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On uncivil civil discourse

  “The Meal at the House of Simon the Pharisee,” 15th century French

“The Meal at the House of Simon the Pharisee,” 15th century French

In Luke 7: 36-50, the writer paints a portrait of limitless love and the limits of the unloving. Jesus dines at the house of Simon the Pharisee, where a woman known to have led a sinful life washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair and anointed them with perfume, an expensive commodity. It was a profound display of contrition, humility and love, though the Pharisees saw it as an extravagant outrage, given her reputation.

After offering a parable, Jesus “turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

I was reminded of this story in the wake of our current discourse on uncivil civil discourse. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen heckled during dinner at an upscale Mexican restaurant. Protests outside Nielsen’s and senior presidential adviser Stephen Miller’s homes. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders asked to leave The Little Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. The protesters egged on by California Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

Normally, I am opposed to bad manners for any reason. Right from the beginning of the Trumpet Administration, I thought that “Hamilton” cast members should not have addressed Vice President Mike Pence at the curtain call, however respectfully. It wasn’t the time or the place and it betrayed weakness. It played into the hands of the very people that they, let’s face it, hope to overcome.

I opposed Robert De Niro’s condemnation of Trump in vulgar terms on “The Tony Awards” and Samantha Bee’s characterization of Ivanka Trump with the most heinous word you can use to describe a woman.

There’s never any excuse for vulgarity and bad manners. It doesn’t win you friends or persuade the neutral to a viewpoint. It just reinforces the stereotypes of the opposition, in this case, those on the left.

Yet what Jesus is saying is that the woman was forgiven much by God, because she loved much, unlike the Pharisees, who loved little and thus received little love in return.

It’s possible to turn this around and, instead of blaming the protesters, ask what and why they are protesting. Sanders is a sour-faced woman who never has a pleasant word for the press – or an honest one, shamelessly using the Bible to justify the seemingly unending separation of children from their parents as they cross the southern border illegally. Nielsen and Miller have helped create this heart-rending policy and implement it.

They have loved little and, so, little love is visited on them. It’s not an eye for an eye but rather the little understood Hindu/Buddhist concept of karma. What you send out to the world returns to you, regardless of how you might try to stop that forward motion. If I murder someone then spend the rest of my life atoning for that murder, that act will still return to me. There’s nothing I can do to undo it. It’s almost like a principle of physics: If I send a pendulum away from me, it returns to me with equal force.

The protesters are the equal force, set in motion by a cruel administration. Trumpet is a most uncivil leader. It’s no surprise that incivility has been returned to him and his surrogates.