Wednesday, January 11, 2017

CIVIL DISCOURSE


Civil Protest, Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL

I drove through Starbucks on my way home from the gym and ordered a coffee and a "cold" cranberry-orange scone for tomorrow's breakfast. The sweet disembodied speaker voice responded, "OK, would you like that warmed?" At least a dozen replies immediately raced through my brain, overloading millions of synapses. Sometimes we listen to learn and sometimes we listen to reply. Then civil discourse prevailed and I simply said, "No, cold please." I'm admittedly no model of behavior, but wouldn't it be nice if all our politicians and celebrities just put it on pause for a change? We can agree to disagree without being disagreeable.

About sixty-three million people in the United States recently voted for Trump and sixty-six million people voted for Clinton. A Hollywood actress just used an artistic achievement show as bully pulpit (ironically a term coined by President Theodore Roosevelt) to call out the bullying behavior of the president-elect and set off a national firestorm on social media. One defender reminded folks of the bully behavior towards an opposing candidate by his own party. Another observer stated that divisive language attempts to divide us but it only serves to unite us (into two polarized factions!). Scanning these comments was disheartening as both sides were name blaming and disrespecting one another like an out-of-control second-grade class with a substitute teacher. Einstein warned us that technology had outran our humanity and the founding father of our country admonished us saying “every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.” Welcome to the new digital social world where it’s too easy to say things to other brothers that we would never say to their face with thousands of people present.

You know, it’s possible that a “canary in the coal mine” that we should all pay attention to is the trending lack of attendance in our country’s churches. It just may be reflecting the state of our culture as well. Paul issued a warning about this condition in his letter to the Galatians (5:15), “If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” Since Paul addressed this problem over two thousand years ago, I guess it’s safe to say that it’s not a new problem. And that gives us hope that it’s a problem that has solutions. Dwight Currie observed that “we have a choice about how we behave, and that means we have the choice to opt for civility and grace.”

George Elliot, aka Mary Anne Evans, ended her greatest novel, Middlemarch, celebrating those who lead humble, everyday lives; “the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who live faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” Elaine A. Heath is the dean of Duke Divinity School and she writes in her book God Unbound that “The strongest quality a congregation can exhibit in the community is to love well—within and beyond the walls of the church.” I think that also goes for a country and a world. Fran├žois Fenelon noted that “all wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers.”

1 comment:

  1. "Welcome to the new digital social world where it’s too easy to say things to other brothers that we would never say to their face with thousands of people present." Trump leads the way in this respect. He publicly bullies and humiliates anyone he wants in front of hundreds of his followers and anyone who turns the TV on sees his behavior. His language is careless and emboldens others to act like him. I am embarrassed to have him represent America. I,too, try to live my life humbly as a steward of the prairie. Thinking beyond my life span to leave the earth, as you so eloquently say, a little better than I found it.

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