Posts Tagged debate

Christians Must Return to Civility in U.S. Politics – Roger Olson –

Christians Must Return to Civility in U.S. Politics | Roger Olson, Civility, Presidential Election, Speech, Social Media

This culture of disrespect and even hostility has filtered into our churches and among Christians and we need to call each other out about it, Olson writes.

Never in my lifetime have I experienced the kind of harsh rhetoric being thrown around between and among equally devout Christians over political differences of opinion.

Much of it happens on Facebook. Christians there (and elsewhere) are using ridicule, for example, not only to promote their own political preferences but also to demean and insult those who disagree with them.

This is happening increasingly from both “sides” of the political spectrum.

Seemingly it isn’t enough to express and defend one’s political beliefs; now many educated, normally civil and respectful Christians are going out of their way to offend even friends who disagree with them.

I have no objection to anyone, including Christians, having strong political opinions. But traditionally there has been a line we respect and do not cross.

We hold, express and defend our opinions but stop short of ridiculing those who disagree with us.

And we stop short of declaring their Christian faith as defective or even at stake if they disagree with us.

There can come a time when a Christian must say something like, “In my considered opinion, based on my understanding of the way of Jesus Christ, that candidate is not Christian.”

But that does not say everyone who happens to support him or her is not a Christian. That is a line we should not cross.

I have seen Christians whom I respect and like use Facebook not only to express support for or opposition to a candidate and public policies but also to ridicule and demean everyone who disagrees with them. Christian friendships are being broken and crushed in this way.

The overall lack of civility in politics is seeping into Christian communities and friendships.

I hear some of my students saying, “I can’t even talk with my family or some friends about politics because it leads directly to rants and even insults.”

I tried to watch a political “debate” between leading candidates for a political party’s nomination for candidacy for the office of president of the United States.

These should be men (they all happened to be men) who embody civility and reasonable disagreement.

Instead, as I watched and listened, they fell into loud arguing and accusing, shouting over each other and totally ignoring the format of the debate and the moderators.

Then I attempted to watch a national news network program in which two anchors queried representatives of the candidates’ campaigns.

Both the anchors and the guests fell into interrupting each other so often that it was impossible to follow the conversation.

It devolved from a conversation into a shouting match with the news anchors participating and interrupting each other.

What really disturbs me is that people of genuine, heartfelt faith in Jesus Christ are joining the fray.

I remember the 1960 campaign between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Many conservative Protestants were more than worried about the “specter” of a Catholic president: Would he be subservient to the pope?

One family member said many times, “If Kennedy is elected president, we’ll never have any but Catholic presidents after him.”

But she stopped short of accusing fellow Christians, friends and fellow church members who supported Kennedy of being ignorant, stupid, duped, unspiritual or secretly Catholic. So did the vast majority of Christian Nixon supporters.

There was strong Protestant opposition to Kennedy, but not the kind of venom Christians are now displaying toward fellow Christians just because of their differences of opinion about the candidates and parties.

About a year ago, I visited a large, thriving, evangelical church for its Sunday morning worship service. I had visited before but not since the new pastor arrived.

The pastor was preaching from the story of Deborah and Barak but said that he would not pronounce the name of the warrior because it is the same name as a “controversial politician.”

A ripple of laughter ran through the large congregation. I walked out because I do not believe a sermon is the place to ridicule a president or anyone, for that matter.

Growing up in the heartland of America among evangelical Christians, we believed that we should respect whoever was president of the United States even if we strongly disagreed with his policies.

My family opposed many of Kennedy’s policies and voted for Nixon in that 1960s election.

I can even remember going door to door when I was only 8 or 9 years old handing out leaflets supporting Nixon.

But when Kennedy was assassinated, we mourned just like (almost) everyone else.

He was our president even if we vehemently disagreed with some of his political views and policies.

Something has changed in America’s social climate – especially with regard to politics and government.

The atmosphere is one that encourages disrespect and even hostility – not only toward candidates and politicians but also toward friends who support the “wrong ones.”

This culture of disrespect and even hostility has filtered into our churches and among Christians and we need to call each other out about it.

