the idol of opinion.
Last week I had lunch with a dear friend. We caught up over classic bar food and seltzer waters with lime - and after discussing work, family, and health, the conversation turned to less casual matters. From a place of trust and confidence in our relationship, I asked her:
"Hey, I know you voted for Trump. How do you think he's doing now that we're a couple months in?"
She spoke passionately about how she takes issue with his methods, but how he represents - however imperfectly - people that she cares about deeply. She offered her perspective as one I'd never heard before. Then, out of trust and confidence, she asked me:
"So what did you think about the whole historic statue debate? Should they stay or go?"
It was in this moment - a moment I'd encountered before - that I offered her my perspective. The perspective wasn't on the topic at hand, but on the idea of opinion.
"I think, stay or go, they're a distraction from the heart of the real issue. And that issue is that most people aren't willing to do what you and I are doing right now - to sit down and actually build real relationships with people who would otherwise offend them."
"Why's that?" she asked.
"Because they're too in love with their opinions," I said.
The more I scroll through my Twitter and Facebook feeds, the more I see it. The more I listen in coffee shops, the more I hear it. The more I tune in to podcasts, the more it becomes obvious that - regardless of what you believe - our culture and society have turned the holding of an opinion into a golden calf - both as the object of our collective worship, as well as the assurance of our individual legitimacies. If you don't hold an opinion this day in age - and a strong one, at that - you're the enemy. Your backbone is weak and your politics are fluffy. You're indecisive and muddy as a person, unable to be trusted as either a soldier for one cause or a martyr for another.
All at once, over this meal with my friend, I realized just how much we've bowed down to opinions - either our own or others' - serving them and feeding them, all the while feeding our own senses of entitlement and self-righteousness:
Trump or Hilary? Lou Malnati's or Giordano's? Cubs or White Sox? Statues or no statues? Michigan or Michigan State? Gay or Straight? Black Lives or All Lives? Dems or GOP? USC or UCLA? Peter or Dean? (...For my Bachelorette fans!) Christian or Atheist or Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu or . . .
What's happened is that we're now defining ourselves and others by polarity and opinion. And if we're not careful, every human interaction will be defined - not by one's inherent worth and value - but by his or her personal opinion.
Are opinions wrong to hold? Nope. But to the degree by which we accept someone or reject them simply because of their personal opinion . . . that's a degree that's too dangerous and too hot to hold.
"Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love." - Jonah 2:8
Part of me fears this is happening already. Our vain idols of opinion - mine included - have forsaken my personal hope of steadfast love, both receiving it and giving it away.
As my friend and I left our meal, I hugged her and immediately felt the weight of how precious that time was. Not because she's a friend and because we spent our time talking about how much we couldn't stand the same people or how annoyed we were by news or political personalities - but because we couldn't be more different - in either opinion or politics or, really, any way you choose to look at us.
But I left with a steadfast love for her that can't be easily shaken, one that's defined - not by the object of my personal opinion worship - but by my ability to see her as a human I deeply respect apart from any opinion she holds. As she spoke of the 1% and how they feel villainized, I cocked my head and stifled my knee-jerk reaction to defend or oppose. I stopped and I listened. I sensed her heart and a new part of my heart was expanded - not for her opinion, but for her. The funny thing was, I believed her. And in some cases, I didn't understand. But at the end of the day, for me at least, I knew that God called me - as a follower of Christ - to love Him and to love people.
Not love Him and my opinion.
So how do we tear down our idols of opinion and come back to the heart of human connection?
We hold our opinions, not as ultimatums written in stone, but as pieces of us uniquely sketched in pencil. We respond to proverbial slaps across our faces and offenses of worldview by silently acknowledging brokenness - in the other, but moreso, in ourselves.
We do not scream more loudly. We do not fight.
Instead, we ask questions. We pray to see as God does. We repent of our own wrongdoings. Instead of, "What's your opinion?" we ask, "What's your story?"
We take the opinion, sketched in pencil, and say, "Thank you for sharing with me."
We must, somehow cast down the golden idols of opinion because - like all golden idols - they're fickle and they sink. But Love . . .
. . . Love is steadfast and it calms the storm and makes a way.