Civil and Representative Freedom of the Press
By Daniel L. Gardner
President George W. Bush, in his final press conference responding to questions about his harshest critics and their personal attacks on him, said rhetoric is out of control in Washington.
Unfortunately President-elect Barack Obama has suffered and will suffer similar attacks. That’s the way it is in 2009.
Civil public debate has gone by the wayside. Name-calling and personal attacks have replaced reasoned arguments of the issues.
Take the case of Mr. Obama’s inviting Rick Warren to give an opening prayer at the inauguration. Mr. Obama’s invitation has re-excited debate about separation of church and state, as well as issues of gay marriage and abortion. Probably no prayer in recent history has been as much anticipated or dreaded as Warren’s approaching prayer.
Ironically, those who call loudest for tolerance and diversity are blasting Mr. Obama’s choosing Warren to give the opening prayer.
Contrast this outcry with George Washington’s closing paragraph in his final letter to governors and legislatures of the 13 states upon his retirement:
"I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks [sic] of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation."
If you are reading this in a newspaper, please take time to write to the newspaper editor thanking him or her for printing this column and this prayer. In our politically correct culture, many of President Washington’s words – not to mention his hopes and requests of God – have become much too inflammatory to print.
Can you imagine the outrage if Rick Warren were to pray similar Christian sentiments? Will Pastor Warren dare to pray “in Jesus’ name?”
I’ve begun reading an interesting book, “Why We Whisper: Restoring Our Right To Say It’s Wrong,” written by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), and J. David Woodard, Ph.D., Clemson University. Granted both of these men are conservatives, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The authors contend our culture has been in a ‘precipitous’ moral decline for several decades. According to the description on the flap of the book, “This provocative and timely book reveals how government-imposed secularism and government-promoted destructive behavior have been the primary cause of this dangerous and costly deterioration of the character and values that have defined our nation.”
The book is a study of free speech in our PC culture, i.e. the pitfalls of politically incorrect rhetoric in academic or political arenas today. No doubt, the pendulum of public expression has swung about as far as ever to the liberal left in politics, academia, and religion in America.
I’m old enough to remember public prayers in school, as well as annual ‘spiritual emphasis’ weeks in high school when Christian evangelists were invited to speak twice daily to every student in our public high school
In those days student misbehavior included smoking in the restroom, skipping school, and running in the hallways, all of which were punishable by spanking. In those days guys bragged in locker rooms about how many bases they touched with various girls, but pregnancy was still strictly taboo.
We’ve come a long way, baby! The question is how far will we go?
The historic inauguration of President Barack Obama will literally set the stage as well as the hopes and expectations of our nation and the world. What role will Pastor Warren play in the opening act?
I hope (and, yes pray) political rhetoric will become more about issues and less about name-calling, bashing, or baiting. I also hope media gatekeepers will make space for those espousing moral family values to be heard.
Daniel L. Gardner is a syndicated columnist who shares his biblical worldview with readers across the South from his home in Starkville, MS. You may contact him at PJandMe2@gmail.com
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