This reflection is now available in Daniel P. Horan, OFM’s book Franciscan Spirituality for the 21st Century: Selected Reflections from the Dating God Blog and Other Essays, Volume One (Koinonia Press, 2013).



  1. I join you in praying for healing in Norway and I a join you in mourning the loss of life. As we struggle with such senseless acts of violence, our grief can turn to fear, anger, and mistrust. As I read your post, what strikes me is that you enter into the blame-game that you discourage in your opening paragraph. You assert, “the way in which certain people in the United States (and elsewhere) talk about people of other ethnicities, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations, genders or cultures promotes a rhetorical atmosphere of semantic violence.” You then proceed to give a laundry list of people from the opposite end of the political spectrum as yourself whom you believe are to blame for violence. All in all, it is a rather polarizing post.

    1. I again echo your prayerful intent.

      The second-half of your comment is, I’m afraid, an invalid correlation. I made a critique and offered examples of that critique — that they tend to overwhelmingly be from a political party I may or may not agree with is, frankly, immaterial.

      I reject all forms of violent and incendiary political discourse against groups of marginalized people, that goes for Dems and GOPs and British Labour and any other political group.

      Now is not the time for you to play the victim on behalf of those in need of hearing critical challenges — there are enough real victims out there and they happen to not be running for president of the USA.

      Peace and good.

      1. Please don’t confuse a honest search for truth with “playing victim”. In a polarizing post, you–as a liberal–use strictly conservative examples of violent rhetoric to argue against blaming others. That would be like me approaching my wife and saying, “We really need to cut expenses,” and then go on to list all of the frivolous purchases that SHE has made, while not bringing up the income I spend on beer, doughnuts, and itunes downloads. Believe me, my criticism would not be well received nor would it carry any kind of integrity.

      2. My last comment to you, Jared, on this subject. The degree to which the public discourse of politicians reflects the same language, subject matter, discrimination and the like found in the written and verbal statements of the Norwegian shooter are not found in the platform “values” of other political parties. I am grateful for your and Matt’s sharing of googled so-called “liberal” or “left” (whatever either term means) examples. They are here now for readers to consider. None of them, however, matches the vociferous tone and content — particularly aimed at minorities (religious, ethnic, sexual, etc.) given in my three examples above (and there are many more, but this is not a wholesale listing, merely an illustration).

        I take umbrage with your choice to label me “a liberal,” particularly because I have not personally appropriated that or any of the other amorphous terms tossed about without reflection. I don’t know what that means to you, but it has no meaning to me. Likewise, I do not consider myself “conservative” either. All of these monikers bear no objective value for my outlook on one issue might place me in opposition to someone like you, while my view on another issue might place me in opposition with someone you consider to hold an opposing perspective.

        Again, I appreciate your effort to list what you feel are comparable (is that the idea) opposing political examples of what I’ve discussed above and we will all take that into consideration. Having looked at all of your links, I cannot find an example that compares to Bachmann, King or Palin, but I leave that to each reader to decide for herself. You may continue to comment here as long as it doesn’t violate my comment rules, but on this post I will no longer reply directly to your remarks.

        Peace and good.

      3. Thanks for your response, Brother. It seems as though I have exhausted your patience, but I am simply bringing balance to a very important discussion. The reason for the links below is to help provide examples of violent political rhetoric from a side that was unrepresented in your post. I am not trying to undermine your message–rather, I am offering support for your basic conclusion, just not the use of exclusively conservative examples that are used to illustrate your point. Sorry, but I believe it further polarizes people.

    1. Thanks for your post, Matt. I also reject the democrats use of violent language, even if it is to a much lesser degree. A comment and a question.

      The comment: Only 2 of these are public figures and the contexts are far less explicit than what is mentioned above. Regular citizens protesting, while always abhorrent when invoking violent language or imagery, is not the same as a politicians or public figure who has access to television, radio and print coverage and can reach huge audiences. As far as private citizens go, you do not want to open the so-called “tea party” can of worms — people bringing loaded automatic weapons to events and the like.

      The question: Are you suggesting then that violent language is ok? I’m not sure I understand you intention with this posted comment — are you advocating for a: if “they do it” then “we can do it too” position?

      1. Nope. I too deplore the political situation and the rhetoric that is espoused.

        The links were given because you mentioned you didn’t have a source off hand other than the 3 mentioned, so I thought I would give a few. The Congressman Capuano speech occurred 6 weeks after the Gabby Giffords tragedy.

        I am not saying it’s ok at all. I agree it’s harmful to political environment. I am just showing that it’s not only a right wing problem.

  2. Jared, I think you’re missing the point. Conservative rhetoric is used much more literally (with the above exception being Ms. Palin’s, but producing an indictment of her language would be like trying to find a needle in a needle stack), where liberal rhetoric (at least in the examples you’ve given) have been used metaphorically. To compare the two would be like comparing apples and monster trucks.

