The Split

Linda and I worked together in Los Angeles, helping street kids have a place to stay, feeding and chatting with homeless people, and generally being Christian between Santa Monica and Hollywood Boulevards.

We found each other online thirty years later and caught up; she’d married and had a daughter who plays the harp and presented her with grandchildren. I’d acquired a PhD, a husband, and a writing career. And our politics were oppositional; if she thought someone was a moral leader, I didn’t, and vice versa.

Participating together on a list of alumni from that ministry organization, Linda found other posters leaned heavily toward her point of view. While I’m sure Linda enjoyed the affirmation, she didn’t celebrate it or assert that majority creates morality. Instead, she and I discussed our thoughts—in front of people who kept interjecting attempted conversation-stoppers because our dialogue was “a waste of time.”

We started with the acceptance that we both wanted our lives to reflect God’s compassion, awesomeness, and desire to have personal relationships with every human on the planet—even them, where “them” equals anybody we mistrusted. If we both wanted the same thing, and both asked God every day to use us for that purpose, why we were on opposite sides of a political chasm where shouts from both sides included “evil,” “outside God’s will” and even “demonic” for the other team?

We came up with three plausible explanations:

  1. God doesn’t exist; we crafted God in our own image and use the concept to prop up our lifestyles. (Linda and I rejected this argument for many reasons I’m not going into here.)
  2. One of us is not praying hard enough, is deluded, or living in sin and can’t hear God (theology moment!) etc. (The list ran heavily to this, with me the delusional one.)
  3. All the good doesn’t rest on one side, despite what we may be thinking (or being told to think) these days. God is not endorsing a political party. Linda and I sorta agreed on this one, although she kept coming back to abortion, wondering, if a political party could be so out of God’s will in one area, could they be morally right in others? I thought the same about LGBTQ discrimination; denying others the right to exist remained ironically unexplored in both cases. Then we talked about Balaam’s donkey (if you don’t know, Google it and give yourself a fun story).

More and more, this is the awareness guiding when I pray and when I think—and those two things are sometimes indistinguishable, which might exacerbate what we’re talking about here. There is no political point of view that encompasses God’s will. God did not create political parties and does not expect everyone to come to The Truth of one political party. They are human arrangements, like the creation of time, that distract us from knowing God as God. I’m not saying don’t get involved in them, I’m saying that the first time you say “God endorses this party” as opposed to “this party’s position on issue X aligns with God’s will as stated in [Bible verse, and you better back it up with context]” you are getting led down a garden path that is more thorns than roses. Watch out for wolves, because guaranteed they are lurking in those unexplored woods to the side.

Linda and I still pray for each other.

Easy to Get, Hard to Keep

A woman I worked with years ago, a lovely bastion of traditionally built good hard common sense with an Israeli accent, used to say “It is easy to get a thing. The test is in keeping it.”

too hard to keepMiriam had permutations of this saying. “Easy to get, hard to keep” referred to high maintenance people in relationships. “You can get it, but can you keep it?” referenced programs we wanted to write grants for in the organization (the American Red Cross, back when they were kinda still respected). It was her way of asking “Are we chasing the dollar at the risk of mission drift?”

Sometimes she’d just rotate her hand up and down at the wrist and say, with that eyebrow-tilting smirking sparkle in her eye, “Easy, hard.” In other words, happened next was so up in the air it could flip six times before coming down. How it would land was anyone’s guess.

But my favorite was when she waited until pompous people had left our offices, having single-handedly mansplained to us how to save the universe, end poverty, bring justice to America. She’d wait until the door closed, lean in, and say “He can get things, but he can’t keep them.” Meaning there was no sustainability to the empire-building this person was doing, and it would all fall down if it ever even got to the heavy lifting they’d need atop their smoke-mirrors-and-faulty-paperwork foundation.

I think of Miriam, who has probably left this Earth by now, often these days. The divisions in our country, the tight election result last night, the strange rule-lifting and civility-ending moments when anything goes in our effort to keep (or acquire) that which is best for us at the expense of everyone else. (Republicans, Democrats, Christians, pagans – at this point it feels like a free-for-all for all; good behavior knows neither creed nor party.)

It is easy to get something, hard to keep it. Maybe that’s good advice for us to remember as we go into this season of acquisition. In the abstract world as well as the concrete one, some things aren’t worth holding on to, while others aren’t worth trying to get in the first place.

Heh. Does this make arguing politics on Facebook the equivalent of parents on Black Friday duking it out in the mall over a hatch-a-mole?

Anyway, Miriam’s advice is something I’m keeping in mind these days, not unsolicited advice for the universe – or the dozen people who read my blog. :] It can be easy to get a thing but hard to keep it. Have a sustainability plan. And a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanza, and/or Cheerful Solstice.