I have seen this quiz pop up all over my facebook wall recently. It’s pretty straight forward, you answer a series of questions about your opinions on “political” issues and it comes back with what politician you agree with most. I decided to take this quiz a couple days ago when writing another word of my thesis about domestic violence seemed completely overwhelming. I was not incredibly surprised by the results–as you can see in the image I side with Barack Obama about 93% of the time. I am a liberal through and through (in fact, the times I did not agree with Obama it was because my answers were more progressive than his).
I am proud to be a liberal. I love having that “D” on my voter id card. I feel no compunction about being a progressive in a mostly conservative church–I am who I am and I won’t apologize for it. That being said, I work hard to be a moderate person.
I generally believe that not much is gained from espousing hyper-partisan positions–in my experience when I am particularly strident I end up alienating those with differing opinions and erasing any common ground between us. I would much rather try to connect with another person on a human level than push my own political agenda.
This can be easily applied to our interactions in the church as well. Those of us who identify as progressive or feminist Mormons are definitely in the minority and it is natural–if not actually true–to feel as if our voices are being trampled. But we gain nothing if, in pain, we exhibit the same behavior as the loudest and most extreme voices of our conservative sisters and brothers.
I am fortunate to know and have spent time with the famous Mormon writer, Phyllis Barber. One of the most important things I have learned from her is to be compassionate of all people no matter what their viewpoint. As Phyllis often says, each of us clings to a story to help us get through mortal existence. My story is that patriarchy is the result of a fallen world and not the directive of God. I just could not continue to participate in this or any religion if I truly believed gender inequality was God-sanctioned. Somebody else might have the exact opposite story. This doesn’t mean that their story is true and I will always vigorously disagree with them. But in understanding their human need to believe something that helps make sense of the world I am also honoring their humanity.
We are in a time where being moderate has gone out of fashion and I believe this is to our detriment. It is easy to speak loudly and then plug your ears and refuse to listen to anybody else. What takes true grace is to hold strong opinions and allow others to do the same.
What are your experiences with being moderate? Does it work for you? How do you approach people with differing opinions?