On Taking Sides, Finding Our Base, And Making a New Way

There’s a common piece of political advice that says to, “never abandon your base”, essentially meaning, never turn your back on those who got you where you are. Find your people. And make yourself comfortable. Who they have decided you will be, you must continue to be.

It’s more obvious than ever these days that the political and religious spheres and bases haven’t exactly made it easy for its leaders to evolve and grow. Because the people who got those leaders where they are aren’t necessarily changing with them. And when they start to show cracks in their solidarity with the ranks, the base smells the weakness and decides to take care of the problem before it gets out of hand.

They turn on you. They excommunicate you. They dub you a “sellout” and a “heretic”. They call you a victim of the cultural tide and an abandoner of truth.

You, the heretic? You, the easily swayed? You call it growth. You call it evolving. You call it, just trying to figure things out. You call it being human.

The base, as we’re used to seeing it, is a powerful and fickle thing. And not because of the principles that define it. But because of what it asks of its leaders and its members. Solidarity. On everything. Like-mindedness. With everyone.

The problem with this kind of base is that the majority and the court of popular opinion are starting to have more sway over what we believe and how we vocalize what we think than our own spirit and souls.

What a place to be in. Held hostage by a nameless, faceless group that exists somewhere out there, and absolutely, under no circumstance, will allow you to move one iota from who you appeared to be when you first joined.

Never abandon your base, we’re told. But what does that really mean? It means you’re a prisoner of your beliefs from one point in time, made static and frozen from right where you were when you first caught this elusive base’s eye.

The problem with these kinds of “bases” is they exist in dualities. Black and white. You’re either in or you’re out. You are either good, or you’ve fallen off the wagon. You are either steadfast or you are slippery. Either way, you’re pinned down.

If I had my way, we would abandon that kind of base. And be a new one.

I went to a gathering this past week to listen to a speaker who had left his own base several years ago. And managed to survive. (It’s possible. He’s like a unicorn.) Not with the same base of course. Not really. Some stuck with him, but most smelled blood in the water and made a quick and decisive break with him when it became clear he was falling out of favor.

But now, he’s back. And Rodney and I, along with several other people, went to listen to what he had to say.

He was inspiring convicting and encouraging. He created a pulse in the room, and an emotion in the group, and got scattered applause throughout, murmurs of approval, and even an occasional shout of solidarity. The people in the room laughed and got misty-eyed and nodded along and left feeling, “Forget the old base. We’re part of a fresh thing.”

And it did feel fresh. But it made me wonder. What’s keeping this base from becoming the same machine as the old one? The people who make up the new base may adhere to a different way of thinking, but is the posture the same? Is it adamant that it only includes those who fall in line with all the same beliefs, who are all on board with the total package of this brand of faith and politics?

That’s what I walked away wondering the other night from listening to this speaker. I walked away with a lot of other stuff too, but that was what kept rattling around in my brain when I couldn’t sleep that night.

That there is a certain kind of base we need to reevaluate our allegiance to and it has nothing to do with the belief systems they espouse. It’s the loudest ones that lure us to stay in line and keep the ranks. The ones that make us take our cues from the people who hold one way of thinking, and make us believe if we agree with them on this one thing, we must agree with them on everything. The ones that stop us from thinking critically and asking deeply personal and probing questions.

But what if there was a possibility of something different? A kind of base where dualities fall by the wayside, where we are not chained to a popular opinion, but become thinking, growing, and questioning people?

Who aren’t labeled as being in a camp. Or a category. Who look around and see themselves surrounded by those who hold opposing opinions to theirs on some issues, but are okay with it because everyone’s still learning—and it’s the learning that is the commonality among those who make up this base. Who listen to a speaker, and find themselves disagreeing with some things and agreeing with others and not throwing away the whole thing because it didn’t all line up like they thought. Who look down the aisle and up in the balcony and think, “Under any other circumstances I would never be in a room with people like this. We have hardly anything in common. But we have enough.” And who likes it that way?

I want us to create bases where neither end of a political or religious spectrum feels quite comfortable with us. I want a base made of misfits and those figuring it out. People who are outliers and status quo disrupters—in the political and religious realm. Whose belief can’t be summed up with a party label or a religious tenant, but who have put meaningful thought into all the positions they hold, knowing it looks patch-worked together, inconsistent and complicated and not falling under one particular umbrella of thought. But holding those views anyway, even if it doesn’t look cohesive, because that’s where they’ve landed. I want a base that stops giving others the illusion of certainty and that starts voicing more of the nuances and complications that life is actually made out of, upsetting the balance.

It means having a different kind of conversation. And learning to speak up, even if we aren’t sure where we land, because the world is more hungry for people owning their unknowing than it may even realize.

It means when someone asks what the “biblical view” of something is, we know this is a more nuanced question than a one-sentence answer will allow.

It means when someone claims they know the party Jesus would have voted for or the denomination church He would have attended, we remember Jesus made it a point to operate outside of boundaries and resisted categories, and would be rolling over in His grave—if He was in one to roll over in—if He knew we had made cliff notes out of His teaching so He could fit into the party and denomination we want Him to.

It means when someone claims they know America’s role in the future of the world, and its either as the new Jerusalem or the next superpower empire/bully, you take a deep breath and say, “I am not sure America fits into either category so well, and as a matter fact, I don’t either.”

Bases these days want you to pick sides. But I think we, the people—the people of this country and the people of this faith—can be the kind of base that doesn’t hitch its wagon to one person, party or tenant of Christianity. Who does the research ourselves? Asks the questions ourselves. Who resists the urge and the pull to fit comfortably into a team that makes the decisions for us on what we should believe and how we should vote 100% of the time. Who is willing to voice the uncertainty and the unknowing and doesn’t fear the repercussions.

Knowing sometimes, behavior like this makes the masses mad.

But I think Jesus would agree with it. Don’t you?

After all, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world,” he asked, “yet forfeit his soul?”

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