Amid a call for civility, Christians trade political jabs.
Tobin Grant | posted 10/08/2010 10:39AM
Civility 'Key to our Political Salvation'
Sojourners president Jim Wallis thinks everyone—particularly Christians—need a more civil political engagement.
"Civility may not be sexy, but it is now key to our political salvation," said Wallis.
Wallis put his call for civility to the test when Fox News host Glenn Beck (once again) compared Wallis to a Nazi. Wallis responded by asking readers to petition the cable news channel to consider dropping Beck "for the sake of truth and civility."
The point today is not to comment directly on the Beck-Wallis debate, as interesting as that is. But there is an important sidebar to all this, and it’s something Wallis brings up above.
Christians very often call for this kind of ‘civility.’ To some extent, I can agree with that call. But unfortunately, it is often misused.
Take Jim Wallis, just for an example. Wallis apparently wants to rule out ahead of time any possible analogy between him and Nazis. But why should Christians agree to that?
If anyone is simply calling Wallis a Nazi as a bad name, meant to preclude any response on Wallis’ part, then I agree that there is a lack of ‘civility’ involved. There is, in fact, a lack of logic involved if that is all there is to it. That is just an “argument against the person” and it is a logical fallacy.
But what if there are important similarities between (again, for example) Jim Wallis and some ideas held by Nazis?
Wallis gives every indication, from what he writes and says, that he is a strong supporter of some version of a welfare state/socialist system. Nazis supported a very similar kind of system. We can debate the details, such as national socialism versus international socialism. We can consider how the motives for this support are different when we compare Wallis to Nazis.
But none of this changes the fact Wallis wants a system that is comparable in many important ways to the system put into place by the Nazis. This comparison can rightly be made with no hint of incivility. In fact, at some point one begins to suspect that the phony cry of “incivility” is an attempt on Wallis’ part to avoid the issue at hand.
Jim Wallis could, of course, make this comparison completely illegitimate – he could renounce socialism and statism in all forms.
But I don’t expect that to happen soon. And until it does, the comparison is not uncivil – it is just the case.