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 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.


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on February 12, 2008, in Christian Living, Christianity, Friendships, Introspective Musings, Political Thought, Sad Things and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Hey girl. I’m also having difficulties with the narrow-minded (as I see it) attitude about not voting for the Republican choice if they don’t agree whole-heartedly. And while I don’t hold your strong favoritism for McCain, I definitely won’t vote for the Democrat. Reminds me of a whining child who doesn’t get their way, you know?

    I saw a woman on t.v., awhile back, who had it in for Romney, (this was a strong Republican voter) and she said she’d vote for Hillary before she’d vote for a Mormon.


    Sometimes I just shake my head.

  2. Right there with you and Melissa!!

    Great post, Karen!

  3. “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

    Unity is super-important, but unity doesn’t mean total agreement or being clones. It’s about accepting people’s differences in opinion, theology and outlook and loving them regardless of whether or not they mesh exactly with ours. Without this kind of unity, churches will split and split until eventually every former member of the church has become the pastor of a church of one.

    You and I don’t agree on a lot of things, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. I love you regardless. Now I just need to work on loving everyone else…

  4. let’s see. . .

    There is, in my humble opinion, a serious problem with political parties.

    They tend to result in “do it for the team” mentalities.

    And, here is my 2 cents on this issue.

    The “team” you should be “doing it for”, is the United States of America. . .

    . . .not your political party.

  5. If it wasn’t for the disclaimer at the beginning, I’d think you wrote this as a response to those that commented on my recent politcal ranting blog post. 🙂

    Good thoughts, Karen. And I LIKE that commercial! Good stuff!

  6. I have a number of thoughts about this. But the key faultline (and yes, the UK faultline is still class) in the US seems to be extreme individualism – the idea that one can stand alone without others or that one’s own ruthlessly homogenous little group should be the whole world. You see it in the resistance to welfare, to universal healthcare, the way big business can buy politicians wholesale (and trash small businesses at will). And you see it in the activities of the frequently less than (to borrow your observation, Karen) pragmatic left (yes Ralph Nadar – I’m looking at you).

    And hey, what about team World?

  7. If one looks at the U.S.’s political history, we see over 2 centuries of partisanship. Just look back to the Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton rivalry at the birth of the country – and we know how that ended. At times partisanship’s not pretty (the civil war), but I think it helps protect the country from extremely quick, radical changes from happening. Change happens slowly, and that’s a good thing.

  8. Hi, Rob! I’ve seen you on Iain’s blog. Welcome! Do you know Iain IRL?

    Actually, the two-party approach goes back even further, to the Tories and the Whigs.

    That semi-quibble aside, I agree with you. Mostly. Well, maybe totally. I guess I want to see change happen quickly if it’s the kind of change I want!! But, one can’t have her cake and eat it, too. I guess if our government’s structure allowed for quick change on one hand, it’d have to allow it on the other. So, maybe change happening slowly is a good thing. Even the Revolutionary War took place over, what, seven years? So, even worthwhile revolutionary ideas need time to grow, to refine, to shift, to settle, to raise up leaders, etc.

    All that said… what, exactly, in this post prompted your comment? Is it the idea about the parties currently being so violently polarized? And then, there’s near-polarization within the parties, especially (right now, anyways) within the Republican party…

  9. Melissa ~ Yeah… I saw on your blog that you were/are a Romney supporter, and I must admit I’ve been a wee bit afraid to say anything over on your blog lately. We, personally, have always had a very amiable blog-relationship, but things can turn sour quickly, and I guess I was avoiding, rather than risking the souring. So, my friend, thank you for your comment. And, I’m very glad to see that your disappointment in Romney’s absence won’t lead to any “whining child” actions from you. 🙂

    MLBAH ~ Thank you, dear, for your continued readership, in spite of our (minor) differences!!!!!

    Iain ~ Your comment is totally in line with a recent sermon from Dennis, which I blogged about here. And you think we don’t agree on a lot of things?? Maybe that’s true — ahem, cough, cough, Michael Moore, cough, cough — but I think we agree on most. At least most of the important stuff.

    Christine ~ I kind of agree with you — the overriding goal, IMO, of American politics is to support America. But, I’m not opposed at all to the idea of political parties. There’s a reason for Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, etc., and it’s because we don’t all think alike. Now, just because I’m a Republican doesn’t mean that I think exactly like another Repub… But, generally, my ideals are more likely to be more closely aligned with another Repub than a Democrat. And, I’m OK with that.

    Daja ~ I need to get back to your blog, I guess! I’m pretty certain which post you’re referring to, but I didn’t realize it had gotten ugly. And, I like that commercial, too!!!! I like it a lot. I just feel weird about being preached to (or something) by a car company.

    (u)rd ~ We had a nice, private e-mail exchange over this, and I think that we mostly agree. One thing, though, that I didn’t address in the e-mail was the “team World” comment. I am strongly in favor of retaining 100% of the sovereignty of the U.S.. Now, that’s not to say I’m an isolationist who wants to pretend that the U.S. is the “most important” country, and our presence doesn’t affect anyone, and vice versa. Probably my greatest fault with Bush is that he has absolutely no value for dipolmacy, both in domestic issues, and in world politics, and I think he did a lot to tarnish much of the world’s image of the U.S. But, IMO, respect for other countries and diplomacy in dealings on a global scale should not supersede the interests of keeping the U.S. as a completely sovereign nation.

  10. Karen,

    How COOL would it be to know Iain in real life?! Unfortunately, I do not.

    What prompted my comment was your line, “I’ve observed increasingly compartmentalized, partisan politics — and general life – that has been sweeping this country for at least the last decade.” Just wanted everyone to remember this isn’t a new thing going on.

    I do find it interesting that there are polarizations happening within the 2 parties themselves. The liberals in the Democratic party may have silently taken them over, but someday soon they’re going to want something really out there and the majority of the country will throw a fit — and then the liberals will have to either back off, or they’ll start their own party, thinking they won’t need the Democrats anymore. (Won’t THAT be great to see?) As far as my fellow conservatives go, we may make a stink about the RINOs, but I don’t see a conservative party happening anytime in my lifetime.

    Other countries have more than 2 major parties, I wonder why we never got there yet….

  11. You’d better believe it, bud!!


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