I try to stay out of politics. This is not because I do not have political opinions, but because most people who are involved with politics freak me out. Seriously — you guys who are always furiously posting links to political articles all over Facebook — you are scary people. Of course not all of you. No, scratch that. Every last one of you is scary. Okay, if you’re the kind of person that has to find a Republican who did something terrible in order to defend a Democrat (or vice versa) for doing something terrible, I’m talking about you. If you’re the kind of person who is already angry that I actually mentioned a Democrat doing something terrible, while only giving the Republican the vice versa, I’m talking about you. If you’re the kind of person who is prepared to argue that there must be some political significance to why I said it one way rather than the other, I’m talking about you.
There are people who will find some way to turn everything you say into an argument. They will reframe your intentions, disparage your motivations, whatever it takes to “spin doctor” you out of the realm of relevance. What they will not do is actually listen to language. When people listen to language, they come to understand each other more, not less. When more and more words are being spoken, and less and less understanding is happening, words themselves have become nothing more than a tool to prop up an ideology. Don’t believe me? What do you make of marriages where each person is screaming their point of view louder and louder and yet they continue to move farther apart? Words are being used as weapons and tools to prop up the ideology of each partner, — an ideology which, as in politics, could be summed up as “I’m right and you’re wrong.” There is simply no use engaging people like this in discussion. They do not seek to hear you as you are, but are always hearing you as they are. Your words bounce off them and reflect back to you, now filled with dreadful intentions and dark motivations you did not have when you spoke them. Maybe I’ve done too much marriage counseling, but I am convinced that the majority of people, the majority of the time, are not engaging in discussion to really understand the other person, but simply looking for a way to prove they are right. And if the price of maintaining our rightness against another’s wrongness, (as in marriage) is the relationship itself, so be it. That’s a price most people are willing to pay. Frankly that’s why, statistically, most marriages suck and don’t work, and why most of our politics suck and don’t work either. But still we stick to the only rule that matters: Come hell or high water, it’s the other person’s fault.
What the media calls spin is usually just opining about someone else’s opinion making sure your own opinion is the only thing that really gets heard. Spin is an attempt to make something line up with your own point of view, whether it does or not. It is nearly always disingenuous, if not dishonest, at its core. I’m not referring here to legitimate differences of opinion — that is different, and politics is certainly full of them. I am talking about taking a statement and intentionally casting it to make it look a certain way that just happens to be flattering to your own perspective, when you know that the intentions of the speaker may have been otherwise. And we give great names to people who do this. We call them “spin doctors.” That seems like an easy way to get to be a doctor. Then again if we called them “spin viruses,” they wouldn’t want to go on all those Sunday morning news shows. We have to find a way to make not listening look respectable, even noble. What better way than using the word “doctor”? That word will dress up anything. “Really, I’m not greedy, I’m just a money doctor.” “I’m not lustful, I’m just a doctor of love.” “I’m not a political hack, I just make sure everything lines up with my point of view. I’m a spinner. Yeah, that’s it — a spin doctor.”
Now a word to the political chicken littles of the world. I realize you will be disappointed if this president (or any other that does not have your stamp of approval) succeeds and makes our country better. I understand that you want him to fail. And as a pastor, I am acutely aware of how this president feeds into your apocalyptic fantasies or nightmares, or whatever they are. All I can say is this: dreadful things are always going to happen, no matter who is in charge. And when something dreadful happens, I want to be the guy saying, “Let’s rebuild,” not the guy smugly saying, “I told you this was going to happen.”
So to all of this you may ask, “Well what ARE your politics? What do you believe?” What I believe is usually somewhere between, “This president is a socialist who is going to destroy America” and “This president is the chosen one who is going to deliver us from all harm.” Truth can usually be found in the middle. That’s why I won’t be making myself at home ideologically with any of you who hang out on either end.
When conservatives think I’m a liberal and liberals think I’m a conservative, I’m exactly where I want to be.