Civility: The First Step Toward Love

David Tuck was a Jewish boy in Poland when the Nazis invaded his homeland. He moved to the Lodz Ghetto and sandwiched two years in Auschwitz between other camps before American soldiers liberated him.
David survived five and a half years of Nazi occupation. He somehow convinced his captors that he was 15, not 10, and that he was a mechanic. He could speak German and got to work in an office where he could dig through the trash “like an animal” to retrieve his German coworker’s discarded food.
I arrived early at the local college campus where he would speak last evening and chose a seat near the front. A few minutes before the program began, David sat down in front of me. I leaned over to thank him for coming and we chatted briefly.
“People knew,” he said. “People in America knew. Hitler wrote a book called Mien Kampf and said what he wanted to do to the Jews.”
In the early 1920s, Adolf Hitler wrote his rambling, nearly nonsensical Mien Kampf and stated that “The Jew is destroying the racial base of our existence and thereby annihilating our people.” According to Hitler, the Jews were responsible for every woe Germany suffered; they were a danger to Germany’s future. Hitler demonized the Jews.
Americans are beginning to demonize each other.
Last Sunday, I attended the Life Chain. Every year on the first Sunday of October, pro-life people across America and Canada line a busy street in their communities for one hour and quietly testify to the sanctity of human life. The chain has been ongoing since 1987.
I haven’t participated in every life chain, but I’ve been to quite a few. One year, the day was especially frigid, and a nearby restaurant sent out steaming cups of coffee and hot chocolate to thaw our frozen bones. Sometimes, people drive by and give a thumbs up in support. Most often, they just drive by.
In the past, it was rare for someone to respond negatively. This year seemed different. Some still signaled their support, but several people displayed a vulgar hand gesture in protest of our stance. It wasn’t threatening, just rude.
I can’t compare an occasional obscene gesture to anything David suffered. But I can compare my Life Chain story to the account a friend posted on social media recently. A former student of mine, he ‘came out’ several years ago. His declaration did not change the respect I have for him as a person.
The story he recounted online went like this: He was walking down the street presumably minding his own business, when some people driving past yelled a slur at him and suggested he descend to the infernal regions for eternity.
He asks, “Where did all the love go in the world?”  Where, indeed?
Just like my experience at the Life Chain, my friend’s story doesn’t compare to David’s Holocaust horror. But maybe vulgar gestures and hateful words are the roots of such horror.
We’ve spent so much effort telling people to express themselves and esteem themselves that some don’t have any regard left for anyone else. I’m not pointing fingers because, while most of us have not descended to obscenity or outright rudeness, we can all be more conscious how our words, spoken and posted, affect others. We need to be able to disagree with grace.
Christian love is more than just civility. But civility is where love begins.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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