Good Friday morning ...
Whatever happened to civility in America?
We see its loss in politics. The "us vs. them" tone of politics is rampant. You have Democratic Socialists harassing the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security as she tried to eat dinner in a Washington restaurant. You have a leading member of Congress inviting citizens to harass people working in the White House. You have members of Congress accosted on the streets with shouts of degrading slogans and untruths. The vitriol and animosity, both spoken and unspoken, between political parties, from the White House down is horrendous.
We see it in social media. Technology is amazing. It allows us to monitor our front door when we aren't home. It lets us have vacuums roam around our house cleaning while we are at work. It also provides us with communication and messaging tools that give us access to information in real time. We are more in tune with our politics and our world than ever before ... but this has come with a price.
Our world has lost its civility. If a disagreement arises, there is automatically an enemy on the other side of the argument rather than simply an opposing view to consider. Technology has increased the trend as it allows us to instantly voice our opinions from behind a computer screen or a telephone empowering some to say things they would never say in person. Facebook and Twitter have made it easy for us to turn on our friends and neighbors because they don't hold the same beliefs about abortion, electric vehicles, politics or even a favorite sports team.
It wasn't that long ago when people would agree to disagree. They held the ability in their hearts and conscience to realize that not everything in this world has to be black or white, all or nothing. Those days have slipped away.
The most recent annual study of civility in America (KRC Research) found that four out of five Americans experienced incidents of incivility in a wide variety of places and settings. Those included while shopping, while driving and, of course, on social media and the frequency of those incidents have increased by two-thirds in recent years. WOWSER!
And it's not that Americans no longer value civility. Of those surveyed, 84% said civility builds national pride and 71% said it helps ease tensions and conflict. Almost everyone (93%) thought the lack of civility was a problem and most (71%) hoped for a more civil future.
But hope is a poor strategy in this regard. As Mark Twain said (in paraphrase), the lack of civility risks becoming like the weather: something everyone talks about, but no does anything about.
I should also point out that civility in the church has eroded as well over the years. There is a rudeness, a disrespect, a lack of courtesy that has invaded the congregations of American churches over the years so that differences of opinion, sometimes over very minor issues, has caused grave disunity.
I have found A Covenant for Civility that was adopted by a number of evangelical leaders in 2010 that provides seven scriptural steps for civil dialogue through disagreements. I share it with you as a means of providing a spark for practicing civility in your home, your workplace, your church and your community. Perhaps by practicing these steps we can do something to restore civility in our part of the world and make an impact on others.
Here are the seven steps:
1) Reflect the spirit of Scripture, being "quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." [James 1:19]
2) Acknowledge that all people are created in the image of God. "With the tongue we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God ... this ought not to be so." [James 3:9-10]
3) Disagree respectfully without falsely impugning others' motives, character, or faith. We recognize in humility that in our opinions, "we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror" [I Corinthians 13:12]. We will therefore "be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." [Ephesians 4:2]
4. Watch the use of language, being neither arrogant nor boastful. "Before destruction one's heart is haughty, but humility goes before honor." [Proverbs 18:12]
5) Be mindful of how we treat each other in pursuit of the common good. Each of us must therefore "put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body." [Ephesians 4:25]
6) Pray for our political leaders ---- those with whom we agree, as well as those with whom we disagree. "I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made ... for kings and all who are in high positions." [I Timothy 2:1-2]
7) Pray for those with whom we disagree because it is more difficult to hate others when we are praying for them. Together we strive to be faithful witness for our lord, who prayed "that they may be one." [John 17:22]
I believe as we recover some of the key values of faith, respect, truth, honesty, humility, patience, kindness, confession, forgiveness, prayer and the unity of the body of Christ, we can "put away all bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling and slander, together with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you." [Ephesians 4:31-32]
Have a great weekend in the Lord ... practicing civility for the sake of our Christian integrity and our democracy ...