This is The Christian Response Briefing. I’m Daniel Whyte IV. The Christian Response Briefing represents the perspective of the Christian community to the events happening in our perilous times. When great tragedies or historic events take place, the White House and other organizations often have a publicized response. In this briefing, we share a response to the same events based on God’s Word.
This past week, a tragic and unprecedented event took place that shocked our nation and the world. On Thursday, five employees of the Annapolis, MD-based Capital Gazette were killed when a gunman, who had previously vowed to kill one of the paper’s journalists, opened fire at the building. Several others were wounded. This country has seen its share of mass shootings, at schools, workplaces, theaters, and churches, but never before — and never in our wildest imaginations — have we seen such violence directed at the people who usually report on the tragedies that befall others.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Rebecca Smith, John McNamara, Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters, and Robert Hiaasen. We are praying for the comfort and healing of their co-workers and the Annapolis community.
The killer, Jarrod Ramos, had a long-running feud with The Gazette, stemming from a story the paper ran after he was sentenced to probation for stalking and harassing a woman he had attended high school with. According to USA Today, Ramos “regularly attacked the newspaper, its journalists, editors and the judge that presided over the case” online. He also “regularly posted about wanting members of the staff to kill themselves [and] hoping the paper would shut down.”
Ramos is an extreme and ultimately tragic example. However, his case, and the slaughter that took place at the Capital Gazette’s newsroom, sheds light on another of this week’s trending topics — the discussion of civility. Stemming from incidents such as the White House Press Secretary being refused service at a resturant, a California representative calling on government officials from the other side of the aisle to be confronted in public, and a conservative provocateur calling for journalists to be ‘gunned down on sight,’ dialogue about civility in public life was taking place across the internet, television, and radio this week.
According to Merriam-Webster, civility is defined as “civilized conduct, especially courtesy or politeness.” Civility is tightly interwoven in the fabric of a successful and sustainable democracy. In a country of over 300 million diverse people, a great number of disagreements — some of them extremely vehement — will take place. However, we can disagree and still get along. But when we cease to be respectful and tolerant of others no matter what they believe, we take a pickaxe to the bedrock of our communities.
The Bible has a lot to say about civility — treating others with respect and understanding no matter how we disagree with them. Romans 12:10 says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” Ephesians 4:29 cautions us against speaking words that harm and tear down: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” And James, of course, strikes at the heart of the issue with this brief but bold command: “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”
If society as a whole doesn’t heed the calls to civility from the Bible and from common sense, we will continue to tear each other down and tear this country apart. Sadly, we will see more incidents like the Capitol Gazette shooting, where violent words lead to violent actions with deadly consequences.
Thank you for listening to the Christian Response Briefing. I am Daniel Whyte IV.