From the Prophet Micah:
And I said:
Listen, you heads of Jacob
and rulers of the house of Israel!
Should you not know justice?—
you who hate the good and love the evil,
who tear the skin off my people,
and the flesh off their bones;
who eat the flesh of my people,
flay their skin off them,
break their bones in pieces,
and chop them up like meat in a kettle,
like flesh in a cauldron.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Micah 3:1-3 – October 11, 2012)
Micah gets just a wee bit graphic here with his metaphors, with his condemnation of political leaders, don’t you think? He has accused them of being cannibals! He describes them as treating the people like meat for a meal; they have butchered them, flayed them, broken their bones, and chopped them up for stew meat! It’s awful!
In the midst of our political campaign, I am intrigued by the awfulness of Micah’s prose as it compares to the things we are seeing about the candidates, about President Obama, about Governor Romney, and on the local level about those running for the Senate, for the House, and for state and local offices, though those are not quite as bad as the presidential advertisements, commercials, and so forth. Worse than the television advertisements and radio spots are the things that others (the superPACs and the partisan websites) are throwing up on the internet, on Facebook, on Twitter. Some of it truly awful. Like Micah’s prose.
Where does one draw the line? Each week in our Prayers of the People, my parish includes a petition that political discourse during the election campaign will be civil, courteous, and productive. So far, I’m sad to say, it seems to be none of those things. I think many people would agree that it is excessively negative, but has it crossed the line? I believe that it has; it always does – this election is no different from any other of my adult life, to be honest. Every election year seems to bring out the worst in people.
Why do we feel justified in uttering such terrible things about others, especially about those who are our leaders or those who would like to be our leaders? And is there any difference between our election year condemnations of incumbents and challengers, Micah’s prophetic condemnations of the leaders of Jacob, the rulers of Israel? Are we following in a prophetic tradition when we call them out in such “purple prose” for what we believe are their failings?
Are we being prophetic like Micah and his colleagues in Scripture? Or was Micah just being nasty like us and our neighbors? Is there a difference? I wish I knew.
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.