Once upon a time, a little boy was born into a home with two parents, a mother and a father, in which two strains of both politics and Protestantism resided. The mother was a Democrat and a Methodist; the father was a Republican and a Southern Baptist. And the little boy grew from childhood to adolescence in a household with two adults who disagreed (sometimes vehemently, sometimes cheerfully) on a whole host of issues. Of course, I was that little boy.
Daddy supported Richard Nixon, and Mother only ever referred to him as “Tricky Dick.” She loved Carter; he was for Reagan all the way. But their partisanship only went so far. I remember Mother had no affection for Hubert Humphrey, perhaps because she was a Kennedy Democrat who felt that “Humpty Dumpty”—as she called him—was not up to snuff. And Daddy certainly stopped supporting Nixon when the evidence proved his criminal guilt during Watergate.
When it came to church, I was brought up Southern Baptist, but Mother regularly pointed out where the Baptists had it wrong and the Methodists had it right. This allowed me to question Baptist orthodoxy, leading to a particularly spirited discussion I had in Sunday School about Jesus turning the water into wine. It created something of a mini-scandal, later augmented by my regular attendance at school dances. (So much the better that no one knew that I had found gay bars in Dallas shortly after getting my driver’s license, where there was drinking, dancing, and—well—all that other stuff.)
Dinner conversation at the table for three when I was teenager revolved around the controversies of the day—Watergate, the My Lai Massacre, the Nixon pardon, to name but a few. And controversies closer to home, too.
There was a youth director at our church who had gotten crosswise for some reason with the deacon board. Over the objections of most of the young people (including me), these deacons were determined to fire him. Never mind that the infraction was so small I can’t even recall what it was. Or that he had a small child and a wife who was pregnant. What I do remember is that Daddy stood up for that young man in a general church meeting, siding with my friends and me who were horrified at what the adults were doing. It was in that moment that I first saw the ugliness of church politics. The young man was fired anyway, but I can still see Daddy speaking truth to the other adults.
Meanwhile, Mother was buying new clothes for me to wear to the sock hops and more formal dances and daring anyone to say anything to her about it.
There was a great lesson in watching both of them being completely comfortable in believing what they believed, saying what they meant, and not factoring popular opinion into the equation. Thinking for themselves, as it were.
Fast forward more years than I am willing to quantify, and once again the political dialogue includes talk of Watergate and impeachment and even pardons. And it is becoming increasingly difficult to evaluate objectively and rationally all of the information coming our way. Granted, there is a lot of information, and some of it is contradictory. It’s kind of like taking a math course, I think. If you don’t get yourself grounded in Algebra, you’re going to have a hell of a time with Calculus.
Much has been said about the need for the people to take back this country. And I’m down with that if we’re talking about critically thinking people who take the time and energy to gather and analyze the information that is available, who discern the level of bias associated with that information based on its source, and who can shout back at the television regardless of which network news channel is on. When we don’t think for ourselves, instead agreeing all the time with some politician, talking head or media outlet, we are moving from people to sheeple, and the Kool-Aid line will form on the right.
Or the left, if you’re so inclined.