Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Plea for Wisdom and/or Civility

The announcements out of the Supreme Court this week lifted the cover, again, on the nature of public discourse in the nation. Let me say, for the record, that, while I do have an opinion on important matters such as health care, for example, my concern – my frustration – is not about the content of any particular position.

I can see the merits and demerits on both sides of most issues and, assuming time and interest, am generally glad to listen to an articulate advocate for positions with which I may disagree. I don’t usually find it necessary to argue my own position or attempt to change someone else’s mind. This, by the way, is a relatively recent development! For much of my life, I carried heavily the burden of being right all the time about everything. Of course I knew that not everyone agreed with me, but I was convinced that was because they were missing some essential piece of the logical puzzle which, once I supplied it, would bring the clear superiority of my position into sharp focus. J

In recent years, however, the number of things about which I simply don’t care has increased dramatically. And the depth of the things I do care about has also increased. That said, one of things I care about is how we talk to and about one another, and about one another’s positions. Particularly if we don’t agree with those positions. I am especially concerned with the rhetoric of those I know to be disciples of Jesus. It seems to me that we lose our right to responsible conversation if all we do is throw mud on another’s position. Much more so if the mud is directed at their person. This is even more so the case when it is clear that we don’t understand the other’s position.

Of course, the media has not helped us much – we tend to track with those “news” outlets that support our particular predjudice and seem not to notice that we are getting the “facts” manipulated by pre-existing ideology. At times, it is amusing – such as this week’s flood of folks indicating they were moving to Canada to escape the inevitable socialization of Health Care! But most of the time, it is heart-breaking. And whatever else it is, it is not the way of Jesus.

We can have whatever opinions we want about the Democrats and/or the Republicans – about the President and the leaders in the House and Senate. We can certainly call for and work towards their ouster if we disagree with them. But what we can’t do is forget that we are not first  citizens of any particular country. We are first citizens of the Kingdom of God. And that requires a certain decorum in the public square – one that bears witness to the reality of life change possible in Jesus. If we can’t criticize with wisdom and civility in a manner worthy a disciple of Jesus, then perhaps it would be better to keep quiet.

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