Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Politics and Staying Friends

One of the reasons I created my RevCyn Facebook page was so that I could post about religion and social justice issues without subjecting ALL my Facebook friends, which includes conservative relatives and high school chums, to the full extent of my politics and faith.  I then post such things less from my own account.  One exception, however, is that because I try to draw a fine line between partisan politics and my ministry, and because I see the RevCyn page, and this blog, as an extension of that ministry, I try to refrain from endorsing a candidate here, or making statements about Republican and Democratic candidates that could be seen as an endorsement.  But my personal Facebook account,  however, is where I do feel free to be political, just as I do in my front yard and the bumper of my car.  Thus, as the election draws near, I run into more and more occasions where I risk alienating the conservatives among my Facebook friends.  The liberals among my 754 Facebook friends vastly outnumber the conservatives, since the majority of UUs are liberal, and a large percent of that 754 is colleagues and church members.  Add to that the liberals in the Jackson community that I work with through various agencies, along with the fact that most of my college friends are liberal, and you've got a pretty big block.  And most of those people enjoy talking politics--the old rule that it's impolite to talk about religion and politics would eliminate the very things we're enjoying talking about the most.

Recently, one of my high school friends posted this picture:

It was picked up and posted by another high school friend.  I don't know either of their political leanings.  The picture speaks to the fact that with a hot election like this one, it truly has become harder and harder to be friends with people on the opposite side of the political spectrum.  I personally find it hard to let a post slamming Obama and repeating what I believe to be lies go by without comment. 

I personally don't think getting heated up and arguing with people on Facebook ever does much good, despite what, I am sure, is the 100% completely logical, persuasive, and, let's face it, correct nature of my arguments.  What it does is alienate my conservative friends and push me deeper into my liberal enclave where I'm less likely to encounter, much less transform, people of different thinking, and where my conservative friends are less likely to have their thoughts challenged.  From what I'm learning through such works as The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science- and Reality, sharing facts and figures is not persuasive to those who have made their mind up on the right (and on the left, as well, although arguably to a lesser extent, according to that author).  And certainly re-posting snarky internet memes can't be the most effective way to change a mind.

To that end, I'm making an effort to let people know that I'm happy to block them from my political posts if they're in political fatigue or don't enjoy arguing.  What I won't do is pretend I'm not a liberal and don't have my views, but I'm willing to not constantly subject all those Facebook friends to my personal political beliefs.

On the other hand, I'm still left with the greater question, which is how to have the truly meaningful and transformational conversations with people on the other half of the spectrum from me.  I would love to have regular, deep, face-to-face conversations with conservatives who are willing to engage in these conversations with me, but I don't know where to find such a connection or event. I think if facts and figures and my wonderful logical arguments aren't what changes someone, and reposting Facebook memes is not the right tool, the answer has to lie in personal connections and personal, emotional content.  The only way to have those deep conversations is to build a relationship first.

So for right now, I'm trying to put relationship-building ahead of politics with my Facebook friends, while still being true to who I am at all times.  Not everyone will be willing to build relationships with a LGBT-friendly agnostic Unitarian Universalist minister.  So that's all the more reason to be gentle and kind with those conservatives who are.

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