Things are heating up in the "discussion" over
One of their first targets is the American Association of Retired Persons. The AARP has decided that the President's proposal on Social Security is a bad idea, and they have begun an ad campaign in opposition, which last Sunday had the apt tagline: "When your faucet is leaking, you don't fix it by tearing down the house". (Ed: It could be slightly different. I am going from memory here.)
So now, it's on!! Yesterday, this ad appeared on the website for the American Spectator:
Wow, talk about high concept. No text, no argument. Just simple, inflammatory, bomb-throwing images. The AARP is evil, EVIL!!! If we can't trust them with our troops and with keeping marriage safe, how can we trust what they say on Social Security?
This ad is produced by an astroturf (fake grass-roots) lobbying group called USANext. While the group claims over a million members, their latest financial statement showed zero income from member dues. Instead, their money came largely from the pharmaceutical industry to gain "support" for the President's Medicare Drug Benefit, which not coincidentally, was very generous to the pharmaceutical companies.
So predictably, this message will get picked up by "independent" talk radio hosts, and I'm sure Fox News will begin discussions, with much head shaking, over the decline and leftward shift of the AARP. But I've gotten used to this. As angry as I am over the way this kind of propaganda diminishes discourse in our country, I am no longer shocked by it. (Although this latest ad did set me back a bit). No the thing that really gets me is the way that conservative Christians (of which I am one) have not only been taken in by this nonsense, but that they are some of people creating this stuff.
The director of USANext (and the United Seniors Association, another astroturf group) is Charlie Jarvis. Jarvis is a former executive vice-president of Focus on the Family, and not surprisingly, Jarvis' work continues to be supported and closely linked to James Dobson's organization and their policy priorities. (For an example, take a look at the Family Research Council, Dobson's policy arm).
Now here's my rant. Why is it, that when conservative Christians become involved in political dialog, the quality of the discussion goes down, and not up? Why are prominent Evangelicals' contributions so often angry, blunt, and threatening? Did I miss the memo in which we were told to forget about being fair and irenic in our discussions? I don't get this at all.
You know, Christians are free to be wrong (or right) about their views on Social Security, because there is no direct biblical teaching on the relative role of the federal government in providing retirement benefits to its citizens in the context of a post-industrial economy. We can agree or disagree about how to best approach the issue, but there should be no disagreement on how we should talk.
The Bible says in Colossians: "Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone." (Col 3:5,6 NRSV)
"Wisely" and "gracious" are the keys for Christians as we speak to the world. It is difficult to see how Charlie Jarvis' ad fits that approach. We need to check ourselves, and take a hard look at the language we use. H.L. Menken's observation may be the watchword for marketers and political operatives, but not for us. For Christians, the quality of the discussion and the language we employ should matter as much or more than the outcome. Because what would it profit us if we gain a few political victories but lose our souls?
(Hat tips to Kevin Drum for the image and Josh Marshall for the info on Charlie Jarvis)