I was raised in a Southern Baptist home in the southwest corner of Oklahoma. Somewhere around my freshmen year of college, I began to question my faith and the existence of God. If I had not attended a Jesuit institution for graduate school, I am not sure the papal visit to the United States would have mattered much to me. Pope Francis being a Jesuit himself, enthralled me and made me listen closely not only to things said while visiting America, but every major issue he has addressed since the beginning of his papacy.
Now, I should mention here that the Pope and I agree on little. He believes without a shadow of doubt in the existence of God, the father. I am not so sure. He believes life begins at conception. I firmly believe in a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions. He believes in the idea of a traditional family. I believe in the fluidity of sexuality. With that said, I amazed by what we hold in common; climate change is real and driven by human forces, the death penalty no longer serves a purpose, immigrants and refugees should be treated with dignity and respect, as well as a belief in collective impact in an effort to lift all people.
The issue with everything I mentioned above is this; by reading the things I believe, you’ve already made up your mind about what my political beliefs are. Now, to know me or to read this blog, is to know I am not shy about my views. I will talk politics and policy with anyone anywhere. What baffles me about the world we live in is that everything is viewed through the lens of politics. Every statement is sliced, diced and assigned a place. When we do so, we make a series of value judgements: Do I agree with this person? Is this person a threat to me? Is this person a threat to my ideals? Should I listen to this person further? Is this person worthy of my time, attention and a conversation?
I am no regular viewer of Fox News. In fact, I believe they have done more harm to political discourse than any other source, but one of their anchors nailed this sentiment during the Pope’s visit:
When we make these instant decisions about someone with whom we are discussing politics and policy, we ultimately do a disservice to ourselves, to those we are engaged and society as a whole. While it may be human nature to think such things and classify people in such a manner, I would implore you to push back against such a rigid reaction.
Ultimately, this was my take away from the Pope’s time in America. We should do much more listening. We should caution ourselves against viewing everything through the theatrics of politics. To fail to do so, doesn’t push society forward. Instead, it grinds life to a halt. It doesn’t make us better people nor does it make us the shining city on the hill we want to be to the world. Keeping these things in mind, we should spend more time reading books, blogs and newspapers that make us uncomfortable. We should watch television where the aim is neutrality not advancing our worldview. We should engage in conversations with those who view the world differently. We should share and find common ground. The Pope and I will never agree on much. Republicans and I won’t agree on much either, but those things we do agree on can never be discovered, if we don’t start the conversation.
Be good to each other,