Reluctant Fundamentalists

Sometimes, I do things that end in me being frustrated.  And yet, there is a part of me that knew it would go exactly this way.  What is worse?  That part of me loves it, or perhaps, more accutately, that part of me loves to hate it.

I have had relationships, for example, where 95% of me is working hard at making the relationship better.  But 5% of me has this idea that I am the better person, the righteous person.  And so I begin to say and do things that are most likely going to end in conflict.  It is a conflict where I am on my way to the moral high ground.  Where I can be the person I want to believe I am, by reciting my lines in just the right way, by saying the things with the right emphasis, by being that guy who I want to be: victim, liberal, savior…

I am starting to recognize this in my every day life.  But Social media puts a new wrinkle on this whole thing.  Facebook is outstanding for this purpose.  In social media, I don’t even have to pretend to listen to the other side in real time.  This morning, I was about to brag about how I am watching “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” on Netflix.


In doing that, ninety-five percent of me has  a reasonable set of motivationss for this.  I am wanting to reccomend it to friends.  I am aware that some of these folks might be positively impacted by what it says and what it is about.  Some of the stuff that I am counting in this ninety-five percent is probably a little less noble, but not really part of the problem: things like I would like to be seen as smart and hip.

There is five percent of me that knows exactly what will happen.  It does a pretty remarkable job of covering it’s tracks, though.  It is easy enough, most of the time, for me to deny that I saw it all coming.

Here is what would happen:

* I would receive about 8 likes.  (Roughly 2 of them would come from people who like everything, so they wouldn’t count.  The other 6 would give me half a second of warm and fuzzy feelings inside.)

* I would receive about 4 positive comments from politically liberal/film buff friends.  This would give me a slightly longer-lasting rush of warm fuzzies.

* Somewhere in there one of the great people in my life not likely to be sympathetic to the message of the film would chime in.  And then, that devil that stands, cartoon-like on my shoulder, that 5% of me…  He will be in his glory.  This is what he/I was waiting for.

I am contemplating, this morning, that it would soon be clear that we wouldn’t be arguing about the movie itself.  Really, what these discussions are about is “what stories are worth telling?” and  “What stories haven’t yet been told?”

The conservative would eventually admit that yes, the Pakistani protagonist in the movie could have been a really guy.  He would recognize that perhaps this might be happening somewhere.  He would go on to insist that the “liberal media” is too busy telling this story, over and over.  He would claim that the stories of European-bred Americans is being forgotten.

In the same tone he talks about the liberal media, I would bring up Fox News.  I would say that we have been telling white men’s stories for 200 years, now.  We would both bring up vaguely-backed statistics, anecdotes, and philosophical postures to justify the position that our respective stories need to be told.

I wonder if that is the the beginning of the path out of the mess that we are in: recognizing that we are both right.  More stories need to be told.  They need to be told well.  They need to sometimes be distilled into numbers and statistics.  The case-studies and the numbers need to be wielded with a tremendous weight, a deep sense of responsibility and humility, if we are to get anywhere approximating the truth.

And so here I am: finishing up this blog post and recognizing the irony of the situation.  In essence, I have created a long-winded version of the facebook status I disparaged a few hundred words back.  Further, I will probably go post a link to this post on my facebook feed.

I would like to think that it’s less than 5% of me, that is seeking out that same pattern to justify my silly ideas about myself.

But probably?  It’s not too much less than 5%.


Peace Making, Self Esteem, and a bit of a tangent into the Death Penalty.

I think that too much has been said about self-esteem, and not nearly enough has been said about being a person who makes peace.

I was surpised, today, when I saw that these were connected so closely.

I think that the easy and obvious reason that a person might want to make peace is rooted in a regard for others: as the story goes, I don’t want to hurt you.   I don’t want to lash out at you.  I don’t want to fight you.

Of course, these are good things to think.  And caring for others?  That is a pretty good motivation.

But it’s not the best reason to be a maker of the peace.

The best reason to be a maker of the peace is because of what making peace does to me; put conversely, the best reason to avoid war (of every kind) is because of what it would do to me if I engage in it.

The “me” that I am speaking of, here, is not a lonely, solitary “me.”  It is a duo, a pair: there is my own, individual self.  And there is Christ in me, too.  When I choose peace, when I make peace, I am doing so because of what it does for me, and for the creator of the world, who, in his inexplicable, nearly offensive humility, chooses to reside within me.

I do not know that I am not always called to mindlessly submit to the assaults of others.   I know that an attacker can cause so much pain.  I know that it can hurt in unimaginably deep ways to have things stolen from us… Of course, it is the intangible things, when these are stolen from us, that we hurt the most.

And yet…   any attack, every attack, there is a part I can not control.  An evil person (and there are evil people!)  can only target things of this world, physical things… temporal things.

When I return violence for violence, when I lower myself to that level, suddenly then, I am jeapordizing things that are eternal and fundamental.

It is out of this deep self-esteem, this profound love for myself, for Jesus in me, that I must not give up my very self in exchange for that which is not part of the deepest me.

This is why I can not condone the death penalty.  I would rather be murdered than made into a murderer.  I will not let some one else turn me into the monster that they have become.

I am not good at this, making peace.  I do not always do what I see is right.  I do not always see what is right at all.  But I want to be better.  I am turning my eyes to making peace, trying to bring my heart there, too.   I am not good at this.  But I want to be better.