Jul 13, 2008

Finding My Faith, Obama-Style

I have to admit it. There's something about Barack Obama that fascinates me. Even though I've always been interested in politics and have followed the different campaigns, I've never been one to jump on anyone's bandwagon. I've always been too cynical about politicians to do so. I think I'm generally able to see through smooth-talking guys who just tell you what you want to hear, but Obama excites me like no other politician I can remember in my lifetime. Though I'm naturally skeptical of eloquent politicians, I sense more of a man who has given a lot of thought to deep questions and problems than a man simply perpetuating the usual spew of political rhetoric. Perhaps it's because of his unique background and upbringing, from which I think his sincerity stems, and which I believe to be genuine. It's hard to define who he is and in a way I can identify with that.

I just finished reading this Newsweek article about Obama's Christian journey. It's an interesting read about his religious background and goes beyond the Rev. Wright scandal that has been everyone's main focus.

As I read this article, it made me think about my own spiritual journey through Christianity as a Mormon. And to be entirely honest, I felt a bit envious. Really, I shouldn't, because I was born into a stable, harmonious home where both of my parents were strong members of the Church. Spiritually speaking, I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth: born into the Covenant, a wealth of spiritual knowledge and blessings just waiting for me to take advantage of them. Compare that to Obama, raised without a specific religion, bouncing around from church to church, a mother skeptical of any One Truth, a Muslim father who was a self-proclaimed atheist. So while I was merrily going about my life as a youth and young adult, always asking questions, yet mostly oblivious to the world of religion outside of Mormonism, Obama was well into his spiritual journey during the same stage of his life. Fast-forward a few years, Obama got youthful rebellion out of his system and found his spiritual home, his faith later weathering the storm of the Rev. Wright controversy. I, on the other hand, find myself somewhat spiritually up-roooted and trying to expell the spiritual rebellion I never really experienced as a youth.

A few years ago, I would have said with confidence that I would have been able to accept the Gospel as a convert. I would have attributed that to the fact that spirituality is part of my nature and that Mormonism answers a lot of questions and gives a lot of clarity that traditional Christianity can't. But now I see the wisdom, if God has truly had a hand in it, of my being born into the Church. I no longer think that I would have been able to convert to Mormonism because I would have been scared off by certain aspects of Church past and present. I could have easily subscribed to a type of spirituality that Obama's mother felt most comfortable with. As interesting and maybe even fulfilling as that may have been, I would have missed out on the vantage point that is unique to the LDS Church.

There's another reason why I feel a bit envious of Obama's spiritual journey. I'm no expert in religion and could therefore have some misconceptions, but finding spiritual peace in his brand of Christianity, it seems to me, carries less of an obligation and therefore less pressure than Mormonism. Mormons are about binding covenants, unwavering obedience, and asking very few questions. I feel that a faith like Obama's leaves more room for wondering and seeking, by shying away from the responsibility of having the one and only truth and only way to Eternal Salvation. Period. A part of me longs for the freedom of seeking and exploring, like Obama, without being guilty of rejecting the One Truth that is Mormonism's alone. Guilty of straying from what's right, only to find out later that the grass is always greener on the other side. I suppose I long for something to fill the void of those problems and questions that Mormonism can't answer. Therein lies the appeal of an approach like Obama's mother, to be free to draw from the positives of each religion and without being bound to one. And although she never found One Truth, could it be that she was, in a way, more spiritually fulfilled than me or you?

Newsweek writes:

Always drawn to life's Big Questions, Obama embarked on a spiritual quest in which he tried to reconcile his rational side with his yearning for transcendence. He found Christ—but that hasn't stopped him from asking questions. "I'm on my own faith journey and I'm searching," he says. "I leave open the possibility that I'm entirely wrong."

I feel that I am on a similar quest, but I could very well have already reached my final destination without really knowing it. Nevertheless, to that last quote, I simply say "ditto."


Cliff said...

I don't know that Obama "weathered" anything regarding Reverand Wright. What Obama did was split before his connection to Reverand Wright permanently damaged his political aspirations. That may be freedom, but it sure ain't religious.

