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December 17, 2008

The death of civility

Anika Smith sends this deeply disturbing Web page from a group called Bash Back! bragging about their vandalism against a Mormon church. I'd give the page an R rating for language and sexual remarks, so please be aware before you click of what you're getting into, and proceed at your own risk. I post the link because this kind of thing -- not just the attacks, but the crowing over them -- is representative of a trend of which we all need to be aware.

I'm not talking about increasing amounts of violence and vandalism against religious conservatives. I'm talking about the open approval of such tactics by those who oppose them. You don't have to go to the URL above to see it: You can go to mainstream sites to read the comments about the fire set at Sarah Palin's church while people were inside, or to read about the online hilarity that ensued after an Iraqi reporter threw his shoes at President Bush.

Are we witnessing the death of civility and the onset of a new age of intolerance against religion?

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Gina wrote: "Are we witnessing the death of civility [...]"

Well, *I'm* giving CPR, but my arms *are* tiring...

"[...] and the onset of a new age of intolerance against religion?"

I'm no expert, but I think it's the same old one.

Rolley Haggard

According to Andy, “humor and truth are brothers” -- http://thepoint.breakpoint.org/2008/12/abortion-obama.html#comment-142974896

I might agree with that – that is, if the brothers we have in mind are Cain and Abel, respectively.

That would explain the online hilarity that ensued after an Iraqi reporter threw his shoes at President Bush, etc.

You ask, “Are we witnessing the onset of a new age of hostility against religion?” In my opinion, it is not optimism but fatuity that can doubt it any longer.

Russell Lowell famously observed -- “Truth [is] forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne.”

As for me….

I see one star left
In all the vast dark night sky --
And blind men rising.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.


What about the removal of Constitutional rights or Bush's war is civil?

You may be right in noticing that these responses are not the best, or even most effective, but that's what they are: responses. Responses to a war founded on lies, taking the toll of American and Iraqi, atheist and faithful lives. Bombs fall on Iraqi Christians too. Responses to marriages rendered void and minority rights overruled by the majority. Gay families have children which need protecting too.

In this death of civility, will we address the symptoms or the causes?


Brian! It's good to hear from you again.

We're told by radical Islam that the causes are Westernism and failure to submit to Allah. Near the top of Westernism would be homosexuality, of course. And Islam has a way to address all the causes, of course.

Was that what you had in mind?

Or were you thinking with Dawkins/Harris/Hitchens that religion is the problem? If so, why aren't the responses the best? Would more direct action be most effective?

I look forward to your answer. (Really.)


If you read the account of what happened when the angels visited Lot and his family, you will see the characteristics of those who have chosen this depravity have not changed. Romans 1 describes it well as a process, and the events surrounding the visit of the angels describes the behavior we are seeing in California, Alaska and elsewhere.

Some of us pointed out the eerie paralells between the Obama campaign and those of totalitarian leaders arising in the first half of the 20th century, right down to the art styles and fainting spells. We should not be surprised to see breaking glass and burned churches (or synagogues).

Those who have not learned from history are usually surprised when similar causes produce similar results.

It isn't a pleasant thought. It isn't a pleasant situation. All we can do now is pray and follow Christ no matter what it will cost us.


It seems to me that we are living in a time of increased religious intolerance. I could be wrong but it seems religion in America used to be considered as something good. You might not believe what a particular religion taught, but that didn’t make you hate it, just dismiss it, and ignore it. But on the whole religion was considered a good thing for society. For example most hospitals I know of were started by religious groups. Somewhere along the way that all changed. Whether it was a combination of individual rights promoted as the absolute good and the “wall of separation” being built so high that only the politically correct philosophies could get over, I don’t know.
What I do see, in agreement with labrialumn, is it probably going to get worse. Also in agreement with him, if does get worse, it is important for Christians to act appropriately. We must seek to repay evil for good, we must show love when confronted by hate, and we must act as Peter says Christ did, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

Jason Taylor

Brian, Tu Quoques tend to make discussions both less edifying and less interesting.
Moreover the fact that the party which you oppose has policies with which you disaggree is not cause for justifing incivility. One of the main points of civility is that people do in fact disaggree.

Rolley Haggard

All well and good, these reminders to act Christlike if and when the shoe falls and they round us up in the ghettoes. But it is also well to note that rumors of our present demise are greatly exaggerated. As long as we retain a measure of freedom there always exists the possibility for reformation, renewal, revival – call it what you will - via the democratic process working in tandem with our loving, prayerful engagement of the culture.

The point is, we need to act Christlike BEFORE the shoe falls, not just afterward. That means, among other things, not abandoning the helm when the Ship of State begins to founder. We are to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Our Caesar is us, the people! Therefore, for the people’s sake, for love’s sake, for the sake of the Second Great Commandment (Mark 12:31) -- for Love’s sake (capital L), that is, for God’s sake (for God is Love personified) – for the sake of every innocent person who may be spared the bitter fruits of a world gone mad (and inasmuch as we do it unto one of the least of these we do it unto Christ) we – you and I -- need to do every lawful thing we can to turn hearts and minds back to what once was called common sense and virtue.

As has been said before, if the loss of religious freedom does prove to be our eventual fate, let it be in spite of what we as responsible citizens did, not because of what we through fear or adherence to an emasculated theology did not do.


From today's Breakpoint Commentary on the movie WALL-E:
In contrast to robots learning to love, Stanton wanted to show how humans had become machinelike. Our routines and habits, he argues, have programmed us “to the point that we're not really making connections to the people next to us. We're not engaging in relationships, which are the point of living—relationship with God and relationship with other people.”

I recall that in the movie the robot EVE shot first and asked questions later, until taught love by a quivering-but-determined WALL-E. This encourages me to keep trying to work on civility, even with those who shoot at me. (And just as WALL-E was getting shot at by another robot, I and others often have to dodge "friendly fire".)

Gina Dalfonzo

And then there's this:


I think the first sentence by Jon pretty much says it all.


There can be no civility unless there is a minimal concensus on standards for judging truth and a minimal respect for the interpretation of truth by your opponent, even though you think him wrong. In an age where truth is believed to be subjective, that is, a personal, subjective assertion, then the only concensus is that any assertion of universal truth is nothing less than an attack upon my right to liberty.

"These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

"I have never heard of a law that attempted to restrict one's ''right to define'' certain concepts; and if the passage calls into question the government's power to regulate actions based on one's self-defined ''concept of existence, etc.,'' it is the passage that ate the rule of law."

Anything goes, the law is destroyed, and we have entered the dystopia of Hobbes "Leviathan". It is a war of all against all.

I recently read something that was discussing the effect of a cause. Some causes have an effect whether or not anyone is there to observe or believe it. The example was the moon and tides. The tides will rise and fall in their proper time because of the gravitational pull of the moon even if no one is there to observe the effect. Other causes have an effect only if someone is there to believe it, the example was the collapse of a bank. If enough people believe a bank is insolvent that bank will collapse, even if their belief is unfounded. Because they believe the bank on the verge of colapse everybody will try to withdraw all their deposits, thereby causing the very thing they most feared.

I think the belief in the Hobbesian anthropolgy as defined in "Leviathan", a fairly common interpretation of human nature today, is sufficient cause to bring about a Hobbesian dystopia. We are seeing its genesis now.


“People hardly ever make use of the freedom they do have, for example, freedom of thought; instead they demand freedom of speech as compensation.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

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