Some professions naturally come with a certain political leaning, not that everyone in a given profession leans the same way. Most do. Since I have two professions, social worker and software engineer, I’m somewhat conflicted over my politics.
In the social work program where I graduated, one of the professors said to me, “It’s pretty hard to be a conservative social worker.” I’ve found him to be right. Most software engineers I know are split along political lines, but in the social work field, almost everyone is liberal. I’ve always leaned to the right and have never been a big fan of labor unions. It’s interesting, though, how quickly you can come to appreciate them when they fight for you. I’ve recently had the terrifying experience of having my employer of record, the State of Oregon, try to cut my pay by 40%. It would have been financially devastating to my family.
Thanks to my union, it looks like it isn’t going to happen. It was nice to have someone stand up for me and represent me. It was also nice to have some solidarity with other workers who are in the same situation. It hasn’t turned me liberal, but it has opened my mind a bit more. I still disagree with 90% of the political action my union pushes for, yet I want them to fight for fair wages for me.
Naturally, I personify some of these kinds of paradoxes in my personal life. I’m a social worker and a software engineer, a conservative with some liberal leanings, and a gay Mormon who is married happily to a woman. I like paradoxes. I think they are a beautiful part of the complexity of mortality.
One thing I’ve learned about the paradoxes in my life is that whenever I think things are completely black and white, it is because I’m refusing to look at part of the evidence of my own senses. To me, a paradox is only a seeming disconnect in logic. Things only seem at odds with each other because I can’t see the whole picture.
The scriptures are full of paradoxes and things that seem at odds with each other. My favorite is the paradox of the plan of happiness in that God, in the person of Jehovah or Jesus Christ, condescended to be in the form of a man, to come to earth and experience mortality like the rest of us.
I like the way the apostle Paul describes it:
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:5-8).
Paul urges us to be of the same mind as Christ. We are to remember that we are in the form and likeness of God and not think it is robbery to be equal to God which we understand to be our eventual reward if we remain faithful. At the same time, we must perform the work of a servant, humble ourselves, and accept the inevitability of death.
To understand our eternal nature and potential and then know that to achieve it, we must become as lowly servants is a paradox of the highest order. This idea of being a servant leads me to another paradox I find hard to see clearly, but accept on faith that it is how we are supposed to behave.
I’m speaking of the paradox of hating sin and loving sinners. It’s one of the easiest things to declare and one of the hardest to practice. Every time I mention it, I know I can count on someone to point out reasons why I don’t practice it, why members of the Church don’t practice it, and why the Church doesn’t practice it. Only one of those three categories matters to me, i.e., the perception that I am still trying to understand how to truly hate the sin and love the sinner. I choose not to judge other members and especially not to judge the Church or any other institution.
I think that because I find it hard to do, I can’t fault any other person or institution that is still trying to figure out. This is in much the same way as I know that dealing with same-sex attraction is difficult for me to sort out that I can’t fault people who sort it out differently than I do. I firmly believe they’re doing the best the know how.
And therein lies the biggest paradox for me, that of how to maintain a set of beliefs and standards for my own behavior while allowing others their own beliefs and standards of behavior. The most I can do is plead with others to exercise the same patience with me as I desire greatly to exercise with them.