A thought on the supposed "freedom" that Obama enjoys because he is unaware of the restored gospel - the "one true path," (as I believe you referred to it) - You surely are not the first to feel "undue pressure" from your ties to the restored gospel. If you read the book "Believing Christ," you will find that the author refers to a time when his wife felt a sense of hopelessness because she felt that she could never live up to the ideal "Mormon Mother."

The solution to this issue, of course, was not freedom to stray from standards, but obtaining a clearer perspective on the atonement - how it really works, and how we truly can have peace in this life.

Your situation is not exactly the same, but the cause and the solution are both the same. As the introduction to the Book of Mormon explains, it tells us what we "must do to gain peace in this life..."

If you struggle with feeling "undue pressure" in adhering to the goapel - if you feel that having a knowledge of the "one true church" unduly restricts you from exploring and defining your faith, then I sumbit that you understand neither the atonement nor the purpose of the gospel. Moroni taught that by the power of the holy ghost we may know "the trust of all things."

It may seem that Obama has "freedom" to roam spiritually, but he cannot, will not ever know the truth of all things until he first sees and enters into the kindgom of God and receives the Gift of the Holy Ghost - until he too enters into the straight gate.

The fact is that Obama has a distinct lack of freedom, a taut restriction placed on his ability to truly understand and define his christianity because he has neither the gift nor the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost that makes such true and free searching possible - yet your ability to search, ponder, and understand, and expand your christianity is limited only by your willingness to seek, exercise faith through obedience, and open your eyes.

"You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (NT, can't remember exactly where and no time to look it up - but the quote is on.)

You are the one who is free.

Cliff said...

BTW: "and asking very few questions."????

I've never known church leaders to encourage anything but asking questions and seeking for answers - in fact, Elder Bednar recently (about 1 and 1/2 years ago) spoke at a Young Adult fireside and encouraged everyone to study and gain as much insight and understanding from the scriptures that they could - and I paraphrase him closely when I relate that he taught that our ability to understand the gospel was only limited by our ability to be inquisitive and to seek diligently for the answers.

When you mischaracterize your own faith you make it difficult to have peace and insight into the truth.

The Faithful Dissident said...


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You are right that I probably don't understand fully the Atonement or purpose of the Gospel. Even as a lifetime active member, I feel that I have probably only dipped slightly into comprehending how the Atonement truly works. I have faith, but every time I seem to be climbing the spiritual latter, I seem to get knocked back down a notch or two. As I have blogged about before, I struggle greatly with reconciling the pure Gospel of Christ with some teachings in the Church's past and present. It hasn't been enough for me to abandon my faith, but I do feel like my spiritual sky is rather overcast while a lot of Mormons are soaking up the sun. I know we all have our struggles, regardless of where we are spiritually, but some feel more burdened by certain aspects of Mormonism than others. I'm one of those people.

I think that many Mormons share your opinion about Obama and how he handled Rev. Wright. I'm not naive to the fact that it's all part of the political game. Of course it is. But I wonder if we are being entirely fair to look at it merely a lack of spiritual integrity in order to gain political popularity. I think it could partially be that, but not entirely.

Let's compare Obama's handling of Rev. Wright to Mitt Romney's handling of his Mormon faith. Both Obama's and Romney's faith have skeletons in their closets. Obama chose to distance himself from Wright's racist teachings and denounce them, while Romney chose to be unapologetic to Mormonism's polygamist past. I believed he called polygamy "bizarre," if I remember correctly, but he stopped short of saying it was wrong (I don't blame him for this because I probably would have taken a similar approach). I'm not sure whether Romney was confronted with the race question as much as Obama was, but I never heard Romney denounce Brigham Young's racist rantings, which were pretty much on par with Wright's. Now, I can look at both of these approaches with disappointment and respect.

With Obama, the timing of distancing himself from Wright was poor. It makes one question his integrity and true motives. At the same time, I respect him for saying flat-out that Wright's views are nuts.

With Romney, I can be disappointed that he doesn't denounce the racist teachings of Brigham Young and other LDS leaders. But at the same time, I admire his loyalty to them by not publicly throwing them under the bus. If he personally believes they were false, he didn't feel the need to denounce them in public.

So I think that both of these men have done a pretty good job of handling some extremely sensitive subjects. I don't envy either of them for having their religious beliefs scrutinized by everyone in the media and in their respective churches and communities. I'm not really sure how I would have handled it had I been in their situations.

