Let me set the record straight: I've got a temper. I've been known to hurl curse words and even - gulp - a book now and then. And I would be mortified if someone filmed me ushering three kids out of the door many mornings. The name of my reality show would have to be Brownie Troop Leaders on the Edge!
Christians aren't perfect. But it's often in our brokenness that we meet Christ. We take refuge under the willow tree of God's grace. We're human; we act out and we make bad choices. Still, we're called to a higher standard as parents, as employees and as citizens in the public square. Are you as dismayed as I am about today's toxic mix of economic, political, social and spiritual unrest? Each time I turn on the TV, open the paper or listen to the messages on my phone, the peace is disturbed.
There is plenty in the headlines from which to draw despair in the way we are treating each other. To name just a few, there's the rash of devastating suicides committed by youth after having suffered relentless bullying from peers; the endless mudslinging of the election season; and religious leaders calling for destruction in the name of God. What's going on? Are we more concerned with leaving our children less opportunity for wealth than perpetuating a legacy of indecency toward one another?
To be certain, incivility is nothing new; but in today's 24-hour chatter of social media, blogging and hyper-partisan cable warfare, we can't escape the pervasiveness of our fallen world. Very recently I read a letter to the editor in which the author used scripture to illustrate disgust with a public servant. Now that struck a chord, talk about biting my tongue to measure my own response with respect over retaliation.
People of faith, I believe, have an opportunity during this very difficult moment in history. We can squander it by serving as God's watchdogs, ranting about the state of our departure from His will. Or, we can serve as His ambassador, gracing the storm. We can use our voices to find common ground and inspire goodwill. When we choose to contribute to a blog, a cause, a petition or a letter to the editor, our tone should be one of bridge building. Our voices could serve as "salt and light," a humble punctuation in the sea of the shrill, the raging, the vitriolic and the hateful. They should know us by our love.
Sadly, there is plenty of division among Christians. But we must lead a call for civility and decorum in our culture. We may disagree on the subject of homosexuality, but we can stand together in peacefully denouncing violence toward the gay community. We may disagree on politics, but we can consider that God is neither Republican or Democrat. We may disagree on abortion, but we can join hands and show respect for the lives of both the unborn and those already here.
I say we use our natural urges toward anger into extending God's love to the hungry, the lost, the lonely, the brutalized and the forgotten. If we can't model unity, reason and peace in a broken world, how can we expect those who haven't heard the good news to do it?
Diane Meehl and her family commit to restoring civility during the commute to school each morning. They worship and serve at Mountain View Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee Foothills.