Politics: higher expectations for politicians

Shaefer Bagwell implores Christian voters to demand more from their politicians.

Shaefer Bagwell, Writer

The other day when I was walking past the Student Union Building, I saw a table. The people at the table were collecting signatures for a petition protesting the passage of SB 48, a bill that would mandate the inclusion of the accomplishments of minority groups in the teaching of history in public schools. The issue these protesters have with the bill is that homosexuals are one of the groups included. This group is fully within their rights to protest the bill. The first amendment, the nature of American democracy, their natural rights as human beings — all of these things enforce their right to do so.

An epidemic of words

Hanging from the front of their table was a poster that said, “Do you love God? If so, take an action!” It had nothing to do with the bill. It didn’t mention pros or cons. It just said that if you loved God, you would sign their petition. The implication is that if you didn’t, you don’t.

I was watching TV during the 2010 midterm elections. One of my favorite shows is “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart. He played an ad for a congressional race in the South, in which the Democrat called his Republican opponent “Taliban Dan.” The man was a conservative Christian Republican, and Representative Alan Grayson equated him with a group of people that tramples on the rights of women, publicly beheads religious transgressors and uses amputation as a punishment for misdemeanor offenses.

I’ve seen photos of Tea Party protesters waving signs that have the president of the United States with a Hitler mustache.

I’ve seen Iraq war protesters burning President Bush in effigy, screaming and calling him a murderer.

Violent, offensive, pejorative, attacking, virulent, hateful, deceitful rhetoric is an epidemic in American politics. Political ads, politicians themselves and talking heads spew hatred from their lips on a daily basis, and I fear that we as Americans are becoming inured to it. We don’t stand back and objectively analyze the truth of political statements. Worse, we don’t look at the people making them with disappointment for even making statements such as these. Rhetoric of this nature is poison for a healthy democracy. It clouds the truth, inhibits a productive exchange of ideas and only serves to advance people who are willing to throw more and worse mud than their opponents. This is deeply concerning to me as an American, and it should be to you, too.

Edifying American politics

It is most concerning to me as a Christian. We find ourselves voting for, donating to and agreeing with men and women who spit lies as a matter of habit. We support them. We cheer for them. On both sides of the aisle, we see Christian voters giving votes to leaders who spread hatred, falsehoods and anger.

This issue transcends party lines. It should be a uniting force that we as Americans, and we as Christians, can all get behind. Can you imagine the edifying effect it would have on American politics if everyone refused to vote for a candidate who ran negative ads against their opponents? The ramifications would be huge and far reaching. If candidates were forced by their constituents to only campaign on the positives of their own issues, and not the negatives of their opponents, the level of debate would rise, the level of bipartisanship would skyrocket and legislative productivity would increase. When you haven’t established yourself in hatred, it’s much easier to reach across the aisle.

We, as Christian voters, should demand our politicians speak truth, regardless of the issue. Truth in the biblical sense — truth of completeness, veracity and faithfulness. When a leader speaks that way, the people who follow him or her can truly and successfully evaluate the issue at hand. At its heart, poisonous and hateful rhetoric is a series of lies. Every person in the public arena, fallen and flawed as they may be, are image bearers of God, and deserve respect. It’s high time we as Christian voters started showing it, and demanding it of our leaders.

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