Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Reform Our Rhetoric; Tame the Tongue: Pastoral Words from John Stewart

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There are rare moments in which comedians and political satirists unveil somewhat of a pastoral heart and prophetic concern. Tragedies, like the events this weekend in Tucson, Arizona, often evoke this side of cable characters, even the most cynical of talk show hosts, John Stewart. I confess that I am a fan of both his program, The Daily Show, as well as the one that directly follows, The Colbert Report. On more than one occasion I have warned myself not to filter my interpretation of current events through these shows, rather enjoy them for what they are: entertainment. However, as I watched Stewart’s recent monologue, I found myself challenged and convicted, even somewhat comforted and enlightened. Moreover, I was appreciative of the sparse moments of comic relief that allowed me to digest his statements honestly.

Stewart is spot on; we all must work towards the reformation of our political discourse and rhetoric. The polarization and demonization of social, political, and religious opponents, a trend rampant within all parties and platforms, while maybe not responsible, fosters a climate that certainly makes it easier to act out heinous crimes that were once limited to a twisted imagination. The attempted assassination, which resulted in the death of many innocent bystanders, is not the first belated caution flag raised due to irresponsible rhetoric. This past year, as mentioned in one of my previous posts, we also witnessed the rise of bullying and related suicides of homosexual youth. Again, reformation of rhetoric was one of many lessons to be learned,albeit too late. As it says in the Epistle of James, “but no one can tame the tongue -- a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (3:8). Yet we sure as hell should try…

It is a sad reality that it takes tragedy for humans to adjust our ethics. This is not to say that we as a society are more at fault than the one who sprayed the crowd and took the lives of beautiful people. The fault lay upon him. Nonetheless, as Stewart reminds us, we do not do enough to make it more complicated for such crimes to be committed.

So I ask and I ponder, what does this mean for us? How am I, how are we, in need of reforming our political rhetoric? How can you and I have intelligent and informed debates, which are not afraid of disagreement, but also refrain from polarization? And like the religious sages and prophets have asked throughout history, how long will we continue in our ways of malice and conceit?

Check out the recent blogs from Jim Wallis and other contributors to Sojourners, all who continue to work towards Peace and Civility within religious and political spheres:

Peace and Civility Pledge:

Shooting a Reminder of Our Swords and Words: