Overall respect is needed

In Isaiah 1:18, the LORD says, “Come now, and let us reason together.” Unfortunately, we’ve seen far too little of this wisdom applied recently in the public square.

Wednesday’s attack on the GOP Congressional baseball team was an attack on our way of governing, but also a symptom of the breakdown in our civil discourse.

This year we’ve seen dozens of town halls erupt into uncontrollable mobs, resulting in Members of Congress needing police escorts out of the venue. We’ve seen Hollywood push the boundary of what’s acceptable, to the point of a comedian posing in a disturbingly graphic photo depicting a beheaded President Trump, a Central Park play with despicable political references, or a celebrity threatening to blow up the White House.

Many, it seems, have lost their ability to respectfully disagree and refrain from vitriolic rhetoric against “the other side.”

Frankly, I was not a great supporter of President Obama. While I rarely agreed with him on policy, I always maintained a respect for the office. A civil discourse on the issues is central to a thoughtful, national debate.

Those who incite fear, anger, and rage do nothing substantive to promote their ideals. Their inexcusable actions do not benefit our country.

As Americans, there’s much more that unites us than divides us. Within our local community, we work together for the common good through Rotary Clubs, parent-teacher and athletic associations, the volunteer fire department, after-school tutoring programs, and other volunteer organizations. Engaging with one another broadens our perspectives and helps us find common ground.

Last year, I traveled on a Congressional delegation regarding countering terrorism finance with Congressman Keith Ellison, who earlier this year ran to be Chair of the Democratic National Committee. Keith and I have almost nothing politically in common. While Keith is an African-American, progressive Democrat, Muslim representing Minnesota, I am a white, conservative Republican, Christian representing North Carolina.

While Keith and I rarely vote the same, we got along great on the trip and became good friends. Neither of us have given up on our principles, but we respect each other and have a positive, civil discourse. Our relationship enabled us to find common ground on bipartisan legislation to expand opportunities for hardworking Americans who might otherwise struggle to gain access to affordable credit.

As Speaker Ryan and Nancy Pelosi appropriately stated, Wednesday’s shooting was an attack on all of us and our way of government. To maintain a vibrant democracy, we must maintain a civil discourse. On Thursday, I attended one of the longest-running bipartisan celebrations in Washington – the Congressional Baseball Game. Republicans and Democrats came together and celebrated our common bond and love of country in a powerful message of unity.

As we pray for those injured (Majority Whip Steve Scalise, U.S. Capitol Police officers Crystal Griner and David Bailey, Congressional aide Zack Barth, and government relations representative Matt Mika), let us also reflect on the great freedoms our nation affords each of us, and the need to apply those freedoms with love, respect, and honor for each other.

Supporting persecuted religious minorities

Thousands of Christians, Yazidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities continue to suffer brutal persecution and genocide at the hands of ISIS. Only a few weeks ago, this evil manifested itself again when ISIS soldiers opened fire on Coptic Christians in Egypt, killing 29, including 10 children.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act (H.R. 390), which I co-sponsored, to provide relief to ISIS victims. President Trump and House Republicans remain committed to not only eliminating ISIS, but also providing humanitarian relief to those who have suffered from their diabolic violence.

Congressman Robert Pittenger (NC-09) is Chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance, and serves on the House Financial Services Committee, with a special focus on supporting small businesses, community banks, and credit unions.