Tim Shriver and Tami Pyfer.

Photo courtesy of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute

From the editor: Across the US political spectrum, contempt, acceptance of violence on the rise

October 6, 2023

Dear Reader,

As a writer and editor, I pay close attention to language, to the construction of words and how they fit together well to tell a story, to communicate truth, to build up. Words have power. This much was demonstrated at the dawn of creation when God said, and it was so. God spoke and what God intended came to be.

Words also have power to tear down, to sow chaos, to spread evil. “So also the tongue is a small member,” James wrote, “yet it boasts of great exploits.” (James 3:5)

How great a forest is set ablaze by a such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of life, and is itself set on fire by hell. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse people, made in the likeness of God. (James 3:5-10)

Across the U.S. political spectrum, contempt is on the rise. So too is acceptance of violence as a political tool. Threats against members of Congress have increased tenfold in the past five years. Between the 2020 election and the 2022 midterms, candidates running for House and Senate offices increased spending on security by more than 500 percent according to a recent Washington Post analysis of filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Across the U.S. political spectrum, contempt is on the rise. So too is acceptance of violence as a political tool.

As of February 2021, 25% of Republicans and 17% of Democrats felt threats against the other party’s leaders were justifiable, and 19% of Republicans and 10% of Democrats believed it was justified to harass ordinary members of the other party. One-in-five Republicans (20%) and 13% of Democrats claimed that political violence was justified “these days.”

Timothy Shriver, chair of Special Olympics and cofounder of Unite, a national non-profit focused on healing America’s divides, understands the power of words and the connection between the rise in contempt and the acceptance of violence as a political tool. Shriver, along with Tom Rosshirt and Tami Pyfer, created the Dignity Index, an eight-point scale to score political rhetoric based on how dignified or contemptuous it is. Following a successful pilot project in Utah last fall, they have plans to expand this effort nationwide in 2024.

My story on this project was published this week in The Christian Citizen and republished by Baptist News GlobalI hope you’ll take the time to read about and share this effort. For those interested in utilizing the Dignity Index and connecting with the work of Unite, you’ll find links in the story.



Curtis Ramsey-Lucas is editor of The Christian Citizen. Know someone who’d like to receive our weekly newsletter? Send them to this sign-up page or forward them this article.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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