Bumper Stickers, T-shirts, and Mean Tweets

It comes as no surprise to me, but Donald Trump has once again gone too far with nasty tweets, this time about the co-hosts of Morning Joe. His comments, which would have earned a third grader a week of detention, went far beneath the dignity of the office of President of the United States. To say I am disturbed and disgusted would be an understatement.

What disturbs me more is that Trump’s staff defended him.

A number of politicians have called him to task for his comments, but Trump will not likely face any consequence of note.

Whatever happened to the return to civility that was promised just two weeks ago after the shooting of people practicing for an upcoming baseball game among Congressmen? It lasted about a day before both sides were once again sniping at each other.

The bigger question is where did all this meanness come from? It’s been around for a long time. (Just ask any woman who survived 8th grade, and she will tell you all about the mean girl culture at her school. I remember it, and I was in the 8th grade way back in the 1960s.)

A few years ago, I was sitting in my car at a stoplight downtown in our very conservative, Republican town. I had just pasted an “Obama-Biden” bumper sticker on my car. Someone behind me honked. I looked in the rear view mirror, expecting to see a negative look or impolite gesture. To my surprise and delight, I saw a good friend giving me the thumbs up sign. We have laughed about that from time to time. It’s hard to live in a community whose politics don’t match your own. You have to laugh about it now and again.

For years, people have worn their politics, religion, and world outlook on their cars and  T-shirts. While some of the slogans they display are cute or inane, they often point to a latent meanness; the printed words often relay things the wearer or driver might not say to your face, but the sentiment is hard to miss.

On an evening walk through my neighborhood one day, I passed a pickup with a tailgate full of hateful, chilling slogans that announced the owner carried weapons and would not hesitate to use them at the slightest provocation. I shivered as I walked by. I cannot bring myself to repeat those slogans here.

Conservatives are not alone in their meanness. Progressives and liberals say their share of things that are none too nice.

Bullying and incivility have always been with us. It seems more prominent in this age of social media and instant news. I wish I knew how to make it go away. I want people to be nice to each other.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to “do to others what you would have them do to you…” (Matthew 7:12)  We would do well to remember and act upon His instruction. It would solve a lot of the world’s problems.

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What Did Jesus Say?

Now and then I will see a  Facebook post by a modern-day Pharisee who claims “Jesus said this,” or “Jesus said that”, without including the Scripture reference. I’ve been a student of the Bible for forty years, but my response is often, “Really? I don’t remember Him saying that.”

I’ll search the Gospels for the reference. Sometimes the quotation has been cherry-picked out of context, sometimes misquoted. Other times, the quote is just plain revisionist scripture.

These occasions led me to want to better educate myself about what Jesus actually said. Thinking a red-letter edition of the Bible would be helpful, I looked through the several translations and editions we had at home. I found no suitable Bible to use. The only red-letter edition on hand was a small, King James gift Bible I had received as a child. The print was way too small for my 67-year-old eyes. Besides, King James language, although poetic and beautiful, can no longer be considered the vernacular. I needed something I could read and understand.

I went Bible shopping. I was overwhelmed by the wide range of choices, none of which was within my budget. There were large tomes with large print and space for taking notes, small Bibles with too-small print, myriad translations, even a few with the words of Jesus in red.

I also found something called journaling Bibles. These are intended for those who do art work in their Bibles in response to Scripture. Margins are ample, paper is sturdy; some even include drawings to be colored. (I consulted Pinterest. Apparently Bible journaling is quite a fad. It is telling that I found a greater variety of these in the craft store than in the book store, artfully displayed next to specialty “Bible journaling markers” and lettering templates. Someone is making a green killing on these.)

I threw up my hands in frustration and did not buy a new Bible that day. Instead, I bought a pink Bible highlighter–the kind that is erasable and will not bleed through thin paper. I would make my own red-letter edition.

The plan? Using my favorite study Bible, I would read the Gospels as an Advent discipline. As I read, I would highlight Jesus’ words with pink. I am not the most consistent, disciplined student. I have made progress, but Advent was over months ago. Here it is June, and I’ve reached the 16th chapter of Luke. That speaks to my humanness, I suppose.

Not having a deadline to finish has its advantages. I’ve been able to go at my own pace, thinking about what I read. Reading the Christmas story right after Easter gave me a new perspective. I read it not as a routine ritual, but as something to consider in relation to the Resurrection.

The highlighter has also slowed me down. I have focused on Jesus’ words. Even His shortest utterances have a power I had not before realized.

I’m glad I undertook this red-letter project. It continues to teach me much.

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