There is one lesson I have been learning slowly and it’s that in our highly charged, highly emotional, highly partisan environment, we have been developing an incredible ability at disenfranchising friends. And I say this not because I’ve been good and noble all the time, but because I haven’t been. I enjoy having fun at the expense of political leaders I do not like. Most people who know me well know that I have a particular dislike for the person who recently ran for Vice President. There are so many things I find distasteful about her on so many levels; but; I often find myself hurting people I care about in my expression of disdain for her, even when I sarcastically joke. Or maybe more when I sarcastically joke.
It is easy to disenfranchise friends. When I look out at my congregation on a Sunday morning I see many people who voted Democrat in my congregation. I see many people who voted Republican in my congregation. There is one thing they all have in common; they are all good people. Actually they are all very good people. They are people who pray together, play together, break bread together, and often disagree. But they do things together. And people all deserve to be respected and cared for by others. In the big thing, we are all Christians and we are all Americans. When things are good, they are good; when things are bad, they are bad, and everyone is in it together.
And yet our society is being torn asunder. It is easy to blame the people on talk radio, or the commentators on television, or those who write the newspapers, etc. It is easy to blame the bad behavior on others. It is tempting to blame the bad behavior on others. It is usually wrong to blame bad behavior on others. When we exercise sarcasm and a mean-spiritedness toward others, the fault lies within ourselves. If I can angry and something someone says, and I become sarcastic and mean, the fault is mine, and mine alone.
Some years ago Boris Yeltsin was in political trouble. His opponent in the general election was a Soviet styled Communist who wanted to restore Communism. Bill Clinton was the American President and this could not happen. President Clinton sent his best people to Russia to run an incredibly effective smear campaign to crush Yeltsin’s opponent. They had learned a lesson in American politics. Smearing people works. We see it all the time in American politics. Much of what we see on television in political campaigns is not an honest exchange of ideas; it is an incredible ability to smear the other person. And the commercials are often followed by, “I am John Manzo and I approve of this ad.” Frankly, many ought to be embarrassed by what they approve of.
But, so should we. We eat it up and we do it right along with them. And place friendships at peril.
Jesus said, ‘love one another.’
I am often reminded it would be a good time to start. I know, for me, I’m going to try harder to be kind, gentle, and loving. I, for one, want to live out Jesus’ command.