Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A thought about political behavior, in which I do not endorse any particular policy, ideology or agenda.

Maybe I am just becoming a cranky old woman, but I do not find it particularly funny, or patriotic, or Christian, to pray for the death of a president, even if it is in supposed jest.

Most of you know that I’m moderately liberal. That’s no surprise. You know that I was opposed to the war in Iraq, and supported the war in Afghanistan. I don’t think health care reform is “teh evil”, or is going to kill grandma, or a form of Nazism. In fact, I don’t think health care reform went far enough.

I was opposed to the war in Iraq. I knew we were going in under false pretenses, and even with a little brother being sent into combat, twice, I never once prayed for President Bush to die.

I think the Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh/Keith Olbermann version of political discourse is more detrimental to the project of American freedom than health care reform ever will be, because they spew hatred, intolerance, and self-righteous justification through vilifying those with whom they disagree. And yet I have never prayed for Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or Keith Olbermann to die.

I have turned off my television. I may hope that they move to a foreign country. But never once have I prayed for any of them to die. Even as a joke.

You know what happens when I read the Bible? I find these words in Luke:

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.
Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

That’s the call I hear in the Bible, from Jesus Christ, to those who would be his disciples. Love those with whom you disagree. Bless those who hurt you, and hate you, and use you to evil ends. Give to those in need, regardless of whether or not they are deserving. Treat others as you would want to be treated.

Why? Because even sinners can love those that love them in return. But we, as believers, are called to live a higher law. We are called to love those who hate us. If we only love those who love us back, we are a sinner. If we only serve those who are capable of serving us back, we are a sinner. If we only give to those who can pay us back, we are a sinner.

It’s nice to think that the world is so clear cut that poor people are poor because they made bad choices or are lazy or are evil. That’s nice to think about, because that means that I am rich(er) because I am a good person, or made good choices, or worked hard. Rarely will anyone admit that they are rich(er) because they won a genetic lottery that rewarded them with a beneficial socio-economic portfolio that pays dividends that seem, to the recipient, to be rewards for their supposed labors rather than systemic privileges to which they have no moral desert. Self-congratulatory narratives may make it easier to sleep at night, but they are detrimental to our ability to treat other people with the respect and dignity to which we claim they have an inalienable right.

We need to stop hating in this country. We need to stop hating people because they disagree with us. Even if we are adamantly opposed to the policies they propose, the people they have sex with, the color of their skin, the taxes they pass, or the wars they get involved in, there is no room for hate in this country. We are too great for that. We have in this country a legacy that should shine forth like a city on a hill, but instead of burnishing the flame of freedom that we have inherited, purchased by generations of effort at so great a cost and immense an effort, we are tarnishing it through our actions with a thousand little jealousies, and a million petty acts. We have used that flame to light the torches of an angry mob, rather than candles of example that should illuminate the good within ourselves and in each other. We should be ashamed.
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