The politics of mean-spiritedness is at work in our land. It is heard on radio talk shows, on the TV news, and certainly in the rhetoric of politicians. It is the prevailing attitude far too often as we move further into the election campaigns.
Mean-spiritedness feeds on fear, and there is a great deal of fear alive among us:
People are fearful of the poor because their lack of financial resources might decrease my resources.
People are fearful of the immigrant – both legal and illegal – because their arrival might take my job or cause me to have to pay higher taxes to care for their needs.
People are fearful of crime; of the police in many communities; of gun control and those who owned guns; of terrorism and hate
People are fearful of losing control of their lives, their families and their communities making them susceptible to every “quick-fix” scheme or political slogan that promises stability.
Mean-spirited talk often comes from those who are seeking to build upon these fears for their own betterment, either in the political or financial arenas. Often such talk is in the guise of reform or returning to what was, and is based upon widely believed myths. And the target of such talk is usually the most vulnerable. Any who are “different” in a climate of mean-spiritedness, are somehow less worthy, less moral, less good than those doing the talking. Such an attitude promotes exclusion rather than inclusion, bigotry rather than tolerance for differences, and a “me-first” outlook rather than a concern for others and the common good.
We have many problems in our country that need to be solved, but I contend that a spirit of meanness or hatred will not bring us to helpful and lasting solutions that will last. Justice, peace and love must be the major criteria used as we work together towards solutions.
My faith requires of me love and justice for all of God’s children. Jesus challenged the mean-spirited Pharisees when they questioned his healing on the Sabbath. He challenged the mean-spiritedness of his disciples when they did not want the children to come to him. He challenged them again when they attacked the woman that anointed him prior to the crucifixion. As followers of Jesus, we too must challenge the mean-spirited politics that are alive in our country.
We must be willing to stand up and be counted for justice. We must be willing to work with others to build a society that does not exclude people. We must be faithful and observe the commands to love our enemy and love our neighbor.
May this be our prayer: Holy God, whose name is not honored where the needy are not served, and the powerless are treated with contempt: may we embrace our neighbor, both near and far with the same tenderness that we ourselves require; so your justice may be fulfilled in love to all people. Amen.
Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, and quarterly retreats and art exhibits.