Friday, August 28, 2009

Sex, Religion and Politics

Sex, religion and politics. These have always been the 3 things that you don't discuss in polite company. I am pretty good about staying away from talking about sex; however I am not as successful at staying away from the other 2. I have never been afraid to share my Christian faith, as I feel it is my obligation to talk about the impact that Jesus Christ has had on my life. Regarding politics, I have always enjoyed a good give and take with someone who approaches things differently than I do.

That kind of person is not hard for me to find! I consider myself to be slightly left of center on the political spectrum (of course, we ALL think we're moderates!). Between my friends at church and my co-workers at EMC, most of the folks I see every day are conservatives. I would consider many of them to be very right of center, but then again they probably see me as a "tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving left-wing" fanatic! In fact, I do not drink lattes or eat sushi and I do not have any body piercings!

Since I have so many friends who are conservative, I can attest to the fact that there are good folks on both ends of the spectrum. Being a Democrat does not mean that you are Godless and being Republican does not mean you are heartless! Through personal experience I know that Republicans can be compassionate and service oriented and Democrats can be spiritual and place a strong importance on personal responsibility.

The problem is that these political discussions can sometimes get personal. I try to remain "above the fray" but I can start to feel defensive when I feel that I am being personally criticized for my beliefs. This has happened to me more often in the past year than ever before. My conservative friends were energized by the election last year, particularly after Palin was named McCain's Veep choice (which was also the precise moment I made my decision to support Obama). They remain fired up by the greatly expanded government intervention in society (I think we can all agree that government is more intrusive than ever, the disagreement comes when we discuss whether this intervention is necessary to turn around the economy and whether it will be temporary or permanent). This has led to an increase in the number and intensity of discussions.

It doesn't help that there is no longer one version of the truth. We can no longer even agree on the same set of facts! There are so many media and internet outlets available that you can choose to listen only to people with the same beliefs as you. I think it's important that we try to get both sides of issues that we care about. I get most of my news from NPR, Time Magazine, AJC and CNN, which conservative friends think are all liberal mouthpieces. I would agree that many of the reporters for those outlets probably tend to be left leaning, but I also believe that they all make sincere efforts to represent both sides and they all employ and feature very conservative columnists / talking heads. I intentionally seek out and read conservative columnists like George Will, Charles Krauthammer and David Brooks, specifically to get a different perspective. I happen to be a big fan of Brooks; we often disagree, but I appreciate his thoughtful approach to most issues and he does not see Democrats as evil people conspiring to take over the world!

So the dilemma for me is whether to continue to participate in political discussions. I have felt somewhat 'ganged up on' for the past year since I am so badly outnumbered in my daily interactions. I think that is wearing me out, in addition to having had several discussions recently that turned personal. At various times I have sworn off discussing politics, at work, at church, in email or on facebook! That usually lasts a week or two until some big issue (like health care reform) rolls around or someone else initiates the discussion (I truly believe that I am one of the very few 'liberals' that many of my friends know and they often look at me like I have 2 heads!)

I think I am probably incapable of shutting down that part of my life. But I think it's time to take a break. I am going to do my best to avoid talking politics for some (undefined) period of time. Of course I will remain interested (I am a political junkie) and will continue to read, but I promise that from now on I will only send politically tinged emails to like minded friends.

What have your experiences been? Have you noticed an increase in the emotional content of political discussions?