The fine art of agreeing to disagree

On the whole, I enjoy the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. The quirkier ones tend to be my favorites, such as Guardians of the Galaxy or Doctor Strange.

The character of Captain America has always had a special appeal to me. He was a test subject during WWII who had an experimental serum injected into him that ended up elevating him to the peak of physical condition possible for a human. But he remains human without any super powers. He can’t fly, stop time, use telekinesis, or anything like that. He’s just the fastest, strongest, most durable human you can be. And as the physically perfect human, that’s sufficient for him to be able to stand toe to toe with monsters, aliens, and creatures or humans who do have super powers.

He’s also very much the good guy. No deep secrets of an evil past. Doubt? Of course. Pain and sorrow over losing close friends and the love of his life? Certainly. But he doesn’t let any of that stop him from being the good guy. Even when he has to stand up to his friends.

I have several friends who think that Captain America: Civil War is a good movie. I didn’t like it. My personal opinion is that the movie is nothing more than a barroom brawl with special effects. It was visually impressive, and still somewhat entertaining because even a bad MCU movie is at least somewhat fun to watch once. But the movie was almost all fight with very little story. That appeals to some people, but it didn’t appeal to me.

I also have several friends who didn’t like Star Wars: The Last Jedi. They’re welcome to their incorrect opinion, but as everyone knows the movie was fabulous and….

Ok, I’m kidding. I enjoyed The Last Jedi, but it’s understandable why some people didn’t like it. Their concerns just weren’t a big deal (or in some cases any deal at all) to me.

In instances like this, we agree to disagree. Because we’re friends first and foremost.

The fine art of agreeing to disagree has been slowly falling by the wayside for decades. In the eyes of many people, it’s no longer possible to get along with someone who disagrees with you. I’ve previously mentioned that I tend to avoid comment sections on news articles because of how toxic they usually are. But even a quick perusal of Internet forums dedicated to particular fandoms (books, movies, games, crafting, etc) will show that the vile attitudes present in news article comments are not limited to matters of “true import”. Sometimes those fan forums are moderated and sometimes they are not. When they are not, they usually contain many posts that show violently disagreeable attitudes toward differences of opinion.

A great deal of this lack of civility comes from the lack of “religiousness” in our culture. As I’ve said before, few people, religious or otherwise, comprehend just how deeply Christianity has been embedded in Western Culture for over a millennium now.  In the atheistic secular humanist drive to purge all references to religion from public life, much is going away that modern atheists claim is not necessarily religious. The assumed nature of civility is one such thing.

One of the core tenets of Christianity is love of neighbor. The modern atheist claims that love of neighbor is not confined to Christianity. They are correct, to a degree, for love of neighbor is common to all cultures. What is not common to all, however, is the definition of neighbor. Christianity makes the bold claim that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Christianity makes the bold claim that our neighbor, even if he comes from a hated country that split away from us in the past and has effectively spat on our traditions and beliefs for centuries, is to be loved regardless.

No other religion makes this bold claim. Judaism, the religion that was the precursor to Christianity and didn’t find its fulfillment until the coming of the Messiah, had no teaching that we were to hate our enemies. But even Jewish people prior to the coming of the Messiah generally assumed, despite the absence of any such teaching, that one’s neighbor was limited to one’s fellow countrymen and it was acceptable to hate one’s enemies.

Civility was something to always be shown to one’s countrymen. But civility didn’t need to be shown to strangers from other lands. It was acceptable to hate them and not be civil toward them at all.

The even increasing removal of Christianity from general public life in this country is leading to a revival of a pre-Christian attitude that, with the regrettable exception of racism, hasn’t been generally present in our cultural history for a long time. It leads to the loss of the idea that people who aren’t part of our group, our tribe, our own personal “family”, are still to be loved. Christians are susceptible to this as well, if they are not firmly grounded in the faith. The influence of the culture within which one lives is powerful.

It’s too big of a burden for any one person to carry alone. So don’t bother. Just go about your life doing the best you can to love the people who disagree with you. Agree to disagree and don’t go after the other person even if they want to go after you. Pray for those who return anger for anger, no matter who they are. Accept that you’re going to suffer yourself by daring to not follow the culture.

And, of course, accept that The Last Jedi was a fabulous movie. It is the only way 🙂