lundi, mars 01, 2010
I tend to be pretty sensitive -- some would argue, overly sensitive. But if I feel that there is a lot of rage in America right now, I'm not the only one. This is my more theological reflection, from Saturday's Lancaster Intelligencer Journal/New Era. Comment away.
Column: Lent is good time to mend some fences
By ELIZABETH, Correspondent
Tune in almost anywhere recently, and you get the impression that there are a lot of furious folks in America.
Tea Party protesters and voters from all over the spectrum rail against taxes, the banking bailout and government in general.
Fox News on the one side and MSNBC on the other stoke the flames of populist fury.
There's even a Web site called publicanger.com (subtitle: Stop screaming at your television!)
And then there is this recent commentary, from the blog of well-known Philadelphia Inquirer political columnist Dick Polman, mapping the "incivility death spiral."
First he charts the unholy glee over the cancer and eventual death of Massachusetts senator and liberal lion Edward Kennedy — condemning him to the fires of Hades.
But, as Polman reminds us, self-righteous rage isn't solely a conservative phenomenon.
"Dick Cheney was hospitalized with chest pains yesterday," Polman wrote. The Washington Post put the story on its Web site at 7:31 p.m. Sixteen minutes later, a someone wrote, "I hope he drops dead." Seven minutes after that, somebody wrote, "I just hope they don't desecrate Arlington (National Cemetery) with this piece of carrion." Four minutes after that, somebody wrote, "The devil is calling his boy home."
Now, we can't assume that all those commenting believed in God — although some certainly seemed to be in touch with God's opposite number.
But in a nation in which majorities still tell researchers that they are believers, it is fair to ask: can you harbor this kind of poisonous anger and still term yourself a person of faith?
If the Judeo-Christian Scriptures are to be believed, the answer is — not for long.
The authors of the Bible recognize that humans get angry at one another. Why else would Paul, in Ephesians 4:26, advise the members of the congregation: "do not let the sun go down upon your wrath?"
Where Paul admonishes, Jesus seems pretty black and white, when he says in Matthew 5:22: "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother or sister shall be liable to judgment, whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council and whoever says 'You fool' shall be liable to the hell of fire."
Jesus knew how toxic anger could be — and how dangerous in the world of the early Christians, who were being attacked by persecution from the authorities.
But I have to say that this verse, from Proverbs chapter 14 in the Hebrew Scriptures, is one of my favorites: "He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly."
Maybe this is the folly season.
Believe me, I'm acquainted with those moments of anger — tailgaters are simply fortunate that I can't blow skunk-flavored steam out the rear window.
But when anger starts to take over communities, when people turn on their brothers and sisters rather than taking responsibility for their own behavior, then the fabric of our culture is rent.
In American society, religious people are supposed to improve the culture in which they live, not join the barbarians at the gate.
So it's striking how few religious voices there seem to be, criticizing the current fury and calling for an improvement in our public discourse.
Instead, many denominations serve as poor public models of constructive communities, fractionalized as they are by disputes over sexuality, doctrine and church politics.
There is no time like the present season of Lent for Christians in all denominations to do some spiritual house-cleaning.
For this is a time not only of reflection, but of remorse, and of turning around.
Where have you let anger invade your life? Where have you chosen to escalate hostilities instead of offering forgiveness? Where have you failed to act as a reconciler in your neighborhood, church, mosque or synagogue?
If you put biblical principles of peace-making into practice, you may well see results in your family, your workplace and your congregation.
Bless your "enemy" today.
And maybe, down the line, he or she will become a window, not of rage, but of blessing to others.
What a nice change that would be