Have You No Sense of Decency?

So far I have said nothing on "BreakPoint" about the Oklahoma City bombing. That's because, like the rest of America, I have been numbed by the sheer horror of it all and by grief for the families involved. Like millions of other Americans, I've been sickened at the sights we've seen on television of mutilated children being carried from the rubble. But what is perhaps almost as sickening is what we're seeing in the aftermath of the bombing: the attempt by some to exploit this tragedy for political gain. In the past few days we've seen attempts to place blame for the bombing on whole classes of people. Frankly, for anyone to seek political advantage is to me simply unimaginable. But I smell it happening, and it ought to be condemned from the beginning. We saw one sign of exploitation when President Clinton accused "loud and angry voices" on America's airwaves—that is, talk-radio hosts and certain conservative commentators—of sowing a crop of hate. "Their sole goal," the president said, "seems to be to try to keep some people as paranoid as possible . . . They spread hate, [and] they leave the impression that by their very words, that violence is acceptable." And we saw Carl Rowan, a Washington columnist, blaming the bombing on the "angriest of angry white men . . . [that] the harsher rhetoric of Gingrich and Dole . . . created a climate of violence in America." Make no mistake about it: When broad, sweeping charges like these are made, we conservative Christians are included as well. We're in the cross hairs. Talk-show host Rush Limbaugh responded to attacks like these by accusing liberals of trying to foment a national hysteria against conservatives. Now look, we've got to get a grip on ourselves! Have you no sense of decency, Mr. Rowan? This is not a time for scapegoating. This is not a time for exploitative bombast. The real risk of this kind of rhetoric—and we're hearing it now on both sides of the political aisle—is that it will poison civil discourse in American life. Never has it been more important to calmly and deliberately weigh what needs to be done to restore public confidence, to protect our institutions in a proper constitutional way. That's what makes democracy possible. But if we fan the flames of fear and prejudice, we lose the game to the terrorists. Why? Because we'll lost our ability for responsible moral discourse. Christians have a role to play here, and it's not to leap in and join in the finger-pointing and verbal bomb throwing. We need to keep level heads. And we ought to recall God's words to the prophet Isaiah: "Come now, let us reason together." Instead of taking advantage of this terrible tragedy, we need to be the voices of reason and calm, voices that call both sides to reasonable, civil discourse. We must commit ourselves to maintaining the democratic conversation, as Hannah Arendt put it, without which free societies simply collapse. And we can hope and pray that politicians on the left and the right, the members of the Senate and the House, the Carl Rowans and the Rush Limbaughs will, to put it bluntly, "cool it."  


Chuck Colson



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