When Obama says, "I'm on my own faith journey and I'm searching. I leave open the possibility that I'm entirely wrong" I compare that to the Mormon's I've heard say to non-Mormons, "I know what's true. You're a Mormon, you just don't know it yet." Two different approaches, two different viewpoints.

Cliff, I have to partially disagree with your statement about asking questions. I think it depends what we are asking questions about. Yes, it's true that leaders greatly encourage us to study scriptures and manuals in order to find answers to our questions. In that regard, I think we're very good at that as a Church. But when it comes down to asking questions about our history as a Church, particularly the aspects that aren't so positive, that's where I feel a little like I'm walking on eggshells. I think that we, as a Church, could be better at having open and frank discussions on a deeper level, while still maintaining a reverent spirit. I think it's possible, but we're too scared "to go there."

Cliff said...

Romney disappointed me as well, but for different reasons. I can't agree with him calling polygamy "bizarre." Polygamy is a difficult part of church history to deal with but it was clearly a commandment from God - and one that is greatly misunderstood by many - and one that I don't think can be understand by the spiritually unenlightened.

Obama is another story. I don't doubt that he is a very good person at his core. I think he feels a certain degree of spirituality in his life and searching, but Obama and christianity goes far beyond Rev. Wright. IMO, Obama's current display of faith is nothing more than politics on display in the form of christianity. Follow me through here:

The last 2 elections, it was the "Christian Right" that pulled Bush through to victory. McCain and the "Christian Right" aren't exactly buddy-buddy. This presents a terrific opportunity for Obama to be very openly religious, to speak at black churches, and to get a spread in Newsweek, or US News, or wherever that was about it (doesn't hurt in cleaning up the Rev. Wright issues either). Obama may never pull the hard core "Christian right" vote by doing this, but he can pull a lot of moderate "Christian" votes that aren't very accessible to McCain and that otherwise would have gone to a Romney or a Bush (if he were to run a thrid time). How much you want to bet Obama never spoke at large "christian" church gatherings before he was running for office against a moderate republican who irritates the "Christian Right" in an election where Obama has already been smeared for extreme views of his former pastor, whom Obama ditched - and Obama never called Wright "nuts" and never left Wright's church before it became an election issue - and I'd have a hard time believing this was the first time Wright said anything about it. Discussing one's differences with a pastor is not the same as turning tail and running the moment the connection becomes politically damaging.

I suppose you are correct to some degree about the type of question asked. I think sometimes we aren't ready to discuss certain questions - especially not as a church on the whole. What good is it going to do to discuss certain "rants" by Brigham Young when we have wards and stakes full of people who don't go to the temple regularly, some who don't even read and pray regularly, many who struggle to repent daily, and are even hanging onto large sins because they don't have the faith to give them up yet? And that doesn't even begin to discuss the blind state of the world in general.

Some questions are interesting, and perhaps "embarassing" to some church members, but "embarassing" and misunderstood are not necessarily reasons to discuss and answer.

eg: I once taught a young adult who was pure angry that so many people weren't allowed in the temples. It bothered her, she thought it was "nuts" and discriminatory, and refused to get past it. We discussed the principles behind the temple rules ad nasuem. Finally I explained that her problem was that she did not believe the church was true. She was willing to humble herself, set her temple concerns aside, and focus on asking the Lord if the gospel was true, if Joseph Smith was a prophet, and if the Book of Mormon was true. After much personal struggling n prayer over those core questions, she received an undeniable witness from the Holy Ghost - and she never did question the temple rules again, not because understanding them wasn't important, but because those questions weren't her real issue.

She has since been baptized, become a very active temple goer and is currently serving a mission.

Had she kept focusing on her temple red herring, she would never have recived those blessings - and I guarantee she now understands the temple better than most lifetime members because she first tackled the important questions.

Be humble, set aside the fringe concerns, and be converted to the things of salvation, and you will be amazed at how easily answers to these other "embarassing" "skeletons" in church history come to you - and how much sense they make.

The Lord only gives us what we're ready for. No more, no less.

The Faithful Dissident said...


The word "nuts" to describe Rev. Wright was my own. :) Here is what Obama himself said:

“I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened by the spectacle that we saw yesterday,” Obama said in a last-minute press conference today. The candidate said that after watching Wright’s appearance from Monday, “what became clear to me was that he was presenting a world view that contradicts what I am and what I stand for."

