To all of my more politically/socially conservative friends and family:
Hello everyone! I’d like to tell you a short story and then ask a favor from you.
Back in 2008, after a couple of years of examining what I believed about a host of things including my faith and my politics, I wrote a blog post saying that I was going to vote for Barack Obama for President and outlining my reasons for doing so. It was a big step for me and I knew that my conservative, staunch Republican social circle would probably be upset.
I wasn’t prepared for the response I got. Some friends disagreed with my points in a loving and respectful manner, which I still appreciate to this day. Others reacted much, much worse.
One of the people I liked and respected most in the world at that time wrote publically on his blog about me. He is a fairly well known pastor and his blog is read by thousands of people all across the U.S. He called me out by name and said that I was a prime example of a godless generation and that if Obama was elected, the blood of millions of unborn children was on my hands. He didn’t even have the decency to call me before posting this on his blog. We have barely spoken to each other since.
Others who I counted as close friends and many of my family members said things that hurt me deeply. People made jokes at my expense and mocked my intelligence because I was “dumb” enough to vote for a Democrat. That was one of the loneliest times of my life.
I was no saint at that time. I responded in anger to a lot of the comments and said things that I regret to friends. I was hurt and scared and lashed out because I was immature and ill equipped to handle the criticism I got. I took each negative comment in a deeply personal way and took it as an attack on me personally, even if that wasn’t the intention.
Looking back at it now, I can honestly say the experience was traumatic for me. Just writing about it is giving me the feeling like I have before a panic attack.
In the years since, I’ve had spurts of voicing my personal views on things, but the same cycle started over and over again with arguments escalating, feelings getting hurt, and me feeling burned by just trying to share what I think or an article or column that I agree with. I finally gave up and decided that it wasn’t worth the effort. I decided it would be easier for me to keep my mouth shut and not bother anyone than to deal with the aggravation and anxiety that came with it.
Thankfully, for almost a year I’ve been a part of an online community of people who are progressive Salvationists. I know that for many the word “progressive” is a bad word, but this community has been such a help to me. For so long I felt alienated from my friends, my family, and my church and these folks have made me laugh, made me think, made me reconsider poor font choices, and they have helped me in ways that I cannot express. Thanks friends!
So after saying all of that, I’ve got a request for everyone who considers themselves my friend and also identify as conservative/Republican/et al. It’s actually one big request, just broken into five parts.
- Please come to terms with the fact that I’m a liberal. I’m not brain damaged, brainwashed, or brain dead. I’m not evil. I don’t hate rich people. I am not a communist. I adhere to a different worldview than you do, and I have come to these views as a result of years of careful thought and not because I was tricked into it. Believe me, if I didn’t feel so strongly about it, I would just go along with the worldview that most of my friends and family share as it’s the far easier path. I’ve spent years being afraid to speak my mind because I didn’t want to bother anyone, but that time is over with. Please accept that I will support liberals for political office and that I may have views about the world, the economy, and the Bible that are probably different from yours.
- Accept that I’m allowed to have differing opinions and that it doesn’t make me a bad person. Too often when people have disagreements over issues, things get off of the issue at hand and get personal. For example, in that 2008 blog post I said specifically that I disagreed with then Senator Obama on abortion (I still do), but I was still called out personally as being complicit in the murder of millions of babies. I’m fine having a discussion on issues, but just because I have a different view on an issue isn’t license to attack me personally.
- Don’t bully me into silence when I express my own views and opinions. This kind of piggy backs off of the previous one. Too often it’s been my experience that when I express a contrary view, those who I disagree with act as if I don’t even have the right to my own opinion. They try to shout me down while failing to engage with the opinion I was sharing. I appreciate impassioned debate over issues, but I can’t stand when people act as if anyone who doesn’t agree with them doesn’t have the right to express another view. If you can post a link to The Blaze on your Facebook wall, please respect my right to post a link to Think Progress on mine.
- Remember that words can do damage. James 3:9-10 is one of my favorite scripture passages and something I have to remind myself of daily. ”With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” I don’t believe that those who disagreed with me during that period in 2008 meant any harm to me with their words. But that was such a traumatic experience for me that I can still feel the impact of it nearly 6 years later. I have relationships that have either never been repaired or have not been the same since. This grieves me on a daily basis. The internet is a great thing, but it’s also a terrible thing. It’s so hard to convey tone and the potential for misunderstanding is nearly unlimited. Be careful with what you say and how you say it.
- Please point out my own failings if I go over the line. As much as I’ve talked about keeping a cool head and talking about issues without getting upset, I realize that I have a short temper and can say things that I shouldn’t. Back in that 2008 hullabaloo, I said some things to my friend Christa that were pretty awful and completely unnecessary. Thankfully, she contacted me privately and confronted me in love over what I had said. I apologized profusely and to this day I have the utmost respect for her handling that situation that way. If I hurt or offend you with something, please let me know. It’s never my intention to hurt anyone, but as I said in my last point it’s far easy to hurt someone without intending to by the way we speak to each other online.
If you have made it all the way down here, you have my thanks and my appreciation for listening to my laundry list of thoughts. I have tried to express myself as best as I could, but not everything has come out the way I wished. If I wasn’t clear about something, my apologies.
Let me end by saying that I love and respect all of my friends and family, even if I disagree strongly with some of the views you may hold. My main request is simply that I hope that same love and respect can be reciprocated to me. I don’t want to damage the relationships that I have with those that have different worldviews than I do, but I can’t spend any more of my life keeping my opinions to myself so I don’t offend anyone.