A Call for Civil Discourse

Three elderly men sitting on a park bench, the middle man holding an umbrella, all engaged in a discussion

Incendiary rhetoric has become the status quo in America and we’re beginning to see the consequences.

  • He’s “a thin-skinned, racist, sexist bully” (Elizabeth Warren, Sen. D-Mass. referring to the President).
  • Republicans are all “motivated by racism” (Steve Israel, of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee).
  • Republicans are “extortionists and hostage-takers” (Chuck Schumer, when republicans opposed Obamacare).
  • They are “terrorists” (Senior White House Advisor under Obama, Dan Pfeiffer).
  • “Saboteurs” (Obama)
  • The “anarchists have taken control.” (Harry Reid when the Republicans took the majority in the Senate).
  • Republicans are “squealing political pigs” (Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill).
  • “Arsonists” who are waging “war on women” (Nancy Pelosi).
  • A “wife-beater” (Debbie Wasserman Schultz referring to republican Governor Scott Walker).
  • “Deplorables … racists, sexists, homophobic, Islamaphobic” (Hillary Clinton referring to Trump supporters).
  • “Taliban” and “callous bigoted tools” (Representative Joe Garcia referring to Republicans).

Not to mention the innumerable Hollywood figures who have referred to Republicans as bigots, misogynists, ignorant, “President Cheetoh,” sexists, racists, homophobic, et.al. ad infinitum.

But the street goes both ways, and I would be remiss to not mention Republican name-calling against Democrats, not the least of which has come from President Donald Trump himself (lightweight, loser, moron, dummy, overrated, stupid, thug, etc.).

But the shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (Republican) this week should cause us all to press the pause button and rethink where we are headed as a nation.

A foundation of civilized cultures has always been respect for “civil discourse.” As the right hand is to the left, civil discourse is to democracy. Without it, we are just one step away from violence.

And that’s what we saw this week with the shooting of Scalise, a police officer, a congressional staffer, and a lobbyist.

Politicians, media leaders, protest organizers, and community organizers need to understand that words have consequences. They may think they are using hyperbole, but some of their constituents are taking their words literally. If indeed republicans are all these things, then they deserve to die (as illustrated by the horrific attempt at humor by Kathy Griffin who posed with a blood-soaked replica of Trump’s head).

It’s time to tone down the rhetoric and engage in civil discourse by sticking to debating policy and issues rather than resorting to inflammatory rhetoric.

One of the oldest known fallacies of logical argument is “ad hominem.” It is an attempt to rebut an argument by attacking the person (rather than the merits of the argument itself) and for centuries has been recognized by logicians as an illegitimate argument. In reality, the use of ad hominem demonstrates the weakness of the user’s argument.

We live in a fallen world, a world that is like a river with a powerful current that is unceasingly pushing us toward savagery. But the resurrection of Christ inaugurated another even more powerful current, the current of a new creation. Understanding this, the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians lays out several types of behavior that people should embrace as they allow this new current to take hold of their lives. Among other things he writes:

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6, ESV).

Our country seriously needs to hear this message. These are perilous times. But the transformation starts with each one of us making a commitment to civil discourse as the means of resolving our differences.

provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.

Photo by FotoRC. Photo available at Morguefile under the Morguefile license. Image modified for size and space.

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