When Vice President-elect Mike Pence walked into the theater to watch the Broadway play Hamilton recently, he was not Abraham Lincoln and it was not Ford’s Theatre, but Mr. Pence walked into an ambush. He might have smelled trouble immediately upon entering. The air was thick with self-righteousness.
The actions of the booing and churlish crowd are utterly indefensible upon any grounds. If as a child I’d been caught in such behavior, my mother, unhampered by “progressive” ideas, would have delivered a speech and a liberally applied spanking to a son she refused to let grow up as a boor and a brat.
That the speech prepared beforehand by the cast to be delivered to Vice President-elect Pence was civilly presented means that the ambush was a tad less brutal than most. But it was still an ambush, premeditated and perpetrated by hosts upon a guest in their “home.”
The backdrop, of course, was the recent election. Columnist George Will well describes its outcome: “a loser who deserved to lose and a winner who did not deserve to win.”
But we did have an election. And we did have an outcome. And it is high time to behave.
I find myself wondering what it would have been like to be singing or preaching at a venue in which, some eight years ago, Vice President-elect Biden was in attendance. I’m not a fan. But I honestly cannot imagine ambushing the man in a theater or church where I had any control. If the crowd started booing him, I can easily imagine delivering a speech—but it would not be to him.
Self-righteousness short-circuits civility, and brutish arrogance is no more the temptation of the right than it is the left.
Whether we lean right or left, it’s no surprise when our most seriously held political opinions become so entwined with our moral convictions that it’s hard to separate them. At times, they can’t be separated and shouldn’t be. At other times, more often than we think, they can and should. At all times, demonizing those we disagree with is only effective if we wish to become demons.
I well remember listening to a sermon presented by a seriously left-leaning guest preacher at a church I was visiting. He prefaced his comments by expressing a desire for us to understand that he was not being political; he was just standing for God’s truth. I had no trouble imagining a right-leaning preacher at a church down the street stepping into a pulpit and giving exactly the same preface. Both would pass lie detector tests as both prepared to preach their politics.
I’m sure the audience members booing VP-elect Pence in that theater felt that the gravity of the moral injustice just perpetrated in the election, and the more serious evils they are sure will soon be unleashed, made their behavior justifiable, even necessary. In a different time and a different theater, perhaps their equally zealous counterparts on the opposite side might feel the same way. Both would be wrong.
And for Christians the question is as always: how would our Lord behave? What would he say?
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Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.