If you live in one of the 11 states where a Senate race is closely contested, you may be thinking of leaving home until after the November election. One study found that voters are seeing an attack on a candidate in 3 of every 4 Senate ads. For example:
A Republican candidate claimed that his opponent "funded organizations linked to terrorists." The organization, Points of Light Foundation, was founded by George H. W. Bush and has given nothing to groups the U.S. government considers to be terrorists. A Democratic candidate accused his opponent of complicity in an attack that murdered a couple and raped their daughter. The victims' family was so offended by the ad's distortions that they demanded it be removed from the air.
Other races aren't better. For instance, 80 percent of ads in the Connecticut governor's race have been negative. One television viewer says, "We've learned to use the mute. It's a very important button. We just can't wait for election day because then the ads will be over." Most of us feel the same way.
Philosopher Joseph de Maistre observed that in a democracy, people get the leaders they deserve. And apparently the politics as well. Is the vitriol in our campaigns reflective of our culture?
Michael Moore, tweeting his response to Thomas Eric Duncan's death: "If only the Liberian man w/Ebola in Texas had told the hospital he wanted an abortion. They would have gone all Pro-Life on him." Bloomberg recently headlined, "Republicans Pave Way to All-White Future." It turns out they were talking about immigration reform, not racism, but you might not know it from their headline. Conservatives can misrepresent the news as well. Breitbart claims: "Obama golfs for 4 hours, 40 minutes on Saturday, then holds nighttime Ebola meeting—which new Ebola czar skips!" The article nowhere mentions that Ron Klain does not begin as Ebola response coordinator until tomorrow.
In a culture as divided and divisive as ours, acts of kindness and mercy stand out. Christopher Bazar was convicted of manslaughter three years ago in the death of his best friend. When he was released from jail last week, the parents of his victim were there to meet him. He will move in with the victim's mother, while the victim's father has given him a roofing job with his construction company. "It's the end of a long road and the beginning of a new one," Bazar said. "It's a good day. It's a great day."
Michelle Knight, one of three women kidnapped and abused by Ariel Castro for more than a decade, told an audience Sunday night that she has forgiven him. She explains: "The situation he put me in didn't define me. I choose to live a meaningful life."
You and I can't do much about the negative ads we must endure for another two weeks. But we can do something about our response to the anger they reflect. Right now, ask the Holy Spirit to take control of your mind and heart. Ask him to manifest his "fruit" in your life today: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). Stand for truth, but do so in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Others will wonder why you are so different, and may want what you have. And that will be the best news of all.