Our theme for October is “Why I Believe.”
When I was younger, I hated it when anyone would say that religion was something humans had made up to give meaning to their lives and to the struggles of the world. I thought that was just a fancy way of saying religion was fake, useless, a lie people told themselves. Faith was foolishness. Ritual was meaningless.
It wasn’t until I experienced panic attacks that fight through the medication, through the social support, through the comfort of sweater and tea, that I began to see the truth behind that argument. In my dark moments I have seen the worst of the world. I have seen the unending terror that coexists with the human condition. I have felt the sharp pain of the realization that, truly, nothing is perfect, that really, no one is “basically a good person.” My dark moments have taught me that the world is too complex for any decision to be “the right” one.
Should I eat meat? No; meat in this country, especially meat purchased by large, chain restaurants, is often produced with no thought to the ethical treatment of animals and generally wastes natural resources and pollutes the planet.
So should I be a pescetarian? No; often, fish in this country are full of pollutants from the lakes, rivers, and oceans where they live, making them surprisingly unhealthy to eat. Also, how do I know those fish were treated any more ethically than the cows I refuse to eat?
So should I be a vegetarian? No; soy, a common form of plant-based protein used as a meat substitute in vegetarian meals throughout the country, is contributing to the monoculture of US agriculture. Not to mention, government subsidies of both soy and corn contribute to the success of agribusiness and the impossibility of long-term economic stability for small, family-owned farmers.
Should I take my clients who live in a foster care group home to Chick-Fil-A when they ask me to? No; Chick-Fil-A and its leadership have a bad track-record of actively supporting legislation and organizations who are opposed to same-sex marriage. Also, they tend to foist their beliefs on their workers and the world around them, which historically is not a good movement to support financially.
So should I never take my clients to Chick-Fil-A, and should I explain to them why when they ask? No; these are kids with whom I generally have only a couple hours of interaction a week, and they have very little control over their lives: when they benignly know they want something and I know I can give it to them, I do not feel comfortable saying no.
So should I take my clients there, but boycott it myself? No; Chick-Fil-A is a company that gives all of its employees Sundays off, as well as Thanskgiving and Christmas day. Chick-Fil-A’s founder has a five-step “recipe for business success” that includes a section entitled “Put Principles and People Ahead of Profits.” That is a tenant I support, even if those principles do not one hundred percent line up with my own.
Should I vote for Donald Trump for president? No; neither his policies nor his personality will take this country in a direction I support.
Should I vote for Hillary Clinton? No; she is a Washington insider, no better than any other politician. She has shown that she doesn’t value black or brown lives as much as the president should. She shouldn’t win the election because she’s passed the egregiously low bar of being better than Donald Trump.
Should I vote third party? No; my values don’t match any of those people, either, and I wouldn’t want any of them to be president, even if that were possible.
Should I note vote? No; voting is the one institution built into this country that allows all people’s voices to be heard. Many women have fought and died for my right to vote, not to mention many generations of people who would have given their lives for this opportunity. I can’t feel comfortable sitting out. And besides, inaction is merely passive acceptance of injustice.
Should I pull the lever and make the trolley hit one person? No; taking an action to do harm is immoral and wrong.
Should I let the trolley continue on hits course and hit five people? No; I could save a net total of four lives by pulling the lever.
On my dark days, all of my decisions feel like this: lose-lose-lose situations in which I fail everyone I care about and live up to exactly zero of my personal values. If I am careful not to hurt someone I care about, then I end up hurting someone else I care about. If I am careful to educate someone on a point I think is important, I end up disregarding some other important issue I am ignorant about. If I say what I mean, I tend to also say things I don’t mean.
In a word: I am so hopelessly imperfect it frequently causes me to crawl into a blanket fort and wish the world away.
Time after time, the only thing that has been consistently able to pull me out of these voids of moral paralysis and self-doubt has been my belief that there is a power in this world that is not imperfect. If I can remember that I, as a flawed and broken person, am not in control of either my life or the world it affects, I can breathe more normally. If I can focus on the fact that there is a God who has a Plan and whose Will cannot be thwarted, then I can get through the days of lose-lose-lose, the flannel-grabbing, shaking, rocking, sobbing days.
I cannot choose whether or not I believe in the fallenness of the world: that is more inescapable every day. And is it so terrible to imagine that this equation might have been built into the human psyche, such that humans have “invented” religion to give them a sense of purpose and meaning? It worked, didn’t it? Maybe that was the plan all along.
I have chosen, and will continue to choose to believe in a Savior who also believes in the world’s fallenness and promises more than mere escape from it. He promises to forgive me for the faults I cannot seem to avoid, as well as for the lose-lose-loses I cannot wrap my mind around. But he also promises to redeem this beautiful world, full of its contradictions, and to right the wrongs that have created the failures in the first place.
I believe in Him because I need to. Just in order to get out of bed.
Mary Margaret is a 2013 English, history, and secondary education grad who went rogue and became a Social Worker in Pennsylvania’s Child Welfare system. Specifically, she works as a caseworker in the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network finding families for children and educating the masses about foster care, adoption, and permanency planning. She made it over the grad-school hurdle with gold stars and warm fuzzies and is on to the next big adventure: the unknown of adulthood. Her major writing dream right now is to finish her science fiction novel that explores the concurrent futures of child welfare and artificial intelligence.