The rhetoric of the Ugly Party shares some common themes: urging the death or sexual humiliation of opponents or comparing a political enemy to vermin or diseases. It is not merely an adolescent form of political discourse; it encourages a certain political philosophy -- a belief that rivals are somehow less than human, which undermines the idea of equality and the possibility of common purposes.
Such sentiments have always existed. But the unfiltered media -- particularly the Internet -- have provided both stage and spotlight. Now everyone can be Richard Nixon, threatening opponents and composing enemies lists.
Read it all.
It's precisely these kinds of dismissive, ad hominem, throw-your-opponent-under-the-bus rhetorical assaults on human dignity that the Church should stand against. But sadly, we Christians drink so deeply from the poisoned wells of our culture that we often form ecclesial versions of the Ugly Party.
Consider, for example, the characterization of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church as "a damn fool elected by homosexuals to destroy a once great church." Or this accusation: "This broken heretic's crooked mouth is nothing more than an endless font of theological sewage, in which the majority of TEC continues to bathe." (Read more here, if you have the stomach.)
Things aren't much better on the Left end of the spectrum. The rhetoric swirling around the Anglican Covenant, for instance, is rather telling, as when one priest charges that the Covenant is "a product of as Stalinist a process as could possibly be imagined." Or what about the comment that the Covenant is "an unmitigated evil"? Or the recent posting over at Episcopal Café which describes the Covenant as "a homophobic power grab"? Or one person's characterization of the Archbishop of Canterbury as "a criminal"?
A wise man once wrote: "If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other" (Galatians 5:15). He'd probably have plenty to say to all of us if he were alive today.