As a rule of thumb, I stay away from discussing politics, religion, and other controversial topics in any public setting. Simply put, I am no expert on these matters and find that most of these discussions quickly erode into ideological venom.
The reason these discussions become so emotional is simple. Most of society seems to have aligned themselves to a political ideology. Rather than wrestling with individual issues, most folks seem to align themselves to the positions of a political body with whom they identify.
This makes open discourse nearly useless.
Despite my conviction to stay out of these conversations, I have become increasingly distraught by the growing, and very venomous, divide that they are causing.
Over the last few months, I have struggled to wrestle with these realities. I have felt drawn to enter the conversation and play a small part in leading our society back to common ground.
But I have found that underlying my desire to stay away from the public discourse has been a deep-rooted fear.
In a deeply polarized society, where folks feel a need to pick sides and fight for an ideology, the man who thinks for himself is not safe. He is the ultimate threat to the establishment.
I have been afraid to express my opinions. I am afraid of being ridiculed, of being targeted, and of being “taken down.”
This past week Pope Francis demonstrated what it means to be free, and, what it means lead. In releasing Laudato Si he was unafraid to speak truth and challenge the establishment. He broke from the societal norms. He spoke on a different plane than the political perspective we are so used to hearing.
Pope Francis wasn’t conservative or liberal. He wasn’t a Democrat or a Republican. He wrote as a free man. He found common ground with “both sides,” and he was unafraid to disagree with both.
Pope Francis led.
May the Lord give me the courage to follow the example of his humble servant, Pope Francis. May I learn to lead, learn to speak up when I’m compelled to do so, and learn to be so detached from the world that I am unafraid to be ridiculed, targeted, or even “taken down.”