AMENDMENT TO THE ELECTION POSTMORTEM
I feel the need to write about something I saw yesterday morning. One of my colleagues was flipping through the Chicago Sun-Times yesterday when he suddenly raised his fist and shouted “Yes!” as though his favorite football team had won. I noticed, however, that he wasn’t near the back of the paper, which is where the sports section begins in the Sun-Times. He was at about the tenth or twelfth page or so. I asked him what story had made him feel so vicariously triumphant, and he read the headline:
Now, it occurred to me that this colleague, who is a self-described devout Catholic, had flipped far enough into the paper to have passed the latest news about the bloodbath in Iraq, the plans of the Republicans in the White House and Congress to ‘privatize’ Social Security, and other such important matters. The first– and only– story to draw him in was about another Christian denomination taking action against a lesbian pastor’s congregation.
It also occurred to me that this colleague, when he overhears someone referring (as I often do) to Bill Clinton getting impeached over a blow job, will invariably blurt out that Clinton wasn’t impeached over the blow job, but that he was impeached because he lied under oath. While this is technically true, the zeal with which this man still clings to that technicality is tragically appropriate, considering that a sitting president of the most powerful nation on Earth was nearly removed from office for lying about a blow job. Of course, never mind that the blow job in question wasn’t even related to the original pretext under which Clinton was being hounded. I digress.
What I am getting at here is that I was standing next to a man who seems more concerned with the sexual proclivities and activities of others than he is with the daily extermination of life that is now being sponsored by a government that he supported. Innocent children bombed to bits in Iraq? Soldiers getting blown up by roadside bombs? Social Security being sold off to the Enron Mafia? No big deal.
Queers running a church? GOD FORBID!!
Now, let me make it clear that I actually really like this colleague. He is, all things considered, a humorous, hard-working, self-effacing, pleasant person. He is apparently a devoted husband and father, as well. Far be it from me to condemn anyone who doesn’t knowingly participate in or facilitate the spilling of innocent blood, so you won’t hear me saying anything bad about this person, not even as a result of the anecdote I’ve related to you.
I just wanted to bring this up because I think there’s something really screwy at work in our larger culture. Okay, there’s a lot that’s screwy, but right now I’m trying to focus a mental spotlight on one thing– or combination of things– in particular. How is it that so many of us can call ourselves Christian, yet be in such a hurry to scorn and exclude our fellow human beings who’ve done us or anyone else no harm at all? How can we do this while accepting or even cheering on the oppression and murder of innocent people in other parts of the globe? What Jesus are we supposed to be imitating here?
While I’m at it, I may as well relate a story that happened at work a couple of weeks ago. As I was starting my shift, one of my colleagues from the outgoing shift noticed that I was holding a book (Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?”). He snorted derisively and held up a Golf Digest magazine. He said something to the effect of “You should be readin’ this, not that political stuff.” I calmly reminded him that I am a citizen of a democracy, and that it is my duty to remain informed. “Ah, they’re all corrupt, anyway,” was his response. As I recall, my only subsequent reply was a wisecrack about politicians only being so corrupt because we let them get away with it, but I was not exactly being listened to at that point. The point of this story is that my colleague was scornfully chiding me for attempting to edify myself, while he was suggesting that his pastimes, such as golf, or perhaps even fantasy football, were somehow more important.
In case you hadn’t figured it out already, both of the colleagues I mention above are Republicans. I’m not in the mood for armchair psychoanalysis, so I will leave it to you, the reader, to make sense of these stories.