Fine-tuning the Hyper-Individual
Note: This is absolutely ***NOT*** aimed at any particular person, be it any person I know IRL, in the blogosphere, or otherwise. It’s simply my concerns over a growing trend that is of high concern to me. Also, please read it as me being troubled in my soul, not as me being snarky with society.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this topic over the last… year. Maybe more.
I’ve observed increasingly compartmentalized, partisan politics — and general life — that has been sweeping this country for at least the last decade. Symptomatically, I’ve also read (or heard) a number of voters (especially Republican ones) proclaiming, “Well, if there isn’t a candidate with whom I agree 100%, I’m either not going to vote at all, or I’m going to vote Democratic.”
Gone is teamwork. Gone is synergy. Gone is friendship. Gone is good sportsmanship and fair play. Gone is good faith. Gone is the simple acceptance of, “Not everyone thinks the same way I do, and not everyone should.”
The Founding Fathers of this country — even though they disagreed with England in a passionate and violent way — did acknowledge that no one person, and no one way of thought was perfect, and thus set up a governmental system with checks and balances, disabling any one outlook from completely dominating the federal government. (In other words, there are some hills worth dying on, but perhaps not very many of them.)
Now, I’m not suggesting that the politics of most of the 20th century is preferable. Marked by “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine,” that attitude makes me want to puke, actually, and seems to have its ethical foundation in Jell-o.
But in lieu of back-scratching politics of years past has come sharply divided, combative, posturing politics which seeks to create wider chasms and brew enemies. Name-calling, accusations, spiteful “play,” retaliation, dirt-digging, and filibustering are now par for the course in American politics. To me, that seems just as bad — perhaps worse — than back-scratching.
In a previous post, I wrote about taking a pragmatic stance when choosing a Presidential candidate. I was assailed, both privately and in a comment or two, about that “un-Christianlike” position.
But is it truly un-Christlike??
Think about your marriage, if, in fact, you are blessed with a spouse. Think about your friendships. Your church. Think about, really, any good relationship with a person or entity. Don’t all of them require some sort of practical acceptance in order to maintain them, and certainly in order to grow them? Don’t all relationships require a measure of love to cover a multitude of sins? Don’t all of them cause you to stretch in one way or another? Don’t all call you to hold aside one opinion or two, in favor of a gracious, working relationship?
Now, I’m also not suggesting that we need to adore John McCain and let our love for him cover his unwise, quick temper with those who are likewise combative.
But, my concern is broader than simply whom we choose for President.
Take friendship: It would be absolutely fabulous if I could find another Christian, conservative Republican, Sonlight-homeschooling, introverted mother of 4+ children who adores worship, attends the Vineyard, loves Pei Wei, has a classic/antique taste for home decorating, and has celiac disease. Oh. Wait! I have done that. Her name is Shellie, and friendship with her has been an absolute joy to my heart. But, are all my friends Shellies? Should they be?? Even with Shellie, there have been disagreements and struggles, in spite of our almost-creepy similarities. She recently remarked something like, “Could there possibly be two more people who are so alike and so different as we are?” There have been times when I think we’ve both been tempted to give the relationship a heave, but by the grace of God, persistence, and a simple value for each other, we haven’t done that. We’re committed.
In order to successfully engage in relationship of any kind, there simply must be some allowances extended to the other person. We have to allow them to think differently, value differently, express differently, opine differently, work differently, have different strengths, different weaknesses, different pleasures and tastes… At least to some extent.
But, that’s just it. The “some extent” is completely evaporating from American society. And it’s not just Republican Christians. Liberals, Democrats, non-Christians and everyone in between are just as biting and divisive as Ann Coulter-types.
Thus, we have a divorce rate that’s, what? Sixty percent, now, or at least nearing that?
Thus, we have an rising percentage of never-married people, who simply can’t/won’t/are-afraid-to make commitment.
Thus, have a rise in matchmaking services that promise to find someone who is, basically, exactly like YOU.
Thus, we have uncommital, chronic church-hoppers. Or, simply non-attenders.
Thus, we have scads of websites, forums, blog rings of people with whom we can simply agree, who’ll never ruffle our feathers, nor challenge us to think.
Thus, even within the Church, we have books, websites, television hosts, and seminar speakers who
command invite listeners to think, act, be the exactly particular type of Christian they are, and reject any denomination that doesn’t have Mr. Esteemed Whoever as the basis for their theology, essentially pitting Christian against Christian.
Thus, we have folks who regularly troll monster.com and other “jobbing” websites, constantly on the lookout for the bigger and better, for a move up in the world, and a few more disposable-income dollars in their pockets, instead of deciding to commit to an employer for mutual benefit.
Thus, we have professional athletes who take their gripes against a coach to the media and petulantly demand to be traded.
Thus, we have voters who say, “Well, I only agree with 95% of this candidate’s positions, so I just won’t vote at all!” Or, “That 5% over which we don’t agree is so important to me that I’d rather vote for someone with whom I only agree 5%, instead of voting for him.”
In short, we are developing a whole culture fine-tuning its own god of Individualism, esteeming only themselves and their opinions, who see pragmatism as a bad word, and who are unwilling to bend, to give, to be gracious, to work in concert, to value each other’s strengths, and willingly compensate for each other’s weaknesses. We’re encouraging a whole generation of Pharisees and Levites, instead of kind Samaritans.
Am I the only person concerned about this????
Perhaps not. But, it seems that the only people really bothered by it are making, of all things, Hyundai commercials, and using America’s growing lack of commitment for marketing purposes. Hm.
And perhaps, commitment problems and hyper-individualism aren’t totally synonymous, but they’re awfully close cousins. Maybe even siblings.
Posted on February 12, 2008, in Christian Living, Christianity, Friendships, Introspective Musings, Political Thought, Sad Things and tagged American culture, commitment-phobes, Election 2008, individualism. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.