A need for boundariesWritten by Eric McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of my best friends are conservatives, rock-ribbed Republicans that can quote chapter and verse from William F. Buckley. I know that sounds condescending and self serving, much like what I heard growing up from white guys who told unflattering jokes about black people. After the punch line there would often be an awkward attempt to cover this gross insensitivity by saying “I have a black friend.” Somehow this was suppose to make the jerky thing all right.
In my case, it is true. I have many conservative friends. Many I have trusted without reservation or qualm. A progressive (the gentler, kinder word for “liberal”) can not survive in my line of work without the ability to develop such relationships. For I work in an institution known throughout the world for its “conservatism.” I work in the church.
Of course, if the truth be know, there are more of us lefties in the church than many would suspect. Without launching into a theological diatribe on the subject, the reason this is has much to do with Jesus’ teachings. He had a soft spot in his heart for the poor, the lost, the marginalized. Read the gospels deeply and you run the risk of taking up liberal causes like ending poverty, working for peace and justice, and lobbying congress for universal health care coverage. If you want to avoid these things, hang out in the epistles. Since many do hang out in the epistles, I have spent a lifetime cultivating and maintaining good relationships with people who vote and think ways counter to me. All of this makes for interesting work.
I am sharing my credentials on this not with the intention of doing something jerky like making a joke at Vice President Cheney’s (Jon Stewart does enough of that) expense then trying to make it all better by saying… “I have conservative friends.“ I am not interested in scoring points in an ideological debate or even winning the so-called culture war of our day. I have another motive: shaming.
I never much cared for the idea of stocks, pillories or even the modern day versions of shaming such as yellow license tags or pictures of deadbeat dads. I always figured that a culture as sophisticated and as civilized as ours is supposed to be could find better and more mature ways to get good behavior our of our fellow citizens. I guess I am wrong. Since many conservatives believe in shaming, then need to employ this ancient art on some of their own.
Just when I think I have seen loud, boorish behavior at it’s worst, somebody manages to do one better. When I started this piece, I was going to focus on the stupidity of the protests over President Obama’s speech to school children. Two other presidents have done this, Presidents Reagan and Bush (41) so there is a precedent. I guess a few congressional democrats raised some concerns about Bush’s speech, but nothing like what we have seen today. When wimpy school officials capitulate to angry voices over the President telling children they should stay in school and study hard, something is woefully amiss.
But all of that takes a back seat to the likes of Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina. Shouting that the President is a liar during the President’s address to Congress was a new low in this race to the bottom of intemperate and uncivil public behavior. We have problems that require the attention of grown-ups, not school yard bullies, paranoid wing nuts, our sore losers. It is time for my good-souled, reasonable and rational conservative friends and others like them to set some boundaries on the more extreme elements in their community.
When I have suggested this in conversation with my conservative friends, they are quick to point out that lefties have wing nuts too. They mention Michael Moore. Fair enough. But I do think there is something profoundly different going on here. The disruptions at town meeting halls, the persistent and unwarranted questioning around the President’s birthplace, the fact that people show up at rallies with guns strapped to their hip, and that the Secret Service has reported a four fold increase in death threats against the President is troubling.
One of the core tenants of democracy is that honest and reasonable people can have honest and reasonable disagreements. If this and the civility that allows this gets lost, then the great experiment launched by the likes of Jefferson, Madison, and Washington will have failed. Pity the generation that allows this to happen on their watch. It’s time for reasonable and thoughtful conservatives to set some boundaries for the extreme elements in their own community. If they need to resort to shaming, so be it.
Eric McGlade is a pastor in the United Methodist Church and lives in Bowling Green.
Tags: Communitarian Soul