Hot on HuffPost:

See More Stories

Religious Right Meets Religious Left: Two Evangelical Christians Urge Civility

3 years ago
  0 Comments Say Something  »
Text Size
Two icons of the Christian right and Christian left, Chuck Colson and Jim Wallis, have penned a joint statement that calls on the nation to "re-examine the tone and character of our public debate" in the wake of the Tucson shootings and says that believers "should lead by example."

Colson, a political conservative who became active in prison ministry after doing jail time for crimes related to his work in the Nixon White House, and Wallis, who has emerged as a leader of the so-called Religious left, write that "no act of incivility can be blamed for the profoundly evil shooting" of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others, six of whom died.

But they say that "we should not lose this moment for moral reflection and renewal. We must re-examine the tone and character of our public debate, because solving the enormous problems we face as a nation will require that we work for a more civil public square."

"This tragedy reminds us that we always have a choice to appeal to our 'better angels' or our worst," they write at the website of Christianity Today, a leading evangelical magazine. "We believe that the faith community should lead by example and model the behavior that is informed by our biblical teachings -- behavior that also essential to the survival of democracy."

"God," they say, "is neither a Democrat nor a Republican."

The manifesto is the latest reaction to the shootings in Arizona and the poisonous climate of rhetoric that preceded the massacre and the equally bitter recriminations that followed. Religiously inflected language has been especially loaded, critics say.

Civility is expected to be a watchword of President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday evening, and House Republican leaders have sought to tamp down some of their more pugnacious language in the aftermath of the shootings by a gunman police believe to be Jared Lee Loughner, a 22-year-old from Tucson.

Colson and Wallis pitch their essay as a kind of catechism for civil discourse that they say could apply -- and appeal -- to both secular and religious Americans.

The pair stress that they are not papering over their own differences or compromising their beliefs, and they say that no one need undermine their principles to foster an environment of greater comity.

Rather, they argue that protagonists in the public square should maintain their deepest convictions but should be open to dialogue and should always respect their opponent and be careful in their use of language in heated debates.

"Conviction is not inconsistent with civility, which is far deeper than political niceness, indifference, or weakness," they write, and they cite the example Martin Luther King Jr., who "persisted in the non-violent treatment of his adversaries, hoping to win them over rather than to win over them."

"Arrogance and boasting are indeed sins, and violent language can create a poisonous and dangerous public atmosphere. We must take care to not paint our political adversaries as our mortal enemies."

A final characteristic of constructive public discourse, they say, is humility. "In other words, when it comes to policies and politics, we could be wrong," they say.

Their appeal for "both truth and civility" echoes Obama's plea in his remarks at the Tucson memorial service for "a more civil and honest public discourse."

But arguments over what is true and what is false are at the heart of many of the ugliest differences in the public square today.

Moreover, Colson and Wallis announce at the top of their essay that while they are at "opposite poles politically and often differ with each other," they are "both evangelical Christians who believe that our treatment of the poor, weak, and most vulnerable is how a society is best biblically measured."

That sounds nice, but not everyone shares those goals, which could mean that some big disputes would be irreconcilable, except at the ballot box.

Our New Approach to Comments

In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum Comment Moderation Enabled. Your comment will appear after it is cleared by an editor.

26 Comments

Filter by:
americandoo

"AMERI-CAN-DO PARTY"

What if;

Someone created a New Party that would be focused on bringing the RepubliCAN &
DemOcrat Parties together ?

REpublICAN

DeMOcrAt

(Put letters together from both Parties Names above and they could
Spell: "AMERI-CAN-DO") So Why Not Work Together & Lead By Example ! ! !

TEAM UP FOR AMERICA..TEAM UP FOR OUR FUTURE GENERATION..OUR CHILDREN ARE OUR
FUTURE..OUR CHILDREN ARE WATCHING US..TIME TO;


"LEAD

BY EXAMPLE"


HOW ? ?.. By Showing Our Children..Our Future Generation that it is ok to
disagree with each other but do it in a Respectful Manner With All Americans

Best Interest In Mind & Always Use; AMERI-CAN-DO Attitude TEAM WORK Ideas That
Help To Solve Our Problems in a Positive & Respectful Manner ! !

