I have a confession: I'm a secret listener of Rush Limbaugh.
I know, it's hard to believe that someone who spouts such liberal thoughts actually tunes in her radio to the man who calls himself "...America's Anchorman... America's Truth Detector; the Doctor of Democracy; the Most Dangerous Man in America; the All-Knowing, All-Sensing, All-Everything Maha Rushie; defender of motherhood, protector of fatherhood and an all-around good guy." There's a simple reason for this: I truly believe it's important to know what the people I disagree with are saying. If we willfully blind ourselves to opposing points of view we run two obvious - and perhaps other, less-obvious - risks.
The first risk is that of being surprised by information that we may not glean from mass media (every outlet has some kind of bias these days). The second risk is that of indulging in surrounding ourselves only with like-minded people and news, thereby losing opportunities to learn to defend our own positions, or even to learn something that may change our minds.
So now that I have defended myself for indulging what appears to be aberrant behavior, I'd like to turn to the concept of sacrifice.
Today, Good Friday, is the most solemn day in the Christian year. It is the day that Christians observe the most stunning act of sacrifice known to mankind. The day that a teacher, a good man, the one many believe to have been God Incarnate, willingly gave up his life for the redemption of mankind. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13 KJV)
Jesus taught by example the concept of sacrifice and sacrifical love, even for those we do not know, even for those who may persecute us, condemn us, even kill us. And that message was so strong, so believable, that even today we have people whom we call martyrs, people who will give their livelihood and their lives for causes and people that provide no benefit to them, but who believe in the concept of the greater good.
So what connection does Rush Limbaugh have with sacrifice? Well, on a recent weekday Mr. Limbaugh railed against sacrifice while promoting self-interest. As I listened, I was struck by how many people on the Far Right, many who call themselves "Christians," subscribe to the concept of sacrifice as an undesirable action. To be fair, Limbaugh approves what he calls "sacrifice" when it's performed for the benefit of our children and families; but to sacrifice so that others not related to us may benefit is derided as "...cheating them out of their own self-interest."
Perhaps the following quote, lifted directly from Limbaugh's own transcript of his program, will better illustrate how he feels:
"Everybody wins when everybody's acting in self-interest. Selfishness is a different thing. Self-interest is excellence; self-interest is what's desired; self-interest is what makes people want raises; self-interest is what makes people want their families to be secure; self-interest is what makes parents want their kids to be properly educated; self-interest is what propels the United States military to victory. Not sacrifice. Not the concept of sacrifice. Sacrifice is giving something to somebody you don't know to make yourself feel altruistic. You're not sacrificing. It doesn't make you great. But giving something to your family because you provided it for them, that is good. But if you run around just giving people who do nothing for you, who are just worthless, don't have anything to do with you, you're cheating them out of their own self-interest."
And so, Rush Limbaugh dismisses the entire meaning of Holy Week and Easter, reducing not only Jesus' sacrifice, but the sacrifice of countless others - recognized martyrs, police officers, firefighters, and just plain people, who gave their lives so that others - often unknown to them - might live, or be safe, or share in the promise of this life.
On this Good Friday, 2009, and on all the days and years to follow, I hope I am never too self-important to subscribe to the belief that only me and mine are deserving of what I am able to give. And I am ever-thankful to those who have sacrificed on the battlefield, in the Civil Rights movement, for women's rights and older Americans' rights, in labor struggles, and in countless other ways, so that I - and you - might have a better life.