Dear President Trump:
Today’s Daily Lectionary readings are about bad communication.
God says of the people: “every neighbor goes around like a slanderer. They all deceive their neighbors, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongues to speak lies.” (Jeremiah 9:4-5) The psalmist complains of his adversaries: “For there is no truth in their mouths; their hearts are destruction; their throats are open graves; they flatter with their tongues.” (Psalm 5:9) In the Gospel reading, Jesus declares: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” But the religious leaders derisively dismiss his words as invalid. (John 8:12-13)
Mr. President, these same words sound like they could be lifted out of today’s news – slander, deceit and lies. Indeed, we have a crisis of communication in this country. We refuse to talk respectfully with those who have different political or religious views than our own.
Too often, instead of doing the hard work of listening deeply, we isolate ourselves in face-to-face and social media communities that reinforce our own views. We embellish our own truth while diminishing or even demonizing the perspective of those with whom we disagree.
Will you lead by example in demonstrating the humility to listen to those who see things differently than you? And with the language and tone you use when describing your critics? May I suggest that for every rally like the one in Louisville this week, you do two town hall meetings where you engage in serious conversation with your critics and the unconvinced? It is easy enough to rally those who voted for you. But you are President of all the people in this divided nation.
Editor and writer Susan L. Taylor has astutely noted, “In every crisis there is a message. Crises are nature’s way of forcing change — breaking down old structures, shaking loose negative habits so that something new and better can take their place.”
Our words and actions can further worsen our national communication crisis or help to pave the way to something new and better. Which will it be? We all have a choice.
J. Daryl Byler