In both real life and on the internet, I’ve lately found myself standing up for or explaining the nuances of beliefs I don’t hold, largely because the opposition is being unkind, factually incorrect, unhelpful, or dismissive. Often the topic at hand involves gay rights, mental health, abortion, or poverty. And you can’t tell by looking whether a person’s life has been affected by sexual orientation, mental illness or non-neurotypical brains, abortion, or poverty—theirs or others’.
I’m a fairly conservative person, I value being forthright, and I believe we have to be honest in saying sin is sin—iff we’re close enough to a person that it’s our business to say anything at all. It’s not useful to tell someone their out-of-control diabetes or alcoholism is fine, and it’s not useful to tell someone someone their anger or greed or other sin is fine either. But I also don’t walk up to random people and start lecturing them on their life choices. I wouldn’t listen to a spiritual or medical lecture from a stranger—why would I trust them on a subject that important?
I do understand where other views are coming from (e.g. pro-choice views), and I really dislike when people heap hatred on the other side, especially on straw-man caricatures, especially in lazy, rude, throwaway comments. Especially when the real people involved are in a lot of pain with no easy way out. These things I hear often seem less like speaking up for truth and more like an excuse to be nasty towards some group of Others.
My own views don’t fall tidily into one category, and while my personal beliefs are certain my political beliefs are mostly just heartbroken. I don’t want to mislead people into thinking I’m gung-ho for abortion (for instance) just because I don’t put up with people being cruel towards people who have had or who defend them. But I don’t want to let already-alienated and hurting people be further stomped on by the same old lies and cruelty, especially not from people calling themselves Christian. That won’t heal any wounds or bridge any gaps.
And I do want to contribute towards an environment in which people can actually have a dialogue about the issue, without everyone being so cautious nobody can talk OR so harsh nobody can listen.
I can stay quiet and save my energy, and let the person sitting next to me suffer, thinking they’re friendless and alone.
I can speak up, angering others, exhausting myself, and not necessarily accomplishing anything.
I can speak up only when I feel there’s some hope of something being accomplished, and fume quietly or leave the rest of the time.
I can try to distinguish between how XYZ was said and the idea behind it, and note why they may have just shot themselves in the foot discussion-wise, and end up droning on so long nobody listens anyway.
I tend to just sigh and speak up, because frankly it seems somebody has to. But it’s always a question—what’s the Christlike thing to do? To be loving, to have humility, to have courage, sure. But in what way?