If we have to put up with all this mud-slinging and name-calling until November 8, Lord, help us. Ninety-nine days between August 1 and November 8—Election Day. Ninety-nine days of Hillary Clinton calling Donald Trump unfit for office. Ninety-nine days of Donald Trump calling her “Crooked Hillary.”
Unfortunately, things don’t stop with the candidates. Visit any social media website, and the name-calling continues between supporters. And they don’t just call opposing candidates’ names—they call the candidates’ supporters names. Swearing abounds in these exchanges. No one holds back. The divisions are so deep and wide, people have invited those who disagree with their point of view to go so far as to shoot themselves. People let their lowest selves loose to bully and verbally beat up one another.
Lord, help us!
The name calling, abuse, calls for violence against others has gotten so bad on social media, that people have “unfriended” Facebook friends. They’ve blocked postings on social media websites. They’ve divorced themselves from any contact with friends, acquaintances and foes by taking a break from on-line conversations until Election Day has come and gone. They simply can’t take it.
Are you one of these folks? Have you walked away from social media, or changed TV channels because you can’t stand to listen to all the vitriol? Have you unfriended a friend because you simply cannot stand the attacks they level at your point of view—or others’ points of view?
I have. All this fighting and screaming and name-calling doesn’t just make me feel terrible—it troubles me. My stomach is tied up in knots because I know it’s not right. But what to do to change this narrative? In my heart, head and stomach, I know we can’t continue on like this.
And while I’ve tried to be careful and respectful in discussing the politics of the day—and while I’ve written notes on Facebook encouraging people to adopt a kinder, gentler way of expressing their objections to whatever candidate is prompting their concerns, rising temperatures and blood pressure—it doesn’t seem enough. None of us can be kindness police to all of society, right?
The other morning, while eating my Cheerios, reading the paper and shaking my head over this situation in which our society finds itself, I came upon an article, written by Mel Lawrenz, a minister-at-large at Elmbrook Church, that I believe identifies the root cause of our strife. The article offers some thoughts and solutions to our woes. Maybe you saw the Journal-Sentinel op-ed article entitled, “Struggling with crisis of dignity.”
Pastor Lawrenz contends that we’re in this mess between we are struggling with a crisis of dignity on all sorts of fronts in our society–from the political election to the racial divisions to income disparities that exist between us. He writes, “Most people will say they believe in dignity, but are hard pressed to define what it all means. Dignity means worth. To treat someone with dignity is based on the conviction that they have worth.” Our problem, he adds, is that there are people in society who have a hard time seeing the worth—the value–in others. They want to dominate those they encounter because they don’t see the worth of others.
As disciples of Christ, we know better. As children of God—all created by God for his purposes, and specifically crafted to build his kingdom– we know each of us is precious. Because each of us has value to God, each of us is entitled to be valued by others and is called to value those with whom we inhabit the planet.
But how do we do that? How do we value others—especially those who make us hopping mad? Pastor Lawrenz suggests that the first step we should take is to try to understand others. He writes, “But understanding is hard work. Empathy is not the natural state of the human heart. We think we’ve put ourselves in the other person’s shoes when we awkwardly shuffle along for brief spells. But on our best days, when we do stop and listen, when we take the time to reflect and understand, there is some hope for us.” And he begs that we not give up on the idea of dignity—that we remember whose we all are—and that that truth should change the way we look at others and the way we treat them.
I think treating brothers and sisters with dignity is a good starting point for our relationships and conversations. Putting God-inspired and initiated empathy into practice in our own corner of the world, hopefully can bring about a ripple-effect of behavior that might just set us on a new path where understanding is born of listening, and where understanding leads to cooperation and community between God’s people.