I’ve tried to stay neutral most of my life – I am a middle child, after all. Lately, however, I find myself neck-deep in discussions about everything from politics to refugees to my views on Human/Equal Rights.
I don’t particularly care what a person’s opinions are, as long as the opinions are informed by more than TV soundbites or sermons. Recently, I’ve had people argue points about information from documents they haven’t read.
That frustrates me.
I remember years ago someone attacking Harry Potter, insisting that it was an evil story and would lead children to dabble in dark magic. When I asked this person if they had read Harry Potter, the blank stare told me all I needed to know. Their opinion had been formed by someone else, from behind a pulpit in fact, and they were merely spouting misinformed rhetoric from someone else who had also not read the series.
Fast-forward to 2015 and the current election cycle. Rhetoric abounds. People are re-spouting what their candidate says, blindly following a person down a road without checking the map themselves.
After Donald Trump said we should keep all Muslims out of the US, period, I was shocked at how many seemingly intelligent people parroted this sentiment. I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked. I’ve been surrounded by people who spout what they’ve been told and taught without challenging the content all my life. I’ve even been that person myself.
I enjoy our world and its varied viewpoints and ideas. I enjoy the discourse and the exchange of opinions – from people who can back up their opinions with facts and who have formed their opinion with knowledge and allow room for other opinions at their table.
Sheeple really bother me, I admit it. When I am discussing a topic – be it controversial, religious, political or otherwise – when a person merely quotes popular rhetoric and has no true opinion of their own, they are like sheep following a shepherd. I can’t have conversations with people when they can’t back up their rhetoric with anything they themselves could bring to the table.
Recently, a person was saying it’s too easy to get into the US for someone seeking political refuge. When I asked them if they had read the vetting process a person or family goes through to get asylum in the US, they said no. When I said that I had, this person immediately went into a defensive position because deep down they knew they couldn’t win their argument. I was armed with facts, they were armed with rhetoric that may or may not be true.
I spent enough time as a Sheeple that I try to have compassion for those still in the blind-following flock. I know many people who follow a doctrine or idea, but they made that choice with knowledge as well as their heart. I do not include those people in the Sheeple category.
Sheeple can be controlled by fear tactics and they believe what they are told and they are encouraged not to think for themselves. I went to a pastor once and asked him about something he said in a sermon. I couldn’t find what he said in the Bible and that concerned me because he had said that’s where he got his information from.
It’s not your job to think for yourself. How dare you challenge me? It’s my job to tell you what this Book says. It’s your job to believe what I interpret from this Book! Why do you even carry that Book with you? I am the pastor – I interpret what it says and you follow it!
That is a true story. It happened to me. I left that church not long after. Sadly, many people did exactly as he said. They didn’t open their Bibles and read it for themselves. They followed his leadership 100% without question. When I questioned him, word spread quickly and I was old-school shunned. I was dangerous.
I had a difficult time fitting into ministry positions because I was a woman and because I questioned what I was being told nearly 100% of the time. I finally had to leave the institution behind so I could do actual ministry without having to defend and excuse my gender or my brain.
I am in charge of changing my mind. I fact-gather. I ponder. I examine all sides of an idea. I make up my own mind. I will reiterate what I’ve said many times – I don’t care what you believe as long as it’s your belief. If you have gathered facts, wrestled with what your belief really means, and your belief is truly yours and not someone else’s you and I could likely have a civil conversation – if your goal isn’t to change my mind or win.
Changing this woman’s mind… that’s another discussion.