Matthew 5:43-47 (New International Version, ©2010)
Love for Enemies
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of [God] in heaven... [who] causes [the] sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
How do we talk about toning down the vitriolic rhetoric without adding to the vitriol? How do we continue to critique, question, discuss, debate, and disagree about what needs to happen in our country without shaming each other and dehumanizing each other? I'm not sure I know. But there are some things that I do know.
First, I'm a Marshal McLuhan fan and I do believe the media is the message. Whatever the media says is overshadowed by the image it portrays. Take for instance the image of Genn Beck with a gun set beside a quote from Glenn saying, "We must stand together against all violence." Yep. It was on his website today. So what's your opinion? Does the fact that this quote is up here trump an image of him with a drawn (and assumably loaded) gun ready to fire?
Tonight I heard a ridiculous exchange on CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. The discussion was ostensibly about whether vitriolic political rhetoric has the potential incite violence and some push back that has been publicized today from Sarah, Glenn and Rush saying that this critique is designed to shut down political debate and disagreement. But both the Republican and the Democrat jabbed an one another and made sarcastic remarks acting like school boys. All the while the absurdity presided over by Wolf as if he were bringing us some real news or at least newsworthy commentary.
I'm dismayed today at the silence I've heard from religious quarters. If ever there were a day to speak out... today is the day. If ever there is a day to speak about disagreeing without violoence, debate without abuse, and what people of faith have to bring to the tragedy of the murders in Tucson, AZ on Saturday... today is the day.
I stopped into Episcopal Divinity School today for lunch. I sat, quite by accident with a fellow student who was in pain. I didn't know it. But this man has a 9 year old child. His lip quivered as he spoke about how he felt when he thought about Christina Taylor Green, the 9 year old child who was killed in the shooting. We talked about how to make sense of the death of a child in a world where we believe a loving God exists and interacts with humanity. We talked. We listened. We looked at each other's face. We felt each other's fear and frustration.
On Saturday I was reading an excerpt of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and listening to Ray Charles sing "Abraham, Martin, and John" that I'd just downloaded from iTunes. I was preparing for my homily reflection for the service I do each week in Second Life. It was a strange coincidence that at the moment the CNN text message about the shooting came across my iPhone I was thinking about what it was like to be a 12 year old child trying to process yet another assasination when Dr. King was killed on my mother's birthday in 1968. I had already lived through the assasination of President Kennedy and his brother Bobby.
I've been thinking all day what I want to say about the events of the past days. And all I want to say is words do matter. It's time we all grow up and learn to be respectful even when we disagree vehemently. I've been guilty of allowing my passion and frustration to boil over into hyperbole. And today I want to say that I no longer want to act in such a way.
If I love my friends and neighbors, that's great. I ought to do that. The more difficult thing is to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me. I don't agree with or even like Sarah, Glenn, and Rush. But this country is founded on the ideal that they have the same right that I have to say what I want. And it is also true that what we say as public people has consequences. We have to live with those consequences.... all of us. So as I mourn the six dead, the families they leave behind, those recovering in hospital and everyone tramatized by the shooting... I'll pray for Sarah, Glenn, Rush, Wolf, and the rest. It's time to grow up and live out what we say we believe.