You know how today you were saying, “And then you have those liberals who keep whining ‘Oh, no, we can’t cut programs for children!’?” Or last week, when you were lamenting the “brainwashed Obama-zombies” who are “ruining this country”? (You made it clear, of course, that they are aided in that by the “illegals,” “socialists,” and “elite liberal media.”) Or when you tried to comfort me in the wake of yet another dating fracas by assuring me that “Jesus had saved me from fornicating”?
Well…It’s probably time I came clean. When you sing along to Rush Limbaugh as he bashes godless liberal feminazis, you’re singing about me, sister.
I know this might come as something as a shock to you, because I’ve never shared my political beliefs with you. Or my religious ones. I don't really run around shouting “Creationism has no place in a science classroom! Equal pay for equal work! Get your laws out of my vagina! Reform immigration laws to accurately reflect the human and economic reality while still being enforceable!”
This is true for many reasons. I don’t like being proselytized, so I refrain from doing the same to others. Plus, virtually all of my deeply held beliefs are complex enough that they don’t make good bumper stickers, hate rhetoric, or sound bites. Also—and you might borrow a page from my playbook on this one, just sayin’—I don’t assume that you or anyone else shares my beliefs.
Which is why I continue to be a bit surprised that—absent any indications from me either way—you assume that I share yours.
But only a bit. On one level, it’s a numbers game; I get that. We live in the Bible Belt of Southern California. I am a mere wisp of an ideological minority. Also, you’ve grown up here. We look kinda similar on the outside—race, gender, age, marital status, whatever—so you assume we’re the same on the inside. I get that. I grew up in Rust Belt Ohio in the 70’s, and until I’d moved out and around a bit, I kinda believed everyone else in the world was a white, working-class Christian, too.
What scares me, though, is that I think the bulk of your assumptions are based on a belief that’s a little more sinister.
See, you like me. I treat you (and everyone else in our spehere) well—with as much respect, dignity, and professional support as I can possibly extend. I buy things from everyone’s kids’ fundraisers, including the ones for church camp. I am calm, reasonable, and intelligent. I listen well, whether I agree with what you're saying or not. My children are disciplined and polite. I was an at-home mom for a solid decade, and I believe it is a privilege and a responsibility of the highest order. My kids have rules and bedtimes, and I personally raised hell at my daughter’s school when a teacher assigned a book that I felt was too sexually graphic to be age-appropriate. When you tell me Jesus saved me from consensual sex (however ill-advised), I might not agree, but I also don’t argue. Because who knows? I have seen salvation take some crazy forms in my life, and I’m not arrogant enough to assume your version is wrong (though I do privately wonder how Jesus could possibly care about my sex life on such a granular level during the same week that an eight year old Yemeni girl was raped to death by her 40-year old “husband” on her “wedding night”).
This is the way I strive to treat everyone, whether they share my beliefs or not.
And maybe more importantly, you think I am a good person. In this regard, we are the same. We are both honest and ethical, hard-working and kind. We are engaged members of our society. As parents, we are both self-sacrificing, firm, loving, and far-sighted.So of course you assume I share your beliefs, because in the refrain of the Right Wing Conservative Anthem, someone cannot be both a good person and a liberal (or feminist, Muslim, socialist, atheist, immigrant, environmentalist...)
Yet here I am. I voted for Barack Obama, though I am sometimes disappointed by his administration. I support marriage equality, though I support the right of individual religious institutions to choose whose marriages they will sanctify. Though I have grave issues with the morality of abortion, I believe in a woman’s legal right to choose. I learned to speak Spanish not just because I worked in Juarez, but because some of my closest personal friends have been illegal aliens. I support the right to bear arms, with limitations. I am an environmentalist. I believe that universal healthcare is evidence of a functional, compassionate social structure.
In short, I believe in RESPONSIBILITY—personal, parental, environmental, fiscal—responsibility. That’s a big part of what makes me a “good person,” and these things are not the sole domain of conservatives.
The main difference between us, really, isn’t political. It is that you see the world in black-and-white; I see it in grayscale. Pick a topic, and I will most likely readily (though sometimes uncomfortably) admit that it is complicated. You will say it is simple.
Which is why all of this makes me a little nostalgic for Jesus. I mean, not the Jesus of “NOTW” stickers on Escalades, not the Jesus who “hates fags,” not the Jesus who wages war on non-believers.
I miss Jesus, the champion of radical social reform. The Jesus of compassion. The rule-breaker who challenged people to examine the Law and ask themselves whether it was Right. Who embraced paupers and children and lepers and sinners. The Jesus who multiplied loaves and fishes without fretting that it might created a culture of dependency and entitlement. The Jesus of the widow’s mite, who saved an adulterous woman from stoning, who commanded people to ignore the mote in their brothers’ eyes until they had dealt with their own damned beam.
Let me know if you find him.