A return to civility

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“If I am a holy child of God, then so is everyone else” - Richard Rohr. If I am made in the image and likeness of God, then so is everyone else. And from these statements flows the difficult concept of love thy neighbor as thyself. In the polarized world of 2023, we see little example of living these precepts.

President Biden disowning his 7th grandchild via instructions to his spokespeople starts at the top with a bad example. The most extreme evidence of a failure to adhere to these principles plays out in Ukraine and sites of other civil conflict in Europe and Africa.

Recently former President Obama raised concern over the press coverage of the loss of life on board the Titan submersible compared to the contemporaneous loss of life by drowning of 700 migrants off the coast of Greece. He called it “an untenable situation” going on to point out the struggles facing refugees around the world.

And the other perspective to the plight of refugees is graphically portrayed by Governors DeSantis and Abbot bussing and flying immigrants to various locations rather than assisting them, welcoming them, and recognizing in them their shared humanity.

Obama pointed out the larger problem: ”Our democracy is not going to be healthy with the levels of inequality that we’ve seen, generated from globalization, automation, the decline in unions, obscene inequality.” The failure of society to focus on the tremendous loss of life of those who were seeking asylum, escaping from oppression, and drowning in a smugglers boat as they tried to find a better life was totally overshadowed by the wealthy few out for a joy ride crushed by the power of the ocean collapsing a poorly designed submersible. Obama went on to say “And in some ways, its indicative of the degree to which people’s chances have grown so disparate.”

Rohr commented that hatred holds a group together better and more completely than love and inclusivity. That is so terribly evident in the political divide that plays out in the House, more so than in the Senate, and among the die hard far right and far left. Those who hate project their own negative attributes on those they hate and attack it over there rather than dealing with it and eliminating it in themselves.

Adam Bucko points out that unless we are willing to see Christ on the roadside begging for change, in the tent cities, in the refugees struggling to gain entrance to America by means legal and illegal, the poor and the rejected we have no business looking for Him in churches and at the altar. He likens those downtrodden souls to the lost sheep rescued by the Shepherd in Matthew’s Gospel.

Art has been said to hold a mirror up to society. Artists are often the conscience of their peers; they are prophets who speak truth to power. Rohr states that Art is the expression of the Spirit (not our spirit but the Third Person of the Trinity). A few years ago, the Guthrie included a new play by The Moving Company, “Refugia”, in its regular season. I had not seen such a powerful play in years. It portrayed vignettes of refugees fleeing for various reasons including religious and political persecution. What was most compelling was that no matter the reason, the journey was the same and the necessity to flee was also the same. Bigotry and the accession to power of nationalistic and fascist individuals, who mesmerized the common people with propaganda and lies, bullied entire races and classes of people into exile and death.

We are seeing all of that today in state legislatures throughout the country. We are seeing it in the banning of books and usurping the authority of school systems to determine curriculum. We are seeing it in the attempt to limit those who can vote. We are not living that we are all made in the image and likeness of God.

We are fortunate that former President Obama is willing to speak out, much like his predecessor, former President Carter. We need a strong voice of dissent, of criticism to hold a mirror up to our society to hopefully bring about change; a return to civility.

This article originally appeared on St. Cloud Times: A return to civility