Ad Hominem Attacks: The Refuge of the Thoughtless

We live is a world of data points, sound bites (or bytes?), twitter updates and instant analysis. What is lacking is the rare combination of compassion and critical thinking, the love and respect we need if we are going to solve the global and local problems we confront.

In recent days I have been deeply disconcerted by the behavior of two Christians – one from the Left and one from the Right side of ideological spectrum. Jim Wallis is the leader of the Sojourners Fellowship and the author of God and Politics and other left-leaning critiques of American economics, culture and policy. Ann Coulter is a best-selling author whose blond hair and scathing jabs make her the object of great hatred on the Left.

Jim Wallis lashed out at Marvin Olasky, comparing him to Glenn Beck (the man “who lies for a living”) and accusing Olasky of lying about a $200,000 contribution Wallis’ group received from a George Soros group. When researchers unearthed proof of the donation, Wallis’ representatives issued a bleak apology, citing how busy they were. We should expect better from one of Barak Obama’s spiritual advisers.

Joseph Farah and others hosting a Tea Party event dropped Ann Coulter from the speaking menu when they found out she is speaking at a Republican group that advocates gay marriage and gays in the military. Instead of expressing regret and perhaps giving a trademark one-liner, Coulter goes on the attack in public and calls Farah and WorldNet Daily “fake Christians” and ‘publicity whore[s]” who foolishly pursue the “birther thing” that “no conservative takes seriously.” Ann, you have gone too far and your libel of fellow-conservatives is uncalled for, especially when unity is vital to winning upcoming elections and returning America to her roots.

Ad hominem arguments are the last resort of thoughtless people who, instead of arguing their points with class and precision, choose to attack the character of their opponent. Now character does matter and Jesus of Nazareth himself had choice words for the hypocritical and the proud. But most of the time, these specious attacks obscure our failure to confront the hard choices we must make.

Wallis and Coulter go to church. How can they receive the Eucharist with what is on their tongues? Is “love your enemies” only for a few saints, or does it contain the kernel of what can become an ability to love compassionately and argue critically?

I am deeply upset about our nation’s course and there is almost no policy of this current government that I agree with. That does not give me license to hate or spew venom all over the web. I will make my case on principles, careful analysis and thoughtful reflection. I invite all thoughtful people to join with me and start a civil and passionate movement of hope.

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