Five years ago I joined Redstate as one of the most fire-breathing conservative commenters here. I could see the Leftist train coming down the tracks as the Iraq war dragged on, with no signs of an end and George W Bush squarely in the sights (oops, did I say that?) of the Left. It made me angry, and I was bound and determined to fight it...and Redstate seemed like the place to start. As it became more apparent that Barack Obama was likely to win the nomination and the Presidency, I feared for the future of the country. It was obvious to me (and to many of us, although not all...) that his extreme radicalism was to be a dangerous and damaging thing for the nation. As I looked at Obama and his associates such as Ayers and Wright, the old adage "you can tell a man by the company he keeps" gave me a preview of the kind of President he was likely to be.
And lo, it came to pass.
As I've observed the actions of Obama and the Democrats and been a first-hand participant in the political realm over the last several years, I have become more and more negative about what is going on in this nation, from a variety of angles. This negativity is not solely driven by politics - it's also cultural. The erosion of values, morality and civility is obvious. I've been less inclined to write/blog over time as this breakdown and my cynicism has accelerated. Part of my distress has come from a close relative who has been transformed into a leftist...and my own unabashed, outspoken and uncivil conservatism may have actually contributed to it.
For me, things came to something of a climax today. As I read the stories published as part of the "blogstorm" covering the heinous acts of Kimberlin, Brynaert and the subsequent response of people like Markos Moulitsas, I became angry and vengeful. But the more I've thought about these events and considered my own response, I was saddened and disgusted with myself. I'm sad that political partisanship has caused adults to become disgustingly hateful people who actually want to bring physical harm to those who disagree with them. And this partisanship and hate has begun to saturate my own thinking. As I considered the story, I imagined how wonderful it would be for them to meet some unimaginably vile death. But then it dawned on me that by thinking that way, I had become one of them. I've allowed this world of politics to transform me into a bitter, hateful person. As a Christian, I cannot allow this to happen.
To be sure, the deeds of these people that have been discussed today are profoundly wrong and evil. But we cannot tempted to respond in the same way as those who oppose us. We cannot respond to hate with hate. We should pray for our enemies. In Matthew 5, Jesus (unsurprisingly) says it perfectly:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
My colleagues here at Redstate have addressed the stories surrounding the Kimberlin situation in a firm, thoughtful and reasoned manner. For the most part, the problem today is me and my own heart. What I am seeking is something that was described a couple of weeks ago in an article published in USA Today. It described a desire that some in the Christian community have expressed for "a softer, less partisan way" of engaging in the public square. Granted, this is probably a thinly-veiled attempt to quiet the more outspoken pro-life and anti-homosexual-marriage contingent, but there is a sentiment within it that is (IMO) important:
From divisive rhetoric to civil dialogue. Americans in general are weary of the reactionary, angry, polemical language that stymies progress and the common good. Two-thirds of Americans believe we have a major problem with civility. More than seven in 10 agree that social behaviors are ruder than in the past.
Yep. And while this describes one aspect of the problem, I am not convinced that the solution prescribed in that article is appropriate. Efforts such as those described there are routinely co-opted by guys like Jim Wallis (mentioned in the article), who clearly have a left-leaning agenda, couched in calls for "civility". When results of polls such as George Barna's mentions Christians being "insensitive to others," this tends to translate to "insensitive to others who are sympathetic to our left-leaning socio-political positions". But there I go again - my bitterness and cynicism tend to leak into many of my lines of thinking. But maybe this is simply the wisdom that comes with years of experience with the Left.
I have no problem with civilized disagreement. And I don't intend to pursue a path that results in compromise of principles that are clearly Biblical, so disagreement with my positions is pretty much a given. But what I do hope and pray for is that those of us on the Right (side of the argument :-) ) will respond to evil with something other than evil and hatred. We should respond thoughtfully and in a way that heaps burning coals on the heads of our enemies.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
We must not allow ourselves to be consumed by hatred and vengeance towards our enemies, as vile as they might be.
We must overcome evil with good.