Hitting on most of the major points in specific terms, Obama said “there are no excuses” for such comments. “They offended me. They rightly offend all Americans and they should be denounced."

In his much-heralded address on race relations after Wright’s earlier comments began gaining wide circulation last month, Obama pointedly denounced the comments but not the man. That position changed today. Calling Wright’s appearance Monday a “performance,” Obama went further, saying his remarks “were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate.”
(Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/04/29/politics/main4056166.shtml)

I share your skepticism in any display of faith during election time. When Hillary was talking about her faith and how she prays, I honestly had a hard time picturing her on her knees. Sort of gave me flashbacks of her and Bill coming out of church, Bible in hand, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Likewise, it's hard to imagine George and Laura drinking tea and reading the Bible together every morning.

Regarding discussing "rants" by Brighman Young and other such controversial subjects in Church history, I totally agree with you about how it would do no good to discuss such things in church. The time and place has to be appropriate. I realize that these subjects are more than a lot of members can handle, so we can't just throw it at them until they're in seeking mode and ready to receive it. I would never bring up such topics of discussion with members who aren't already asking about it. I just feel that for those of us who are asking and seeking, there needs to be greater dialogue and understanding from Church leaders high up. We are left to scholars and researchers, some of whom are at odds with the Church. But I think that some of them have brought forth information that has been very useful and enlightening, both positive and negative, that we would never have known had it been for the Church alone. I think of Bushman's "Rough Stone Rolling." A realistic, candid biography on Joseph Smith that still maintains objectivity and a certain degree of reverence. I'd love to see more such works and I'd love to see the Church receive it more whole-heartedly.

The Faithful Dissident said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sanford said...

Cliff asks:

What good is it going to do to discuss certain "rants" by Brigham Young when we have wards and stakes full of people who don't go to the temple regularly, some who don't even read and pray regularly, many who struggle to repent daily, and are even hanging onto large sins because they don't have the faith to give them up yet? And that doesn't even begin to discuss the blind state of the world in general.

Are you suggesting that open and honest questioning and discussion is only suited for the church attendees that are “righteous”? Perhaps the failure of many lesson settings and curriculum to welcome and promote openness and candid discussion is one on the reasons people struggle. For Mormons who have found the truth there is only so much searching they are interesting in doing. For those searching for additional light, formal Mormon class settings can be disappointing. I for one prefer attending gospel principles with people who are not so “regular” in their gospel habits and attitudes. I find the exploration of gospel topics less scripted and more authentic. Of course, in the interest of full disclosure I admit that I am a sinner.

Anonymous said...

Coming from someone who is not a Mormon regarding your comment "A part of me longs for the freedom of seeking and exploring, like Obama, without being guilty of rejecting the One Truth that is Mormonism's alone. Guilty of straying from what's right, only to find out later that the grass is always greener on the other side."

There are denominations within Christianity that are just as strict in their beliefs as the Mormons are such as the Apostolic, Pentacostal, Anabaptist, Amish, and such. They too have a very defined path to God and they believe this to be the only way. Not much room for freedom. I'm Apostolic and we don't have room to question or freedom to wonder about to much. It's been clearly defined... you believe it or not.

It all depends on how seriously you take your faith and how much of it you choose to apply to your own life. Some apply 100% of their faith into their lives whereas others will only apply 60%. Those who apply less simple choose to look at different ways of the path they will take in life.

It's complicated because there are so many denominations which swing from one extreme to the next in their strict following of Christianity versus the more liberal.

I still haven't figured out the excitement of Obama. I don't know what it is about this man that makes people react the way they do.

Great post!

The Faithful Dissident said...

Christine, thanks for sharing your perspective. Sometimes some of us, myself included, tend to think that most Protestants are more lax in their practice of Christianity than Mormons. As you pointed out, that is not necessarily true, so I thank you for that reminder.

