There have been a lot of town hall meetings on the proposed health care reform. Many of them have turned rancorous, abusive, and rude, with people shouting so loudly that no one can hear the other person speak. Even more frightening, people are showing up at gatherings with guns strapped to their bodies. They issue death threats and hold signs saying the tree of liberty needs to be watered with the blood of tyrants (the same slogan emblazoned on Timothy McVeigh’s T-shirt the day he blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City). They dare equate Obama with Hitler, an unforgivable minimization of the horror of the Holocaust. Perhaps most discouraging of all, many of these "protestors" claim to be standing on their Christian faith.
Unfortunately, these scenes increasingly seem to reflect the nature of discourse throughout the country and even in the Church. Civil debate is disappearing, replaced by self-righteousness, misinformation fed by sound bites, and scare tactics intended to detract from the real issues. Jesus, if he were still in his grave, would certainly roll over in it. This is not the behavior to which we are called. "Love your enemies…Do good…Bless those who curse you…stop judging… stop condemning…forgive…do to others what you would have them do to you."
Why are these teachings not being proclaimed from the rooftops and in the town hall meetings? What can I do in my daily life to better live out their message?
First, I need to respond in love. People are honestly frightened, even if only because they are misinformed. I resolve to hear their fear and empathize with that. I resolve not to judge or condemn them, even as I respectfully disagree and work for the truth to come out.
I resolve to listen well, without multi-tasking (you know – reading emails with half my brain while talking to someone on the phone with the other half).
I resolve to inform myself on the real facts and then peacefully make my voice heard, writing letters to newspapers and members of Congress, and engaging in discussions on the real issues.
I resolve to stand against injustice, deception, and fear-mongering. I resolve to stand with the poor, the uninsured and under-insured, the disenfranchised and marginalized, and all those who are being lost in the midst of this raucous "debate".
I resolve to pray, asking blessings for those with whom I agree and those with whom I disagree. I especially pray for wisdom and guidance for the leaders who are shaping and voting on this important policy, that the end result may indeed bring greater justice, better equality, and the benefits of decent health care to all who need it.
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website at http://www.amyflorian.com/.