Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wallis Won't Give Up

George Will has suggested that in time of national tragedies of the sort that happened in Tuscon we should have a moratorium on sociology. ("The Charlatans' Response to the Tuscon Tragedy," Washington Post, Jan. 11, 2011)

We have all come close to dying of a surfeit of sociology. The reasons for this bizarre behavior were obvious to some, even to our sociologist laureate, the Pima County Sherriff, Mr Dupnik.

So they quickly popped off on "the [Republican, conservative] rhetoric of violence and hate" as put it, and, as Will documents it, "The Tucson shooter was (pick your verb) provoked, triggered, unhinged by today's (pick your noun) rhetoric, vitriol, extremism, "climate of hate.""

Jon Stewart rejects the pop sociology, too. People want to comfort themselves by drawing a straightline at times like this between the horrific event and a particular social cause. Change the cause (e.g., control or ban the rhetoric), and the bad thing will never hanppen again. But "you can't outsmart crazy."

Perhaps I'm sheltered in the quiet glen of conservative news and opinion sources, but I think that the rhetoric issue is settling down. (Has the president had a role in this. I haven't noticed the post-partisan uniter of the nation playing a significant role in it. But I hope that wasn't uncivil of me to notice.) People who rhetorically went over the top on rhetoric that goes over the top are being shamed into silence.

Of course, far be it from my brother in Christ Jim Wallis to be shamed into silence! Here he is with the Peace and Civility Pledge asking me to repent for my role in what Loughner did. Let’s not call anyone evil, he says. Reagan called the Soviets evil, and the left had a fit. How uncivil! But it is not uncivil to call evil by its name. But one should be careful in doing so, and provide strong arguments for one’s claim. That upholds reason as the basis for political discourse, and strips political evil of its rhetorical cover.


eric.dorman said...

Dr. Innes,

I clicked on the link and I think it must have changed. It took me to the Peace and Civility pledge, but in the article, Wallis does not call us to repent for the role we played in Loughner's actions nor does he say that we shouldn't call anyone evil. In the article, he simply says that Christians have a higher calling than the verbal games that politicians are playing and he resolves that the church will be a light to the world by how we treat one another as Christian brothers and sisters. I really appreciated his comments, actually; especially his repeated use of Scripture to support his claims. I would not appreciate them if he claims elsewhere that we shouldn't refer to evil as evil, etc.

Was there another article to which you were referring? I know that sometimes links can be redirected after the site edits, rearranges, etc. I just wanted to give you the "heads up" that the link may be taking your readers to a different article than you intended.

David C. Innes said...

Thanks Eric, and thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt on this.

On the website, I think that he calls us to recognize our complicity in the tragedy in the first sentence, where he says, "reflecting deeply on how we speak to and about one another, and how we create environments that help peace grow — or allow violence and hatred to enter."

But, yes, I was working off an email that went out directing people to the website. Notice the question at the end of the excerpt: "How am I responsible?"

The email reads: The recent shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, the congresswoman from Arizona, must speak to the soul of this nation. The shooter raised his gun to her head, and then he kept shooting until 13 others were wounded and six people killed, including a district court judge and a 9-year-old girl who was in her church choir. We all mourn the lives lost and hope and pray for the recovery of those who were injured.

I was with Gabby just a week ago, as our families celebrated New Year’s at a retreat in South Carolina. I count her as a friend. We talked about her very tough election this fall, which she won by a few thousand votes in one of the most divided states in the nation, where -- much like the rest of the country -- the political rhetoric has become more and more poisonous and personal.

What are the situations and environments that allow this kind of hate and violence to grow? How can we not only stop conflict, but also be a part of bringing about a just community that displays the positive presence of peace?

We start with ourselves. Our Peace and Civility Pledge outlines the higher standards that scripture calls us to in how we are to treat one another and act in community. I ask you to sign the Pledge, consider how these teachings are being manifested in your life, and share it with a friend, your church, your family.

Last Spring, we began this important work with over 100 prominent Christian leaders who signed the “Civility Covenant.” Each one committed to modeling civil discourse, even with people they disagree with. In a divided world each one made a commitment to model the peace of Christ in their lives and their communities. They recognized that many of us who would never consider violence of the fist have been guilty of violence in our hearts and with our tongues.

Part of building a better society is relating to others with whom we disagree on important issues without calling them evil. It is out of that work that we recommit ourselves to being peacemakers in our country. It is on that Covenant that we have based this new Pledge.

As the county sheriff in charge of the criminal scene in Tucson said on Saturday, this must be an occasion for national “soul searching.” In the midst of tragedy and violence, I believe this means every Christian must ask: “How am I responsible?”

David C. Innes said...
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