Sunday, January 9, 2011

Passion and Civility

Photo by Charles & Clint

The events of January 8, 2011,were appalling.  The death and destruction caused by one man were terrible.  Those injuries were inflicted on us all whether no matter our faith or lack of it.  Those injuries were to the body politic.

Some commentators have linked the shooting and the young man's rage to the statements by other commentators and politicians designed to inflame their followers so that they are united by emotion not reason.   I agree.  The goal is to acquire a bigger audience or more voters.  What is forgotten are those on the fringes for whom sanity and reason are already illusive.  An appeal to their emotions unleashes the violence within.  

Our current political discourse has become laced with too much violent imagery.  There is too much demonization of the other whether of another party or another faith.  We have sown the wind and will reap the whirlwind.

We do not have to agree.  By our very natures we find that difficult.  We all see ourselves as correct and our opponents as hopelessly unknowing.  We can disagree civilly.  Point out the errors in our opponents argument,  State clearly our own basis for out position.  We do not need to use blood-soaked rhetoric.

Christ said "Do to others as you would have then do to you."  Why can't we remember that when we argue politics?

I do not believe in  personified evil.  There is no fallen angel set to battle God for our souls.  I do believe in evil.  For whatever reason this creation is permeated by malice, hatred, greed and violence.   We are too often the chalice for the badness in this world.  

The young man who shot all these innocents is not evil.  He is ill.  In his illness he can be manipulated by those around him  deliberately or not.  The evil is two fold.  First are those who use the rhetoric of violence knowing that there are vulnerable souls like him who may be goaded to action by those words.  Second are those who see no need to care for citizens as the gunman.  The mentally ill are consigned to live among us without care by both the left and the right.  The left says they have rights and should not be placed in a safe environment against their will even if their will is deranged.  The right says care for the mentally ill is just too expensive.  We cannot spend the money to care for them or protect them from others or protect us from them.  Both positions reflect the evils of our time: freedom at any cost vs. monetary selfishness.  Christ told us we will be judged by how we treat the least of those among us.  We need to pay heed.

As a nation we need to look within.  We must point out evil wherever it occurs.  The left is not innocent, but when it comes to words of violence and hate, the right produces a torrent while the left produces a rivulet.  Too many make their living by branding their fellow Americans as "the other," somehow unworthy to be American.  This must stop.  Now is the time for those who believe that violent rhetoric begets violence to take a stand.  

Civility must be our goal.  Our own speech must reflect this.  I must change before I can expect others to.  The apostle Paul wrote: "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

I can only speak as a Christian, but I believe that those of all faiths share my desire for a civil society.

My prayer this day:

God, who reigns in eternity,
Praise your everlasting patience.
When we in person bow before you,
Accept us, please.
Give us the temperament to receive your bounty
And acknowledge that it comes from you.
Let us treat others with civility,
So that you will treat us well.
Teach us the etiquette of belief,
So that we are examples to others.
Rudeness is the gift of evil,
Stay our souls from accepting that gift,
For you care how we treat our fellows.
Politeness is the child of lovingkindness.
You are love in all its glory.
Your grace is there for all.

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