JUST SAY YES TO; TEAM WORK.. AMERI-CAN-DO ATTITUDE, USING MUTUAL RESPECT AS OUR

GUIDELINE TO FOLLOW AT ALL TIMES ! !


We Don't Need Another Party to do
the above all We Need Is;

"THE COMMITMENT TO MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR OUR FUTURE FOR

OUR CHILDREN'S FUTURE"

"THEY ARE WATCHING HOW WE ARE DEALING WITH OUR PROBLEMS" "SO JUST
REGROUP & PLAY WELL TOGETHER"

OUR Children Don't Understand Why We Voted For THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED
STATES to lead our Country and why we all can't Work As A TEAM to solve our
problems and they don't Understand why he is not getting support from all of his

team members that are suppose to be helping him solve problems with positive
ideas and moral support.

OUR Children Don't Understand Why Adults teach them to practice Mutual Respect
when it comes to disagreements and work their differences out respectfully in a
calm

ADULT Manner then they see Adults Not Practicing what they taught them.


Respectfully, Michael V Caldwell,

PLEASE THINK ABOUT ALL OF
THE ABOVE BECAUSE IT IS TRUE, JUST ASK A CHILD..

(Always Striving To Be Part Of The Solution, Using Respect & Ameri-Can-Do
Attitude As My Guidelines To Follow)

January 25 2011 at 10:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
alfrdaturner

The first and big mistake Christians make is to believe that they can change the course of the world by "getting into politicks". From the days of the Holy Roman Empire to the present time powerful men have tried to use the force of the Military and the Faith of the Church to create a nation of Holy People. This resulted in rhe"Holu Natiom" of the Roman Empire" That was controled by the Catholic Church with the Pope issung "Holy Otders" under rhe seal of the Church and using the force of the military to enforce them.
The seperation of Church and State became the force thast made the USA a great Nation.

January 25 2011 at 10:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ric

It is to little and too late. But whenever there is a meeting of minds there is hope. I see opinions suggesting schools do something teaching ethics, logic, etc., as a solution, fine. However, it needs to come into our homes where real learning begins. It doesn't do much good if our children learn ethics, logic at school only to be shown that at home they do not count. Of course as always, all of this is simply my humble opinion.

January 25 2011 at 5:01 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Ric's comment
Cindy

You're right that learning ethics and logic should start at home but that's not going to happen in this lifetime. Teaching it in school will at least give the kids something to think about....it's better than nothing!!

January 25 2011 at 5:59 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bgq5983

Teaching ethics? I guess the Church and parents have given up and are passing yet another responsibility onto our schools.

January 26 2011 at 11:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dcarambula

Aside from "the Martins" thin-skinned bloviating and clearly taking things out of context . too believe most Americans aren't that sharp about world history, culture or for that matter, linguistic differences. Most of us are very Amero-centric, as I've observed when traveling abroad, although many of those who travel abroad are more interested and aware of other cultures than the bulk of Americans who seem to think Las Vegas is high American culture. Back in the 80's Republican strategists met with Evangelical leaders, offering to give them a voice in government if the Evangelicals would actively help the GOP win majorities in the House, Senate and Oval Office. That was the beginning of active partisan preaching from the pulpit. Rev. Wallis was at that convention, and has spoken actively about the religious "right" hijacking Protestant Christianity. Christian is as Christian does, and Wallis seems worthy to me.

January 25 2011 at 1:29 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
The Martin's

It would be nice if Mr. Wallis would practice what he preaches! In an interview, not long ago, he said that Americans don't know the difference between an Austrailian accent and a British accent and that Americans assume that anyone with a British accent is intellegent! Well, Mr. Wallis, I'm an American and I think your sarcastic and degrading remarks weren't half as funny as you did!How about some respect for the American people Mr. Wallis.

