Two items in the news today lead me to write because they effect two of my great passions — religion and politics.
Chuck Carlston, a teacher at my seminary, required that we read our texts because he disliked the idea that it was OK to sit around sharing uninformed opinions. It was OK to know the facts and share an opinion. It was a problem for him when people shared opinions which weren’t based in facts. On a day like this, I feel justified in agreeing with him. After that, I want to suggest why we are in this spot and how to fix it.
The first story in the news is that most people failed a quiz on what religions actually believe. And, since it was a nationwide poll, they questions they asked were pretty basic. Not surprisingly, this is the cost of living in a secular society — a lack of knowledge about world religions. While some Christians bemoan the idea that “this is no longer a Christian nation”, it apparently isn’t a Muslim or a Jewish nation either, according to this recent poll.
The results of the poll don’t surprise me. What’s always surprised me was when other polls said 90% of people consider themselves religious. I always wondered what religion they considered themselves to be. Now I know — they lied about their answer.
I respect my atheist friends right to be atheists, just as I respect my Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist,Pagan and Taoist friends’ right to be those things. I even respect my religious or non-religious enemies right to be those things. What I don’t respect is those people who complain about my religion without having a clue as to what my religion actually says.
In this blog, I work very hard at acknowledging my own ignorance when I have an opinion about Islam, for instance. I also work very hard at pointing out that some other person’s version of Christianity is not my version of Christianity — from Rev. Koran-burner and Pat Robertson to my friends Bob, Val, and Dave. Readers of this blog have my utmost respect for slogging through this with me. I admire them deeply and encourage them to continue doing so.
Still, until this blog, I never felt heard or believed about my religion by those nay-sayers who assumed without asking what I believed. I don’t mind explaining what I believe — not at all. What I mind is defending what I believe from people who don’t know the facts about what I believe. It’s a reasonable request that people know or ask first, then raise objections… which leads me to my next thing.
There is some person who keeps writing in the “comments” section of articles re: Obama that “Obama is the worst president ever”. He keeps saying it as though if he says it enough, it will become true. His opinion, in politics, is like the guy who wears a rainbow wig and has a sign that says “John 3:16” at all the football games. It’s everywhere and it looks like it’s the only opinion out there (about that particular subject) worth having. I like and believe the scripture reference, but please don’t confuse me with that guy. I can be crazy (and sane, BTW) in my own way, thank you.
And, I beg of you, don’t say that Obama is the worst president ever without some facts. He may very well end up being a very middle-of-the- list president. OK, I’ll give you that. But, I’m sorry, on his worst days, his record is not as bad as George W. Bush. Bush came in with the highest surplus ever (from Clinton) and left with the worst economy since Hoover. And he trashed the economy in only eight years with no apology. At least Obama acknowledges that things are getting worse while he tries to make them better. Bush and his cronies said it was our fault for expecting them to do their job. In short, “Obama is the worst president ever” is hogwash, with nothing to back it up but it’s author’s feeling of rightness.
AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHH! We call that “talking out of your rear-end” where I’m from. For right now, that’s the way we do things in this country, and it makes me insane. We can’t figure out why the country doesn’t get any better and why we don’t feel connected to each other while we don’t try to understand each other. There’s a logical connection there, but we can’t see it because … because we don’t expect logic from people any more and we don’t teach them to be logical.
If it can’t be said in a sentence, somehow it’s not true. And if it can be said in a sentence, (or better yet letters and numbers combined in “txtng” format) it is automatically true. What kind of BS is that?! Add to it that “if you say it enough, it becomes true” and you have one crazy, dysfunctional America.
So here’s my solution — expect people to back up what they say with facts or at least some ideas why they believe it. Teach and expect logic from people. Teach and expect children and teens to actually think about things before they say or believe them. Teach and expect full length responses. Teach and expect respect through your own example. Teach people to listen before they speak. Ask them why they believe so-and-such. Ask them where they got their facts from. Ask to see the facts or ideas in context. Expect people to read the original source. Make politicians actually say something longer than 30 seconds long. Go to actually rallies. Believe with your own two eyes, or ask for a real explanation. I find NPR and C-Span boring, too. I like my news in brief, too, but if I want to be reasonable, if I want to know what I’m talking about, I can’t do that. Instead, I read, and read alot. Then I think alot. I force myself to have a longer attention span. We need to expect the same from our children so that — if we’re lucky — in ten years, when Obama isn’t president, we might have a working democracy again — one without religious wars and mistaken beliefs. Honestly, is that so much to ask?