Friday, November 6, 2020

A mouth fast. . .

I am writing these words before anyone knows who won the election.  So as I write I do not know if President Trump has been re-elected or Joe Biden has been elected to his first term.  While I suspect that either outcome brings with it its own set of issues, conflicts, bitterness, and division, I find little hope that we will talk ourselves out of the rancor, suspicion, and disdain that marks our political and cultural divisions.

My suggestion was first written by St. John Chrysostom who very wisely said in another age and time: “Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism. For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers?"  Maybe he is exactly correct.  We need a mouth fast -- at least one that gives pause to words that would concrete even further our many conflicts and disputes and widen and make even more secure our divisions.  What good is it that we fast from foods while retaining the right to use our mouths as weapons?  Make your point.  Argue your cause.  Debate the issues.  But at some point in time we must figure out a way to add civility to the public square or our fragile unity will succumb to the threats and we will lose any ability to put the pieces back together again.

As Lutherans we ought to be agents of leaven in our unleavened public conversation.  Luther and his explanation of the eighth commandment remind us of our duty to speak the truth in love and to frame our dialogue with civility even as we dutifully confront and expose error and wrong.  I am not a little mindful of this and try to separate the issues from the individuals.  Where I have sinned against people, I beg their forgiveness even as I beg the forgiveness of the Lord.  We are given no cause or cover for a failure to herald the call to repentance or to identify error in doctrine and in practice but neither are we given license or liberty to treat our neighbor callously -- no matter how grave the error or offense.

If we cannot rein in our tongues, our forked tongues prone to speak evil and praise God from the same mouth, then perhaps our only recourse is, as St. John Chrysostom suggests, to take a mouth fast.  Talk less and pray more.  Always good advice but even more salutary in our divided nation and in a public square in which the air is poisoned even more with contempt than corona virus.

1 comment:

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Excellent point. We can speak the truth in love, and we can do it politely, but I have never read anything on PM that seemed rude or slanderous.