Last week, I had one of those eye-opening experiencesthat doesn’t really hit you until after the fact.
J. and I began our vacation on Tuesday, flying out of LaGuardia (NY) to Denver to Reno (final destination: Tahoe).
I had the middle seat, and to my right was a cordial, middle-aged man. Toward the end of the flight, J. leaned over to speak with the man (let’s call him “Joe”) about the book he was reading. The title caught James’ eye, and J. asked if the book was any good.
Turns out Joe is a publicist for the author, and he was pre-reading the book before its release. Joe hadn’t read it yet, but he told us that the author was a conservative writing his views and political satire, among other things.
J. told the man that he, too, was a registered conservative, to which Joe responded in a half-joking manner, “Oh, I’m sorry.” J. chuckled a bit and didn’t elaborate any further on his political position, but in a gesture of good will, J. said, “However, I do often vote democrat on the local level.”
Joe returned J. ‘ good-natured chuckle and said, “See? You’re learning.”
I admit, I was thankful the conversation didn’t go any further. I hate being in the middle of political debates, especially when you have no chance of convincing the other person concerning your position.
However, when J. and I were wandering through Denver airport during our layover, I said to him, “Did you think it was strange that Joe was a publicist for a conservative writer but he was a liberal? How do you promote someone that you disagree with -and probably on some major issues?”
J. said that he had been thinking the same thing.
Is this strange to anyone else but us? I just was in a bit of disbelief about this. How do you promote and publicize someone’s work when you fundamentally disagree with their core belief system?
I assume, since I didn’t speak to Joe directly about this, that maybe to him his job was just his job – something totally different and separate than his morals and values. But that kind of disconnect doesn’t sit we’ll with me. It’s ethically dishonest.
And truly, I have a feeling that this man is not in the minority.
It is frightening and troubling to me how, as a society, we can so easily disconnect our behavior from our beliefs. Our beliefs exist in one compartment and our actions in another. We do this all the time.
As for Joe, he clearly didn’t support the beliefs that this author shared, yet he was going to promote this man and his work. And it’s not like this author believed these things in the ‘background’ – like, ‘Yeah, he’s a conservative, but this is a book about business techniques.” As a political author, he would likely be vocal about his stance on political issues that tend to divide conservatives and liberals.
Even if it is your job, how do you promote someone who you fundamentally disagree with – and not just disagree with on minor issues that probably have no immediate relevance or issues that are based more on opinions rather than morals – I mean major issues that resonate at the core of what you believe?
That would be like me promoting someone who vocally supported abortion; there is clearly a line in my belief system concerning that issue that I cannot morally cross. If I supported someone- no, let’s go further: if I promoted someone – who was broadcasting beliefs that I disagreed with, wouldn’t make me part of the problem?
Let’s say that people on the outside were convinced by this person I am supporting…wouldn’t I have had a part in convincing them to believe something I believed was wrong, immoral or unethical? Wouldn’t I be accountable, to a certain degree, for the results?
Before I go pointing the finger at poor Joe, on some level, I think we all do this. As much as we would like to believe that we are 100% true to our beliefs, I don’t think this is the case. Maybe it’s not so overt as promoting someone who believes the opposite of what we do, but I think there is a chronic disconnect between our actions and our beliefs.
For instance, I can think of several of my students who, from all appearances and even their own confessions, are Christians, love Jesus and believe the Bible. Yet, their Facebook pictures and comments tell a different story. Copying each other’s work – and not thinking there is anything wrong with this – tells a different story. Hearing how they speak to each other and the kind of language they use tell a different story. I’m not promoting a legalist lifestyle or being perfectionist-driven; I understand that these kids are just that – kids – and they are still negotiating their belief systems. But there’s a disconnect they don’t seem to get.
Let’s take adults. How many times do we neglect to change the channel on TV when something that goes against our morals comes on…even though it’s funny? Or what about movies? Or music? By participating, even passively, aren’t we contributing to the problem?
What about drinking? How many times do Christians abuse their freedom to drink and take it a little too far, all the while knowing what the Bible says about drunkenness? I see this a lot with Christians in their twenties and thirties…they see no problem with partying and being a Christian.
Or how about sexual purity? How many times do Christians create fuzzy lines about that, saying that ‘technically,’ it wasn’t really sin because it wasn’t really sex?
Those are some of the biggies. But we do this with smaller issues all the time. We gossip, we tell half-truths, we justify wasting time on the internet on our employer’s dollar, we dress immodestly because ‘it’s the style’ or we just want to look ‘feminine’. Look, I’m guilty here too, but who are we kidding…except ourselves maybe…
We easily set our beliefs on the shelf when it is not convenient for us. We sell out due to financial loss, to laziness, to lack of a backbone, to peer pressure, or to my personal favorite…”It’s just too hard!”
I know I sound like I am being hard on the guy from the airplane, but that is just because he is an easy and convenient target. Maybe I can justify my rant because I wouldn’t do what he did, but there are lots of inconsistent things I do. Those accusations echo right back to me because I don’t always live consistently with my beliefs either.
We get into trouble when we start categorizing sin and comparing ours with someone else’s – especially when we come out on top.
I remember doing the Bible study Experiencing God when I was in college, and there was a phrase from the study that has stuck with me a good 20 years:
“What you do shows what you believe regardless of what you say.”
I’ve let this idea simmer in my mind and heart for a good long time, and its truth stuck – and still resonates, painfully at times, within me.
I don’t always live according to what I say I believe.
Lord, help me to be better with this. This is of utmost importance to You, and I know lot is riding on the consistent witness I show to others.
Somewhere, someone, might be writing about the disconnect he saw in me.