Who is Really Destroying Democracy?

Before I sign off the blogsphere for a much-needed Holy Week hiatus from politics, I wanted to briefly reflect on the utter lack of charity and civility in our current political climate.

Sr. Mary Ann Walsh of the USCCB has written a fine blog post on the subject and we would do well to heed her words:

We need to address this climate.

The intolerance and incivility did not begin with legislation passed Sunday night. It is not unrelated to the divisions that exist in our country and, sadly, even in our church.
It starts with how we view others – as enemies rather than as fellow travelers on the journey of life. It includes whether or not we’re willing to give another the benefit of the doubt, accepting that their intentions are good, even if their goals differ from ours.

It involves accepting the fact that each of us is a child of God and precious to Him and our brother or sister.

It involves how we speak and terms for one another.

If you are wondering why pieces like this have to be written, just have a listen.

Many have argued that the current Health Care bill is destroying our American democracy, but I argue that those who are uncivil and uncharitable (on all sides of the aisle) are doing a much better job of destroying democracy. The great conservative historian of the family, Christopher Lasch (Archbishop Chaput is a big fan of Lasch), argued that education and dialogue are the backbone of democracy. Essentially, without them you can’t have democracy.

Lasch points to the era of the Lincoln and Douglas as an ideal expression of democracy. It was an era in which “political leadership carried with an obligation to clarify issues instead of merely getting elected.”

Lasch eloquently argues that there is an  inherent risk in authentic argument, a risk which almost paradoxically allows argument to be educational.

Argument is risky and unpredictable, therefore educational. Most of us tend to think of it (as Lippmann thought of it) as a clash of rival dogmas, a shouting match in which neither side gives any ground. But arguments are not won by shouting down opponents. They are won by changing opponents’ minds something that can happen only if we give opposing arguments a respectful hearing and still persuade their advocates that there is something wrong with those arguments.

The political philosopher, Hannah Arendt, a student of the work of St. Augustine, reminds us that once dialogue ceases only the “muteness of violence” remains.

My friends, these aren’t liberal thinkers crying for civility, they are conservatives! If their cries for dialogue and civility aren’t persuasive, let us at least listen to our Pope, who has given us a beautiful battle plan to defeat the Dictatorship of Relativism.

We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith – only faith – that creates unity and is fulfilled in love.

On this theme, St Paul offers us as a fundamental formula for Christian existence some beautiful words, in contrast to the continual vicissitudes of those who, like children, are tossed about by the waves: make truth in love. Truth and love coincide in Christ. To the extent that we draw close to Christ, in our own lives too, truth and love are blended. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like “a clanging cymbal” (I Cor 13: 1).

One can make excuses all you want, the health care bill is destroying America, babies are dying, the other side is also being uncivil. This may well be the case, but we Christians are held to a higher standard. We are united under the banner of Truth AND Charity. Let’s remember St. Augustine who was attracted to St. Ambrose because he was kind to him. Lets remember Abby Johnson, who quit her job at Planned Parenthood in large part because “the protesters” were nice to her.

May the peace and joy of the Risen Lord fill your hearts this Easter! I leave you with two of my favorite quotes from Pope Benedict, which provide some wonderful ideas to meditate upon this Holy Week:

The world needs God. We need God. But what God? In the first reading, the prophet tells a people suffering oppression that: “He will come with vengeance” (Isaiah 35:4). We can easily suppose how the people imagined that vengeance. But the prophet himself goes on to reveal what it really is: the healing goodness of God. The definitive explanation of the prophet’s word is to be found in the one who died on the cross: in Jesus, the Son of God incarnate. His “vengeance” is the cross: a “no” to violence and a “love to the end.” This is the God we need. -Pope Benedict XVI

On the Resurrection:

Is it not this certainty in the risen Lord that inspires courage, bold prophecies and perseverance in the martyrs through the ages? Is it not this meeting with the living Christ which captivates and converts so many men and women who from the beginning of Christianity leave all they have to follow him and give their lives to serve the Gospel? If Christ has not risen, said the Apostle Paul, then our preaching is in vain and our faith is also in vain (1 Corinthians 15:14). But he has risen! -Pope Benedict XVI



  • Chiedu

    Oh boy. I wish I had the energy to write what I just wrote on Mon. Pope and Sr. Walsh’s blog.

    This is utter nonsense. Could somebody please prove that any Congressman was spat on? Nobody can. Rep. Jackson of Illinois had a camera and was taping. Media was there. Yet, nobody has footage.

    Secondly, when SEIU was assaulting a black man for standing up to the truancy of the Democrats at the Town hall meetings, nobody showed any video or talked about it–even though the video does exist and is real.

    Being charitable is a virtue indeed, but when the whole story isn’t told for the perspective to truth, charity seems to be absent.

    We have been seriously violated. We were civil in the beginning and they lied to us. Americans who voted Obama into office said, “He wants to do what is right. let’s give him a chance”

    I will argue loudly and use words that are honest but not vile. If he is a cheat, then he is a cheat. It is not dishonest nor is it imprudent. If he is a liar, then he is a liar. Jesus called the pharisees vipers, dogs and other names. I argue that it was out of Charity to them and indeed to those who were around, so that they could learn.

    Being civil does and should not meaning being silent or being apprehensive about calling a spade a spade. Civility as we know it is a 20th century fabrication…you’ve been had.

  • Cliff

    What do I say? GOOD! I don’t want a Democracy! I want our Republic restored!

  • Dave

    James Thompson, you’re smoking something, buddy!

  • Marv

    James Thompson
    As I understand your post, (and please correct me if I’m not understanding,) when a person or group of persons makes the assumption, in this current case, that their “religion” is the only correct religion, that all ability to have discussion rather than anger and hostility, is lost, leading to eventual violence.

    If this is accurate, then I agree with you completely. When there is no flexibility of thought, there can be no room for civility.



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