Aug 2, 2013

Civility and Respect

From time to time even people in the church get into some sort of conflict or another. It happens everywhere. I see it in the youth, youth choir, Sunday school, Women’s group, men’s group, college classrooms, faculty meetings, marriages, families, state legislature, the United Nations, and on and on and on. So the issue is not if or when we will run into conflict, but the real question is how we handle conflict.

In the olden days, it seemed as if people used better manners and seemed to have a generosity of spirit. In previous generations it seemed as if people gave others the benefit of the doubt with regard to trust. It seemed that although we were not as diverse as we are today, that people had scruples about respecting both diversity and dissent, and about solving conflict through dialogue rather than some sort of appeal to the divine command theory to which the loudest screamer might appeal. Read the words of Jesus from Luke and then we can entertain a question:
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:27-31).

In a book that sounds much like the one Stephen Carter wrote about 15 years ago, P. M. Forni in The Civility Solution writes:
In today’s America, incivility is on prominent display: in the schools, where bullying is pervasive; in the workplace, where an increasing number are more stressed out by co-workers than their jobs; on the roads, where road rage maims and kills; in politics, where strident intolerance takes the place of earnest dialogue; and on the Web, where many check their inhibitions at the digital door.

Conversations and discussions no longer exist. It isn’t even about who is right or wrong. Both sides know they are right. It is not a question of changing anyone’s mind. How can it be, when people are “YELLING” at one another with slogans and epithets on TV, in their “Status,” and in their “Tweets?

What would happen if we did “good to those who hate us/you, bless those who curse us/you, pray for those who abuse us/you? I hope we find out someday.



bthomas said...

At no time in the American experience has generosity of spirit or manners been normative. Typically exchanges between competing parties and interests have been volcanic. The only real limits have been access to media and those instances where the legal/judicial process or government authority has been used as a political weapon to silence opposition. Scruples about diversity and dissent have never been normative. Resolution of significant conflict has never been resolved except by power. There is no other basis. That is the inevitable pattern by which conflict is resolved in this post-modern secular world.

America is today as civil as it has ever been, maybe more so as among some a professed concern for civility so-called has become fashionable. But, when the political stakes get high enough, the fashionably civil set aside their inhibitions as luxuries to expensive to afford when winning is on the line.

One will go blind looking in the post-modern secular culture for anything approaching what Jesus affirmed. It isn’t there. If it is to ever be found, those who follow Jesus must live it out day by day. That is problematic for those whose understanding of Christian faith is joined at the hip with a particular political or social agenda. For this sort of strategy only serves to advance the gospel. It is to much a luxury for those whose sail is set according to their political or social agenda.

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