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I telephoned a friend while driving through his old stomping grounds, but he did not answer. I left a message. Whether or not one left a message, the other would call back within the day. No response this time. I called two days later. No response. I have heard from mutual friends, and he is not ill. I did a little checking on Facebook and realized that he dropped me from his list of friends. I called one more time. No response.

We have known each other since our university days long ago. Why the silent treatment and dismissal?

I suspect that I offended him with a post that questioned the work experience of a leader, who my friend endorsed, and whether that leader’s past experience qualified the leader for the current position. I’ve observed many times when nepotism or ecclesiastical favoritism or the buddy-buddy system promoted unqualified people far beyond their abilities and so I noted that.

I generally avoid political and theological opinions on Facebook because the forum does not live up to the promise of conversation. My rule is hard to keep because, as a theologian-pastor-writer, I want to understand how we integrate our stated beliefs with our actions. When political or theological posts come into play, I may ask a question or two, but strive to avoid the “let’s you and them fight on Facebook” diatribes. I’m glad to have those conversations in person, but in the digital universe we tend only to make arguments and to avoid consideration of the points made by another.

Back to my old acquaintance’s decision to ignore my calls and remove me from his social network: have we moved in the 21st century so far from relationships and connections that only agreement matters? Are we living in the culture that Dave Eggers writes about in The Circle? Or are we moving toward another sort of culture–perhaps smaller oligarchies of agreement? Are we unable to accept differences? Those questions grow from neither liberal nor conservative biases because I hear similar themes expressed by those across the spectrum of opinion.

If we cannot hold differing opinions and continue to engage in civil conversation, then we miss an essential part of the national promise. E pluribus Unum—out of many one. Out of many [people, voices, opinions] a common good. Too often we hear an opposite perspective, one that can be described as “what’s good for me will be good for you.” I suspect that, to some, these questions sound similar to the one asked by Rodney King, but “getting along” does not mean lockstep agreement; rather, it points to civility, respect, and common ground.

The rabbinic comment strikes home: “When two people always agree, one is unnecessary.” A band or orchestra in which all instruments play the same note is boring. Do not scorn opinions different from your own. Engage in a larger conversation. Shalom.

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