A Year of Morning Thanks
Passions, sort of
It'd be nice if we could get passion right, all of us, me too. Three times in the last two days, after receiving bundled, forwarded e-mail that is almost always a species of hate mail, I've tried to tell three different people that I didn't share their political views. Three times my confession prompted some rancor.
There's the one about the Democratic attorney who'd filed a brief somewhere, to the effect that Obama isn't really a citizen and thus shouldn't be a candidate for President--based on where he was or wasn't born. "This video will change the story of the election," it announced in red boldface, the note heralded by a congregation of names who'd already received it and others who were, with me, its freshest recipients. In fact, I got it twice from two different people.
I wrote those who sent it, tried to say, simply, that this time I didn't agree with their political persuasion. Twice in the last two days, old friends tried to shake me like an unruly child with a stream of arguments that usually begin and end with abortion and exclamation marks.
When, yesterday, I read somewhere that a judge had thrown out the lawsuit that was going "to change the direction of the election," I sent the story to those who'd sent it to me. While I didn't demand they reverse the process and scattergun it back to those addresses that glowed on the original note, my guess is they didn't. Passion doesn't prompt such admissions easily.
Nobody can teach well and not have passion. Passion makes dynamic subjects and verbs absolutely essential in the creation of hearty sentences. Passion moves things along, lights things up, creates change, wins games, excites smiles. Shoot, passion perpetuates the race; it creates our children.
But like anything else that's human, passion has its dark side. When it leapfrogs reason, it doesn't come down with both feet. Passion builds walls, burns bridges, breaks up families. It dehumanizes, objectifies, resorts to falsehoods, and, when unglued, goes blind. Passion loves and kills with equal intensity, equal glee.
The finest moment in the campaign in the last few weeks, in my estimation, was the time when John McCain grabbed the microphone from a passionate woman who could barely get out her denunciation, but who finally stumbled over the hooded condemnation she was looking for: "he's an Arab." McCain grabbed the mike and shook his head. "He's a good man," McCain told that woman patiently and calmly, and even comfortingly. Then he walked away.
The Bible is often a strange read. It's altogether possible to find yourself in its stories and platitude. Last night when my wife and I happened on the Sermon on the Mount, I found it altogether too easy to slip into the warm quilt that sermon offers to those who suffer persecution; after all, I've taken it in the chops lately, simply for suggesting who it is I'm likely voting for.
I don't think my choice is the only righteous choice, but I'm not about to change my mind so I'd be less than truthful if I'd say I wasn't passionate. But neither am I going to indict those who disagree; neither will I suggest some abominable rejection of the faith and, therefore, eternal punishment for taking the other side.
We're all--me too--incredibly and mysteriously human, capable of so much love at any minute, so much passion, and so much equally-driven passionate hate the next. Some of us--me too--are so full of wind because, Lord knows, we don't want to seem broken, as much in need of repair by the divine handyman as we always are.
I am among those who show passion, sometimes to my own detriment and others' hurt. I likely will be to the day I die. This morning I'm thankful--as always--for passions, but I'm also weary of being burned; so this morning I'm really thankful, as always, for what I'm learning, three-score years into the life I've been given. Passion often cuts two ways.
Sometimes biblical principle seems like a piece of cake, Sunday-School stuff. But love isn't. Strangely enough, it's not elementary at all. It's tough.