I'm having a cup of coffee on the front porch yesterday mid-morning, when the mail lady turned on to our street. She didn't see me when she entered; nor did she when she made the rounds of the twin cul-de-sacs and headed back out of the neighborhood. But the neighbor's tabby cat crossed the road just in front of her vehicle, and she dutifully slowed to a near stop while he crossed. Then, as she turned the corner, she slowed down and I heard her say to the cat, "Now you be careful; don't go out into the road." Then off she went.
There was no one to hear her, only the cat. But something deeply human, thoughtful, and tender rose from within her and expressed a simple act of decency to a neighbor's pet. At the precise moment this happened I was musing on the topic of political speech, because Marshall Adams and I are going to teach a series of The Gospel and This World Group on this subject, beginning later this month. I had been thinking about the forms of political speech that obtained throughout the last month - angry and threatening shouts, slanderous innuendos, tacky and tasteless placards, and all the rest. I was wondering whether it's really possible for Christians to make an impact in that arena, when the mail lady came by and reminded me of the power of decency and grace.
I think Christians can participate meaningfully, even transformingly, in the political dialogs of the day, but we need to think of some ways to inject more decency and simplicity into our conversations and deliberations. I'm frankly sick of all the rants, hyperbole, misrepresentation, duplicity, and double-speak that passes for political speech today. If we ever throw in the towel, shrug our shoulders, and say, "It has ever been thus," we will forfeit a major opportunity to turn back the powers of corrosion and decay.
Solzhenitsyn wrote, long in advance of the fall of the Soviet Union, that what would be needed to bring the whole house down would be for every Russian who loved his country to "take a single moral step within his own power." Beginning with the candlelight revolution in Romania, that's pretty much what happened. What we need today is for Christians, in every area of life, not just politics, to discover new ways of practicing simple acts of decency toward their neighbors. A gentle tsunami of decency, sweeping over the land, will raise all boats and inundate but a few. Thanks, mail lady.