Everybody's Talking About Civility

The Pioneer Press has a front-page article today noting recent outbursts from Representative Joe Wilson, Serena Williams and Kanye West. Chuck Colson weighs in on it in his BreakPoint commentary. Below are highlights of his commentary. I'll just add here that this is crucial for our witness to the world. We are missionaries in our world first and foremost. That has profound implications that believers seem to forget in the quest for more short-term gains. In addition, to our outreach, the lack of civility is taking a toll on believers as well, especially Christian leaders. Pastor Gordon MacDonald (who is one of the church's elder statesmen) has commented that a spirit of meanness had taken hold in the church and he doesn't see it subsiding any time soon.

Here are the highlights from Colson.

Restoring Civility
Take the Pledge
September 16, 2009

It will probably go down in history as the first presidential speech remembered not for what the President said, but for how a member of his audience responded.

Even if you didn’t watch Barack Obama’s health care address last week, I’m sure you’ve heard what happened. Obama had just finished saying that his health care plan would not cover illegal aliens. In response, Rep. Joe Wilson shouted out, “You lie!” shocking television audiences from coast to coast, not to mention the President.

Talking heads have spent the rest of the week talking about the need for civility in public discourse—and that’s a good thing. Two people who are likely paying close attention to this debate are men who are about as far apart politically as it’s possible to get. Mark DeMoss is the conservative president of the DeMoss Group. Lanny Davis is a former advisor to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

DeMoss and Davis—both concerned about the sharp decline in civility—have created an online forum called The Civility Project. Its goal: getting Americans to re-learn how to disagree without being so nasty to one another. They are inviting Americans of every political stripe to take a civility pledge, in which they commit to three things: “I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior. I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them. I will stand against incivility when I see it.”

Three cheers for them! Too many Americans think that it’s OK to simply shout down their opponents, malign their motives, or, when all else fails, make vicious personal attacks. I lived through this in Watergate, being spit upon by angry mobs.

...civility is a precondition for democratic dialogue. And civility is mandatory for Christians; Jesus told us to love our enemies, which would exclude us from making vicious verbal attacks against them.

I can’t excuse Rep. Wilson’s outburst. But I do understand his frustration. For months, President Obama himself has been repeatedly accusing his opponents of lying about his health care plan—just as he did in his speech before Congress. Even liberal CNN says Obama’s regular use of the word “lie” is “unstatesmanlike.”

...I am sure that Rep. Wilson, if he could re-live that moment, would not shout out at the President again. And, in a show of real civility, Wilson apologized to Obama, and the President accepted his apology. I commend them both.

It’s a positive step—albeit a small one—to restore civility to our national discourse.

Loving All that is True

Here's the comments by James Montgomery Boice on Philippians 4:8 from this weekend's message.

…Paul is actually sanctifying, as it were, the generally accepted virtues of pagan morality. …The things that are acknowledged to be honorable by the best people everywhere are also worthy to be cultivated by Christians. Consequently, Christians can love all that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, wherever they find it. They can rejoice in the best of art and good literature. They can thrill to great music. They can thrive on beautiful architecture.