By Bill ShulerPastor, Capital Life Church

If public discourse is a litmus test for the health of a nation, America is in need of a visit to the doctor's office. This week we saw a TV comedian seek laughs with inappropriate comments about the daughter of one of our national leaders and another TV personality make mean-spirited personal attacks on President Reagan on the fifth anniversary of his death.

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We should embrace community and reject voices that divide by hate.

The marketplace of ideas is an intrinsic part of American life but our culture is being bombarded with speech that appeals to the lowest in our nature, rather than the ideals that have made us great.

So the following are 10 suggestions about public discourse in America:

1. Sincere debate should be embraced; personal attacks should not.

2. Free speech should be viewed as a virtue; speech that degrades should be viewed as a vice.

3. The public should send a signal via their pocketbooks and viewership.

4. We should drop the assumption that people lose their right to be treated with dignity because they are in the public eye.

5. Ratings and sales should never trump decency and respect.

6. We should embrace community and reject voices that divide by hate.

7. The call for civil discourse and non-partisanship should be more than election year rhetoric.

8. We should reclaim the art of being reasonable.

9. We should pursue understanding even when agreement is not possible.

10. We should never demonize people merely because we disagree with them.

Perhaps the prognosis of America's health will be found in what we choose to tolerate. The slow desensitizing of our nation's ear will have a profound effect on generations to come. As the scriptures tell us, "The tongue has the power of life and death" (Proverbs 18:21).