Shame on Joe Wilson

Joe Wilson, R-SC, shouting "You lie!" during President Obama's speech.
Joe Wilson, R-SC, shouting "You lie!" during President Obama's speech.

Shame on U. S. Congressman Joe Wilson, R-SC, for his outburst during President Obama’s address on health care to a joint session of Congress.  Multiple media channels are reporting that Joe Wilson is the person who yelled, “You lie!” during President Obama’s speech tonight.  Regardless of ideology or opinion, the President of the United States, whomever he or she may be, deserves the respect of the American people, and certainly deserves a civil reception in the halls of Congress.

The battle over ideas in this country has degenerated into a name-calling, fear-mongering contest.  There was a time in America when elected leaders debated with civility and respect, staking out their positions with compelling arguments.  But today’s political climate fosters a battle to the death with rational thought cast aside for the 30-second soundbite.  We can do better than this.  In that spirit, John McCain tonight called on Joe Wilson to apologize to the President of the United States.

As pastors and church leaders, as Christians in an increasing post-Christian culture, we have the opportunity to model respect, civility, and good citizenship for our congregation and community.  Let’s have a healthy debate on all the issues.  Let’s be firm and frank, let’s challenge each other’s  positions with facts and passion.  But, let us also make sure that in the end we emerge from any debate with our character strengthened, our insights broadened, and our heritage enriched.

Southern Baptists have been embarrassed by the likes of Wiley Drake, who brazenly bragged about praying “imprecatory prayer” that President Obama would die.  Another irrational pastor, Steven Anderson, is featured on YouTube advocating the death of the president.  This must end in America, and most certainly must end in America’s churches.  Freedom of speech and religion is predicated on responsibility, not rancor.

The sorry display of disrespect we witnessed tonight could be a turning point for us all.  Join me in condemning the actions of the Joe Wilsons of the world who had rather inflame than inform, who had rather destroy than discuss, who had rather tear-down than build up.

Paul admonished young Timothy with these words, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-3 NIV

UPDATE: In an amazingly quick turn-around, and after blistering condemnation from Republicans and Democrats, Rep. Joe Wilson issued an apology to the President tonight, according to

18 thoughts on “Shame on Joe Wilson”

  1. The following is cited from the NBC news service web site:

    Independent fact-checkers such as and PolitiFact have backed up Obama’s claim about illegal immigrants. They cite Sec. 246 in HR 3200, the House health-care legislation, which is titled, “NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS.” It states, “Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.”

  2. Mickey is clearly trying to illustrate what is wrong with debate …

    Even if Rep. Wilson were factually correct, then the appropriate way to deliver his message would be to hold his own press conference and say so, not to shout like an ill-behaved child.

    You’re right, that discussions are less and less civil, and that’s making it harder and harder even to hear the other side.

    When I was in college, I was president of the College Republicans. The president of the College Democrats and I frequently squared off. We also did homework together, had friendly chats, and really knew each other. We’re still in touch … we didn’t have to hate each other to disagree. I think that that is being lost as everyone has to be either on your side or Hitler.

    That, more than anything else in the political arena, scares me.

  3. Lisa, thanks for the fact-check.
    Wickle, Mickey is toast. Rude and profane (even abbreviated) comments are deleted. But, you’re right of course. Thanks for both your comments.

  4. To the above poster, I think telling this pastor to STFU illustrates the point beautifully. Disrespect and uncivility are rampant, you don’t even see what’s wrong with what Wilson did, or what you said. Sad state of affairs.

    To the pastor, I appreciate your comments and well-written article. There was a time when reasonable people could disagree and still be colleagues, and have respect for one another, and behave decently. As corny as it may sound, I actually remember a time when we as Americans prided ourselves on being, or at least striving to be good, decent, honorable people who never in a million years would have shown or defended that kind of disrespect. Now, it’s as if half the country is living in a Jerry Springer show. It seems to be about being louder and more offensive than the next guy, with no thought given to finding any resolutions, let alone displaying personal dignity, maturity or class. There’s just your side which is all right and the other side which is all wrong, and that seems to justify saying whatever hateful thing comes to mind. When did we get to be this ugly and hateful. I really believe most people don’t want this, but it takes something shocking like the comment from Wilson to make people realize how far things have degenerated. I hope we do have a turning point soon where ordinary people step forward and take the spotlight away from the extremists, and we can get back to some level of civility and sanity in the public forum.

  5. As the father of a child with a major disease, I am hopeful that we can get back to the civility that our country was founded on and that we all deserve. We need to move forward on this program, whatever the end result is. Oh, we need this sort of bickering to end!

  6. I also very much appreciate this pastor’s thoughts. I believe civility is important, regardless of political views. God blesses us with diversity and debating differences appropriately is part of the strength of democratic process. Disagree, yes. Denigrate, no. What happened today is a symptom of a larger problem in our culture.

  7. Chuck, I agree that civility is a good thing and that rude interruptions of the president’s speech should be disapproved of, but I have to disagree with the notion that we used to be more civil as a society (“There was a time in America when elected leaders debated with civility and respect. . . .”) Does anyone remember learning about the Caning of Sen. Charles Sumner? Here’s a link to the story:

    It is interesting that the perpetrator of that attack was also from South Carolina. So maybe yelling “You lie!” could be seen as a sign of social progress. Just a thought.

  8. Friend,
    I hate to be a voice of dissension, understanding well the place for civility in the public eye, but I think Rep. Wilson’s outburst was a genuine and spontaneous reaction to Mr. Obama’s comment. The President has a track record of making statements just to get the vote and then reversing course. Plus, if you check the current House bill, there is a provision for illegals to have health care because the current bill does not require proof of citizenship. That point has been documented in other places.