January 25 2011 at 12:27 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to The Martin's's comment
Richelle

For context: In the interview Mr. Wallis was retelling a light-hearted statement he made during a discussion with Tony Blair regarding the Iraq war. He wasn't making any sarcastic or degrading remarks about Americans or about America. I hardly see that as any reason to try to paint the man as anti-American.

January 25 2011 at 1:52 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
Richelle

Perhaps we should start looking into requiring courses like logic and ethics in high school and taking advantage of opportunities to teach our children how to respectfully engage in discussions with others who they may disagree with. When you spend the first part of your life in an ideological bubble your opinions about the world become so dear to you that you feel as though they define you. Any difference in opinion can then seem like a personal attack. We all need to realize that nobody has all the answers and that a lot of times there is no simple answer. We also need to realize that there are often multiple paths to the same solution. Many times the people who we disagree with want the same things we do, they just have a different idea of how to get there. That doesn't necessarily make them stupid or anti-American. If we can work toward teaching our children these things and how to work together and to truly respect other human beings maybe they can become better people than we are. Then maybe when a few of them enter politics when they grow up they can work TOGETHER to restore some integrity to our government and make it one that works FOR THE PEOPLE and not one dominated by those who are more concerned with working only for those who agree with them.

January 25 2011 at 11:20 AM Report abuse +14 rate up rate down Reply
hjaffeesq

It appears that the purported shooter was a mentally challenged drug abusing atheist who had ties to Nazi's. He was expelled from a Community College and not accepted into the Army. Can you tell me what this fools actions had to do with Civil Discourse or the lack thereof. The fact is that lack of Civil Discourse dates back many years in this country. From Andrew Jackson's being labeled a bigamist to charges against Nixon and Clinton being thieves and scoundrals. Can it be that the party on the defensive wants the rhetoric tone down so that they can survive an enraged electorate?

January 25 2011 at 10:38 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to hjaffeesq's comment
Hi Big Pappa

Outstanding observation Hjaffeesq!
Yes...The Left operates on 4 primal ethics...SURVIVAL ("I must survive"), VICTIM ("I must band together against the Strong", NATURE ethics ("everything evolved into various shapes thus everything is equal...and the Strong should not bully the Weak")....vs.....UTILITARIAN ethics ("me getting what I want"). Therefore, the Left hide behind physical equality as a moral position when they feel politically Weak UNTIL they are dominant...then equality be dammed. Then, they push for everything--like Obamacare--by hook or by crook.
After the election, the Left is "weaker" so they are pushing for equality again and a "civil" discourse.

January 25 2011 at 11:38 AM Report abuse -12 rate up rate down Reply
bltcarbiz

jurks9447 just proved the "typical" finger pointing.There have been hateful words on both sides , if you truely "connecting the dots".

January 25 2011 at 9:59 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
jburks9447

All things said, to not connect the arrogant attitude of the far-right to the shootings in Tuscon is to avoid the issue and it's obviousness. Why else would it now be fashionable to tone down politics? Because that incident and many others are a direct result of the far-right sending messages of hate; it is only their way and no other. The connection is obvious.

January 25 2011 at 9:22 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to jburks9447's comment
James

I am pleased to see this statement. Unfortunately, I believe that many people do not know how to distinguish between disagreement and incivility. Part of this process must be a public education effort on how to make a strong point without personally attacking another person or how to hear disagreeing points without feeling personally diminished.

January 25 2011 at 8:17 AM Report abuse +20 rate up rate down Reply

Follow Politics Daily

  • Comics
robert-and-donna-trussell
CHAOS THEORY
Featuring political comics by Robert and Donna TrussellMore>>
  • Woman UP Video
politics daily videos
Weekly Videos
Woman Up, Politics Daily's Online Sunday ShowMore»
politics daily videos
TV Appearances
Showcasing appearances by Politics Daily staff and contributors.More>>