Every once in awhile, I really dislike my job. Yes, tutoring gets tiring sometimes (so much so that I dream about it), and it's frustrating to see a huge line out the door, knowing that people are bored and impatient and mad that they have to wait for so long. However, the days when I dislike my job the most are the days that we're not busy and some sort of discussion begins at the tutor table, discussions that leave me feeling isolated and uncomfortable.
Unlike the majority of my coworkers, I do not fall into the category of "American liberal." My political, intellectual, and social leanings are more along the lines of "American conservative." At the same time, though, I don't like lumping myself in with the so-called conservative crowd. I don't think the same way that a lot of them do. I disagree with them on many issues. I disagree with the liberal crowd as well. The reason why, I believe, is because I try not to affiliate myself with any type of group through name alone -- I want to find a middle ground. Some may call it "going with your gut" politics -- that's what I try to do.
For me, if something doesn't feel right, then it's wrong. If that makes any sense. An explanation is difficult, but I'll try my best. Basically I believe that there is truth and there is not truth. No one person has all truth. Therefore, no one group has a monopoly on all truth, either, because groups are made up of individuals who lack full, complete truth.
At my work, many of the people believe one way and will see no other point of view. Or they pretend to see the other point of view, but in their acknowledgment of the opposing side, they slip in a low-key remark about the intelligence of the different group. There are some who honestly don't care about personal political preferences and when a discussion starts, they comment once or twice and go back to their books, satisfied that they've contributed their statement of agreement with what everyone else is already saying. But it seems as though there isn't anyone who is interested in hearing from the one person who thinks differently -- and if they do hear, they don't listen. Even if they do listen, they look at me strangely and go back to talking with the people who already agree with them. Once again, I'm no longer encouraged to participate.
Countless times I've been blown off or shut down because I think differently. Many times I'm not even invited to join the conversation -- I become an observer from one side of the table, and when I try to interject my point of view, I'm talked over or ignored. Then, when someone does notice me sitting there, listening but not included, the resulting comment I'm asked to make leaves a sudden awkwardness in the air. And that's usually when the discussion ends or moves to a new topic.
Perhaps the awkwardness stems from the fact that I don't affiliate myself wholly with one group or person. I believe that truth can be found in all places, and if one asks to find it, that truth will be given. Some things just feel wrong to me -- much of that has to do with the influence that my faith has on my perspective of the world. God grants us truth if we ask; I ask for truth on a daily basis (no joke -- it helps with school a lot).
One person has called me out on not thinking for myself, of letting my church tell me how to think and who to be. They're wrong. I do think for myself. I make my own decisions. "Separation of church and state," someone said today (not to me -- they were discussing the presidential debate of last night and the reaction of students), "Stop bringing up the church, for crying out loud." Yes, I can see how saying that all LDS people should vote for Mitt Romney because he, too, is a Mormon, is probably not okay. But it's when the person took it a step farther, saying that using religious principles to formulate personal political beliefs is ridiculous, that I got a little bit bothered.
In discussions that I am included in, I don't bring up the church very often. I bring up true principles that I have a testimony of, not referencing them to the church at all. I bring up things that I know to be true. Yes, the church teaches these principles. Yes, the church revolves on the gospel of Jesus Christ. But the principles can be applied to anyone, inside or outside of the LDS church. Asking me to separate church and state in my thinking is silly to me, for how can I be the same person if I allow my thinking and action to be different when engaging with seemingly separate groups? No, I don't force my religion down people's throats. No, I don't condemn others for thinking differently than I do. No, I don't think that difference of opinion is a bad thing. I do think it strange to tell a person to separate faith from thought about other aspects of life -- telling them how to think -- particularly after slamming someone for letting the church "tell you how to think."
How can I be an example of Christ "at all times, and in all things, and in all places" if I don't live the same way in all times, and in all things, and in all places? How can I speak and act in one way at work, and then in another at church, and another in class? Why be two or three or four faced in my dealings with people? And how on earth can I separate my ways of thinking when my faith is so central to my life? No, I won't say things like, "Well, the church says this, and since you're different, you're bad." But I will say that telling me to think in certain ways or not think in certain ways is out of line -- as soon as that happens, those people begin to do exactly what they profess to hate: being told how to think by the LDS church.
Contrary to popular belief, the LDS church doesn't tell its members how to think. It doesn't tell us how to vote. The general authorities come right out and say that civic action is a duty of all citizens, and to vote according to our consciences using the information we have discovered on our own to make informed decisions. Never once do they say, "vote for so-and-so." No. That happens in isolated places and meetings because people are not perfect and are every once in awhile out of line, but it is not a church policy to do this.
I never ask anyone else to think different ways. I don't ask them to split themselves into different people according to who they are with and what they're talking about. Telling me to think for myself, and then telling me in the same sentence to stop letting my faith influence me, is completely contradictory. They call out the hypocrisy of LDS church members, but then they do the same things. That, to me, is absolutely frustrating. It is also a warning to watch myself, so that I don't fall into those same habits.
Truth will out in the end -- I'll find it in my ways, and you in yours. As for now, I will return to my book and sit quietly at the tutor table. I've learned that often the strongest argument is that of silence.