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Thursday, June 21, 2012

What Civility Demands of Eric Metaxas

Among Eric Metaxas’ many virtues is his professed commitment to Christian civility. As Richard Mouw has argued for years, such civility, rightly understood, does not preclude serious and sustained disagreement or passionate and heartfelt denunciation, but it does demand thoughtful and considerate explanation. Metaxas’ public stand on the HHS Mandate is that it is comparable to unnamed laws passed in the early stages of Hitler’s rise to power, that it is putting the United States on a similar course to the horrors of Nazi Germany and that it is therefore incumbent upon Christians in America to view the struggle against the HHS Mandate as Bonhoeffer viewed the struggle against Nazism at its earliest stages. This way of thinking has not only influenced Metaxas’ very robust media efforts to challenge the Mandate, but it also shaped the discourse of his fellow Breakpoint colleague’s Charles Colson and Timothy George. They wrote a memorable article for Christianity Today at the early stages of this controversy comparing the duty of Christians in America to the duty of Christians in Germany, even going so far as to title their column for Christianity Today on the issue in identical language to that of the famous Nazi resister Martin Niemoller.

It seems to me that if citizens are going to accuse their duly elected leaders of complicity in horrors comparable to those that launched the Nazi regime then civility would demand that they explain their charges with the care and scholarship that they warrant. Certainly this was Bonhoeffer’s method of operation. He put teeth to his charges against the Nazi regime and did not rely on hyperbole and media sloganeering alone in his resistance to their laws. I have sought such rigor from Metaxas in vein. Unless I am missing something, there is nowhere on the internet or in regular print an explanation of how the HHS Mandate is comparable to any early laws of the Nazi regime, how it will lead to a regime similar to that of Nazi Germany and how it will cause reaction to Catholics similar to the tragedy of the Shoah for Europe’s Jews.

The struggle against the HHS Mandate has reached a new stage with the launch of the Catholic Bishops' Fortnight for Freedom and the prospect of massive civil disobedience in conjunction with it. Metaxas has made clear his intention to join in this campaign with his extensive level of media contacts, going so far as to say Christians should leave no rhetorical "bullet" in the holster. One can hope that in the course of his work he will find time to devote to either explaining substantively his serious charges against the Obama Administration or retract his more extreme statements.

1 comment:

  1. Greg, I had never heard of Metaxas until your posts. Have you attempted to contact him directly or had any other interaction with him?