A Plea for Civility While Discussing HJR3

Last summer, the Journal and Courier rightly condemned a guest editorialist for comparing the mayor of West Lafayette to Adolf Hitler.  During the annexation discussions, the newspaper quoted “Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies” which suggests that whenever a writer attempts such a hurtful correlation, “the conversation is over — and the one making the Nazi reference is the automatic loser for resorting to a comparison that simply is too outlandish in any context.”

I could not have agreed more with the newspaper’s call that day for civility and appropriate speech in the public square.  That is exactly why I would question the paper’s recent comparison of Indiana House Speaker, Brian Bosma, to Pontius Pilate.

For the politically or biblically uninitiated, the J&C was complaining because Bosma is leading the House to do precisely what recent polls suggest 80% of Hoosiers desire — to allow voters to speak their consciences on HJR3 in November.  Our local media thought that act was so egregious that it warranted a comparison between one of our State’s highest elected officials to the man who washed his hands of any responsibility for the wicked mob who demanded to crucify Jesus Christ.

I assume this wasn’t done purposely, but the analogy is fairly clear for anyone able to connect the dots — the Speaker of the House is Pilate, those supporting same-sex marriage are like Jesus, and those with a more conservative view are like the vile murderers who hung the Savior on the cross of Calvary.

Wow.

I realize it must be frustrating for progressives when ordinary Hoosiers don’t always buy what they are selling.  The Journal and Courier, the Indy Star, and all the folks associated with Freedom Indiana have mounted a full court press against the voters’ right to weigh in on the definition of marriage.  The business leaders, politicians, educational leaders and members of the media have waged an impressive battle to suppress the vote.  Yet, the statistics don’t lie.  Even after everything the progressives could throw at the discussion–a full 80% of Indiana citizens disagree with their position.

Interestingly enough, one of the liberal’s repeated arguments is that if this issue comes before the voters, the discussion might turn…nasty.  Isn’t that exactly what happened in this particular case?  If it was wrong last June, why is acceptable today?

Ironically, the paper inadvertently came very close to explaining to themselves why many Hoosiers do not grant allegiance to progressive leaders when making decisions about moral truth.  It is because of what actually happened on Pilate’s cross.  The perfect Lamb of God died for the sins of man, making new and eternal life available for all who would admit their sin and accept the free gift of salvation made possible as He hung between heaven and earth.  Therefore many of us look to Him—not media members—for ultimate guidance on moral truth.

In Thursday’s article, the writer even took a careless jab at “evangelicals,” a word which simply means people who believe in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.  Our Lord and Savior published his view on this subject 2000 years before Freedom Indiana was even founded when he said, “He who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh'” (Matthew 19:4-5).  We believe that the sinless Son of God, who was willing to die in our place, has earned the right to teach eternal and unchanging truth about morality.  Surely the cross and the personages involved should be as off limits to social commentators as senseless Nazi comparisons.

Students of Scripture also understand that Pontius Pilate is not only known for his infamous hand washing ploy, but also for one of the most important questions on the heart of man; “what is truth?”  (John 18:38). Isn’t that the real issue here — how should citizens determine the truth about societal questions?  Local and national newspapers’ disturbing trend to move their reporter’s opinions from the editorial page to the front page may lead such writers to honestly believe that whatever they have to say on a particular subject will be accepted by all readers as truth.   That is a serious miscalculation on the part of the fourth estate and will lead to undoubted media frustration and overreach when readers simply and respectfully disagree.

I would encourage all of us as we progress through the HJR3 discussion to seek civility and charitable speech.  Regardless of what we each believe and how we will eventually vote, we will all have to live together when the dust settles.  The Person who hung on Pilate’s cross can help us there, too.  He is the One who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Steve ViarsSteve Viars
Dr. Viars has served as a pastor and counselor at Faith since 1987. He is an author, national speaker, and Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Biblical Counseling Coalition.