First Presbyterian Church
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Assassination in Tucson

Tuesday, January 18, 2011 View Comments Comments (0)

Over and over the past few days I’ve heard reporters and those they have talked to say that the killing of six people and wounding of others outside a Safeway grocery store leaves them with no words to describe how they feel.  But, of course, they – and we – must try to find words in order to find our feelings, locate our thoughts, and see our way forward.  Once the horrifying shock subsided a little bit, old arguments about guns and political posturing began to be presented with new vigor.  That generates a lot of heat and sheds very little light.

            Some time back we told each other that it wasn’t whether you won or lost, but how you played the game.  We moved to believing that winning wasn’t the most important thing – it was the only thing.  We bought into win at all costs by all means in sports, in business, and in social relationships.  It matters little how much you exaggerate, bend the truth, assign the most vile motives to your opponent, or publically disrespect others, so long as you win the argument, the vote, or the political office.

            People will argue about whether our society would be safer with more powerful weapons or with fewer weapons.  People will speculate on how much a deranged and troubled mind was or was not influenced by heated rhetoric spewed forth by persons on the left or the right.  I would suggest that we need to work on civility and reasonable discourse for another reason.

            When I studied geography and world history in junior high or high school, I remember reading that the reason for the very formal and highly developed courtesy and etiquette in Japanese culture was because Japan was so densely populated that only highly refined courtesy could lubricate social interaction enough to prevent friction and dangerous behavior.  Whether that was a fair assessment of Japan’s culture or not, I can’t say with certainty, but it does sound rational. 

            We need to return civility and respect to everyday speech, not because we would not then incite people to irrational behavior, but because if rational and courteous speech were the norm again in our culture, the unbalanced, crazed, and delusional among us would not be so much like everyone else and would be more easily spotted and treated.  In a world where everyone shouts and blames, it’s hard to recognize the ones who are unhinged and who hate and blame others irrationally.  Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called-- that you might inherit a blessing.  (1Pe 3:9 NRS)


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