Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tipping Point

This is quite an election.

Things are incredibly nasty out there in Facebook land when DT or HRC come up. I am quite astonished at the language even "good Catholics" are using against those they disagree with. Tempers are frayed and feelings are high.    The level of rancor is, at least in my experience, unprecedented.

In a far-ranging discussion yesterday, a friend of mine mused "Sometimes I have to stop and assess myself and ask whether I am trying to control things? Usually I am, so I have to step back and let things unfold."

That may be part of the problem with voting this time around, and with these awful discussions.  We are focused on controlling the outcome (which we cannot) rather than contributing our part and letting things unfold. We are just certain that we are absolutely right and that we can argue others to our side to change what is happening. We aren't and we can't. And because we are so intent on outcome (on both sides), I think we forget that the power that is our witness, even in our differences. Too often that has not been positive these days, neither different in kind or degree from the secular world. And different in kind and degree we are called to be.  

Others are watching.  If we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ disrespectfully, how can those on the outside expect to be treated, especially when the issues at stake are sensitive and divisive?

For me this election boils down to this tipping point: my utter inability, for any reason, to vote for a party and candidate so focused on extolling the virtues of abortion and enshrining them in law and culture, one so focused on eradicating Catholic thought from the public square.  It also hinges on my reluctance to fail to exercise what puny power I do possess in my ballot to prevent same. That is the point at which I meet God in my conscience and at which I must decide to witness for Him or not, and how to do so. 

Not everyone shares that perspective. I understand that, and I doubt I can change it.  For all of us, it's a bit like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof: Ultimately, there is that point at which we say, "No! If I bend that far, I'll break."

I am mistaken if I really think I can accurately predict the outcome of this election and these clashes, either in the near term or the long one, though I think that the general consensus is that Catholic life will not be easy under Hillary Clinton, and possibly not for years after.  On how to avoid that, or mitigate it, not so much agreement, given the multiple factors in play and the inherent uncertainty of the process.  Hence, the angst and the anger, the strong words and the vitriol.  We really do want to control the outcome and we cannot, though we are giving it our best shot.  In some measure, our rage is the rage of impotence at events beyond our control, coming to rest in the person of a person with whom we disagree.

The outcome of this election is not up to me; it's not in my hands and I delude myself if I think it is. 

What is in my hands is my stand on what I see as central to my faith and my relationship with God.

What is also in my hands is whether I can pause long enough to hear another person's tipping point, and respect it even if I disagree. If we can do that, we'll be able to join together after the election in whatever ways are needed. If we can't, the wounds we have inflicted on one another will keep us apart. The Scatterer's work.

That's it, at least for me. I think that is all it has ever been and all else is distraction. And it calls for a lot more civility (and humility) in the bargain, if recent Facebook threads are any measure.

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