Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


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.

3 comments:

RickNiekLikeBikes said...

One problem is the passion is really hiding our unwillingness to change for one or for two unwilling to accept other views. For instance are you Pre-millienial, Post-Millenial, A Preterist or Pre-Wrath? Many Christians divide themselves, while at the same time give up the habit of meeting together.

Living where I live, I have taken "it" in the chops big time for being who I am. It's all Rhetoric. I hate being chopped because it doesn't serve the conversation. While I may never change my views about Abortion for instance, I also realize from my Democratic Christian friends that there are more ways to think about one thing as a Christian. I can't reconcile my faith with some things about either party if you want to know the truth.

My theological Paradigm evolves constantly because I engage in the conversation.

I'm thankful that you'll allow me to disagree with you and I do the same. But, for now it seems like we're justifying our position based on the vitriolic rhetoric of the "other side." I know you don't trust this or that, but I'd sure like to know more about policies that affect your vote. The fact that people are vitriolic and idealistic and human is a given. I think your skills as a Professor would allow you to see through the bull while still maintaining the courage to teach what you believe is right and allow me to learn, to disagree or to agree.

There's got to be a Faith value which gives you your vote and I'm interested in what that is? For now I perceive that you're having trouble seeing through your disappointment.

Cara DeHaan said...

Passion is something I've been thinking about lately (passions that lead us to a particular vocation, passions that energize us, passions that divide us), and your post helped. Thanks. Too bad there are a few states between us these days, or I'd pop into your office for a chat.

Anonymous said...

A word about about rhetoric (which is not to be dismissed. Rhetoric cannot be separated from language as a whole): if McCain-Palin wants to attack on policy, on fiscal policy, on associations, inexperience, by all means, do so. Those are legitimate. But this pro-American/anti-American rhetoric is destructive. It only foments more hatred for the "the other side," whatever that may be.

Everyone may know this already but I'd thought I'd say it: my father is no bastion of liberalism.

And I can imagine that he's feeling a bit persecuted as well, as are conservatives living in liberal areas. He has more courage than me admitting to friends and relatives that he's voting for Obama. Democrats are demonized up there, which (not coincidentally) is part of the reason why I believe what I do politically. That being said, were I born in Berkley, I may have turned out a neo-con. Just shows that being surrounded by too many people who think exactly the same tends to produce people like me: demonizing produces demons, so to speak.

David (his son)