Gospel Civility and Joe Wilson’s Outburst

Gospel Civility and Joe Wilson’s Outburst September 10, 2009

I couldn’t help but see today’s reading from Morning Prayer (1 Peter 4:8-11a; Thursday of the 23rd week in Ordinary Time, Psalter Week III) in light of Rep. Joe Wilson’s memorable outburst (“You lie!”) during President’s Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress last night.

Let your love for one another be constant, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be mutually hospitable without complaining. As generous distributors of God’s manifold grace, put your gifts at the service of one another, each in the measure he [sic] has received. The one who speaks is to deliver God’s message. The one who serves is to do it with the strength provided by God. Thus, in all of you God is to be glorified through Jesus Christ.

Is that what Rep. Wilson was doing when he shouted at the President last night? (Nevermind that his outrage was apparently based on rumors that President Obama’s plan might mean undocumented workers would receive health coverage; heaven forbid that we heal the sick without concern for national boundaries.)

It seems to me that this Gospel message has been lost in the rancor over health care reform, fueled mostly by rightwing pundits and politicians. Civility and mutual respect are not just markers of our civic religion and a mature society; they are also central to Christian life.

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