+ First, without reservation, I think hateful or fearful rhetoric is destructive, ugly and polarizing. Period. No qualifications. I know that in years past I, too, have shouted in rage and frustration - saying cruel and slanderous things in pursuit of peace - and I have come to see that this is not peace-making. It may be therapy. It may be adolescent rage. But as St. Paul wrote: when I was a child, I spoke like a child; but now that I have grown older I must put childish things away. So, one thing I have clarified is how important words and intentions are to me: being Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly is just as destructive and dishonest from a leftist perspective as from the right. What's more, words wound and alienate. My namesake in scripture put it like this in James 3:
A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.
This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can't tame a tongue—it's never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! My friends, this can't go on. A spring doesn't gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don't bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don't bear apples, do they? You're not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?
To live in the Spirit of truth and authentic non-violence requires taming and disciplining our hearts as well as our tongues and actions. So, while I was frustrated and hurt at some of my friend's cruel words, they were helpful in a paradoxical way.
+ Second, anger is no excuse for cruelty in the name of political or spiritual truth. Anger is natural, of course, but only the anger of moral outrage has a place in the public realm of peace-making and then only if disciplined. Some anger is born of frustration - human life is limited - deal with it. Other anger is born of impotence: what does the wisdom tradition teach in Psalm 37? Open up before God, keep nothing back;
he'll do whatever needs to be done:
He'll validate your life in the clear light of day
and stamp you with approval at high noon.
Quiet down before God,
be prayerful before him.
Don't bother with those who climb the ladder,
who elbow their way to the top. Bridle your anger, trash your wrath,
cool your pipes—it only makes things worse.
Before long the crooks will be bankrupt;
God-investors will soon own the store.
Wait passionately for God,
don't leave the path.
He'll give you your place in the sun
while you watch the wicked lose it.