The Greatest, Gravest Danger, Part 1 of 3

Yesterday, regarding America’s current political unrest, I spoke with my beloved community of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, where I am privileged to serve as priest-in-charge (A Pastoral Word Concerning the Past Week of Political Turmoil, Sunday, July 21, 2019).

I did not sleep last night. As oft is the case, when something troubles me, rest is not an easily achieved, even an impossible to attain state of being.

Through the night, I pondered some of the words I shared with my folk, particularly those regarding two ways of engaging in political critique:

“…challeng(ing) and criticiz(ing) a perspective, a point of view, a position on an issue, or a policy or program…(which is) an act of freedom. Of thought. Of speech. Of debate and dissent.”

“…mak(ing) our challenge or criticism ad hominem…denouncing, denigrating, demonizing the person, persons, or parties who hold contrary views…(which) is an act of demagoguery (that) forsakes rational argument and appeals to human bigotry.”

I digress…

I am as opinionated as the next person; perhaps, more, depending on the subject (as I believe any of us can be)…

I also am a parson, who, for over forty years, has done more listening than talking, opening the ears of my heart and soul to hear the cries of joy and of sorrow of countless folk nakedly sharing the fullness of their life’s stories…

And I am a person, who, in his seventh decade of living, has sought to be transparent with himself and, as appropriate, with others, about my strengths and my weaknesses and, inwardly, where I am finely knit together and where I am rent asunder…

In casting an honest eye on the human condition, that of others and of mine own, I have become almost characteriologically fair-minded. I understand more. I judge less. Nevertheless, through this same honest eye, I also discern – come to know my truth – more clearly.

Last night and into the small hours of this morning, as I reflected on my words with my people, a question crept, stormed into my consciousness: Paul, which fashion of political critique do you consider more like unto the now established pattern of President Trump?

My answer: The latter. Although I am unable to inhabit Mr. Trump’s mind and heart, thus, I cannot know his intent, his outward behavior, which I can see, by my own definition, I consider demagogic.

Another question arose: What happens when the President of the United States, the possessor, arguably (perhaps, inarguably) of the largest world stage, the biggest bully-pulpit, or the loudest megaphone (pick your metaphor) behaves this way?

My answer: Chaos.

2 thoughts on “The Greatest, Gravest Danger, Part 1 of 3

  1. Thank you, Paul. I so trust your carefully considered thoughts and opinions about what kind of political discourse is acceptable under standards supported by the Gospel and by Jesus’ living example. You are one of the most deeply thoughtful, deeply Christian observers I know. Your kindness, openmindedness, and equanimity are a part of you, but they are a part of you that you have carefully honed over many years of growth, learning, and practice under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, so far as I can see. They are trustworthy and credible.

    I believe, in arriving at this commentary, which I know you have agonized over, you are very nearly re-engaging a truth I believe Maya Angelou, among perhaps others, pronounced. I am paraphrasing what I remember: “When a person shows you who he is, believe him,” which is also very near the old saying “His actions speak so loudly I can’t what he is saying.” Just like a good lawyer or a good judge or a good jury, I think what we must remember is that what remains key in making any kind of judgment about another human being’s complicity in either good or evil is the weight of all the evidence we have, not a glimpse here and there, not what their own protestations may try to convey, not what our own prejudices may lead us to, but a careful analysis of all the facts we can gather about their activity, their words, and their behavior. If we put it all on a scale, what does the scale read? I believe that with President Trump you have placed all the evidence he has provided and that you have observed on the scale and read the result.

    Thank you for your great care in arriving at judgment of your fellow humans’ behavior. Would that we all took such pains to be fair and to give every benefit of the doubt to those leaders whose fitness we finally must judge.

    Love,

    Karen

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  2. Thank you, bless you, Karen, for your always deeply considerate and deeply considered commentary…

    “…Just like a good lawyer or a good judge or a good jury, I think what we must remember is that what remains key in making any kind of judgment about another human being’s complicity in either good or evil is the weight of all the evidence we have, not a glimpse here and there, not what their own protestations may try to convey, not what our own prejudices may lead us to, but a careful analysis of all the facts we can gather about their activity, their words, and their behavior…”

    Your analysis of what makes for good, aye, faithful discernment and decision-making is, for me, a brilliant exegesis of that uber-significant process. I especially am touched – all at the same time, with enlightenment and humbled repentance – by your words: “…not what our own prejudices may lead us to…” For how oft have I followed the hard-packed path of my own biases? Often. Too often, which is why that path is hard-packed.

    And thank you for your tender words of approbation. Truth to tell, your trust in me is one element of my striving to be – as I said on this past Sunday in my oral preamble to reading my “A Pastoral Word…” – balanced.

    Love

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