COMMENTARY: Politics is pretty rough business

BY Bill Reagan

One person wins. The other loses. When races heat up feelings are charged and passions lead many to state their positions forcefully and emotionally. Understandable.

Something else is going on in our public discourse. Not new, but it certainly has been exaggerated in recent years. It is something that goes beyond the forceful and emotional assertion or defense of opinion.

We see it on the news, hear it on the radio, read it in our newspapers and thumb through it on our social media feeds.

Insults and demonization have replaced passion and commitment in our public discourse. There is nothing wrong with criticizing public figures. Elected officials work for us and are accountable to us. “We the people” are the sovereign in the United States of America.

Passion can get a little out of hand on occasion. That’s one thing. Quite another is to abandon fair criticism for personal insults.

It may be because I travel mostly in Christian circles, but from my perspective it seems that Christians are embracing insult and demonization in their public discourse. Others may do it too. It may just be that I don’t hear it.

When it comes to Christians, this is more than unfortunate. It is a betrayal of our Christian ethic. The Ten Commandments are the foundation of Christian behavior. One of those commandments is “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

A very wise man, Martin Luther, wrote these words to explain this commandment. “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.”

Insults and demonization are a violation of this commandment. It is not okay for us to do these things even if we strongly support our political party or certain candidates or office holders. It is not okay for us to excuse such behavior from anyone who holds political office.

Passionate Christians in both political parties may say, “Well, the other guys do it.” It might help to remember Jesus’ words, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

Bill Reagan is executive director of Loaves & Fishes of the Rio Grande Valley.