Pastor Walter Mitty was the last of the men’s fellowship group to leave the Main Café last Saturday, and as he passed the cash register he noticed that Alice wasn’t busy.
“I see that you are wearing a Darren Bailey for Governor button,” he said hoping to start a conversation.
The pastor of Poplar Park Community Church had recently heard about a concept called deep canvassing which promotes long conversations seeking to build trust while going door-to-door instead of giving a one-minute elevator speech in favor of the candidate you’re promoting.
The cantankerous waitress had a cynical, suspicious look on her face but decided she would take on that “pointy headed liberal” anyway.
“You damn right, Rev,” she began.
Mitty was used to her abrasive combativeness, and calmly asked, “I really would like to know, Alice. Why would you vote for him instead of Pritzker?”
The Trump voter and election denier actually believed her regular customer was sincere and relaxed a little. “Well, for one thing, Rev, he’s a real Christian. He and his wife fast every Tuesday, he opens campaign meetings with prayer, and he started the Full Armor Christian Academy.”
Pastor Mitty took that comment in and said, “And I suppose that explains why he’s pro-life and supports the Dobbs Decision.”
Alice looked at Mitty quizzically and asked, “Are you agreeing with me?”
“No, just trying to understand.”
“And on top of that,” she continued, “he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He’s a third-generation farmer and he understands me. I don’t think Pritzker has ever come home with an aching back because he’s been on his feet all day like I do every single day.
Alice was on a roll.
“He understands in his gut how working people are suffering from inflation. For him, inflation means him having to spend a couple million dollars more to put bread on the table. And he tells it like it is regarding crime. Liberals call him racist because he tells the truth. Pritzker has to dance around the fact that the highest crime areas are on the South and West sides.”
“Thanks, Alice. I appreciate your taking the time to explain your views.”
Alice hurried off to tend to some new customers with a befuddled expression. She hadn’t gotten any pushback.
Two days later, Pastor Walt and his neighbor Michael decided to hang out at Bernie Rolvaag’s bookstore and coffee shop. Bernie had no customers, so he sat down with the two friends, and before they could take the first sips of their cappuccinos, Fr. Bob Sullivan walked in the door and joined them.
Mitty was still upset by what Alice had said two days earlier and told the whole story blow-by-blow to his three friends.
“Sounds like it was hard work to listen to Alice without pushing back,” was Fr. Sullivan’s response to his colleague’s venting.
Mitty sighed. “I guess you’re right, Bob. I had the best of intentions to be a good listener, but …”
“What Alice said about Bailey being religious,” Michael began, “struck me. You all know that Pritzker is Jewish, right? I’d say that he is religious but not in the same way Bailey is. He comes to temple on the big holy days, but for him religion seems to have more to do with principles like fighting for the rights of minorities and promoting the good of the whole community rather than the rights of individuals.”
“Like his mandates regarding COVID?’
“Right, and his faith, from what Rabbi Levine tells us, is more willing to question God than Evangelicals are. I remember him quoting Pritzker once saying, “There’s always that question that exists, I think, when you contemplate the world: ‘If God exists, then why all the suffering?’ … That question is almost the basis for faith.”
“You got me thinking,” said Bernie after sipping his cappuccino. “I have a lot of books these days about the culture wars, and it seems like everything gets polarized. I mean like Prizker and Bailey are both religious but it feels like they live on different planets.”
Father Bob laughed and added, “Or different universes.”
Bernie nodded agreement to the Franciscan and continued, “Polarization everywhere. Radical right vs. radical left. Follow the science or my own individual judgment. Empirical evidence vs. revelation. Good for the economy or good for the environment.”
“Originalist interpretation,” added Fr. Sullivan, “or evolving — regarding both the Constitution and the Bible.”
Michael said, “You know, before she died Ruth and I would sometimes see things differently, I would try to reason with her, and she would still not see it my way.”
“And you were always right,” said Bernie with a laugh.
“Of course,” Michael replied. “But I loved her more than I needed to be right.”