'HEAR YE, HEAR YE. All persons are commanded to keep silent on pain of imprisonment while the Senate of the United States is sitting for the trial of the articles of impeachment ... against William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States."
This warning, which opened each session of the Senate during the trial, may be even more imperative now that the proceedings have ended. The command is exceedingly valuable when invested with a significance far beyond that of just not making noise in the Senate chamber. It might even be a healthy constraint for resisting the temptation either to gloat in victory or bitterly mourn defeat.
A prayer given at the opening of one of the Senate sessions included both a command and a promise: "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth" (Ps. 46:10). Such silence makes room for prayer that seeks justice, forgiveness, and moral reform for all, especially the many people whose characters have been besmirched this past year.
The other day a friend and I discussed the personal attacks that haunt American politics. I had become alarmed not only by the damage already done but by its escalation. Massacres in Kosovo made graphically clear where partisan hatred can lead.
My friend uttered four words from the Lord's Prayer, "Hallowed be thy name" (Matt. 6:9). Prayer, honoring the name and nature of God, the Father-Mother, would naturally lead to honoring God's offspring.
St. James observed, "The tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing." He then concluded, "My brethren, these things ought not so to be" (3:8-10).
If taming the tongue seemed daunting in those days, it may be even more formidable amid the electronic embellishment of radio, television, and the Internet. Enhanced communication systems only heighten the necessity of turning to God for our information.
Simply hearing and repeating the words of others can make regrettable inroads into a person's own thinking. Often one's natural compassions fail; criticism creates a tumult of hatred and revenge. As we recognize the deleterious effects of concentrating needlessly on people's indiscretions, we just naturally search for, and find, more constructive thoughts.
"In the quiet sanctuary of earnest longings, we must deny sin and plead God's allness," advises the textbook of Christian Science ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, pg. 15). What's called for here is not denial as it's commonly referred to - pretending that nothing bad has happened. It is a refusal to give sin eternal consequences. Tears of repentance are sometimes needed to get beyond moral mistakes, but the recognition that God has always been All-in-all will eventually remove their influence.
At any moment, everyone has the opportunity to enter this "quiet sanctuary of earnest longings," where knowledge of God's goodness is deepened and extended. The actions of others become less engrossing, their virtues more visible. We can ask ourselves if we truly desire to perceive the good in others - even those who hold opinions contrary to ours.
Good can come from this trial of impeachment, which to many Americans has been so troubling. To accept a holy command to silence self-righteous - or cynical - reaction regarding the fairness or unfairness of its resolution is not "doing nothing." It just might be what helps the most to free us and others from imprisonment in lingering partisanship, and get on with the work of honoring God's name.
Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment. Isaiah 41:1