Monday, September 7, 2009

This Really Sucks!

This really sucks!

I've been doing the same thing as many other Americans lately. I've watched the network and website coverage of the healthcare reform "debate" that's been raging across our country. I've watched "birthers" and "death-panel" foes and gun-toting "Tree of Liberty" zealots spout their particular slogan of the day. I've watched as partisan spokesmen like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and just about anyone from Fox News spread lies, half-truths, and flat-out fantasies about healthcare and everything else that gets them riled up.

Just about anything gets these people riled up, it seems. They don't like liberals, progressives, President Obama and his administration, Democrats, or people who happen to agree with any of those groups. A few of them, like Governor Rick Perry of Texas, seem to want to take their ball and go home--the game has just become too hard for them, and it's time to secede from this Union.

I've found myself appalled and disgusted by the distortions and lying of this side of the political debate. And then along comes somebody from the other side, and does the same damned thing. Somebody calls Glenn Beck an idiot. Somebody makes disparaging remarks about Michael Steele, the chairman of the RNC. Keith Olbermann goes off on a rant against "The worst person in the world."

It really sucks that I can't hate all these people. It would be so much easier if I could just go after them and deny their humanity and demonize them like they do to each other.

I can't do that, though. And it's intensely frustrating.

I can't do it, you see, because I'm a Christian. I follow the teachings and life of a guy from a couple thousand years ago named Jesus. He was known by the title of "The Christ." That means "the anointed one," the "special one" selected by God to change the way we react to each other and with our creator. I happen to believe that Jesus was on a real mission, and that he was fully God and fully human. And I can't explain that any better than to say it's so.

Jesus doesn't give me a way to hate these people, those on the right or the left. He's pretty specific about it. He's quoted, for instance, in a book that was written about his life and sayings, the gospel of Matthew. Check out Matthew 5:44. "Pray for those who persecute you." "Love your enemies." There's not much wiggle room in those words. Dance around them all you want, if you truly believe that's what he said, then you have to follow through.

He doesn't give me an easy way to "beat" them, or to "triumph over" them.

I can't be guaranteed to come out the "winner" in any kind of debate, at least by the standards of the political arena.

Given the tone of our national discussion lately, you could certainly say that Jesus is being un-American. I don't think he wore an American flag lapel pin.

So what do I do about all these liars, cynical opportunists, partisan gasbags, and delusional demagogues?

I have to stop thinking of them in those terms.

I have to start seeing them as damaged persons, just as messed up as I am, just as willing to go for blood as my initial impulse is.

I have to forgive them their frailty.

I have to admit my own frailty.

I have to love them. Wish the best for them. Pray for them.

It's frustrating. It sucks. But I don't have a choice in the matter. Not if I'm going to be a friend of Jesus.

1 comment:

  1. It's very true, and I find it equally frustrating. Until our elections came this last round, I would have called myself a Democrat. That year I decided to vote more educated. So I listened to talk shows on both sides of the political spectrum and all I managed to do was get both more confused and mad at everyone. Insult-flinging, truth-stretching -- it's all about sensationalism. Who can draw the most attention in whatever way necessary.

    And it disgusts me. I'd like to take my own ball and leave the court.

    But, as you mentioned, we can't hate these people. It would be so easy to do so. So easy to gape and stare and tell ourselves we're better because we don't act in that fashion. Yet, I'm willing to bet, every one of us has something we believe in, some great passion we can't keep mum about, and we've rooted in, sounding to an outside listener, every bit as antagonistic as these folks.

    However, we who have faith endeavor not to continue to make the same mistakes. We step back and consider the overall, not just the here and now. Not just the next four years, or eight. It's a broader picture. A larger life.

    And as we choose our friends in day-to-day encounters, we ensure our behavior doesn't embarrass those we care about. That we don't deliberately set out to alienate those who are important.

    As a friend to Jesus we owe Him no less. He's made it clear what He expects from his friends and the moral code He wants to associate with.

    In the end -- you're right. We have to best our enemy, our antagonists, through kindness and forgiveness, not through throwing slime.

    And it is damn hard sometimes.