“There’s too much invective and anger out there. Let’s not add to it.”

“There’s too much invective and anger out there. Let’s not add to it.” September 4, 2012

If you drop by some of my neighbors here in the Catholic cul-de-sac of Patheos, you’ll find a few mentions of a particularly nasty rumble that took place over the weekend.

My mind wandered back to some remarks made early in the summer by another clergy blogger,  Bishop Christopher Coyne:

Always take the high road.  By this I mean, always be polite, never respond in kind, do not make any more enemies than one already has in these matters, and most importantly don’t send an angry email written completely in capital letters until you’ve slept on it overnight.  Always taking the high road places us in a higher place.  I really think this is the way of Christ.  I’m reminded of yesterday’s gospel in which Jesus said, “when someone strikes you, give them your other cheek.”  There is already too much invective and anger out there.  Let’s not add to it.  In addition, by taking the high road one avoids allowing those opposed to one’s position from going on the “ad hominum.”  For example, when an American bishop responded with a somewhat sarcastic column of his own to an editorial in America magazine that criticized the USCCB for its position on the HHS mandate, the response was immediate but not in the way he hoped.  Instead of responding to the very valid points he raised, critics almost unanimously chastised him for the tone of his response with comments like, “Isn’t it terrible that a bishop would respond with sarcasm.”

When you are in the midst of any task, ask yourself, “Is what I am doing building up or tearing down?”  In asking this question I think of St. Paul’s admonition in Ephesians to “say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them.” Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t speak the truth to evil or sin.  Jesus himself was quite outspoken in his attacks on hypocrisy and sin.  In that sense we are building up by tearing down, when we tear down evil and replace it with the good.  But my admonition is more to avoid at all times the “attack ad” mentality that sadly permeates much of our public discourse today.  One way in which this plays out positively is trying to communicate as much as we can what it is we are “for” rather than what we are “against.”

I’d encourage everyone who wades into the blogosphere, or who spends a lot of time splashing around the puddles of social media, to read his entire homily.  There’s wisdom there.  And sage advice for all of us.  There’s nothing Satan enjoys more than a good nasty brawl among faithful Catholics, where blood is spilled and teeth are chipped and everyone’s favorite accessories are pitchforks and torches.  Face it: that sort of atmosphere makes him feel right at home.

Let’s try not to give him that satisfaction.

UPDATE:  You’ll want to read what The Anchoress has to say about all this—and it’s really quite good.  Suffice it to say, she doesn’t have warm and fuzzy feelings for Facebook.

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