This weekend, for the first time since an assasination attempt occurred on Ronald Reagan, an elected official was fired at. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was out at a local Safeway doing a kind of meet and greet with her constituents, when a man armed with a Semi-automatic approached her shooting point-blanke at her head…and then fired off 19 extra shots for good measure.
He even killed a nine year old kid.
Chances are, unless you live under a rock somewhere you’ve already heard about this…a lot. And unless you were actually there you have gotten a lot of interpretation along with the facts. Sarah Palin was to blame, or the Democrats were somehow at fault. But the truth is, I think we are all a little bit complicit. And here’s what I mean by that.
I’ve written hundreds of blogs over the past several years, some of them I no longer even agree with. I tried to ask a lot of questions and listen to the feedback I receive with an open mind. But as I looked over some of my past post, by far the post’s that were the most viewed and discussed were on politics. Something that I am obviously not an expert on. But the most disturbing part to me was the kinds of comments that those posts got. I have questioned things like the Trinity on here. I’ve wrestled with doubt here. I’ve talked about different world religions on here. But the only time I’ve ever got truly negative feedback was when I talk about political things. As a pastor that got me thinking, because where there’s smoke there’s fire.
Why are politics such a volitile subject for Christians to discuss. I doubt most of us would say our political opinions are the most important thing in our lives. Most Jesus followers would agree that who the sitting President is doesn’t deter the Kingdom of God. So why do we get so worked up during these kinds of conversations?
There are plenty of answers out there, like nationalism (making your nation an idol more important that God), or the 24 hour news networks that use fear and sensationalism to compete for ratings. Or maybe it’s the billions of dollars spent in election ads for candidates to demonize one another. But more important than the cause is the effect. From Joe Adams yelling at the President, “You lie!” to the assassination attempt this last weekend we are losing the ability to disagree with manners.
The root word of Civilization is civility. It is the ability to be around people that are different than yourself without resorting to violence or extreme animosity. It’s one of the greatest things about this country, and it is quickly becoming one of the hardest things to find here as well.
Once upon a time, God entered into the world, into the politically charged environment of that day. Jesus’ was a day when thousands of different ideas were floating around about what God was doing in the world, how God’s people should engage with the Empire of the day. And into that world Jesus introduced a new idea. It was just this: “Love God and Love people.” In fact, you can tell how well you are loving God, by how you are treating people. Now, If you’re not a Christian, than this post is irrelevant, it’s a good idea, but probably not going to be your priority. If you are a Christian this is mandatory. Our primary job isn’t to get the right person on the throne, or that bill passed , or that bill repealed. Those desires may be good servants but they are horrible masters.
The truth is that civility is lost whenever our ideas become more important than people.
Here’s some homework for you loyal blog reader/s…What if this week we just listened to our normal news stations, NPR, Fox News, CNN, whatever. What if we just listened to them with this one question in our mind. Does this idea that they are peddling make me love people more…or less?
And if it doesn’t…stop watching it.
You know, we are coming up on Martin Luther King Jr. day. He lived in an electric time of hostility. The Black Panthers wanted violent retribution on one side, and the powerful ruling white leaders wanted Jim Crow laws to stay in tact. But for all his passion and drive, Dr. King didn’t lose his civility.In fact, it was his strength. He fought with kindness and made his enemies see in him their shared humanity. He made them see him as a person. And he did it all by treating them like one.
Because no idea is more important than the people around you.
And that, of course, is the best idea of all.