The Purity Conundrum
I am a man of faith. Granted, my faith has evolved since I made my initial decisions some 47 years ago, but, to be honest, I would hope it would. Does anyone really believe an 8 year old boy has the capacity to decide the structure of a 55 year old man’s mind? I’m no Grover Norquist, so beholden to a bad idea that I would twist my understanding of the world to justify it.
But, as for my faith, it remains a central pillar of my life. That’s easy enough to say, of course, but begs the questions of how I define this “central pillar” thing. It’s like this. Every day I am grateful. Every day I am reflective. Every day I ponder the lessons of charity and kindness and do my best to extend the concept. Some days I am more successful than others but my intent and action is to live in such a way that I can be proud of my effort.
There’s not a lot of shouting and there’s no proselytizing but, every day, my faith guides me, comforts me, and keeps me striving to be the person I want to be. This is true no matter how some folks have tried to declare it invalid.
Why would someone want to declare my faith invalid?
Let’s understand something very basic. First, belief is faith, not fact. Belief, at its core, is opinion. Arguing opinion is akin to ridiculing someone over their favorite flavor of ice cream. If someone denounces you based on what ice cream they have decided you must like, or, worst yet, how to eat said ice cream, they have issues.
For, while anyone is entitled to their own silly opinion , no one ever attacks your beliefs unless they are insecure in their own.
It’s because they are so insecure in their own beliefs that anything not supporting their views is considered an attack. Since they are being attacked, they lash out with proclamations and accusations and I look at their actions as examples of how not to demonstrate faith to the world. This situation has refined and distilled my beliefs over the last 47 years and, I imagine, will continue to do so as long I draw breath.
The result of this process is that my faith is never threatened by anything other people say or do. A side effect of this is that I find the concept of blasphemy inconceivable. If my faith is strong, how can what someone else says or does make a difference? It’s not that I don’t weigh the words and positions of others to evaluate my belief, it’s not that I don’t find things said and done offensive, it’s that I am not dismayed by the process of refining my belief to meet new information.
Because information is neutral.
What we do with information may not be neutral, but information is. And because of my attitude, for a vocal minority of religious folk, those who take any disagreement as an assault on their beliefs, I fail the purity test.
My faith, to them, is invalid and will remain so until such a time as I embrace whatever contradictory and ill-thought out positions they hold for the brief time they hold such a position. Yet, were I to embrace this transient stance, it would just be a matter of time before they moved on to their next unreasonable position and I would have to scramble to re-arrange my views to fit their new whim-centric proclamations.
Who has time for such idiocy?
I do not. Plus, that’s just not the way I work. I evaluate and refine my positions as I learn additional information. I do so because I believe our mind is a gift from God and using it to puzzle out the universe is the highest way of honoring the Creator. It has never occurred to me to reject thinking and logic and reasoning and knowledge. It would be akin to crawling rather than walking merely because some daft individual or group declared walking was wrong.
It wouldn’t just be wrong, it would be stupid.
Seriously, who has the spare capacity, talent, or time to discard facts and embrace poorly designed fiction. I can hold any silly opinion I want without having to justify to anyone. But as soon as I represent something as fact, I must either verify it or shut the hell up. This is a process I extend to all of my life.
The results are uneven.
As a case in point. I’ve been a registered Republican for 37 years. I am fiscally conservative and believe in a great deal of personal freedom as long as folks embrace the consequences of their actions. But the term “fiscally conservative” has morphed it’s popular meaning for my party.
For me, “fiscally conservative” means “effective use of capital” not “corporate subsidies” or “social engineering,” so it puts me out of step with the zealots in my party. And, in my mind, personal freedom does not come with the subtext of, “except for things I do not like.”
So, for much of the last 25 years, my party has done it’s level best to distance itself from me while demanding I support it blindly. Since I refuse to behave in such a way with my faith, we’ve covered this, a central pillar in my life, the chances of me acquiescing politically was always zero.
During monetary discussions, I would point out the hypocrisy of Congress forcing the military to buy equipment it did not want or need. I would state that drug testing for public assistance costs more than it saves. I would note that voter ID laws were expensive and solved a problem that did not exist.
But, worst of all, on the personal freedom front, I would insist that the government had no place in regulating the consensual actions of adults and, even more damning, should be expressly forbidden from codifying discrimination.
So, obviously, I failed the purity test and could not be a “real” Republican.
That was fine with me as I had previously decided, back in 2000 when my party attacked and discredited John McCain eight years before he did the same thing with his own actions, that I was an Eisenhower Republican. Eisenhower didn’t hate America, it’s government, or it’s people.
So, here I am, a successful professional with over 30 years in the corporate world, a man of deep and abiding faith that I live on a daily basis, who believes in the reward of hard work, and based on lessons I learned as a teenager, believes in the right of consenting adults to manage their own lives without harassment or discrimination.
So, naturally, the conclusion is that I was welcomed by those who demand tolerance and acceptance.
Except; I wasn’t.
In discussion after discussion, the same people railing against very real and pervasive injustice in our society took every opportunity to attempt to revile and humiliate me. The purity folks live their lives on a hair trigger. They attacked me because we disagreed on details as important as the difference between “grey” and “gray.”
I’ll save you the trouble, there is not appreciative difference. It’s stylistic, at best. But, sincerely, I hope the encounter was as enjoyable for them as I made it for me.
Based on their anger, accusations, and hypocrisy, I am guessing it was not. I admit, this only added to my glee. Because, while I am not so petty as to work for the misery of anyone, I am petty enough to enjoy it when they court misery with such fervent abandon.
In one discussion, I failed the purity test because I insisted supporting a person’s right to live their life free of harassment and discrimination was more important then the order of letters in an acronym. In another, I had the audacity to read the article a participant insisted supported their position and paste the exact passage that contradicted them.
But my most damning transgression remain my insistence that equality of opportunity is more important than an imposition of equality. Of course, I include such minor things as providing children with safe shelter, adequate food, medical care, and educational opportunities as part of the equality of opportunity equation.
Because my faith demands I consider the success of my community. My fiscal conservative nature requires me to note that the wisest use of capital is ensuring more of the populace is creating spare capital. And my personal freedom stance compels me to insist consenting adults be allowed to live their lives unhindered by prejudice and interference.
Does this make me unique?
I am as common as sand on a beach. The purists, the loud and enraged minority discount us because they are looking to portray themselves as victims. They whine and shout and attack the world for not bending to their whim and take any disagreement as proof of their persecution. And when we do not oppose their posturing, our society suffers.
I am convinced most folks just want to be able to live their lives and be left alone. They want to provide for and love their family. They want to be safe and have a moment to breath a free breath of hope and promise.
Some, though, hate themselves to such a degree that only the misery of others will brighten their pathetic lives. These are the folks who set up check boxes to determine who they will accept and who they will attack. The are the folks who attack us for not being “pure.”
If it seems these are bitter and angry people, it’s because they are.
So, what to do? The answer is simple. Stop inviting these people into your life. Stop giving them power. Stop listening to the constant undercurrent of hatred and fear.
Life is too short to base it on destroying the happiness of others.
Do you want to read more concerning my thoughts on the world? Buy my books. I promise I will enjoy your money.