Christians should hold our political opinions more lightly than we do our fellowship with friends and fellow Christians.

We should not cross the line from expressing our opinions to ridiculing or demeaning people who happen to disagree.

It seems self-evident. Yet, I suspect many will disagree and go right on using Facebook and other outlets to express not only their views but also their hostility and low opinion of those who disagree.

Roger Olson is the Foy Valentine professor of Christian theology and ethics at George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas. He is the author of numerous books, including “Against Calvinism” and “The Story of Christian Theology.” This article is edited from a longer version that first appeared on his blog. It is used with permission.

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No one knows how to argue anymore – BaptistNewsGlobal – By John Chandler


In a 140-character society, no one has time for a deep level of understanding.

One of my favorite childhood Monty Python skits was the “Argument Clinic.” A man goes in to purchase a proper vigorous debate, and is merely told by the attendant the opposite of whatever he says. “That’s not an argument,” the man says, “that’s just contradiction.” The reply: “No it’s not.” The customer never does get his hoped-for argument.

Alas, Monty Python foretold our present reality: no one knows how to argue anymore. Whereas Oxford debates are hours-long affairs, and ancient Socratic diatribes lasted for weeks, we don’t have time for all of that anymore. Our trend is to drop the microphone with conversation-ending trumps that indisputably prove that you don’t deserve the dignity of my response.

Hanna Rosin of The Atlantic notes that proper debate takes “intellectual vigor, nimbleness and sustained attention” which can “push both parties to a deeper level of understanding.” But in a 140-character society, no one has time for that. Instead, she rightly asserts, our cultural trend is one of debate-avoidance. Simply rule out of bounds any perspectives with which you don’t agree by leveling charges at the character of the other person. Tell them that they are something that ends with “-ist” or “-phobic” and they will immediately be ruled out of order, and you will reign as the moral victor — whether you’ve had an actual cogent argument or not.

In many circles (often academic ones in particular), a certain kind of reflexive and full-on outrage actually makes you popular — even “prophetic.” It leads to filibusters, which are actually the exact opposite of a proper argument. A filibuster simply puts its fingers in the ears and shouts for so long that the other side simply leaves in frustration. And one of the problems with replacing real arguments with sloganeering shouting matches is that, in a certain weird, sad way, the tweetable microphone-drop or prolonged filibuster work. What can you say to move someone who is never willing truly to engage?

The real loss in this is, of course, you never actually hear out your opponent and thus you forfeit the opportunity to grow, or to help them grow. The real losses are of public civility and human empathy, and a creeping feebleness of thought.

What I long for, in the face of this trend, is a good argument: respectful, prolonged, nuanced, mutual, seeking to understand before being understood. A pastor at my church recently prayed for it so well: “God, lead us to a place beyond conservatives whose orthodoxy contains no generosity, and beyond liberals who refuse to be truly liberal.” Amen, and if anyone wants to go past outrage and troll-dom, I’ll be happy to have a real argument about something that matters.

OPINIONViews expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.

Tagged under: Civility John Chandler

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Thankful Thursday – Mars Hill College

On this Thankful Thursday, I am grateful for the many contributions of Mars Hill College to my life. I had never heard of Mars Hill College; however, my high school speech teacher and school district superintendant, Sam Brissie, thought it would be a great place for me. He called Dr. Hoyt Blackwell, the President), and sang my praises. When we drove up for a visit my parents were sold on the school. Thanks to Mr. Brissie I received some scholarship assistance.

Mr. Brissie was right. It was a wonderful place. I made lifelong friends and acquired a wonderful foundation. I gained the confidence I needed to continue to follow my ambitions. I will be forever grateful for the things I gained there. Our debate team excelled so much so that Furman University gave me a student assistantship to help with their program while Mr. Held pursued his Ph.D. degree at Northwestern University.

On this Thankful Thursday, I am grateful to the administration faculty and fellow students that became such a part of my life at Mars Hill College. Mars Hill College will become Mars Hill University on August 15, 2013.

Thankful Thursday is a day set aside to recognize the contributions of someone to our lives and to let her or him know of our gratitude. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Say Something Nice; Be a lifter. You will be glad that you did.

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