Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Masks We Wear

It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything. ~ Tyler Durden

From a recent Salt Lake Tribune:

The public doesn’t get it. My party lacks ideas. Activists are too shrill.

Those are not things you normally hear from a politician.

But in the past few months, they’ve all come from the mouth of three-term Sen. Bob Bennett, who in losing his re-election bid in May seemingly won a consolation prize: freedom of speech.

“The Republican Party is short on ideas,” Bennett, a Republican, told NBC News recently. “They’re very long on slogans right now, but they’re short on ideas.”

Now that Bob Bennett has nothing to lose, he is free to speak; to tell us how he really feels, how he really thinks. What if he said these things while in office?

They would have crucified him.

There is a lot of talk these days about truth and integrity. We claim to want it; but do we really?

Politics is full of it... the double-speak... it is a given that we have all accepted. It is known that what a politician says during the campaign is not what he or she will do when in office.

If you travel in church circles, you will meet people who are trained in double-speak. They are thinking and living one thing, but feel obligated to state another. Behind closed doors, their marriage may be a wreck... but to the public, they present a good front - it is expected if you want good standing in the church. They will say and sing words they do not believe, or are at least dubious about, but will keep these musings to themselves lest they be dis-fellowshipped or marginalized.

Beyond that, they may be so well trained in double-speak, they are not aware that they do it. They utter inconsistencies within the same breath without blinking. Contrary statements do not disturb them.

I was having a conversation with a Christian woman once. She was telling me about her fear of secularism, her fear of disease, her fear of poverty, etc. Everything she mentioned was something that gave her dread.

"Wow," I said. "That is a lot of fear to live under."

She looked at me with an offended and perturbed eye. "I am not fearful!" she replied in an icy tone. "Fear is from the Evil One, and I do not allow fear to have a foothold in my life."

Double speak.

I remember being challenged over a decade ago at the Cornerstone music festival. Glenn Kaizer was preaching about double-mindedness. He defined it as having multiple "selves"; that who you are and what you say depends on who you are with. He said that he was feeling more at peace as he brought his multiple "selves" into one "self"; even if that meant he seemed less ideal to some.

In the past few years, I have started giving voice to questions that have haunted me. I have let go of things that no longer make sense. I am attempting to dig out various facades that I erected over time.

This has made me less ideal to some... but it is giving me more peace.


Sammy said...

Your post reminded me of one of my favorite poems: We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

It takes great courage to do what Bob Bennett is doing. For his bold comments, I doubt if he will ever be elected to public office again through the Republican party.

Bob Bennett took off his mask, but politics and religion are still full of them. When I attended church as a young child, every family we met there seemed so much better than mine. They were perfect. The parents never argued, the kids never got into trouble, and there was always enough money. In comparison, I thought my family was a disaster.

It wasn't until I was older that I realized many of those families had the same problems we did. But, also like we did, they never mentioned their problems to outsiders. It made our brand of Christianity appear especially hypocritical. We were all imperfect sinners, but we all pretended perfection. It was less about denial and more about not wanting to seem too different. Our church didn't actually tolerate different, despite the huge "All People Welcome" sign hanging out front. We weren't just wearing masks, we were all trying to wear the exact same mask.

Don said...

Bob's toast! Too bad. A politician who says how he really feels. How quaint....

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