The thing I like about Obama personally is that he's in some ways so different from all the other politicians we have seen before. He has a very unique background and I think his upbringing gave him a perspective of the world that can only be gained by first-hand experience. I think that he will be better-suited to handle a multi-ethnic/culture/religion society like America because it's hard to lump him into one category or define who he is. Although he considers himself a Christian, his experience from abroad has at least given him an idea of how different life can be outside of America. Despite the qualms from Conservatives about his foreign policy, I think this will be a big asset for diplomacy abroad, something that I think the US is in dire need of. As a non-American living outside of America, who is closely connected to American life and culture, it always astounds me how many (not all) really have no clue about what's beyond America's borders. I think that Obama's experience from abroad, even though he was young at the time, is something that stays with you for a lifetime. It's obvious he's an eloquent speaker, but beyond the superficial side of that, his talent for connecting to people via speaking will also be an asset in diplomatic relations.

The other reason why I hope he wins, despite the fact that some people will find it wrong for me to say so, is that he is black. (Many tend to forget that he's also half-white, but like my sister-in-law said once, "Welcome to America." The fact that he is half black is the focus, not that he is half-white or biracial.) I don't mean to say that people should vote for him only because he's black. If I were eligible to vote, I wouldn't JUST vote for him because he's black. But I would be lying if I said it wasn't a factor. The way I look at it, even if he doesn't keep half the promises he makes and has the approval rating of Bush, just the fact that he was elected president is huge for me. I remember when people said that Colin Powell was the ONLY black man who MAYBE had a chance to become president if he ran. Now someone else has a very excellent chance and he's taken the country by storm with his eloquence and charisma. I'm excited about what this will mean to black youth, who have never been able to call a fellow African American their president. It means a lot to me because although we know that racism is still alive and well in the US, the fact that Obama can win shows that there is a shift occurring. There IS progress being made! And once those who are afraid of a black man being their president see that he can do their country proud at home and abroad, then maybe we will see an even greater shift. Perhaps racism will die out with the older generations -- or will at least be much less than it is today. Hopefully young people will see even more clearly just how ignorant, evil and outdated it is to be racist. Racism will hopefully become irrelevant in today's society.

So those are my main reasons for supporting Obama. I like most of his policies (not all), and I think he will take the country in a better direction than it's going in now. My wishes for the eradication of racism are perhaps too optimistic, but he at least gives us some hope.

Cliff said...

Sanford said: "Are you suggesting that open and honest questioning and discussion is only suited for the church attendees that are “righteous”? Perhaps the failure of many lesson settings and curriculum to welcome and promote openness and candid discussion is one on the reasons people struggle. For Mormons who have found the truth there is only so much searching they are interesting in doing. For those searching for additional light, formal Mormon class settings can be disappointing."

No, Sanford. That is not what I am suggesting. What I am suggesting is that while "searching" to understand comments made by Brigham Young regarding things like race (for example) my be interesting and intellectually stimulating, it is also not very important - and I certainly wouldn't style it: "searching for additional light."

I don't necessarily see it as wrong for someone who is curious and is already firm in their faith (read: not "holier than thou righteous") but definitely not dabbling in these things because they somehow feel like they need to find an answer to them to validate and understand their faith - anyone who is discussing these things for those reasons is looking in the wrong place for the wrong reasons and will not find satisfcation of their doubts, but will likely drift farther off the path and never really grow strong in the faith. Check Doctrine and Covenants 50:24 - the idea is to continue in God to receive more light - not continue in odd fringe subjects as a way to attempt to prove their faith, or lack thereof.

I for one believe that we are led by a prophet, and if the prophet does not see fit to make these things a point of discussion, then he has good reason for it - and for exactly the reasons why I stated - because stuff like this doesn't convert people to Christ and salvation. Basic doctrine and personal striving in obedience converts and brings to salvation - and yes the Lord does withold a lot from the masses until they are ready for it. That doesn't make me or you better than anyone else (the sinner line was a bit out of relevance and an ad hominem) - it is just a doctrinal fact.

Making gospel doctrine more "interesting" by discussing these things won't bring more people to gospel doctrine - at least not in the ling run because it is fried froth, spiritually speaking. Such topics may bring heightened interest for a time and with certain people, but it does not sourish the soul.

Anonymous said...

I think you read my post wrong because I think you read the Pentacostal as Protestant. Actually you are correct, Protestants and more toward the left and liberal. Also depends on who they are associated with. My husband comes from a Protestant background and after I showed him more research on his church and it's involvement with the United Church of Christ he was blown away at how liberal they are. He thought Protestants were conservative LOL!