    And have you ever watched a session of Parliament? We are not Great Britain, but isn’t it interesting that the nation known for civility and manners allows raucous dissension?

  9. Bill, your dissension is noted and welcomed, but misguided. According to the Washington Post’s fact-checking on the immigrant coverage issue, here is the text of the President’s speech, with the fact-checkers verification:

    9:08 p.m.
    “There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false – the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.”

    Despite many claims to the contrary by opponents of the universal health care proposals, fact-checkers have repeatedly established that the bills’ universal coverage provisions would not extend to illegal immigrants. In Section 246 on page 143, the House’s bill states that “undocumented aliens” will not be eligible for credits to help them buy health insurance — and these credits are the provision that lies at the heart of expanding coverage to the uninsured. And Medicaid already is limited to those who can prove legal residency. For that matter, even the universal health care program in Massachusetts — one of the most liberal states in the country — does not cover illegal immigrants.

    The correctness of Obama’s assertion did not keep one member of the House from shouting that it was a “lie.” The Washington Post’s Shailagh Murray and Chris Cillizza have reported that the shout came from Rep. Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican.
    –Alec MacGillis

    As to the British ritual, if you have watched those exchanges, they are invariably good-humored, witty exchanges made, not out of rancor, but in the spirit of the loyal opposition. We’re not Britain, as you noted, and no one in the history of all the joint-session addresses by a President of the United States, no one had ever heckled the President. No one. Ever. In our entire history. The protocol is respect, deference, and civility in that forum. I cannot speak to Joe Wilson’s motives or state of mind as you seem to be able to, but his actions are inexcusable. John McCain thought so and called on Wilson to immediately apologize to the President, which he did. Obviously, Wilson realized he had overstepped, but as the Post points out in another piece, Wilson was not the only GOP heckler last night. Their actions will come back to haunt them because they looked like petulant delinquents who needed to be taught some manners.

  10. Shame on Joe Wilson for bringing politicians and Republicans into disrepute. At a time of economic turmoil which is taking place around the world, people are relying on their political representatives to look out for their best interests rather than taking power trips and playing manipulative games with the public. Joe Wilson did not step up to the plate.
    All eyes are always on America and it is behaviour like this that discredits American politicians, in American and abroad.
    Shame on you Joe Wilson. You clearly need a lesson on civility and should familiarize yourself with American political history, particularly those of your political forefathers.

  11. Here’s what I think, for what it’s worth. I was raised to have manners – I made sure that my daughters use good manners, if they don’t they hear about it. Joe Wilson is being reminded today that it’s not polite to interrupt – not the President, not anyone. Here’s the sad part though, we’re all talking about this outburst like some reality TV show, and that takes the attention of our lawmakers that really should be thinking only about how to get some health care reform passed.
    I’m one of those people, paying 10% of my income for health care, and another 5-10% each year in out of pocket medical costs because my insurance does not pay for the preventative care. (Stuff I need to do, ounce of prevention, pound of cure concept) I don’t want a hand-out, but I don’t want to decide between a family vacation and a mammogram each year.
    Children with bad manners, can be very distracting, and Congressman with bad manners are no different. Let’s put Mr. Wilson in time-out, and get to work, the real issues of the Health Care problem are way to important to many of us, to be distracted by someone’s tantrum.

  12. Why is that the hotbed of the lies, distortions, misdirections and outright hatred surrounding this issue seems to be South Carolina?

  13. Shame on Joe Wilson…for making an apology.
    He had it right the first time.
    Anyone see the clips of the 2005 State of the Union address that the Dems interrupted? I guess they don’t like it when their New Christ is the one on the podium.

  14. Stuart, you are obviously in the minority. Republican leaders John Boehner and John McCain condemned Wilson’s disrespectful outburst and called on him to apologize. Debate is predicated on civility and ideas. Wilson had neither in his two-word accusation. Resorting to name-calling, ad hominem attacks, and other uncivil behavior suggests that the attacker is short on intellect and self-control. The rules of House and Senate provide for decorum in debate. Wilson violated the rules and the spirit of the occasion. We can do better than this, and we must.

  15. NY Times had a panel on SC politics and Joe Wilson. I thought it was best perspective to date on the matter.
    I made a comment there, four hundred fifty something I think I was

  16. Your blog of 9/9 on Joe Wilson appropriately addresses the need for civility in debate; however, you lost my support when asking for readers to “join [you] in condemning the Joe Wilsons of the world”. Pastor, we’re to hate the sin, not the sinner. Any brief amount of research of the man would reveal he deserves more respect than condemnation. He’s a retired Colonel from the S.C. Army Reserves, has four sons, all of whom currently serve in the US military, and additionally are all Eagle Scouts, and through all this has managed to remain married to the same woman. I submit more men should be like him rather than to condemn him. For verification, refer to the following:

    By your logic, would you likewise support a call to condemn Pres. Obama when he similarly “lied” in a nationaly televised speech, falsely accusing Cambridge police officer Sgt. Crowley of acting “stupidly” when arresting a black professor? Pres. Obama admitted to not knowing the facts and the matter was quickly forgotten after the “beer summit”.

    Civility, without critical thinking on issues, is useless, and vice versa.

  17. My comment was to join in condemning “the Joe Wilsons of the world who had rather inflame than inform, who had rather destroy than discuss, who had rather tear-down than build up.”

    My intent, and to be more precise, I should have said to “condemn the actions of the Joe Wilsons of the world…” I’ll add those words to the post.

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