We are not treating each other well these days. Everyone seems to be angry at something or someone. To paraphrase friends the Revs. (and Drs.) David Dyer and Robert Lowry: It seems we have reached the point as a culture where reasoned discussion is no longer available and polarized rancor is the new norm. Unfortunately, the church reflects the culture rather than transforming or transcending it.
Both inside and outside of the church, it seems our dislike and intolerance for people who don’t think or believe the same things we do is increasing, and our ability to get along with one another is decreasing—dramatically. It is getting to the point of absurdity in some situations.
Here are some things that annoy, sadden and amuse me all at the same time:
• My cousin (who is on his fourth marriage and has lived with at least two other women) sounding the rallying cry for Chik-fil-A supporting family values. Really?
• Vegetarians who have jumped on the bandwagon of boycotting Chik-fil-A for coming out against gay marriage. Can people who don’t eat meat boycott a chicken restaurant? Well, maybe it’s about the Ice Dream cones.
• Presidential campaign ads featuring selectively edited clips. I recognize that we live in a sound byte world, but can we use them for good and not evil?
• Terms like “stupid liberal” or “evil conservative” being batted and bantered around social media. I am a liberal, and I’m not stupid (scattered and disorganized, but not stupid). There are people I love who are conservatives—and definitely not evil.
• People who don’t even know each other who argue on my Facebook feed.
• People who use the term “Biblical Family Values.” I don’t think it means what they think it means. There are a lot of seriously dysfunctional families in the Bible. “Traditional Family Values” might better convey the intended message.
Please don’t misunderstand. There are certainly times when it is appropriate—even necessary—to be angry. To stand up to injustice. To stand up for what is right. But it seems these days we are poised to take a stand on just about anything and perfectly willing to verbally pummel anyone who blocks our way or doesn’t like our shoes.
What if the next time you encounter someone who is pro-choice/pro-life, gay-friendly/anti-gay, pro-government/anti-government, Democrat/Republican or Team Jacob/Team Edward (basically anyone you deeply and passionately disagree with) you pray for them the prayer that Paul offered up for the Ephesians?
“I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19, The Message translation)
What if we could pray that prayer for those whose opinions make us want to climb the walls? It might not bring about world peace, but it could keep those arguments off my Facebook feed. And that’s a good start.
The Rev. Anne Russ is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of North Little Rock’s downtown Argenta neighborhood.. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.