The political discourse has grown increasingly hostile as the election season ramps up.
Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh recently called a Georgetown law student a "slut" and a "prostitute" after she testified before an unofficial hearing that the university's refusal to cover contraceptives as part of its health-insurance plan has a negative impact on female students.
In the same week, Montana's chief U.S. district judge, Richard Cebull, acknowledged forwarding an email joke that implied that President Barack Obama's mother had sex with a dog.
Both men have apologized, but the incidents reflect a loss of civility in the political arena.
In a democracy, disagreements are expected, if not encouraged. To preserve our ideals and propel our country toward a "more perfect union," we must debate the issues. The policies that our politicians enact have social and moral consequences that determine the nation's future and reverberate in all our lives. Thus, some conversations will be emotionally charged.
The Bible does not discourage Christians from voicing their opinions, especially when doing so would help preserve the faith. Apostle Paul cautions the church not to be deceived by false doctrine. As a counter, he encourages Christians to "speak the truth," but adds that such utterances should be expressed "in love." Peter tells Christians to be prepared to defend the faith, but "with gentleness and respect."
Free speech is one of the principles that make our country great. We should never attempt to silence or restrict citizens from stating their views, no matter how much we may disagree. But it is possible to differ in our opinions without degrading one another. Derogatory comments, such as those put forth by Limbaugh and Cebull, have no place in a political discussion. They detract us from the real issues and divide our nation.
The debate will get increasingly contentious as we move past the primaries to the general election. There will never be a time when every citizen is completely satisfied with our elected leaders and the nation's policies. If need be, we should oppose the ideology, not the individual. America's beauty is we can differ in our political opinions yet remain united.
Contact Corey J. Hodges, pastor of New Pilgrim Baptist Church, at firstname.lastname@example.org.