How to Demonize Those Who Disagree: A Lesson from Tony Jones

The lesson isn’t so much taught by Tony Jones, but rather he acts as a good example. Jones apparently has closed shop for on the idea of having an emergent conversation and would now rather only discuss Christianity with people he agrees with. This is based on the fact that now anyone who supports the Tea Party is considered a “teabagger” to Jones. Now of course this is a very derogatory and grotesque term to use (especially considering the origin of the term), but that doesn’t prevent Jones from using it. Why? Because he’s no different than a Jerry Falwell or a Pat Robertson; he must demonize the opposition in order to defeat and silence the opposition.

Jones goes on to link to an article that accuses people who believe that America was founded upon an evangelical past – such as David Barton – for wanting an era or, “white, middle-class, pre-Civil Rights, pre-Vietnam, pre-Watergate past. An imagined day when men were men, women were women, African Americans knew their place, and Mexicans lived south of the border.” In other words, those who see vestiges of evangelicalism in the past, such as Barton, are also racists and don’t like having a black man in office. Instead, they want to go back to the days when blacks were slaves or at least knew they were lesser than the white man. What does the article offer up as proof for these allegations? Nothing, it’s simply a motive that’s ascribed to an entire movement.

I am not a part of the Tea Party movement (as I don’t place my hope in politics and I find the movement to be reactionary, wrong on many points, and uncivil) and I certainly don’t believe that evangelicals founded America (they were involved, but there were many mainline Protestants and Deists involved), but that doesn’t mean I’m going to go around calling people “teabaggers” or attempting to ascribe racist motives to an entire movement. The reason I won’t is because I try to give people the benefit of the doubt rather than demonize them.

But Jones, both in what he said and what he linked, is trying to poison the well. “Don’t listen to the Tea Party or evangelicals because they’re racist!” The sad reality is that “racist” has become the new “Nazi.” It used to be that if you could link someone to Nazi ideology, you win. That person is then ascribed as a Nazi and no one would ever listen to what the person said. Being labeled a Nazi delegitimized any point you wanted to make and stopped any hope of discourse on the issue. Now we use the term “racist” and simply try to call people racists. “Oh, they’re not against President Obama’s policies, they’re against him as a black man.” What proof is offered up to prove the biggest problem is a black man is in office? The same amount of proof offered up that a movement is akin to the Nazi Party – none. Continue reading