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We are both evangelical Christians who believe that our treatment of the poor, weak, and most vulnerable is how a society is best biblically measured. Yet we usually find ourselves at opposite poles politically and often differ with each other. We believe these political differences are normal and even to be expected among citizens expressing their faith in the public arena, for God is neither a Democrat nor a Republican.

In the aftermath of the horrible and senseless shooting in Arizona and some of the troubling responses to it, we, as leaders in the faith community, affirm with one voice our principled commitment to civil discourse in our nation's public life. The President rightly said that no act of incivility can be blamed for the profoundly evil shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the tragic killing and wounding of 19 of her constituents. Nonetheless, we should not lose this moment for moral reflection and renewal. We must re-examine the tone and character of our public debate, because solving the enormous problems we face as a nation will require that we work for a more civil public square.

We live in a world where evil is very real and, in Arizona, we have just witnessed a brutal example of human depravity that has broken our hearts. Yet, at the same time, the nation has been inspired by the heroism of so many ordinary people who rose to that terrible occasion and demonstrated our most noble human virtues. This tragedy reminds us that we always have a choice to appeal to our "better angels" or our worst. We believe that the faith community should lead by example and model the behavior that is informed by our biblical teachings—behavior that also essential to the survival of democracy.

First we affirm ...

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January 2011

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