By now, the recriminations are flying hot and heavy regarding the barrage of gunfire last week that wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and several others.
Conservatives are blaming the hatred inflamed by the left. Liberals are blaming President Donald Trump. And the beat goes on.
However, obscured in the blame-first atmosphere of modern life is a fascinating juxtaposition of two stories that appeared in the three days before the deadly attack.
The first: a June 11 report about Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand dropping several “F” bombs during a speech to a conference at New York University’s Skirball Center in Manhattan.
I guess we could blame one on a slip of the tongue.
Even Richard Cheney let fly with such an invective during a heated exchange with Sen. Patrick Leahy during his vice-presidential tenure. John Kerry dropped one during an interview with Rolling Stone that same year.
But repeated uses of it—from a woman reputed to be a potential presidential contender in 2020—show two things:
- Our society has lost all sense of decorum when people at the highest levels of office think it’s perfectly okay to use gutter language in public. We need more mothers washing out their kids’ mouths with soap.
- Many of our leaders have lost a sense of the responsibility and high calling that comes with public service.
Sure, they face foul-mouthed, irrational, highly-partisan—and on June 14—deadly critics.
Still, elected officials must appreciate that they can’t respond in-kind to irritations and verbal assaults, especially when it involves people from the opposing party. Otherwise, they can help fuel attacks like the kind that shocked the nation last week.
Assaulting our Senses
Which brings me to fascinating story #2. The day after I read about Gillibrand’s profanity-laden tirade, Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for his late May body-slamming of a reporter.
That the incident didn’t deter his re-election shows that there are probably a number of voters who share his sentiment. But that doesn’t excuse it.
Aside from the fact that other reporters cast considerable doubt on Gianforte’s initial claim of a verbal assault by Bert Jacobs, the journalist he attacked, it was completely unjustified.
Leaders who don’t appreciate how their actions influence others shouldn’t be seeking the position, whether it’s mayor, city council or Congress.
Praying for Leaders
The latest series considers various chapters in the book of Psalms. This particular lesson focused on Psalm 84:1-12.
Verses 8-9 review the psalmist’s prayer that ends with: “Look on our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.”
For those two verses, the study asked why it was important for the psalmist to seek God’s favor for the king, and how the realization that God anoints rulers and leaders impacted his prayer.
As my wife and I chewed on that, I saw how it was a sign of respect for the ruler God had installed in office and the psalmist’s confidence that God would answer his prayer.
Reflecting further, I also recognized that I have often failed to appreciate the rulers God has placed in office.
Whether I like the president or not is not the issue—nor those in Congress, the statehouse, or city hall. The leaders there are the ones He’s installed. I owe them my prayers. So do you.