Paul tells the Thessalonians: “We wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us.” He asks these early Church members to live in harmony and strive not to be a burden on others. Paul’s message is good for us to hear today: Stay focused on the work the Lord has given us to do. After the past election season, these words remind us of our way of life as followers of Jesus.
The old children’s saying, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me,” is not true. Names can hurt someone. We must master our use of language if we are to live in harmony and work together.
“The preacher’s pulpit, the politician’s podium, the print and electronic media all bear some responsibility to encourage a far more civil, responsible and respectful approach to national debate and the discussion of issues in our country today,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl writes in his essay “Civil Discourse: Speaking Truth in Love.” (find it here http://www.civilizeit.us/) He notes that today it has unfortunately become commonplace to disparage the name, reputation, character and life of others and even to identify some people as “bigots” and “hate mongers” simply because they hold a different position on an issue. “The defaming words speak more about political posturing than about reasoned discourse,” says the Cardinal who is Archbishop of Washington.
“Why is it so important that we respect both our constitutional right to free speech and our moral obligation that we not bear false witness against another? A profoundly basic reason is that we do not live alone. While each of us can claim a unique identity, we are, nonetheless, called to live out our lives in relationship with others. [We experience our full human development in community.]
What does this have to do with toning down our rhetoric? Everything! No community, human or divine, political or religious, can exist without trust. . .To tamper with the truth or, worse yet, to pervert it, is to undermine the foundations of human community and to begin to cut the threads that weave us into a coherent human family.”
We have a lot of work to do, let us do it with civil discourse.
Adapted from Barbara Molinari Quinby’s Justice Bulletin Board, Sacred Heart Cathedral