Sometimes I Just Want to Give Up

Is it wrong to say that sometimes I just want to give up?

I feel like giving up on holding an opinion on anything because it is so easy to see people dismiss the opinions of others in a smug arrogant dismissal.

I feel like giving up because even people who agree with each other on large issues still seem to go for the neck when they disagree over details.

I feel like giving up because there are those who say I’m just another person writing and that I probably have nothing to say.

I feel like giving up because there are others who say that everyone has a voice and should be able to use it.

I feel like giving up because it often feels like you can never do anything right. People talk at each other, but rarely seem to talk with each other. People give their own view of how things are and ignore or put down the views of other. It seems like division, disrespect, and line drawing are the standards of how our culture communicates.

All that matters is if someone is on your side or not. Even if people have reasonable hesitation against going all or nothing the line is drawn, you are found wanting, and viewed as an enemy of the cause, whatever that cause may be. We pick through the actions, words, and images of everyone we get the chance to in order to criticize and oust, even those whose actions are not very controversial and their intentions seem to be for the good.

Perhaps the most discouraging thing about all this is that I know I do the same thing at times. It seems to be a human trait. It is easy to try to give people one size fits all labels that we make up in our head, that in reality are often worthless and do a poor job describing most of the people we run across. My aversion to labels and needing hivemind-like agreement tempers this quite a bit, but I still do it. It’s a lot easier to argue with and be condescending to a label we make than a whole person.

So often I want to give up on people. I tire of all the unwavering certainty, the us vs. them mentalities, and I don’t really know what to do about it. It’s frustrating enough when people you don’t agree with do it, but it is even more frustrating when people you tend to agree with do it too. You worry that some aspect of your thoughts on a particular issue doesn’t line up and the exile will begin.

I feel like giving up sometimes, but I don’t think that is really the right thing to do. My opinions may be considered wrong or even worse things by others, but they’re still mine. I don’t even really view my opinions or the things that I write about as unmoving boulders set in place for all eternity either. They are simply a reflection of where I am, just like other people’s opinions are a reflection of where they are. My guess is that over time views will change and/or become more developed over time.

It may be very odd posting something like this the week of Christmas. This sentiment feelsĀ  very anti-Christmas. To want to give up on humanity and any idea of striving to make the world a better place at all. At the same time I also wonder if this is not the most fitting time to put forward thoughts like this. The last few months have been fraught with conflict, tension, tragedy, and a multitude of opinions about those things. It just wears you out as you try to sort through it all, especially when you see people criticize other people just for trying to sort it out.

Yet at the same time, those who are Christians are celebrating the coming of Christ into the world. The incarnation of God into a messed up world that always seems to have its share of conflict, tension, and tragedy. I’m also sure critics are not just a product of our age. God didn’t give up on the flawed humanity that we are. If I am to embrace the coming of Christ and seek to follow that, then giving up doesn’t seem like a viable option no matter how tempting it may be.

So I keep hoping that people will become more understanding, even when they disagree, instead of divisive. I will keep striving to be more like that myself as well. I’ll also keep writing my thoughts and opinions, as flawed and in progress as they are and will probably always be. As much as I may want to give up sometimes seeing how messed up the world is, I’m pretty sure people giving up would only make it worse and not better. So we move forward day by day and hope that we will make progress.

Tending to the Extremes

Occupy Wall Street is in its fourth week and while the event isn’t the main focus of my topic, it serves as a proper illustration. The response to it has been interesting. One would hope that we’d listen to it and give a fair and balanced assessment of their points and present areas of agreement and disagreement. I have yet to see many of these treatments. The tendency is to jump to the extreme. Take Herman Cain whose response was that the demonstration was “anti-capitalist” and that the protesters only have themselves to blame for their unemployment. Labels like anti-American, anti-capitalist, class warfare, entitlement culture, and other have been placed upon the movement. Admittedly, the message is not altogether clear in terms of a point by point assessment, however it is clear that they are tackling the economic disparity and the increasing struggle to find work and make ends meet in this country.

To simply dismiss the movement in a phrase or a word, doesn’t do anyone any good. Taking some of the ideas and then labeling it as an extreme bad, or even worse connecting them to something else you don’t like even if you don’t have the evidence to do so is just irresponsible. Those who do that may be trying to make the movement look bad, but in my mind it also makes the person speaking out irresponsibly look bad. We take this leap of logic that because someone is dissatisfied with x they must then by anti-x and maybe even anti-y, anti-z or perhaps against the whole fabric of the universe. Sadly this doesn’t happen only on political issues, but can happen in our schools, churches, and in our daily interactions with each other.

