“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle… .” So begins the Bible story of David conquering not only the Ammonites but also Uriah’s wife Bathsheba.

Kings get what they want because they think they deserve whatever they desire. Might ignores right, and many are wronged in the process.

Every fourth spring is the time would-be presidents go out to battle. And the people are caught in the mean crossfire of means being justified by ambitious ends. The rhetoric is soul-slaying. We’ll worry about ennoblement after the enthronement.

Marilynn Robinson, in her recent book, The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought, offers this eloquent plea about our society in general:

“I want to overhear passionate arguments about what we are and what we are doing and what we ought to do. I want to feel that art is an utterance made in good faith by one human being to another. I want to believe there are geniuses scheming to astonish the rest of us, just for the pleasure of it. I miss civilization, and I want it back.”

“Dirty politics” need not be a redundancy. I want to believe that politics as well as art may yield utterances made in good faith by one human being to another. I want to hear passionate argument under the tent of common civility.

I want to know why public schools in America’s cities can’t work without vouchers and choice. Should inner city minority parents have to follow white flight out of their communities to find a good education for their children?

Why do we salivate over charitable choice options for social programs? Will we finally break cycles of poverty and addictions if we put churches in charge, or are we looking for tax breaks at the expense of those who need the break now more than ever? Check your record of charitable giving before answering.

We content ourselves these days with slinging shibboleths at one another. “He’s a waffler on abortion!” “He hates Catholics!” “He doesn’t care about the poor!” “He’s lying about not lying!”

This is sloppy, insulting and dishonest. Politicians should know better than to assume that nobody knows better or wants better.

Positions on matters that matter are never summarized in sound bites. And if they are, they are doubtless doubtable positions. We ought to strive for simplicity of solutions without the simplistic shortcuts of slander. To do otherwise is to opt for the power of advantage over the power of love.

We must put away all falsehood, the Apostle Paul said (Eph. 4:25), and speak the truth to our neighbor.

It wouldn’t hurt if we were astonished once in awhile.