I am a conservative. I am even one of those right wing, religious conservatives. The icing on the cake is that I homeschool. I know some of my liberal friends have already stopped reading. Others are picturing me holding poisonous snakes aloft in one hand, with my gun firing in the other, and my toes gripping a Bible with which I am deftly smacking the sinning Heathen around me, while my children dressed in long jean smocks are praying in a circle around me, in between memorizing the Constitution and sewing homemade flags.
All the liberal friends had to read was “conservative”, and they are certain that I have secret KKK meetings in my basement, am actively spraying aerosol hairspray to melt the glaciers, take my used batteries and dump them in the water supply, and belong to a cult stockpiling ammunition while drawing up plans to overthrow the government. They would never dream of finding a real science book in my home and are certain there is a plaque on my wall that says, “If you don’t understand it, just trust God did it.” In addition, they suspect I am homophobic, intolerant, unloving, money grubbing, would run over my Grandma for profits, hate the poor and the homeless, and want to rip the chicken nuggets from the mouths of the children on Subsidized Student Lunch Plans. They believe I want to save babies from abortion so that I can then cut their parents’ welfare checks and let them starve to teach everyone a much needed lesson in responsibility. They think I believe all people with preexisting health conditions who can’t get insurance should die a lingering and gruesome death, because if they just got a job like me, they would not have a problem getting health insurance. I may have left something out. There are so many accusations and so little time.
But guess what? I think we conservatives do the same thing, and with the exact same effect. As soon as I see anything written with any of those mischaracterizations above, I stop reading. That person has lost me, no matter how many potentially good points they may have otherwise made.
Remember that huge brouhaha over Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s statements regarding gay marriage? When questioned during an interview, Dan Cathy said he believed marriage should be between a man and a woman. This started a huge outcry by gay activists, and some mayors insisted that Chick-Fil-A not be allowed to do business in their cities. I always looked at that issue as a free speech issue, and like many people, went to Chick-Fil-A in solidarity with others supporting the right to make such an innocuous, and once mainstream statement. I did not see it as a gay rights issue, nor did I believe any official had any right to dispermit a business because the CEO in an interview said marriage should be between a man and a woman. I even blogged about the issue. However, in the midst of that hype and frenzy, I came across a piece written by a “self described gay Christian.” It was thoughtful, and gentle, and laced with musings about his own struggles. He understood that many supporting Chick-Fil-A that day were doing so to support free speech, but he said many in the gay community perceived it to be an anti-gay statement. He felt that instead of bringing the love of Christ and the hope of the Gospel to that population, it alienated many, and hurt the Christian witness. He never called names, or accused, or condemned anyone. He just presented his perceptions in a loving, and gentle, and factual manner. He actually changed how I felt I should approach the issue. I withdrew my blog and have spent a lot of time in soul searching and prayer over an issue that for me is less cut and dry than I had always believed.
I think it is very easy to demonize, marginalize, and put down others. I think we forget very quickly that all of us were created by God and made in His image. Every time I see a conservative friend talk about those who oppose our ideas as “the Enemy”, I cringe. They are not the enemy. They are my sisters, my parents, my brothers, my cousins, my neighbors, my friends. I may think they are wrong, but I hurt my argument when I attack them as people, rather than speak in terms of facts, logic, and ideas. I am not necessarily talking about compromise. I think we should stand up for what we believe, but I think we can do it in a way that draws others to our ideas.
I think it is very telling that when the angry crowd surrounded the adulteress on the verge of stoning her, and Jesus cried out, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone!”, not a single person remained to accuse her. If you think you are not flawed, ask someone who loves you, who knows you well. If they are honest, I suspect the list will not be as short as you might hope. I know mine isn’t.
Conservatives have a great message, a hopeful vision, a positive outlook on the power of faith, family, hard work, compassion, volunteerism, charity, kindness, and the necessary but restrained role of government. I think we can, and should promote our message without name calling, without impugning others’ intellect or motives, without thinking of those who oppose us as “the Enemy.” They are potential converts. All of us are potential converts in God’s eyes, and He sees us not as we are, but as He hopes one day we will be. I think we should strive to do no less.
By: Vicky Kaseorg
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