Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Psalm 109

This morning we prayed Psalm 109.

I offer a meditation on the beginning (v 1-4, Book of Common Prayer, p. 751)
"Hold not your tongue, O God of my praise; for the mouth of the wicked, the mouth of the deceitful, is opened against me. They speak to me with a lying tongue; they encompass me with hateful words and fight against me without a cause. Despite my love, they accuse me; but as for me, I pray for them. They repay evil for good, and hatred for my love."

This is what I believe:

People are sinners. Sinners sin. Sin is bad and negatively impacts the person sinning and others as well. Sin is everywhere so lots of bad things happen.
Humans tend to see the sins of others differently than their own sins .
We are inclined to project greater guilt onto those we dislike and disagree with.

In today's Psalm, some of the verses sound like things I hear people complaining about in our current political disagreements. "I/we" cannot put up with "you/them" because "you/them" are "liars, racists, communists, Fascists, Hitler, murderers, playing politics, thieves, despots, looters/rioters, thugs, privileged, oppressors, haters..." Well, there is lots more to be added but that is the general tenor. Or as our ancient Psalmist says, "the mouth of the wicked, the mouth of the deceitful, is opened against me. They speak with a lying tongue; they encompass me with hateful words..."

Now, based on my belief that all people are sinners, I feel pretty confident that many of the accusations are true, or at least significantly accurate. People see the world from a perspective. We feel passionately about things, and tend to reinforce our own prejudices through anecdote. We gather together in our like-minded group and say the things we want to hear (and sometimes shout down or shut down those who say things we do not want to hear). The people we dislike and disagree with frequently do things which are wrong, even bad, and sometimes horrible. The problem is, we just tend to revel in finding everything bad on them and sometimes ignore (or minimize) what is wrong me/us.

My view? It is awful hard to draw the line. If you truly believe abortion is murder, or Trump is Hitler I understand your rage and understand your motivation to act decisively. If you don't think such things, I understand your disdain and your motivation to dismiss those that do as a crack pot. I know the Ten Commandments (which I believe are from God) say, "Thou shall not murder." I know from history that Hitler was a bad man (I know we shouldn't judge but I'm thinking this one is a no-brainer) so if Trump is Hitler then all those theoretical discussions about what someone should do about Hitler are no longer theoretical. For the record, I believe abortion is murder, but for a number of reasons cannot be simply treated as such. Moral issues are always complicated and we need to be careful how we proceed. Bumper sticker arguments fire up "fellow agree-ers," but do little to advance the cause of truth or understanding. For the record, I do not think Trump is Hitler. At all. Calling him Hitler really ignores how bad Hitler was and how much evil Hitler did. But lots of people think abortion is mass murder and lots of others think Trump is Hitler, so what happens when these "true believers" act on their convictions?

So what to do?
I cannot control society. I can not control myself much of the time. So I am working on the latter. I try to spend most of my energy looking at my own sin and inconsistency. I look for the 'murder' in my heart, the 'Hitler' lurking in me. I have found that there is a lifetime of work to do on me, and much of my anger at "them" is projection. Not saying we should not take a stand against evil. Not saying that at all. Just saying that being aware of my motivation makes my stand a little less sinful. It also opens me to further repentance and conversion. It saves me from telling other people what they should do and sitting back pleased with myself for speaking out. If you are pro-life, then the pro-choice critics have a point when they ask "what do you do to help the babies of the poor." (but of course, the same advocates of hospitality and immigration might want to ask themselves, "how many immigrants live with me?") In the end, I have no easy solution.  I am a sinner. So are you. We don't think clearly as we need to and it is always easier to see the mistakes and evil in another. Yet the psalm does provide one sure fired activity which cannot hurt.

...but as for me, I pray for them. They repay evil for good and hatred for my love...
Pray for them... Do good to them them
I am thinking that was Jesus' plan.
And I need to get a whole lot better at that...

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