Venom and Bile, Salt and Light

Yesterday afternoon, Yahoo! News posted an update on Facebook saying that several Federal buildings were under lockdown after shots were fired in the vicinity of the Capitol. We know more now than we did then. Miriam Carey, a dental hygienist from Stamford, Connecticut, had apparently driven to Washington with her one-year-old daughter Erica because of delusions that the president was trying to contact her. After a high-speed chase through the streets of the city, she was shot and killed by a Capitol police officer. A Secret Service agent and a Capitol police officer were injured in the incident. Miriam leaves behind a grieving mother, shocked friends, and a little girl who will grow up not being able to remember her mommy. One life ended, and dozens more irrevocably changed.

When I saw the post pop up in my news feed, most of those details were unknown. This was “breaking news,” after all. I clicked the button to see the comments, thinking that perhaps someone in the area had posted more details. When I clicked the comments button, there were 38 comments. None of them provided more information. All were what I have come to call “venom and bile,” people spewing nasty rants about guns, the Second Amendment, the government shutdown, and anyone who disagreed with their position, with several predicting that these were “the first shots in the revolution.” Perhaps the most heartbreaking part is that not one of the comments expressed any concern for the wellbeing of anyone involved.

After this week of news about the government shutdown, the Affordable Care Act, and Americans’ reactions to both, I’ve had my fill of venom and bile, thank you very much. I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of the nastiness, the “gotcha” comments, the snark and the sarcasm. I’ve had enough of people using tragedies like this one as launching pads for attacks on others. I’ve had enough of the emotional hangover that comes from a week of reading rants on Facebook, and I recognize that the rants I sort of agree with are just as toxic as the rants I disagree with. And I recognize that I have contributed to the problem.

Jesus called his followers to be the salt of the earth and light for the world. Salt and light. Two ubiquitous items without which life is impossible. Jesus also said to his disciples,

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love. For one another. Not snark for one another. Not sarcasm for one another, or contempt for one another. Not bile and venom for one another. Love for one another.

I’m not naively suggesting that we all forget our differences, hold hands around some giant campfire and sing Kum Bah Ya. (On second thought, maybe we should try that.) I am suggesting, though, that we be salt and light for the world. That we as Christians take Jesus seriously and break our addiction to snark, sarcasm, venom and bile. That we try, to the very limits of our abilities, to have love for one another, and that we pray like crazy that God would stretch those limits. And I’m suggesting that we be salt of the earth and light for the world, that we set the example in love and respect for those around us, especially those with whom we disagree. Because Jesus loves them, too.


Lord Jesus, break our hearts of stone, set a watch over our lips, and unstop our ears. Help us to be salt and light, and stretch the limits of our love to match the limitlessness of yours. Amen

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