Thursday, November 10, 2016

Faith and Politics: Our Political Autobiographies

In Week 3 of Faith & Politics, we began to get personal. Our presenter, Jim Schmotzer, gave us a brief political autobiography, and then we looked at the pieces that went into it. You can do this exercise, too. What are the factors that affect your political inclinations?

Family: Safe upbringing? Default setting: The world is your friend. Abusive upbringing? Default setting: The world is your enemy. At one point Jim said, “We begin to become adults when we begin to realize that our parents aren’t perfect. We become adults for real when we forgive them.”

World events: Which of these have caused you to look at political issues in new ways?

Era/Age: How old were you for each of those world events? What cultural factors influenced you in childhood and youth?

Theology/Religion: What does your faith teach you about politics? How about the religious organization you belong to? As you have grown and learned more about faith groups other than your own, how have they affected you?

Geography/Travel: Where do you come from? What’s the political situation there? How much of the world have you seen, and what have you learned from your travels?

Personal connections/Friends: Who are the most influential people in your life outside your nuclear family?

Life events: What surprises has life thrown at you? How have you handled them?

Career/Economics: Did you grow up rich, poor, or somewhere in between? How consistent was your family’s money situation? What is your economic situation like now? How did it come to be that way?

Race: What is the color of your skin? It makes a big difference in how the rest of the world perceives you … like it or not.

Gender/Sexual Identity: Some aspects of gender are apparent to the eye, and some are not. But all of them influence our politics.

Cultural Expectations: What is considered “normal” behavior in the circles you run in? What is considered suspect or intolerable?

Media/Advertising: Whom do you trust to give you information about things you haven’t personally witnessed? What forces lead you to trust one media source over another? How do you decide who is trustworthy?

Education: What we learn, how much we learn, and where we learn it are all factors.

Health/Medical status/Ability: Poor health is often chronic and can affect our outlook on the world. Permanent disability is also a factor.

We each spent some time in silence working on our own life timelines and listing events and factors that have contributed to our political identities. Then we broke into groups of three and shared them with each other.

At the end of the class we asked people to share things they’d learned.

“Some people have really swapped around their political inclinations as they have grown.”

“Change is the constant; you’re not the same person you used to be, but the foundational blocks stay with us.”

“Living in different places had a unique influence. Moving from San Francisco to rural Virginia, I saw two very different perspectives on race and segregation.”

“Traveling a lot helped me see that we’re all the same in many ways.”

“I grew up as a city boy. But spending some time in rural areas gives a unique perspective on the importance of local government.”

“Fairness and justice: my parents put these into us. They also taught us to believe in Jesus, and I’m so grateful for that. But somehow, I vote differently from my parents anyway!”

What does your political timeline look like? What events and situations have shaped you?

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