Tuesday, March 4, 2008

'Hating Hillary'

A Christianity Today editorial now online takes up a phenomenon that could dog Hillary Clinton if she survives as the Democratic nominee -- an increasingly unlikely event unless things turn around tonight. The issue is one I've mentioned here before: Despite the findings of a recent Zogby poll, evangelicals love to hate Hillary.
Her public persona, a brand of East Coast liberalism with roots in '60s radical politics, strikes many Americans as uppity and unapproachable. Open talk about her personal faith in recent years strikes some as politically convenient. And Clinton's consistently pro-choice stance on abortion clashes with most evangelicals' deeply held belief that life begins in the womb and should be protected at great cost.

But then come more baseless blows to the former first lady. No small amount of jokes and hate-marketing attests to how far the "Hate Hillary" demographic stretches: T-shirts, bumper stickers, voodoo dolls, and "No Way in Hellary" BBQ aprons are now among the items you can purchase to advertise your anti-Hillary stance. On the nonprofit side, scads of websites dish on Hillary's supposed crookery, while bloggers invent new derogatory nicknames, such as Hitlery and Hilldabeast. We seem to simply enjoy hating Hillary. ...

Perhaps Hillary-bashing says more about the political climate Americans have created than it does about Clinton herself. The current President? "Village Idiot." The one before him? "Slick Willy." And on it goes. Instead of researching a candidate's voting record or listening to position statements on pressing issues, it's easier to mark someone ENEMY and begin the verbal whacking. There's admittedly something comforting about this: It helps make sense of the world and creates a feeling of mutuality among those with whom we share dislike. The factions created around enemies may even bear a far-off resemblance to true community.
Better than bashing

Evangelicals, knowing that turning candidates into verbal punching bags will never create real community, are called to talk about political figures in ways starkly different from the pundits and hate-marketers.

While the loudest political voices this election season will keep only a loose rein on their tongues, evangelicals do well to ponder the Bible's insights into the mysterious yet profound connection between a person's heart and mouth: "The things that come out of the mouth," says Jesus, "come from the heart." Which is why Paul says, "Now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips" (Col. 3:8). Biblical psychology assumes not only that the words of our mouths reveal the state of our hearts, but that words have power to shape the heart—for better or worse.

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