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…the Art of Name-Calling

In the 1930s, Roman Catholic priest and radio commentator Fr. Charles Coughlin discovered a very effective way of discrediting people he considered political threats. He would appeal to the anti-Semitism and isolationism shared by much of his audience by denouncing various individuals as “atheistic Jews” or “imported radicals.” It mattered little to Coughlin that the sources of his “information” were often untrustworthy. He knew that once he used the power of the broadcast medium to slap labels on people, those people would find them very difficult to remove from their reputations.

In the 1950s, Wisconsin Senator Joseph P. McCarthy used the new medium of television to boost his political career by taking advantage of Americans’ fear of Communism. No evidence was too slight, no testimony too tainted, no logic too specious for him to use it to label various individuals as “Communists” or “subversives.” Reputations were destroyed. Careers were ruined. For decades after McCarthy himself was discredited and died his victims struggled to rebuild their shattered lives. McCarthyism has come to be synonymous with intimidation through labeling and blacklisting, and has often been mistakenly portrayed as a “right-wing” tactic. The fact is, however, that McCarthyism is equally useful to demagogues of all political persuasions. In fact, it has become a favorite tool of the left for stifling opposition to their agenda today.

Conservatives are often labeled “Uncle Tom’s,” if they are black, or racists if they are white, for daring to voice opposition to any aspect of the left’s “civil rights” agenda. People who oppose gay “marriage” are labeled “homophobic.” Men and women who oppose abortion on moral grounds are dangerous “extremists,” and so it goes. Thus, opposers are allegedly motivated by “hate” or “fear” rather than rational disagreement. Name-calling, then, becomes a very effective substitute for rationally defending one’s case-legitimate viewpoints are summarily de-legitimized and thinking is short-circuited by knee-jerk reaction to an emotional appeal. Whenever you hear someone slap a label on someone else without providing careful definitions and clear evidence, you are more than justified if you suspect that you may be listening to a propagandist, rather than someone who truly desires to inform the public.

The above quote comes from chapter 6 our book A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life . It came to mind fairly strongly in recent days as I have watched the election. “Omabaloney” is a term that think I first heard from John Cass, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune and occasional co-host on WLS Radio in Chicago. The other term, “Romnesia” I believe originated with the current President, Barak Obama along with other terms he has used about Romey, “liar,” “” (which has nothing to do with Bible Study by the way). The election has degenerated largely into one that reflects the art of name calling. It is a tried and true medium in the world of politics in order to demonize the opposition without actually discussing the issues. Politics can and often does become nasty and even at times violent business, including fist fights:

On February 22, 1902, John McLaurin, South Carolina’s junior senator, raced into the Senate Chamber and pronounced that state’s senior senator, Ben Tillman, guilty of “a willful, malicious, and deliberate lie.” Standing nearby, Tillman spun around and punched McLaurin squarely in the jaw. The chamber exploded in pandemonium as members struggled to separate both members of the South Carolina delegation. In a long moment, it was over, but not without stinging bruises both to bystanders and to the Senate’s sense of decorum. February 22, 1902, Senate Fist Fight.

On one occasion, political rancor was so great between two individuals that it resulted in the Burr/Hamilton Duel where Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton. Nastiness is not new and is not limited to politics. We are a few days from what most see as a momentous presidential election. Neither candidate is perfect and both represent things with which some portion of the population agrees. Which candidate best represents the values you hold? Is it morally right to grant the Federal Government to borrow ever greater amounts of money in order to expand the government as the primary caretaker and provider for citizens or should the government have to live within its means and individual citizens be expected to be responsible for their lives and decisions? Do personal rights also mean personal responsibilities. For example, some years ago when homosexuality and abortion really began heating up in the cultural debate it was argued that what went on in the privacy of one’s bedroom was their business and no one else’s. Women, it was argued have a right over their own body. “Get your Rosaries off of our ovaries” was the motto. Then, as AIDS went sharply on the rise in the Gay community the demand to spend more tax money on curing AIDS and the responsibility to pay for what when on in the privacy one their bedrooms was given to those who were told they have no say so. Now, in the abortion debate some of us want to say to the “Get your Rosary of our ovary crowd” to “Get your ovaries out of my wallet.”

There are consequences to our actions and a society which guarantees personal rights should also have expectations of personal responsibility of its citizens. This election, as President Obama has said, gives a clear choice between two opposing worldviews. As I have said previously, both candidates are members of cults of Christianity and carry into the office of president their worldview which does and will continue to guide their decisions and policies. Neither is being elected as Pastor and Chief and in both cases those like MCOI will continue exposing false teaching, including that which comes from the sitting president’s belief system. However, one of these men will be elected and one of them more closely reflects your worldview on social and governmental issues than the other. Since God sets up governments and tears them down, and since in this nation we have the opportunity of having a say so and are thus at least an element for God to use in carrying out His will. What sort of a nation are we looking to have in the future?


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