Tuesday, April 20, 2010

With whom do I talk?

Last Sunday’s Gospel lesson has me thinking. It was the story about Christ’s third appearance after the Resurrection. Jesus meets some of the disciplines on the beach after fishing. He feeds them fish. Three times he tells Peter, “Feed my flock.” At other times Jesus is reported to have said “In as much as you have done it to the least of my children you have done it to me.” From these and other statements has grown the social gospel of caring for others.

I wonder, and want to ask questions of those faithful among us who state that they are conservative, and leaning toward libertarianism, meaning to me that they support individual effort and accomplishment and disdain broad social programs by the government. I want to ask how they fit their emphasis on individual freedom and reduced government with the apparent instruction of Christ to care for, and feed, his flock, the “least of these.”

The question soon became, “Whom do I ask?” and “Where do I find a libertarian-leaning, thoughtful person who is faithful to Christ’s message that will answer my question?” And soon the question of where do I find someone with whom I can engage in a meaningful, respectful conversation on a topic on which we may disagree? It did not take long for this question to overshadow the original question about the social aspect of the Gospel and one’s individual liberty. From what I see in our culture today a conversation between two people with very different political, social, or religious views is, at least, unusual, and more likely avoided because it will result in hate-filled speech.

One of my cousins warned me about her brother, another cousin, obviously, whom I have seen at a family party only once in the past half century. She said, “If you mention religion or politics with my brother he will yell at you with his very strong conservative opinions, and when he is finished he will not speak to you ever again.”

I have poked around the Internet looking for chat rooms and blogs where I might find a religiously faithful politically conservative, thoughtful person with whom I could converse. What I have read has not encouraged me to begin an interaction with them. Everyone, it seems, is only conversing with others with whom they agree, or in a flaming rage about those with whom they don’t agree.

Decades ago there were politicians who described carrying on long and vigorous debates with their colleagues in Congress and afterwards they would go out to dinner with those same colleagues and share their friendship that surpassed their political differences. It is evident that such an atmosphere does not exist in Congress today, and I don’t see it in the rest of us.

I wonder if it is possible to locate a thoughtful, caring conservative and/or libertarian with whom I could have a meaningful conversation about how that person’s views fits with the Gospel lessons that I heard on Sunday.

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