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He started it!

October 23, 2013

Anyone who has ever broken up a quarrel between two kids has heard that phrase.  It is the classic childish defense.  In essence, it says it is OK for me to throw punches and call names because he did if first.  This is also now the standard excuse in political and, sadly, religious discussions.

The latest example of this comes from Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson who, in a fund raising e-mail, compared the Tea Party to the KKK.  It included a picture of a burning cross serving as the “T” in Tea Party and captioned “You know what the T stands for.”  When Republicans and some neutral observers complained he doubled down declaring “…the Tea Party is the home of bigotry and discrimination in America today, just as the KKK was for an earlier generation.”   I would urge you to read the full article at that link and maybe check out some other sources, both right and left.

In other words he had to use offensive images and rhetoric because “they” were nasty first.  This is what is known as the “innocent backlash” theory.  Grayson essentially says that he had no choice but to be offensive and cruel because “they started it” by being offensive and cruel.  So, in the end, offensive and cruel becomes standard operating procedure for all sides and the tit-for-tat goes on for so long that who actually started it becomes, at best, a fuzzy memory.

Granted, there are some in the amorphous Tea Party who are just as nasty as Grayson says they are.  Granted too that Grayson is their mirror image on the left.  This is the guy who was called “One fry short of a happy meal” by Anthony Weiner!  But isn’t there some way that we can avoid the “I need to be nasty because he was nasty first” tone in our discussions?  Isn’t there any way our political discourse can sound a little less like two six-year-olds fighting on the playground?

Some Christians are just as prone to get into the “he started it” game.  They excuse the public obsession with issues like opposing gay marriage using the “he started it” ploy.  They say they have to be vocal and confrontational because “activists” on the other side started it by pushing their “gay agenda.”  It is entirely innocent however, we really didn’t want to have to be so mean, but we were forced into it because “he started it.”

I am probably not going to impact the tit-for-tat, he-started-it tone of political discussion one iota.  There are too many pundits on TV and radio making a living stoking those fires.  But how do we Christians reconcile playing the “he started it” game with a Bible that says “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”?  How does it demonstrate that we follow a Savior who said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”?

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