By John Pierce

Politicians and news media were frenzied yesterday following the deadly passenger train wreck in Philadelphia. There were passionate calls for cooperation, spending and competency beyond the typical legislative process or news reporting.

Something needed to be done right now — we heard repeatedly and with great passion.


Because we are all more consumed by those issues that impact us personally. The intensity was tied to the fact that the train was traveling from the political hub of Washington to the media hub of New York.

Had the train derailed between Raleigh and Charlotte or Memphis and New Orleans or Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, it would have been newsworthy but not as emotionally consuming for politicians and national media who live at one end or the other of the designated route.

This is an observation about human behavior not a judgment on those rightly shaken by this disaster. Proximity and personal experience impact our reactions — and our perspectives.

Such is the case with social issues. Positions rarely — if ever — change due to debate.

Ask anyone who has changed his or her mind about immigration, homosexuality or any number of other issues and they will mention a name, not a more-clearly stated position than the one they held earlier.

In the same way an earthquake in Nepal rattles us less than one in San Francisco, so a beloved grandchild, friend or church member’s personal story reaches places within us that well-crafted arguments could not.

Proximity matters. That which impacts us personally will get more of our attention and compassion. Such is expected and understandable.

But what if we claim that everyone is created in the image of God? Then the challenge is to better grasp how those removed from us by distance and personal experience suffer as well and deserve our attention and best care.

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