In both Old and New Testaments, the word “fool” comes up a lot, an aspersion that in our time occasions long, arduous rebuttals that tend toward the ugly. If Jesus called his critics a brood of vipers who influenced others to be sons of hell, is that how I should respond to the tea party? He added that they were blind guides given to greed and self-indulgence, not to mention unclean outside and rotten inside. This makes it hard to fault people who talk like that on the floor of Congress.
He also said they lacked the love of God in their hearts but he didn’t even give Judas the benefit of a friendly “intervention”: He just called him a devil. Amen and amen. And keep in mind that he routed the cashiers’ tables and drove everyone, including their cattle, out of the temple. Surprisingly, he was not faulted for creating such a scene — his critics just wanted to know what gave him the “authority” to do so.
With a model like that, it’s no wonder that St. Paul got the habit real quick: He said the Christians in Galatia were liars, and called Corinithian church leaders false apostles and deceitful masqueraders. Talk about tough love.
Happily the Good Book has higher points, calling on us to avoid unwholesome talk; to be quick to listen and slow to speak; to be rid of anger, rage and malice; and to do all things that lead to peace and mutual encouragement — something urged by mediators and consultants today in hopes of restoring civil dialogue, but it is, after all, nothing new.
So better relations with others is not really beyond us; we’ve just forgotten how or we ignore it or are just plain no good at it anymore.