A reader writes:
It seems the only time I ever see you is when I’m five sheets to the wind at the Diner. So I figured that I would take an e-opportunity to congratulate you on your 10th anniversary. Your blog, and books, were vitally important for this young, conservative Catholic political junkie as I was coming out of the closet. And after you helped me through that, I became a religious reader of your blog and seemingly together you and I came to realize the excesses of this current brand of conservatism. I imagine I'll look back on that period and determine that it was the most important formative part of my adult life, and you and the Dish played a critical role. I’m eternally grateful for that.
Congratulations on your 10th year of the Dish. I write simply to thank you for helping impact who I am as a person, as a thinker, and as a (hopefully) productive member of society.
I am 28 years old. When I was in my second or third year of college (around year 2 or 3 of the Dish's existence), attending the Maxwell School of Citizenship at Syracuse University and studying Political Science, I found your voice on the internet and have been addicted ever since. I was going through my first period of real intellectual reflection at the time, having entered college as a fervent, yet poorly informed, conservative. Having grown up in an entirely homogenous rural-conservative community, it took a few years in a more diverse environment for my ideas about the world to be sufficiently challenged to a degree where I could question my own beliefs. I was beginning to accept gays as friends - a thought abhorrent to me when I left home. I was beginning to question dogmatic Republican principles, a thought that remains abhorrent to many of the people I grew up with.
It has felt ever since that I have grown with the Dish in learning how to become a fluid thinker - constantly questioning my own views and opinions as the world continually challenges them with new facts and circumstances.
Most importantly, you've taught me a valuable lesson is disagreeing with someone. I assumed there were two choices: Republican or Democrat. The Democrats were the liberals, the good guys; Republicans were conservatives, the villains (I'm a child of the GW Bush years). But you've helped me to realize that the tags liberal and conservative have almost no bearing to either the Democrats or Republicans these days. I could see myself proudly identifying as a conservative someday (but as long as the Republican party stays in its same mold, I will never identify as such).
I'm sure I would never consider myself a conservative if not for you and the Dish. I came of political age in the US and in the Bush era, when 'conservatism' meant what it means now: neoconservatism, fiscal recklessness and social nostalgia. If anything can push a sensible person away from the label 'conservative' it's that. But now whenever someone talks to me about politics, I say, a little apologetically, that I'm a conservative. Usually I'm able to explain it in a way they can understand. And that's all your doing.
I really wish there were more like you out there to read, but I’ve had some bad experiences trying to read other conservative bloggers. I come away nauseous, not contemplative. Although I’m still quite liberal, I do appreciate real conservatism, if for no other reason than as a necessary part of a balance. I know that pendulums really shouldn’t swing too far in either direction! I suppose I respect real conservatives if I believe they are sincerely motivated by a desire to achieve good things for all (not just themselves). I really do trust you, and that is saying quite a bit.
I am also the daughter of a Southern Baptist Minister and struggle painfully with faith to this day because of the things that I was immersed (literally) in about religion that I found to be just… well… wrong. So I’ve loved the elements of your faith that you have shared with us. One of my favorites is “When Not Seeing is Believing”, and it touched me deeply. And I consider your coining of the term Christianist’ to be spot on.
As a Catholic who has serious issues with Benedict's papacy and the politicization of the church in general, I also drew inspiration from the Dish's weekly focus on all things religious and spiritual, the debate with Sam Harris, and the difficulty of remaining within an institution that can simultaneously sear and salvage one's soul.
This Muslim is always appreciative of your dedication to the truth and your understanding of the fact that not all of us are homophobic, homicidal or just plain nuts! We are capable of poking fun at ourselves, understanding that the future of our religion lies not in the narrow dogma of the past 100 years or so, but in accepting that we live in a beautiful and diverse world that our Creator has provided for all of creation, not a select few. Your spirituality is astoundingly passionate, rather reminds me of my own understanding of Islam. The piety and reverence with which you address the deeply troubling issues confronting the Catholic Church resonate with those of us who seek change and reform within our own religions.
Thank you for provoking my thoughts (and those of my friends!) and earning the gadfly status in my life!