Posted by: jevcat | September 19, 2010

St. James and Calling Names

Know this, my beloved brethren.  Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God … If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain.  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:19 … 27, RSV)

Can we stop calling each other names now?  I know that there have been worse times in the political history of this country – no member of Congress has physically beaten or challenged another to a duel recently, and there was plenty of name-calling during the Vietnam years – but this feels different, somehow.

“The personal is political” was a feminist catchword in my youth, but lately it feels more as though the political is very personal.  Over the weekend, I read about the Newt Gingrich speech where said the biggest threats to the United States are Islamic extremists and Democrats, and one sort of had the feeling he didn’t necessarily mean in that order.  He and I do not know each other, but I found I took it personally.  Very.  I’m a life-long Democrat, raised in a Democratic family.  I love this country passionately, I get a lump in my throat when the Star Spangled Banner is played, even when it’s sung off key (which it usually is, including by me), and I care deeply that we live up to our founding values.  I have never killed anyone, nor do I have the desire to kill anyone.  How do I even belong in the same sentence with people whose avowed wish is to destroy this country and all it stands for, along with as many of its people as possible?

According to what I’ve heard and read from other politicians and spokespeople, the unemployed are just lazy and should not be given assistance because it only discourages them from looking for a job.  I’ve been unemployed for nearly a year, in spite of almost daily applications sent, not to mention networking, and in between picking up as much freelance work as I could.  So, yes, I take that personally, too, particularly when it’s accompanied by the speaker saying they don’t want their tax dollars paying for it – hey, those are my tax dollars coming back to me.

The names just accumulate:  unpatriotic, lazy, fascist, killer, socialist – it goes on and on, with little regard to facts.  Each side has compared the other to Hitler.  And many of the folks doing this prominently self-identify as Christian.  Where is Christ in this?  Maybe that’s why I was so affected this week when Jon Stewart (who is Jewish, by the way) announced his “Rally to Restore Sanity” with its slogan, “Take it down a notch, America!”  When he held up a sample protest sign to be used at the rally that read:  “I disagree with you but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler,” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but everything in me resonated.

All of which may be why the epistle from today’s daily lectionary reading really struck home with its injunctions to listen, be slow to anger, and guard one’s tongue.  I was also struck by the fact that those words are paired with instructions to take care of those in need, which a lot of folks don’t seem to want to do anymore – at least not if it’s going to actually cost them something.

So, at least for those of us who associate ourselves with Christ (or try to), can we stop it with the names?  Can we try to do something constructive together, especially for those who need help?  Can we actually listen to each other and admit that there are at least one or two good ideas and/or well-meaning people on the other side, no matter how misguided we may think they are?  It can be hard, I know.  I’m not sure I can do it, myself, for every person or organization (Fox News and its staff come immediately to mind), but I’m willing to try.  So can we, please? … for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God …

[In the course of writing this, I ran across a relevant piece from the Washington Post. Click here to see it.]


  1. Why you blessed, truth-telling, honest, good-hearted so and so!

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