That of which we should not speak

It had been a while since I heard it said, but recently someone commented again that religion and politics tend to be ‘taboo’ when it comes to friendly conversation.  Why is that?
Are we, as a culture, unable to speak about things of depth and substance, or have we made those things of depth and substance so simple that they no longer have meaning?
I wonder if we don’t talk about those things because we tend not to inform ourselves on such things.  We tend not to be informed on politics, or religion, as a culture.  Is that a fair statement?
A young person, shortly before the election on May 2, said they weren’t going to vote because all the political parties are the same – so it doesn’t matter.  I replied, “really? are they the same?”  This person admitted they did not know much about any of the parties platforms, or the positions of the local candidates.
I’ve also heard people make sweeping statements about the church.  When a few of us gathered for reflection and prayer outside the down-town Rainbow Coalition centre, a young person came up to me and was visibly angry that there were people of faith at this place.  At the point that they came by, nothing had been said – so they really had no idea from what perspective comments might be made.  And, as it turned out, they were not part of a faith community, nor were they even loosely connected to the Rainbow Coalition.  After the prayer and reflection, I went to find the young person to find out how they were feeling.  They had changed their opinion.
It seems to me that assumptions are made, and conclusions are jumped to, based on only a little bit of information.
Why don’t we talk more – and invite open discussion, not heated debate – about the things we value?  …they’re things that affect us!
And perhaps, if we can achieve a real level of openness, we might all find some common ground.  Perhaps we’ll find that our views are confirmed, or challenged, and that we come away from the conversation having learned something.
Without a doubt, it’s not easy to talk politics or religion.  It requires something of us.  It’s easier to talk about sports, or sitcoms – some form of entertainment.  But those remove us from reality (which is fine from time to time).  Where, then, do we engage with reality?  Who, then, creates the rules by which we all must abide in real living?
During the election campaign leading up to May 2nd, I recall hearing young people talk about their views on life together.  Some said that each person ought to earn what they get; some said that we need to make services available to all without charge.  In some cases, it seemed apparent to me that a political party’s platform had taken root – that they were speaking words they heard uttered in a campaign commercial, or perhaps by a party leader in a televised event.  In other cases, the position seemed to originate from a different life-experience – having lived outside of the country and experienced a different system, or having lived in a community where they had a role to play that affected the living of others.
It’s important to be aware of where our positions stems.  Why do we believe what we believe?  Why do we value what we value?  Why do we feel the way we feel when presented with a different point of view?
It seems to me that, if we’re to actually take the time needed to unpack a person’s point of view, we’d rather just get a quick snapshot, or general idea, and not take the time (hours, days, weeks, months…) to get to know someone and what they believe.  I think that’s a down-side to the instant-communication and instant-information age in which we live.  We expect things to be quick, and we expect the whole thing right away.  Getting to know a person – and their values and beliefs: what makes them unique – sometimes takes too long for our attention-spans.
To me, that’s a reason for faith community.  Come together – take time away from daily routines – and learn about each other.  Come together in a caring and patient way, seeking understanding.  In the Christian experience (and this would apply to Jewish experience as well) we speak about “sabbath rest.”  We gather on a “sabbath day” to remove ourselves from daily duties in order to just be with each other.  Ideally, we should also be getting to know each other and be open to each others’ experience.
We need to strive to have friendly conversation about things like religion and politics more often!

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Posted on May 15, 2011, in Tyler's occasional web log. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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