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Local View: Choose love, decency over division

Bishop Thomas Aitken

I lament the use of cruel, degrading, and violent language, which we've become accustomed to, from our leaders on down. There is no doubt in my mind that a culture of hateful and violent verbiage directed at other people, allowed to permeate our lives, leads to violent behavior. And so we have witnessed it.

But hurtful words do not need to win the day. What is needed to combat this is for each of us to stand up and to say, "Enough is enough!" In the home, at the coffee shop, at school, at work, and elsewhere, we can lift up respectful ways of talking about those we disagree with. This is not only possible, it is not difficult to do.

We just held a "Respectful Conversations" event in northern Minnesota where 60 people came to learn about, discuss, and even disagree on divisive social issues — respectfully and with empathy for the other. The end result was life-giving rather than furthering hate and division.

People are not merely genes with appetites. We are precious, endowed with dignity by our creator and granted the gift of love that seeks the benefit of our neighbor. And this kind of love is not mushy or sentimental; it is a power that brings ethical courage, transformation, and renewed joy to our lives.

We have choices. We can step out courageously and share goodness or we can bottle up until it dies. But it is there to be used, for the good of all.

Please use the lens of love and decency for all people, no exceptions, when stepping into the voting booth Tuesday. Let that lens help you make decisions on who might best serve the public good.

Thomas M. Aitken of Duluth is bishop of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.