There are lots of different pieces

Mom and I sat talking the other day. While we talked, we both spent some time working on a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Talk a little, look a little, poke around with our finger a little, look at the box. It was a thoughtful process.

In the short time we had, we never got into an argument about the puzzle. We could have. Some were blue. Some were green. Some were edge pieces. It would have been very easy to argue about which was the right piece for this spot. This piece is the wrong piece for this spot, but that’s because it fits perfectly over there. And this section of the picture makes sense as a collection of five pieces, but without being connected to the whole it is useless.

It is difficult to get me into a political conversation. There are two significant reasons.

One is spiritual. I have a really hard time being political political follower before I am a follower of Jesus. I have a really hard time thinking that my allegiance to a particular political position could keep someone from paying attention to what I am wanting to explain about what Jesus says.

The second is scholarly. I am, by training, a communication scholar. When I listen to most political conversations, I find people putting on a pair of glasses with a frame that has a label. They then pick up a piece of the puzzle and argue for how well this piece fits and how poorly that piece fits. The statements, technically, are true. The statements, technically, are false.

We argue this way about many things. We pick which piece we want to use to prove our point. We constantly say, “yes, but.” We constantly alienate each other by passionate advocacy of partial puzzles.

There are many promises made in this season. And here is another: you can read this blog without fear or confidence of finding a political soulmate.

6 responses to “There are lots of different pieces

  1. As I think you know, I do follow politics and am often challenged by the steadfastness of political parties. Over the past 8 or so years, taking an unwavering stance on issues has been part of our culture and has put many at odds. Your post is a wonderful articulation of this tendency.

    “We pick which piece we want to use to prove our point. We constantly say, “yes, but.” We constantly alienate each other by passionate advocacy of partial puzzles.”

    It is this, that makes my stomach ache. It is this, that sets up roadblocks to understanding each other beyond those labels. It is this that strips humanness from the process. It is this that pushes me away from political discussions more and more because the alienation becomes palpable in what could be a moment of earnest connection and communication.

    Thanks for this Jon.

  2. Jon, I have been thinking about this issue as I turn my attention to writing with respect (my theme for this month)

    Thanks for sharing your thoughtful perspective on it.

    It’s sad that we can’t talk about politics with a small p without getting into those narrow positions and putting the blinkers on. I don’t think things are nearly as bad as that over here – for which I’m very grateful.

  3. Your statement “I have a really hard time thinking that my allegiance to a particular political position could keep someone from paying attention to what I am wanting to explain about what Jesus says,” caused me to pause. I believe that many “political” positions have been hijacked from the moral high ground. This causes us to be wary of talking about these issues from a “political sense” for fear we may offend someone when we should be bold from a moral sense. The truth is the truth, regardless of how political parties try to shape it. The truth always has and always will transcend politics. A. W. Tozer said it well:
    “The weakness of so many modern Christians is that they feel too much at home in the world. In their effort to achieve restful “adjustment” to unregenerate society they have lost their pilgrim character and become an essential part of the very moral order against which they are sent to protest.”
    In an election year all about change, we can never forget that Christians are always agents of change that matters.

  4. Much for me to ponder in the above content…

    I could not abide that which is political without regard for truth. It is that drumbeat and the Biblical call to be salt and light that compel me to connect with the politics of this world.

    At the same time, I came to the realization long ago that we are called to live and champion change that is of the inside out variety. Politics can never effect that kind of change–but it can be affected by it.

  5. The other day I read a bumper sticker which said, “Don’t infer I share your prejudices.” It was on a car with a curious mixture of other bumper stickers, some of which seem to not fit together.

    Thank you, friends, for your reflections. There are a number of threads that come to mind, a mind that has been sleeping all day with a migraine.

    1. what I as a pastor allow myself to say is different that what others may allow themselves to say. I cannot allow myself, for myself, to hold to a party line.

    2. Among 16-29 year olds, one of the things most unChristian about Christianity is that we are too political, that our beliefs about particular moral issues flow over to holding to a political party and we have greater faith in the party than in Jesus. Perception, mind you, and perhaps less true that it seems.

    3. I do not disagree that there are issues of morality that are reasonably clear in scripture. I am also aware that the means for moving toward understanding is not, also according to scripture, through governmental mandate.

    4. The other day, I finished a project. I thought about going shopping as a reward. And then I realized how ingrained I am in a consumer culture. Which makes the Tozer comment have a different resonance. I live with values shaped not by Jesus (radical self-denying love, radical challenges to social structures, radical willingness to engage in conversation and to listen to…or just know…the why of self-destructive behaviors) but by being American (radical independence, radical consumerism)

    I’m pretty sure I’ll vote in November. I’m sure that you won’t know for whom. I know that between now and then, I need to be way more committed to becoming like a Person (churchy capitalization) that part of a party.

    Thank you for talking. Very much.

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