Where has civility within our discourse in the United States gone? I can remember how I use to sit on the front porch with my grandfather and one of his friends during the summer. One was a democrat and the other was a republican. The two men would have rousing political discussions. Sometimes they would even get heated, but they were never disrespectful, and the two men were not going to end their friendship over politics. When the baseball game came on the radio, all talk of politics ceased as we settled in to listen to Ernie Harwell call Detroit Tiger baseball. What has changed since those days when my grandfather and his friend could have differing political views but still have a civil discussion. We live in a time where many believe that we must meet incivility with incivility. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence,
I would add that incivility cannot drive out incivility. Incivility multiplies incivility, and we are seeing this fact in our discourse with each other. On Tuesday, June 19th the secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen was eating at a Washington D.C. restaurant when protesters approached her and said that she would not eat in peace as long as children were being separated from parents at the southern border. The disruption did not end in the restaurant. People came to her home to shout no justice no sleep. On June 23 the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington Virginia because she worked for the president. These acts of incivility would have been a great opportunity for people on the other side to act with civility, but alas that is not what happened. The president sent out a nasty tweet about the restaurant, and the owner received physical threats. Regardless of where we may stand in terms of the current administration, we Christian must practice civility. Civility is not acceptance. We can disagree and fight for what we believe and still be civil to each other. Dr. King had a strong set of beliefs. He let you know where he stood, but he was civil.
Whenever I cover topics like this I always get the, ya but (see my post entitled no more buts). For the person who is against the current administration, they will say, Franklin, I hear what you are saying BUT the president started it. He is not civil. Let’s be honest there is truth to that statement. Many of the practices of decorum that were practiced by those who held the office of president are things that our current president ignores, however; even if the president is being uncivil that doesn’t give the Body of Christ license to do the same. Supporters of the president will say, do you see how they are behaving, disrupting people in their home, and at dinner. We cannot be expected to be civil in the face of such actions. In fact not only can you be expected to be civil, you are expected to be civil. Remember the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12 “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” Living a true Christen life can be hard sometimes, in fact without a strong prayer life and a relationship with God living as Christian can be impossible. We have to do our best to be civil. It’s up to us to lower the temperature of and try to have candid and open conversations about the important issues. We cannot meet incivility with even more incivility. When we meet incivility with incivility things do not get better, they get worse and eventually, the incivility can lead to violence, and none of us wants that.
We need to work hard to get back to the days when people who did not always see eye to eye could have a conversation with each other and even listen to the baseball game together. We need to understand that it is ok to have friends that are not our ideological twins. In many cases, a person may not even be in the same Ideological family, but they can still be our friends. We can start with our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ. In the body of Christ, there are a wide verity of political viewpoints, but we all serve one King. Let’s start this march toward civility by being civil with each other. Is civility hard? Yes, it is, especially in our current climate, but it is part of who we are as Gods people. We are a people who must strive for civility, so let’s be civil.
Because we are so out of practice when it comes to civility some people may not know where to start. Below is a link to the National Institute for Civil Discourse. Their website might give you some ideas on how the start some difficult conversations, and how to be civil when having these difficult conversations.