I received a notification on my iPad as I was getting ready to face the day last Wednesday – A gunman had attacked a group of Republican congressional representatives.
Soon after, a friend with whom I have often commiserated over the state of our culture sent me a message, “And now we’ve devolved into shooting our elected officials.”
I’ve long been warning both Tea Partiers and Progressives about the dangers of their rhetoric.
Fake news conspiracy theories, seasoned with just enough fact to convince the already convinced, rule our social connections.
Warfare language, which identifies allies and enemies and battles, is tossed into our cultural maelstrom with reckless disregard of its power. And always, always, “the enemy” is dehumanized.
The results of such a toxic mix are not pretty.
Since the election of Donald Trump, reactionary attacks on minorities have been on the rise. One such incident occurred not far from where I live.
People have been right to point out the president’s rhetoric has emboldened people to display such behaviors and perform such deeds.
Progressives, for their part, have done a decent job matching right-wing rhetoric and animosity. As such, they have created a dehumanization field every bit as strong as their counterparts.
President Trump is only referred to as 45. Police as a whole are declared fascist.
Fake news headlines, mixing enough fact to enrage the already enraged, are spread in our social spheres.
Members of Congress aren’t confronted over their ideas; they are rhetorically assassinated as being something sub-human.
Is it any wonder, then, a committed anti-Trump gun owner would become convinced he had to do what he could to destroy his enemies?
Progressives have called upon the ideological right to alter their rhetoric, which enflames the passions of violence and hatred for short-term gain. They have been right to do so.
What happened on that baseball diamond in Virginia is clear evidence they need to take their own advice. It does not matter what ideals one claims to possess if our rhetoric leads us into the hell of civil warfare.
When it comes to dehumanizing our enemies, there is no “right side of history.” In it is found only the cycle of violence and the struggle for power.
Wesley Allen is pastor of the Central Baptist Church of Riverton-Palmyra, New Jersey, and communications director and resident technologist at American Baptist Churches of New Jersey. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Painfully Hopeful, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @wezlo.