OK, I admit it, the post title is a tad bit provocative. But, left or right, the very idea of finding commonality is intriguing. For even though all of the terms used above are ideologically and semantically loaded, I believe it is a given that our "sides," whether in the halls of congress or the coffee hour of a small-town church, are not supposed to find common ground.
After all, what if we did find that place where we truly find common understanding and appreciation about our perspectives? For some of us, we would lose our identity, no longer defined by the battles with the ideological nemesis. And still others would say that finding common ground about anything: policy, theology, vernacular, etc., would just water down one side or the other giving way to a mushy and moderate middle.
For when it gets right down to it, isn't the real goal in all of these "conversations" to beat the other into submission and prove that our side is right?
Nay, I say. Nay.
I reject this adversarial mentality because at the core of our discourse should not be an obsession with winning the future, but our common yearning to discover where God is leading us. We are at our best when we maintain a healthy place where disparate theological and political views can passionately wrestle. It is in these times of healthy conflict that I believe we most fully discover who we are and who we are becoming. But we must also be able to agree on a few things, not in the particularities, but in our general understanding of our common humanity.
It is with this yearning that I offer this list of five and affirmations and five confessions that I believe I hold in common with many of the folks who sit on the other side of the proverbial aisle. I am no mathematician, but think of these are both our lowest as well as our highest common denominators as passionate, opinionated and faithful human beings. I offer no solutions to the problems of our misunderstandings and misconceptions, only a hope that if we can humbly see one another beyond the sound-byte character redactions that fuel so many of our conversations. We just might have a chance.
This I confess...
I don't give people the benefit of the doubt: Too often I assume too much about people with whom I disagree. I place folks in a box because of one statement made, one experience shared or another personal association, and I never let them out. I forget that at our core, we are each complex creations and should be treated and seen as such.
I expect from others what I do not demand of myself: The same grace, patience and openness that I hope is extended to me during times of disagreement, I have a diffiuclt time offering at the onset or in return.
I only sometimes believe in democracy: Majority rules is GREAT when it lines up with the way I would vote. But when elections sometimes don't go my way, the "will of the people" is probably wrong.
I often overestimate and overstate my own influence, expertise and erudition: This not only causes to me to take myself a too seriously and enter conversations ill-equipped but it can also lead me to condescending linguistic head-patting that says, "When they get smarter they will see that I'm right."
I am rarely as witty as I think I am: Too often, but with good intention, my snark gets the best of me and I become mean-spirited and toxic. I may mask it as ironic and playful, but in the end it is about me tearing you down.
This I affirm...
I believe I can change the world: As I dip my toe into my 40s, I am still as idealistic and passionate as ever about my ability to change the world for the better. Tactics, strategy and context may change, but when I see something that I think is wrong, I yearn to to be part of making it right.
I am passionate: I do not take lightly the causes I embrace or the beliefs I hold. Sometimes my passion and intensity is driven by my heart and other times my mind, but in either case, it is my deep yearning to move forward what I believe to be right, true and just.
I love my country: Always yearning for us to be moving toward something better, at the heart of both my most severe critiques or gushing accolades is a deep gratitude to be a participant in this great experiment called the United States.
I am a person: Like most every human being, I fall in love, experience disappointment, find beauty all around me, let my emotions get the best of me, over-think decisions, yearn for community, want to be heard, cry, laugh...
I'm guided by my faith: I believe, speak and act out of a deep commitment to my Christian faith, a faith guided by Scripture, Christ's call on my life and my community of faith.
I am sure there are more confessions and affirmations that I hold in common with "those people" over there, but these will serve as my own reminder of our common humanity. For no matter how committed, justified or confident that I am about what I believe, I must always remember that the same passions are held by someone else on the other side -- and maybe, just maybe, the most faithful outcomes can only be discovered if we seek them together.