After he met me he realized how liberal they are especially seeing how strict and structured the Apostolic followers are. BTW the United Church of Christ is the group that Obama's church is connected to. They are very pro-gay, pro women as preachers, pro homosextual pastors, pro anything else that isn't conservative.

Protestants many many years ago actually were very conservative but that has certainly changed with the times.

I personally don't like either McCann or Obama so this is a toss up. I think if either of them win it's going to be a mess worse then what we have now. I so badly wanted Romney to win honestly because he could have put this country back on it's feet financially. I still to this day do not understand why he backed down so soon in the game. But then again I guess it doesn't matter now.

Cliff said...

I came across this talk by President Packer the othr night when I was digging through some old things. He goes right to the heart of why the church doesn't seem very open about these areas of church history.

I was able to find a link to a PDF of the talk through BYU. It is not only on point, but is rich with sound guidance and explanation regarding this area. (I should note that it was an address to members of the church educational system, but the principles taught are correct and applicable to all, as you will see if you read it.)


The Faithful Dissident said...


I've read that talk before, thanks for sharing. Pres. Packer makes some very good points in it and I can agree with a lot of it. At the same time, knowing how he has staunchly opposed certain scholars and a more detailed, in-depth Mormon history, it sort of bothers me. I feel very torn because:

I will be the first to admit that having an in-depth knowledge of Jospeh Smith and Mormon history can be like having a donkey on your back (see my post entitled "When Knowledge Becomes A Burden" and you'll see what I mean). I'm sure I don't even know the half of what Mormon history is really all about, and it already feels like a huge burden sometimes. But at the same time, I'm glad I know and I want to know more. I've read some very troubling things, but it hasn't been enough to make me leave.

Our main focus should be Christ and the Atonement. In fact, that's what keeps me in the Church. At the same time, we are a church with a rich history and I think it should be told in its entirety, recognizing of course that there are certain historical details that can only be speculated on. I have to ask, is there any other history of any religion, group of people, or any other occurrences, that should be erased? I agree that time and place have to be considered, so in some respects I agree with Pres. Packer about these things. We don't want people to lose sight of Christ and there is the danger that that will happen. However, I tend to think that he, in fact, wants certain parts of Mormon history to be erased, or at the very least hidden in a vault somewhere.

The way I look at it, the Church perhaps stands to lose some of its strongest members by appearing that it has something to cover up. When people know that information is being denied, they get skeptical. But if the Church is true, it will stand the test of time even if its dirty laundry is aired out to the world. There is plenty of that already on a daily basis on the internet and the Church has survived. I think that the Church will become less of an enigma which many despise or fear, and more of a Gospel about approachability and accessibility for all, if we are willing to open up about our past and not just try to bury it.

So it's a very complex and difficult issue. I don't have all the answers, this is just my personal perspective on things.

Cliff said...

FD Said: "At the same time, knowing how he has staunchly opposed certain scholars and a more detailed, in-depth Mormon history, it sort of bothers me."

For what it's worth, I have always tried to guide my life by this principle: If a general authority of the church says something that bothers me, it is a warning to me that I stand in need of correction.

I truly doubt that the church's "strongest members" will be driven out of the church by certain parts of its history, whether those parts are "aired out" or kept quiet, for they will not only understand what President Packer was talking about, but they will also understand what those parts of our history mean.

You ever wonder why so little is known about the Savior's youth? Consider Elder McConkie's statement that many of the so called enlightened members of the church would scream blasphemey and leave the church if the entirely of who Christ is was revealed to the public.

I am often reminded of when Joseph Smith commented that many of the "faithful" saints who were present would seek his blood if they knew who he really was. Brigham Young's response was, "Then don't tell me."

That is not to advocate ignorance (I myself probably would have wanted to know anyway), but it is to say that the Lord reveals things as we are prepared, and that comes down to two things - either teaching us through personal revelation, or letting the Prophet know when certain things need to be taught and when they are not yet ready to be taught.

If one of the brethren says that such things out not be published, that is enough for me. The principles he taught were and are true. To me I can see no other way but to seek to understand why principles taught by an apostle are true. When we seek to differ with them and distinguish them based on our own perspective, we are lingering in a dangerous place.