Dear the People,
In this time of political tribalism, it’s rather hard to find anyone who is willing to have a civil conversation, isn’t it? No matter which side of the spectrum you fall on, it seems polite discourse is a scarce commodity these days, unfortunately.
So, this begs the question: why?
The simple answer, I think, is that if you have no argument, the easy response is to insult the person you’re responding to. After all, this is a fundamental lesson learned at the earliest stages of human development. When your eight year old brother insults your six year old self, the most effective response is to call him a “fathead”, “jerk”, or “meanie” – you take your pick. The problem with these sorts of barbs is that whether or not the person they are directed towards is hurt, those around you may take those insults at face-value.
This is why we now live in a culture of #metoo, CNN denouncing Trump as a “bigoted fascist”, and Twitter users taking to their phones to decry anything that disagrees with their worldview. You’ll notice that though conservatives make a valiant effort to respond to the smear tactics of the Left, they rarely employ them. The simplest reason for this is that conservative folks, who really know what they believe and why they believe, don’t need to reduce themselves to below-the-belt-blows.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop conflict from being an inevitable reality on both sides. It’s becoming increasingly harder to disagree without making it a matter of personal pride, honor, and hatred. Perhaps it’s interesting to note that while these are politically charged times, there is advice from another equally uneasy time in history:
“But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
This verse, from Matthew 5:39 in the New Testament, is spoken by Jesus to a crowd that included not only common people, but also Pharisees and religious leaders. Think of these folk as the media and politicians all rolled up into one. To hear Jesus say that one should turn the other cheek was not only revolutionary, it was outrageous! After all, in the Old Testament, God commanded His people numerous times, most notably in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, to take what had been taken.
But Jesus notes something particularly different. Whereas the Old Testament is recording the lawful and legal response to a defamation of property or person, Jesus is teaching about personal slights. His image of a man who is graceful, merciful, and forgiving in the face of those who would try to bring shame and suffering upon him is enlightening.
It’s easy to look at someone on the other side with a little bit of contempt and want to fire right back at them the instant they try to insult you or ruin your character. Instead, repay evil with kindness. Continue to do good and speak truth, for truth surpasses blasphemous lies long after the dust has cleared.
And, for those of us with a particularly vengeful streak, don’t worry.
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”Romans 12:9