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 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.