    Are you suggesting that President Obama’s comparison of AIG to a bomb should incite the same type of public reaction as Ms. Bachman’s horribly hateful stance on LGBT rights, or Mr. King’s backwards view of how this country should treat our Muslim brothers and sisters?

    1. Bpfitzny–My point is that the violent rhetoric is everywhere. I am not keeping score between democrats and republicans—and I certainly can not give either party the moral high ground on this issue. When I first learned about the shootings in Norway, my first reaction was to pray for the victims. They were killed by a crazy gunman and it has nothing to do with Bachman, King or Palin, but is rather a result of serious mental illness. To use this tragedy as an opportunity to malign republicans is shameful. As Victor Hanson has remarked, “If crazed gunmen are sadly a periodic characteristic of modern culture, so are political vultures who scavenge political capital as they pick through the horrific violence.”

  3. On another note, I have no problem with you calling me a liberal (as I am socially), or a conservative (as I am fiscally). Those who identify themselves as strictly conservative seem to think that the word “liberal” bears with it some sort of derogatory connotation, when it really does nothing of the sort. I liken it to when they call President Obama “Barry”.

    1. I had no idea that the word “liberal” has a negative connotation. I would liken it to when I am called “conservative”–which I am. I liken calling the President “Barry” to people who called Bush “Dubya”. I have many friends who describe themselves as liberals, so I do not see the insult.

  4. Why is it important WHO says what, when it is WHAT is said that is the matter under discussion, as long as the WHAT is apropos?

  5. The toxic verbal landscape we have now in the media and politics are fuelling more the fears and anxieties of some people who already have “irrational” fearful view of others and the world. Compounding this problem is that these toxic messages are picked up by some members of the community who are not integrated or bonded by its common vision, values and goals. Unfortunately, it is the discourse from the extreme right that is always played up by mainstream media because of their propensity for stereotypes, e.g., Arabs and Muslims as terrorists, etc…etc…etc…In a media system where formulaic approach to news and programming supplants creativity and originality, cultural stereotypes provide easy way of framing messages. While the left has its own brand of stereotypes, theirs do not have the same appeal to the disenfranchised and disenchanted members of the community because those on the left have always been perceived as “elitist.” Yes, Brother Dan, your call to change our discourse is spot on. To quote George Gerbner, “Indeed, the telling of stories, the cultivation of a sense of who we are, what the world is like, has always been the principal shaper of human behavior. The new task, then, is to try to design a media system – a cultural environmental system – which will address the issue of how can we create an environment for our children, of stories, of all the socializing influences in which they grow up that is more fair, that is more equitable, that is more just, and less damaging than the one we have today.”
    I wish you peace and every good to your “blog” ministry as you contribute toward creating a more humane and just cultural, political and media system.

  6. I have been refraining from comment but alas….
    I believe that Br. Dan’s article focusing on inflamatory verbiage spewing in the media is correct from both side is very correct;. However, the initially it is most definitely slanted to the left, because it did not include from inception, solid examples of the left also being guilty of the same tactics. On this note I agree with Jared.
    Now, as for playing the victim, I do not belive his comment warrented the “victim” comment, he was just stating the fact re: the unbalanced nature of the article.

    As for the “irrational”, that is akin to the Pelosi et al, calling anyone who disagreed or challenge the Socialized Medical program, a “right-wing nut-job”. I take great personal offense to being called “irrational” because I do not and will not espouse the progressive leftist – kumbaya, left-over, wantabe-hypie agenda.

    One last critique is why are not the protection of the unborn ever mentioned, when addressing the rights of the While one may believe this to be a personal “choice”, I find it rather hypocritical to not include them, especially highlighting all the “other” disenfranchised.

    Additionally, IMHO, it is also incorrect the left stereotypes don’t have the same appeal as the right. All one needs to do is review the results of the 2008 election. It was the most sucessful, information warfare campaign I have ever seen — playing directly to the emotion of the “disenfranchised” masses.

    Now, to address something more on a more semantic and academic level….What exactly is the balance between tolerance and acceptance? In my humble opinion and respectfully submitted, there is a balance and a line. While I can respect and tolerate others’ beliefs, I do not have to accept or espouse them as my own. We are called to accept and respect, moveover see (to know) the authentic person, but that also does not mean that each person is acting in accordance with God’s plan. Whether we like to admit it or not, there have been rules or laws since the beginning of time, but what has happened over the ages, is the gratual and methodical changing of the rules to meet the passing mode of the time. I would submit that this has never been so prevent than since the 20th Century. I don’t believe that we are called to “accept” everything, or else I don’t believe we would have been given the Commandments or Scripture. Morevoer, the Parables (i.e. the woman at the well).

    PAX et vivat Iesus!

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