My wife and I are walkers. Most evenings we go out for a 3-4 mile walk. Many nights we almost die. We live in a high density suburb with lots of traffic. We are always crossing the street somewhere. We work very hard to only use cross walks and obey signals, yet virtually every evening there is a near miss. Most of the time the cars keep moving as if we are non-existent. The “nice” ones will wave and smile as if it is somehow a blessing from them that they even notice they almost ran us over. I find that wave most disconcerting.
No one says “excuse me” or “I’m sorry” anymore. Oh no, that might violate their precious sense of self-worth and well-being. Apparently the best they can do is muster acknowledgement that someone outside their immediate frame of reference exists. Sunday I wrote about vulgarity. This behavior is another sign of it. Among the things defining vulgarity is a lack of charm. Certainly the simple graces of life, “excuse me” or “I’m sorry,” would count as charm. On Sunday I said this vulgarity was “the single most visible evidence of the decreasing influence of Christianity in the public sphere.”
But I also think it is the key to re-evangelizing the nation.
The graphic below showed up on my Facebook feed the other day. I run a risk showing it. The so-called “worship wars” that roil through congregations all over the country are not a controversy that I want to get into in this venue. But this really makes a broader point
As Christians we are called to be distinct – and I can think of nothing more distinctive in our current state of affairs that the simple little graces of life. Maybe the night club and worship service do look alike on the surface, but if the people at the worship serve are genuinely charming and graceful, it will be quite distinctive. If people act like they are in the night club, then we have a problem. Trust me, people notice. I have seen the eyes brighten on store clerks by simply ending the transaction with “Have a great day.”
A few weeks ago I was the guilty party in a crosswalk near-miss. There was too much traffic and no place for me to pull over, so I had to keep going or pile offense on top of offense. But two days later I spied the guy at the grocery story. I walked up to him and told him I owed him an apology. He was genuinely moved. Yeah, I had to eat a piece of humble pie, but it came with a glorious palate cleanser.
Think about it, that post-near-miss wave is a sign of weakness. It is from someone so afraid of being wrong that they dare not consider the possibility. Everybody is wrong sometimes. Admitting it, learning from it, is not a weakness.
This election matters a lot. I am more than a little grateful that it has finally begun. But if we really want to “win back the nation,” it is not going to happen in the ballot box. It is going to happen in our daily interactions and in the debates leading up to the ballot box. The less vulgar, the more charming and graceful we are, the more we inch the nation back towards its former greatness.