Some people that read this look to me for commentary on the issues or suggestions on how to handle certain issues. Goodness knows I am full of both. I’m just not in the mood. I see my readership stats like anyone else that runs their own WordPress blog. There aren’t that many of you. I write these primarily for me and if anyone enjoys them along the way so much the better.
The past four years have been demoralizing for any number of reasons. I certainly have ideas of how we can fix some of that, but there will be plenty of time for that later. I figured it was high time that we discussed the toll that these four years have taken.
Anyone that is a student of history knows that some pretty awful people with pretty awful ideas have come down the pike. I suppose when you consider it that way, the ideas put forth by the current administration don’t seem so bad. After all, we have seen genocide, homicidal dictators, and true unadulterated fascism. So, maybe locking a few kids in cages and blustering your way through pandemic response pales in comparison.
Maybe it’s all hyperbole at the end of the day. Yet, one cannot help but think that many of these movements began innocently enough. Few dare to come out and assert the awful things they plan on doing. It’s like the old adage about the frog in water. Throw it in boiling water and it will jump out immediately. Throw in luke warm water and slowly heat it up and you can cook the frog.
The crisis is not the ideas of one man or a group of men. Stephen Millers have existed forever. Steve Bannons have existed forever. What becomes painful is watching some of the people you love begin to espouse the same ideas. Friends, family, and coworkers have become radicalized before our very eyes. For some of us, it includes some of those we worship with as well.
This is where the crisis of faith comes in. I have spent a lifetime going to mass, volunteering with youth groups, and studying the Bible and theology. I’ve never seen things like this. I’ve never seen a group of people that I respected completely lose their way like this. It’s disheartening watching people abandon the things they hold dear all to follow a man that has never read their Bible, asked for forgiveness, or lived by the tenets of their faith.
The crisis comes in how we respond. One option is to find our own bunker to hide in until things blow over. We should retreat from our church. Retreat from our family. Retreat from our friends. We should keep our heads down and just go about our daily business without bringing it up. Arguing about politics just raises the blood pressure anyway.
Another option is to engage. We can do the tireless work of trying to convince those we love that they are going down the wrong path. They have put their faith in someone that isn’t going to give them what they think they want. We need to remind them about what their core values were. We need to remind them of how this new evil isn’t who they really are. They are better than this. We are collectively better than this.
The third option is some kind of combination of the two. We stay connected, but don’t really challenge their belief structure. We do the small talk and talk about the latest sitcom just to maintain some level of connection. We go about our daily business exchanging pleasantries and pretend not to notice that there is a huge gulf between us.
None of those options seem satisfying to me. None of them seem sustainable. I can’t completely isolate myself or just hide in the bunker with likeminded people. I can’t take on the whole world and make the Herculean effort to battle for their soul. At least I can’t do it for very long. I also can’t sustain a relationship where we never talk about anything we might disagree about. The best case I can come up with is that we have to do all three simultaneously. We retreat from the world when we need to. We battle to help a few people we care about. We maintain superficial relationships with the rest.
Spending nearly 30 years as a fully functioning adult has taught me a few things about myself. First, I have never had full 100 percent conviction of my beliefs. It is always somewhat unsettling to run up against someone that seems to be so sure about something that seems to antithetical to something I believe. I have always considered that self-doubt to be a strength. Anyone that is 100 percent sure has no opportunity to grow.
The second thing I know is that it is hard for me to let go. Some people are capable of cutting people out of their life fairly easily. I’ve never quite understood that. Of course, this cuts both ways. It means I will try to salvage relationships others would give up on. As laudable as that sounds, I know from personal experience I have been a lot happier the few times I have managed to give up on a relationship. Finding that balance is one of the most difficult things about adulting.
I suppose this is just a long and drawn out way of saying I don’t have any good answers to this particular dilemma. Recognizing evil in the world is something we all have to face someday. It’s something we try to shield our kids from for as long as we can. Seeing that evil in the beliefs and actions of those we love is soul crushing. Grieving the dead is a part of life. Grieving the living is so much worse.