Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Call for Civility

One of the nastiest earmarks of the "culture war" mentality is incivility. When we are embattled as culture warriors, we see those who disagree with us as enemies who must be delegitimatized and destroyed. We no longer see people, but opponents. I have always said that rising generations are crying out for a rapid infusion of grace and civility into a public arena where anger and hubris flow all too freely. This doesn't mean that we compromise our convictions, but that we articulate our positions in a more Christlike manner.

One of the most unique efforts to emerge on this front is the Civility Project, spearheaded by Lanny Davis, former White House Counsel for Bill Clinton, and Mark Demoss, head of the largest evangelical PR firm in America. They are an unlikely pair, but they bring a refreshing message: we need to learn to disagree without being disagreeable. This hinges on three commitments:
  • Civility in public discourse and behavior.
  • Respect for others whether or not you agree with them.
  • Standing against incivility.
The Civility Project promotes a message that I know will resonate with rising generations of Christians who are weary of the cultural catfights. As the Apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 3:15, we should always be prepared to defend our beliefs, BUT we must do so with gentleness and respect.

What do you think about the cultural bent toward incivility and this effort to counter it?

10 comments:

tmamone said...

I hate how we can no longer discuss things in a civil manner. Especially us Christians! It makes our Gospel sound like "For God so loved the world . . . except for those nasty Democrats, homosexuals, and Muslims!"

And I wish I could say that I always discuss things in a civil manner, but I don't. That's something I need to work on, too.

Iam4Jesus said...

I really like the way the Amplified Bible puts 1 Peter 3:15...

But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully.

However - let us not do so with apology - scripture does not call us to apologize for being Christians...

And, it's not a fine-line...I believe it's a huge chasm between respect and tolerance....

So many well-intended but misguided people trying to accomplish a well-meant goal of civility.

tmamone said...

Iam4Jesus--I make no apologizes for being a Christian. I do, however, apologize when my actions don't match up with my faith. Like when I'm mean and nasty to people.

Iam4Jesus said...

right Tmamone - that's the way it should be - apologizing when we mess up.

But, we don't need (and should not) apologize when our the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom speaks truth that reveals wrong...

(of which I didn't suggest that you did)

Tyler said...

Hi JM,
It's worthy work -- glad you helped spread the word about this. It'll be no surprise to you that I think one aspect, or perhaps offshoot, of this quest for civility should be grace in lieu of guilt by association -- which is a favored tactic of the uncivil hoards. :)
--TWS

Jonathan Merritt said...

Good words posted by all. Yes, I believe we should still proclaim the truth of the gospel boldly. No, I don't think this gives us license to be rude or preclude us from apologizing when we misspeak. And, yes, I totally believe this means we should lower our sabers that are used to slash good brothers and sisters who partner with others with whom we might disagree on some things.

Great comments!

Jm

Katie said...

I think civility or the lack is something we need to tackle with kids at a very young age. Ever since I started teaching, I have become more shocked at the way that young children feel is appropriate to speak to adults. When redirected, instead of a simple, "yes ma'm" or even better saying nothing at all, it often turns into a tirade of yelling and disrespect. When I was growing up, I never would have dreamed of speaking to an adult the way I often observe students speaking to adults, whether they are parents or teachers. I am not sure how to counter this rising trend, but in my opinion, it is out of control. Our inabilities to control our emotions and tongues is ridiculous and very sad. I am impressed w/ movements like the Civility Project, because something needs to be done. :-)

Luke Hudson said...

Does this mean that you are going to start being civil to people who post on your blog with whom you disagree?

Tim said...

Jonathan, I'm Tim Stafford from Christianity Today Magazine. We want to do a short feature on you, introducing you and your work to our readers. If you're open, I need to do a phone interview. Can you contact me? timnpopie@gmail.com. Thanks.

Sintya said...

There was a NPR discussion between the founder of The Civility Project and the co-founder of Code Pink. Interesting. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111801766