Here's what happened: Following a now forgotten link I found myself on Red Letter Christian, Tony Campolo's blog, reading a thoughtful piece posted by Methodist pastor Morgan Guyton. Guyton wrote about Herman Cain's recent statement aimed at Occupy Wall Street that “If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself."
Guyton compared Cain's remarks with John Wesley's insistence that "If I leave behind me ten pounds [when I die]… you and all mankind bear witness against me, that I have lived and died a thief and a robber." In other words, as Guyton puts it, "if I die rich, blame me.
It comes as little surprise that, in a blog post of a Methodist pastor, the founder of Methodism is going to come out looking better than the founder of Godfather's Pizza. Thus Guyton's post, thoughtful and well stated, brought no real surprises.
Perhaps I was lulled into false hope by the thoughtful prose, or perhaps I had just wanted to put off my own writing for a little while longer. But whether it was the prose or the procrastination, I broke own of my cardinal rules: I read the comments.
Like an alcoholic who can't pass up a drink even though he knows he will regret it later, I regularly read the comments section on religion and politics blogs and then feel like I need to take a shower.
In the comments, the scribes and the Pharisees collide with the Sadducees and the hypocrites, and it turns out that we are they and they are we and, pretty soon, we're all covered with the same slime.
I didn't stick with the comments long enough to confirm, again, Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies, but I'd be surprised if Hitler didn't turn up soon enough. This time I quit soon after reading that:
Leftists, regardless of whether they put a religious spin on their arguments or not all want the same thing. They don't want the advancement of mankind but the opposite. They want to punish success through redistribution so they don't have to work. They want to constantly agitate for "social change" because by calling everyone racists they can further their own political goals. Leftists like to ignore human nature and advocate completely insane policies that grow the size of gohttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifvernment and limit human freedom. The list can go on...
And so can the vitriol of the comments.
I wound up on Red Letter Christian today in priming the sermon pump for Sunday, when the gospel lectionary passage is Matthew 22:34-46, which begins like this:
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
It seems to me that loving neighbors, even virtual ones, requires us to use more of our minds than the overly quick and easy vilification of those with whom we disagree. Accusing the people occupying Wall Street and those who support them of opposing the advancement of humankind doesn't get us anywhere at all. Neither does accusing those who support Herman Cain of not caring a whit for the poor.
When Jesus spoke of love he spoke of acting toward others in ways that always sought out the best for the other. He spoke of acting with the best interest of the other place before self interest. In placing love of neighbor in the same breath as love of God, Jesus clearly insists that you cannot have one without the other.
At a bare minimum, on sites that bring together people who are trying, from various points of view, to follow the way of Jesus, the law of love ought to trump Godwin's Law.