Gelett Burgess said,
“If in the last few years you haven’t discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead.”
This post is about checking our views, and how we discard old opinions and acquire new ones. In it I mention controversial subjects, including the 2008 financial crisis and Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day. Make not mistake, this post is not about fiscal politics or social issues or Republicans and Democrats. I only ask that, should you disagree with my positions on these controversial subjects, you look past your disagreement to the principles I’m trying to demonstrate with real-life examples.
Where does this fit in a religious blog like this? We’ll see if I can pull it all together at the end.
Evil Republicans and the 2008 Financial Crisis
Mitt Romney recently announced that his VP running mate will be Paul Ryan. The Obama-nation has already started pounding the pavement in their political mission to bury him. An ad released the same day as the announcement ends with a condemnation of Ryan for supporting “the top-down policies that crashed our economy.”
(Before I continue – in the interest of full-disclosure, I myself am a Conservative.)
I know, I know, this is politics. I can’t really expect better than for each side to spin our collective woes for their own good. Still, this drives me nuts. Do you know why?
Because the 2008 meltdown had far less to do with partisan politics and far more to do with the pesky habit mankind has of acting in our own self-interest.
It’s not my intent to detail the issues here. If you want to delve into the quagmire that is sub-prime mortgages, credit-default swaps, systemic risk (“too big to fail”), and moral hazard, that fringe right-wing organization PBS did an outstanding piece on the cause of the financial crisis. I also enjoyed this (significantly) shorter YouTube video on the crisis.
But the moral of the story is that the crisis was not the result of “top-down policies,” nor was it Romney’s or Ryan’s fault. It’s as simple as powerful company leaders making risky bets than ended up not paying off.
“I Wish You Could Open Your Mind”
I felt passionately enough about the subject that I posted on Facebook about it, and shared the two links above. That day, I received the following message:
“I would be laughing my head off if you were on my Facebook page and saw some of the posts from friends and family on the “other side of the aisle”….. Especially from women who believe so strongly that Mitt and Paul… your “guys”… are so against what they believe to be their “rights”…. I wish you could at least open your mind and see the reasons other people believe what they do.
“I personally welcome reading your posts to get the “right wing” perspective because it helps me to understand and learn. I wonder if you have any friends or family that do not agree with your ideas and beliefs. It is so good to think “outside the box”… just for intellectual challenges. Please do not be upset with me for expressing myself. Again… I admire your passion and your ability to express it. Lots of love…. A Democrat for Life.”
Does anyone else see the irony in having the self-proclaimed “Democrat for Life” exhort me to open my mind and think outside the box?
But that’s beside the point. What concerns me more is that when I post something almost completely unpartisan (whether the catalyst behind posting was partisan or not is irrelevant), it is largely ignored because it does not jive with the partisan message coming out of the Left – that Romney and Ryan (and Romney’s kind – i.e. bankers – as if that should have any bearing on his presidential fitness) are to blame for the financial meltdown.
I repeat myself – my rational, non-political message backed in logic and data was completely ignored, even dismissed, because Obama-ites said that the Republican candidates were to blame.
Self-Awareness and Chick-Fil-A
What of the suggestion that I need to open my mind?
For the record, I actually try very hard to check my opinions. I ask myself if the thoughts I run so quickly to are right and ethical, if they are backed by any kind of empirical data or if they are simply born out of tradition, and if there is not a fuller, more accurate view I could embrace.
I’ll even give you an example.
A few weeks ago was Chick-Fil-A appreciation day. For those who live under rocks, the short story is this.
- Chick-Fil-A’s CEO, Dan Cathy, is Christian, and the chain is known for being closed on Sunday in observance of the Christian Sabbath.
- Cathy was asked, for a Christian publication, what his view on marriage was. He said that he favored traditional marriage.
- Chick-Fil-A got some heat from the political left for this “hate”
- Mike Hucabee suggested that conservatives rally behind the restaurant and eat there on a specific day to show support
Thus Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day was born.
But Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day was not a day only for friends to voice their support, but for detractors to voice their discontentment. One such detractor was Adam Smith, who went through the drive through and badgered a young girl working at the window. He even video-taped himself and posted the video to YouTube.
He was subsequently fired.
My first thought was, “What a jack a**, he got what he had coming.” I cheered a little inside.
But then I thought about it.
Chick-Fil-A was getting heat because Cathy had exercised his right to free speech. The massive support for the restaurant was not, as some might have assumed, at all about gay-marriage. It was about how important free speech is. Scare tactics and bullying are despicable attempts to stifle that right.
Yet here I was, celebrating the termination of Smith’s employment, a termination that was the direct result of Smith exercising his right to free speech. He really was an a** to that young girl, but since when has niceness ever been a standard for exercising free speech? Yet here I was, rejoicing.
Double standard much?
Then again, liberals were so vehement in their condemnation of the way that Cathy shared his opinion. Certainly they must rejoice that similar action was taken against such an insensitive jerk! It doesn’t matter that they likely agreed with him, right? (This is sarcasm, and hopefully you see my point).
Just dessert’s much?
And so here I stand, still undecided about how I feel regarding Smith’s firing. There are much deeper ethical issues at work here beyond the firing of someone who I fundamentally disagree with.
How many of you put that much thought into the situation?
Perhaps you didn’t, and that’s alright. We can’t examine so closely every event we are privy to. This just happened to be one that I closely examined. Hopefully there is something similarly recent that you can point to as a time you checked your own opinions, and searched for a fuller truth beyond your own paradigms.
Bringing It Together
So now here we are, with me having to pull it all together and relate it to religion. Why does this matter?
First, in answering the question of how we can keep an open mind, I offer that the best solution is to ask “why”. We are all influenced by everything around us, and often without our conscious consent. It is so beneficial to ask ourselves, for example,
- “Why do I believe that Paul Ryan was at least partly responsible for the financial meltdown?”
- “Why is it just that Adam Smith be fired for his comments?”
You may find that, after examining your reasons, you still believe that it was completely just that Smith be fired. On the other hand, you may find that the only reason you believe Ryan to be responsible for the meltdown is because Obama said so. Either way, you’ve come to a place where it’s possible to have an open mind because you are now conscious of the reasons behind your support.
Can we ask this of religious matters? Of course! For example,
- “Why am I Christian?”
- “Why am I Mormon?”
- “Why do I believe in The Book of Mormon?”
- “Why do I support traditional marriage? Why do I believe that it’s important to legislate my support of traditional marriage?”
These, and hundreds of other questions that you could ask, allow you to have an active faith.
Second, in answering the question of how we can reach out to people when they so often reject ideas that don’t conform to their worldview, I offer that this is why it is so important to make sure that the Spirit is involved. Cognitive dissonance is a tremendous obstacle to overcome, and it’s just one of many! We can’t have any expectation of success when we share the gospel if the Spirit is not present. The Spirit is one of the best ways to reach beyond the walls that people naturally surround themselves with.
Those are my thoughts. I encourage you to join the conversation. What do you think of all this – open minds, cognitive dissonance, asking “why?”, and teaching with the Spirit?