the man who shot and killed my brother-in-law.

Disappointed in, angry with, livid towards, offended by, yes, but hateful towards another?

Never.

Hate is a powerful driving force and when repeatedly called upon, it strips us all of our humanity. As a parent, I do not forbid saying the word, but its use never goes unchallenged by a conversation with my children about what they are feeling. Call it hippie-talk, “politically correct” or whatever, but I believe that actions driven by hatred have allowed us to one-dimensionalize one another and our apathy towards it is tearing our culture and our country apart.

Hate in personal or professional situations has its own set of problems, but in politics hate renders us unable to separate the human being from the politician. One can hate and fight against what someone does or believes, but to hate the human being behind those things is a dangerous place to be for us a individuals or as a country. When hate invades our politics we begin to create legislation based upon assumptions and understandings that are not driven on a deep understanding of complex issues, but upon how we want to culturally and institutionally hold captive the other.

I understand that at this point, folks who are going to vote against Barack Obama are not going to change their minds. All I am hoping for is that, in the pursuit of the common good, our decisions on election day and beyond are made based on disagreement about the issues and not hatred of the individual. For when hate is the lens through which we view the world and form our policies, a cycle of reciprocated hatred by those who are targeted will undoubtedly be the outcome.

When we hate we all lose, no matter who gets elected.

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Christian Hypocrisy in Examining the Word of God and the Words of Politicians

Flickr photo by wy_jackrabbit

First off, before the strident atheists out there start lifting this post up as a “See, even, so and so, says Christians are a bunch of hypocrites!” let me be the first to stipulate that all people of faith are, at some level, hypocrites. Because we understand that we are not perfect, there will always be inconsistency. Of course, depending on one’s context, some Christians are more hypocritical than others, but in the end, very few people actually do walk the talk in totality. This reality doesn’t lessen faith for me, rather it is the way in which I hold myself accountable and am challenged to keep striving to live a life that is consistent God’s calling and claim on my life.

With that disclaimer, out of the way, as part of Patheos’s 2012 election coverage and in response to this week’s questions, What’s wrong–and what’s right–with the role of faith in American politics today? I offer this min-rant.

Like many of you out there, I am both frustrated and fascinating by the election season. Truth be told, I love it: the strategizing, the sociological implications and the constant challenge to be community. I do my best not to add to the negativity and unhealthy interactions that are in front of us all the time, but sometimes, like so many of you, I just want to scream/tweet out, “You are mean, lying poopy face . . . oh why do you hate America so?!?!?”

One of the instigators of my frequent potty mouth moments is seeing how supporters of both main presidential candidates* respond to one another and the claims that each campaign makes. It seems that supporters of both parties are pretty inconsistent when it comes to examining what the campaigns are putting out there about the economy, healthcare, foreign policy, taxes, poverty, etc. Generally speaking, when we like and support a candidate, we believe them and if we don’t support a candidate, we find every way to discount their every claim as an utter lie.

Seeing as many of the people who show up in my various news streams are of the Christian variety, I have noticed the same patterns when we approach Scripture. Now don’t worry, I am not trying to equate our political system and God’s movement in the world. I am only pointing out  how we tend to approach our beliefs in times of disagreement. These are the things that I have noticed:

When we read the Bible, The Word of God . . .

  • We lean into and take at face value passages that reinforce our already held beliefs.
  • We dig deeper into the history and context of the passages in order to discount any that call our beliefs into question

When we hear words from politicians . . .

  • We lean into and take at face value the words that our preferred politicians says.
  • We dig deeper into the words from politicians we don’t like in order to discount their version of the truth.

In both of these cases we are basically doing two things: one, finding all the support we can to affirm our already held beliefs and, two, finding anything we can to discount the beliefs that others might hold as true. In the end, we are more concerned with making sure that we are right, rather than being open to the possibility that our beliefs might need to change, shift or . . . heaven forbid, be scrapped in totality.

Of course there are always exceptions to these two extremes and I would even go as far as saying that these approaches are not always “wrong,” ways to approach politics and faith, for sometimes when we dig for one truth, we unexpectedly discover another. At the same time, I think it’s fair to say that, at some point, each and every one of us falls into the trap of not thinking critically about our politics and our faith. Truth is, it’s exhausting to engage in the self-reflection and relationship building that might lead to a change of our hearts and minds. Despite what some might like to believe about themselves, NO ONE LIKES CHANGE. The only change any of us really champion is change . . . for other people.

Now I am not sure what we do about all of this other than try and be more consistent. I try to remain diligent in not always discounting everything that any candidates says, nor do I take, at face value, the truth that any candidate claims. I have found that following people on twitter with whom I disagree, while excruciating at times, has been helpful in maintaining perspective. I have also found that Politifacts, especially on twitter, seems to be a very helpful truth-o-meter for campaign claims.

In the end, there are no easy answers and I find strength in the fact that we will always fall short of perfection. But if we can all acknowledge these realities of shared hypocrisy and extend a little grace towards our enemies in these times of battle, maybe we will all see the other side of this election season a little less bruised and battered from the fight.

A small hope for sure, my hope for us all nonetheless.

* I will save this topic for another post, but I am seriously considering a vote for the Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala Green Party Ticket.

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