Sunday, April 11, 2010

Loving Like a Grown-Up

Years ago, while traveling along the NJ turnpike on our way to Ocean City, my family needed to make a rest area stop.  Jake was still in diapers at that point, so I took him to the changing station in the bathroom.  While I was zipping him up, a gentleman stepped beside us to wash his hands at the sink next to me.  "That's a handsome boy you have there!" he declared.  I turned and said thank you...

... and saw that I was speaking to Al Franken.

He smiled, shook his hands dry, and stepped away.

I was an instant fan.  Heck, he complimented my kid.

This memory was brought back during my 11 hour drive to Albuquerque today.  For the trip, I had picked up the audio version of Al Franken's book: Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them.

It was a riveting "read" - the 11 hour drive flew by. The book was funny, enlightening, and very educational.  I had a sense that Franken was a good man when I "met" him; now I know that my first inclinations were correct.

At one point of the book, he articulated something that I had always felt but never put into words.  I have noticed for a while that I can offer critiques and compliments of America's history and policies.  My ability to honestly look at the one does not mar my appreciation of the other.

However, it is apparent that many Americans cannot do this.  They cannot hear an objective critique;  they take the critique personally and assume that anyone with a critique must be unpatriotic, or hate America.

Franken explains the phenomenon this way:

"If you listen to a lot of conservatives, they'll tell you that the difference between them and us (liberals) is that conservatives love America and liberals hate America.... They don't get it. We love America just as much as they do. But in a different way. You see, they love America the way a 4-year-old loves her Mommy. Liberals love America like grown-ups. To a 4-year-old, everything Mommy does is wonderful and anyone who criticizes Mommy is bad. Grown-up love means actually understanding what you love, taking the good with the bad, and helping your loved one grow. Love takes attention and work and is the best thing in the world."

I actually think this phenomenon does not divide neatly along conservative and liberal lines; people are simply more complicated than those two categories.  But I understand his point.

I get similar reactions when I critique Christianity in conversations or on this blog.  Some Christians want all words spoken of Christianity to be wonderful, and anyone who critisizes it is bad.  To critique is seen as nothing but harmful.

However,  I think it would be good for our religion if we start loving Christianity like grown-ups.


Don said...

Being a fairly recent "convert" to the left-of-center" position in life, I used to have "other" opinions of Al. Opinions framed, constructed, and authored by my mouthpiece (The conservatives). Thanks for giving me another side of him that I haven't explored.

The comparison with Christianity is exceptionally pertinent and well done. I feel exactly the same: "Criticize all things you wish to EXCEPT Christianity.

It's almost as if it will disappear suddenly if criticized too often. Nice post!

Logan said...

I love that comment from Al!

Eruesso said...

If we can't self-analyze our faith and spirituality how do we expect to grow or to even commune with the Divine? There are skeletons in every religion's closet, which seems to grow and fester in the dark without it being brought into the light.

Oh, and I love your blog's new look. Well done!

Anonymous said...

Dan Merchant has created a fantastic documentary (and companion book) called "Lord Save Us From Your Followers" that explores the collision of faith and culture in America. In addition to including interviews with Rick Santorum, Tony Campolo and Michael Reagan, there is an amazing interview with Al Franken that supports your contention that Al is a good man.

Andrew said...

Thanks Anon - I've added that to my Que in Netflix!

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