Being a journalist covering Congress and national politics, I often hear from readers reacting via email to something I’ve reported, usually in positive terms but not always. Once in a while, a message comes soaked with insults and venom.
I got such an email earlier today reacting to my March 20 story in The Epoch Times reporting on criticism sparked by that news photo you probably saw of Vice President Mike Pence leading prayer in the Oval Office for the Coronavirus Task Force he heads and for the nation in its response to the coronavirus Pandemic.
“Bob” (not his real name) is evidently from New York and was extremely agitated by the headline on the story, “Trump’s National Day of Prayer Nettled Critics, but America is Still a Praying Nation.”
Bob really, intensely hates President Donald Trump: “Trump doesn’t pray. He’s not religious. He’s not compassionate. He is a self-serving lying puke, and you know it … He stands alone as a vile and pernicious liar. Too many big dumb Americans fall for it, like you.”
And Bob thinks people who pray are idiots: “Keep your religiosity and praying to yourselves. You embarrass an ever growing number of us conscientious, Golden Rule humans that don’t believe in man-made religions.”
Why do I share this with you? If you have ever answered the phones in any congressional office, you have more than likely experienced similar vitriol directed against your boss, or Congress or the President or “bureaucrats,” or some other official or part of the government.
Even if you don’t work on the Hill, merely expressing an opinion in any public forum these days can get you in hot water with somebody. Unfortunately, it comes no matter which party happens to be in control. There are angry, hate-ridden folks across the political spectrum.
Reading this email today, I was reminded that Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” For that reminder, I thank the Holy Spirit.
He’s why today’s angry, hateful correspondent helped me see such emotional misery with compassion rather than the disgust that I confess to have felt on previous occasions. How miserable must one be that you aim it at someone you’ve never met?
Here’s how I responded to Bob: “Well, as Voltaire is reputed to have said, ‘I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ And I will pray for your well-being in this Pandemic that is hitting New York so hard. Stay safe!”
Somewhat to my surprise, in reply, Bob did not tell me to stuff my prayers for him where the sun don’t shine, he simply encouraged me “to keep reading Voltaire.” To be honest, I’ve had quite enough of Voltaire, but I really am praying for Bob.
That’s no virtue signaling because, trust me, such praying doesn’t make me “better” than Bob. But it definitely blesses me — and who knows, maybe someday him as well — consciously to choose to seek the good for someone who isn’t exactly a fan, especially while practicing a profession in which, let’s face it, big egos are commonplace, a flaw from which I am definitely not exempted.
So, next time you answer a call at the office and get a “Bob,” don’t get upset, hear them out, then pray for them. We could change the world for the better if we all did that, you know.
Oh, and pray that we can all return to our offices on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, and get back to normal as soon as possible. That will improve everybody’s mood!