Sunday, September 9, 2012

When Rhetoric Crosses The Line

This is outside the realm of my normal posts, but hopefully you’ll indulge me…or bear with me…or hit the delete key, whatever suits your fancy. J

Interesting sign, huh? Crude and primitive, the message comes across loud and clear. Posted in a small community in north central Florida, the sign bears three names its creator wishes death upon for supporting the “wrong” candidates in the upcoming local election. How do I know this? 
The second name on the sign is my brother John.
John’s a police chief in a small neighboring Florida town. Remember the movie “Walking Tall?” The storyline is probably the best analogy I could draw to John’s life and career. He’s ruffled many feathers over the years by driving the drug dealers from his town and giving speeding tickets to elected officials and other “important” people who travel on a major thoroughfare outlying his community. 
Over the years, John’s house has been burned down. He’s been held hostage, survived a hit on his life, and stared down many a criminal. He’s also considered a friend to many, including a few he’s sent to jail, served their time, and then returned to live in the community. He’s been known to utter the admonition “act like you’re somebody” to those on the wrong path instead of wasting their lives in self-destructive or criminal nonsense. 
I could write a whole post about John, his compassion and ministry, but that’s not the point of this particular post. 
I’ve witnessed many elections during the past few decades, and each time I think it can’t get any uglier—it does. 
Another example is actress Ellen Barkin’s retweet prior to the RNC. (It was first tweeted by another Twitter account.)

I found her tweet horribly inappropriate and shared my distaste for such outrageous behavior on FB.  
Among the comments posted on my FB status was advice to just blow off the Barkin tweet. As long as you’re comfortable with your position, who cares if someone calls you names? Kind of like the little ditty we learned as kids, “Sticks and stones…” 
However, this behavior goes beyond mere name calling. It’s too easy when venom is spewed to attribute it to point of view or imply if the offended person is self-actualized enough, they’d prove it by shutting up and sitting down. 
Name-calling and distasteful rhetoric are nothing new in elections. And while it’s a waste of time to get embroiled in every dispute, when we reach the point where we give a free pass to death threats against those supporting a different candidate/party, sensible people should speak out against the insanity. 
So what drives such nonsense? Disrespect for others and fear. The ability to respect others is a character trait. You’ve either had it instilled in you or developed it. If a deficiency exists, you choose to improve—or not. 
Fear, on the other hand, is a different creature. It can be irrational, based on real or perceived threats, thus causing people to behave irrationally. 
I blogged about fear last week. The greater the fear, the more ridiculous the behavior. Apparently, some are so fearful they wish (or plot) death upon those who hold different beliefs or plan to cast a different vote than their own. 
I love my country. A healthy concern for its direction is a good thing. Healthy fear rallies people to action and allows them to stand up for their beliefs. Irrational, unhealthy fear (along with disrespect) causes people to lob insults and threats. 
In the United States, we’re each afforded one vote under the Constitution. Exercise it and respect others’ rights to do so. Instead of looking for someone to agree with your point of view and downing them when they don’t, take a page from JFK’s book: Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. 
Or from Jesus: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5
In other words—start with the man in the mirror.
And here’s a reassuring thought: As Christians, we have nothing to fear. We’ve read to the end of The Book. We know how the human story ends—in eternity with our Father. Meanwhile, while we’re stewards of this earth, the community and country God placed us in, and the great commission Christ charged us with, let’s continue to reflect that through our choices and behavior. 
Regardless of the election results and the direction the country goes, Christians will continue to help the poor, sick, and disenfranchised through our churches, community service, and charitable contributions. Always have, always will. 
Meanwhile, God remains on His throne!
And my brother? Well, the fact that John’s life is in jeopardy is something our family learned to live with long ago. Don’t get me wrong—it’s not easy. He and I often have conversations about his mortality. Though each conversation is different depending on the current threat, I half-joke that he’s used up six or seven of his nine lives and to be careful. He promises he will and tells me he loves me. I tell him the same. 
As much as losing my brother because of someone’s narrow mind or criminal activity would crush me, I have no fear where John’s soul is concerned. That is not in jeopardy. 
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
If you are a Christian, I encourage you to look at the big picture and cling to Christ’s promise when fear threatens to engulf you. 
And when absurdity warrants it, don’t be afraid to speak out.  
© Laura Hodges Poole


  1. This is such an important post. I really like what you said and the way you said it. It is a calm, rational, loving voice in a sea of anger and fear.

    1. Thank you, Kristina. I'm glad you felt encouraged by the post. The display of anger and fear is so disheartening and a waste of time. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. God bless.

  2. wow laura i had no ideal that john was on the police force and had gone through so many trials. i will certainly remember him in prayer. i will pray for his safety and for peace of mind for all his family.

  3. Great post. I will keep your brother John in my prayers. Thank you for speaking out on this topic, well done.

    This past weekend I watched the movie Monumental by Kirk Cameron. There's so much about the pilgrims I didn't know. So much of our history and morals lost over the years.
    Your post reminds me of that movie.

    1. Thanks, TC. I've not seen Kirk's movie, but I've seen the publicity for it. He's very dedicated to the ideals of restoring our nation's morals.

  4. WOW Laura. Wow. Lifting you and your family to His Throne. This post is a great reminder of what's important--especially in lieu of the upcoming election. Thanks for encouraging and educating us of things we may have forgotten. -cyn-

    1. Thanks, Cyn. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. I appreciate your prayers. God bless.

  5. Wow! What a great way to put it, we can't let what happens in this world shock us or make us fearful, we can have a peace about our present and future that is only found in GOD! I pray others come to know this for themselves. Your brother is truly on the front lines, bless him.

    1. Thanks, Alecia. God's grace is so comforting, especially in light of our country's condition. God bless you.

  6. Excellent post. Glad you wrote this.