David French is correct when he writes that “virtuous ends do not justify vicious means.” We can and should be restrained in our rhetoric and not be personally attacking people we disagree with and trying to ruin our lives. This is especially important for professing Christians.
Now, here is an important caveat: We often make the mistake of thinking civility means not speaking truth. Of course we should say liars are liars, we should say thieves are thieves, and we should point out bad motives and corruption when we see it. But speaking truth and being hateful are two different things. There are examples all through Scripture – including the New Testament – of God and His servants speaking harshly. We can fight and fight hard without being nasty.
But even as we hear the rhetoric of politics as war, we should remember that even war has rules. Among other things, it is illegal to intentionally target civilians, plunder an enemy’s wealth and torture enemy soldiers. If war has rules, when bullets are flying and imminent death is everywhere, then politics should also have rules.
“But the stakes are so very high!”
Well, yes. The stakes do not get any higher than abortion, a moral evil that has resulted in 60 million innocent babies being murdered just in these United States. There are other issues with high stakes for religious freedom, property rights, due process, Second Amendment rights and economic prosperity. But that does not mean we should abandon rules of civility on order to “win.”
I am thankful we have people like David French in politics. He sometimes goes too far and smears those he disagrees with, especially Christian conservatives who support Donald Trump. But at a time when “own the libs” and “fight fire with fire” is a common mantra, we need to take a step back and see our political enemies as men and women made in the image of God.