The big question behind this is why? Personally, I’ve always thought that taking an extreme position is easier than taking a tempered position. It usually requires much more thought, either in learning about both sides or in simply learning to be quiet because you don’t know all the facts. It often requires much more time than most people are willing to give. It usually doesn’t give the “I know the formula for success” kind of answers. That and well it may actually require that we get along with those we disagree with.

Sadly, the church is also rife with such issues. We debate theology over predestination vs. free will; seven literal days of creation vs. non-literal; once saved always saved vs. the idea that you can lose your salvation; baby baptism vs. believer baptism, and the list can go on. Too often these are debates, sometimes to the point where one side calls the other heretics over them. I’ve engaged in these, but I know I’ve also engaged in discussions, where both people are willing to learn and be challenged in their position. It may not change their position, but maybe it will allow them to give some further thought to the other side and realize that it maybe isn’t as clear cut as we’d like.

Outside of theology there is also the battle of preferences that goes on in the church. The idea where we must do this a certain way or we are not being Biblical or perhaps to use another buzzword we’re not being relevant. We must sing old music as opposed to modern music; we should have this ministry; we should have the schedule the way I want it or else I’ll pitch a fit. Sadly there is often little discussion on these issues either. We all to often stick to our way, our extreme, and fail to budge. This attitude and stance doesn’t help anyone. We fail to grow by willing to be shaped by things outside our preference, we withdraw from where we’re engaged and leave people hanging, and we’re just setting ourselves up for failure in the future as we’ll always meet people who disagree with us on a preference level.

It always makes me cringe a little when I hear people demonizing a movement, theological position, or another person’s preference and/or championing their own without caveat. It make me cringe even more after I feel like I’ve been doing it myself. Honestly, I think we’d do ourselves a lot of good if we gave the other side of things a fair shake, instead of just digging a chasm between us and calling each other names from both sides. I fail to see the good in that, but sadly many will choose the easier route. I may fail at trying to avoid extremism, but I do desire to be one who doesn’t just resort to saying may way is better than your way and not engage honest questions. I’m not saying that I don’t hold positions, but I try to continually realize that I’m not infallible. I think we’d be better off if more people were trying to realize that too.

Is Remembering Enough?

Yesterday was September 11th. You couldn’t check the news, your Facebook feeds, or your favorite blog without running into it. I’m late to the party, but not without reason. “I Remember” is kind of the slogan for 9/11. I certainly do remember where I was when I got news of the planes hitting the towers, but ten years later how much good is that? I can remember where I was, I can remember to say a little prayer for those who died for their families and how they must be dealing with their loss, I can stand in awe of those who were the first to respond and gave so much to help who they could, but I’m left with a sense of uneasiness about it all. Is remembering enough?

It seems to me that we try to paint this picture of how 9/11 united us. How it brought us together as one big happy family, but on the other 364 days of the year this isn’t the picture I get in the post-9/11 world. Honestly, I’ve probably seen more division than unity, looking at our political landscape this is all too easy to see. Before we just blame our politicians I see it in ourselves as well. I’ve heard people blame Bush for all the woes that we face before Obama, Obama has been called a socialist and compared with people that he probably has no right being compared to and now faces a similar dilemma as Bush did of being blamed for all the woes we still have . These men by no means are perfect and I disagree with things that both of them did while in office, but one thing is clear we are certainly not united.

To me it rings a little hollow as new articles get posted about how united 9/11 made us when a day or so later we’ll go back to talking about partisan politics, mudslinging, how the gap between the poor and wealthy is increasing, and all the other evidence of a very dis-unified United States. My desire isn’t to belittle 9/11, but perhaps to say that if we really want to honor 9/11 what are we doing every day of the year? Is it enough to remember where we were on 9/11? Is it enough to bring up emotions for one day and then turn them off the next? Perhaps we need to ask ourselves what do we need to do to attempt to achieve the unity that is portrayed in these articles? Not necessarily for the sake of 9/11, but because I believe I am to love God and to love those who are around me even if they disagree with me and I disagree with them.