Have you ever heard someone say, don’t talk about religion or politics if you want to get along with people? This appears to be the dominant sentiment in the West. We shy away from upsetting or inconveniencing people, so we rarely engage in conversations that go beyond the superficial.
- The weather is nice today, eh?
- How’s work going these days?
- Have any plans for the weekend?
For years this was my stance as well… until very recently.
I would be the first to tell you that I have seen first-hand how religion and politics cause harm to people. The division that it promotes between families and communities is real. One look at the American presidential election would confirm this. A quick skim through European and colonial history would also show us how religion has been used to control and destroy many innocent lives.
With this in mind, we instead choose to find common ground with others. Why can’t we all just get along, we say. The danger with this view though is that it does not lead to progress or understanding. It only shows our unwillingness to wrestle with issues that have a real impact on all of our lives. Apathy allows others to fill the void and take advantage of us. Negligence from many young people aged 18-24 lead, as many have claimed, to the Brexit campaigners victory in the British referendum. One could say that many of the older people who voted to leave will not have to face the consequences of that decision, whereas the young people who didn’t vote will have to experience the negative backlash more harshly, for many years to come.
The other extreme is also just as ineffective. Preaching to the choir is not the way to bring about real unity and true understanding. We look for people who are like-minded and we express our views as if they needed any convincing. To persuade someone who already agrees with you is not progress at all. We can scream Make America Great Again as loud as we want at Trump rallies, and not get one extra vote from democrats. We can make fun of Donald Trump as viciously as we want among our more liberal leaning friends, and not get anywhere with Republicans.
Here’s the point…
Politics matters. The decisions of our governments will affect our lives in one way or another, for better or worse. Laws passed will have an influence on global warming, future wars, job opportunities, health services, etc. If you are a citizen of this planet, then you have a responsibility to care and engage.
Religion matters. The interpretation of religious texts will have an impact on how billions of people live and think. We have seen how a bad interpretation can lead to disastrous results. We have read about how certain movements have gained influence over millions of people and lead them to discriminate, and in extreme cases, kill anyone who disagrees with them. We have a responsibility to our fellow brothers and sisters on this planet to change the narrative. To promote religious interpretations that lead to more love and less hate; to more understanding and less separation. But we must be a part of the conversation in order to make a difference.
So share your views with me. Whether religious or political; I am open to hearing you out. I want to understand. I want to get into the Roman colosseum with you and fight tigers and lions until we reach a better understanding of how to live well. Help me be a better person by showing me another way of thinking. I will not hide behind my fear that I could be wrong. Let us show the world that dialogue and respect are not mutually exclusive. Share religion and politics with me.
Note: featured image by William Clajus