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People of faith can foster safe, civil and sacred spaces for discourse

That you can disagree without being disagreeable would seem to be what an old friend would call an “obviosity,” but these days it seems to be like a goal that is just out of reach.

Too often we can see or hear basic disrespect toward anyone who holds an opinion that deviates even slightly from some rigid norm on either the left or the right.

Disagreements about public policy and nominees for public office result in name-calling, threats of violence, abusive telephone calls to family members and accusations of most of the misbehaviors listed in Leviticus.

The same disrespect is shown in the area of faith.

Across the spectrum, any attempt to find common ground is seen as a lack of principles.

Our country needs a change of attitude and a wide application of the Golden Rule.

In his editorial in the June issue of Sojourners magazine, Jim Wallis notes that churches reflect the culture, and they need to do better.  “People of faith from all our religious traditions could help create much-needed safe, civil, and even sacred spaces for better public discourse at this critical moment in our nation’s history.”

He is part of a group of about 100 Christian leaders who have become increasingly concerned with the abrasiveness of public discourse and have been praying, talking and discerning how churches “might lead by example to help create a more civil and moral tone in our national politics.”

The result of their work is “A Covenant for Civility: Come Let Us Reason Together.” 

In the hope that the statement will be used by as wide a group as created it, we are sharing its introductory statement. 

“As Christian pastors and leaders with diverse theological and political beliefs, we have come together to make this covenant with each other, and to commend it to the church, faith-based organizations and individuals, so together we can contribute to a more civil national discourse.  The church in the United States can offer a message of hope and reconciliation to a nation that is deeply divided by political and cultural differences.  Too often we have reflected the political divisions of our culture rather than the unity we have in the body of Christ.  We come together to urge those who claim the name of Christ to ‘put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.’ (Ephesians 4:31-32)”

The full text, which can be found at www.sojo.net/index, continues with seven specific areas of action supported by biblical citations.

We need to divert some of our energy-—and manners—to the seven goals which are summarized here:

• We commit to being quick to listen and slow to anger.  (James 1:19)

• We are created in the image of God.  How can we curse others also made in the likeness of God?  (James 3:9-10)

• We can disagree respectfully and “be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  (Ephesians 4:2)

• We must be mindful of our language when disagreeing. (Proverbs 18:12)

• We must be mindful of how we treat each other as we pursue the common good, “for we are all members of one body.”  (Ephesians 4:25)

• We will pray for our political leaders and “all who are in high positions.” (I Timothy 2:1-2)

• We commit to pray for those with whom we agree and those with whom we disagree, “that they may be one.”  (John 17:22)

Nancy Minard - Editorial Team

 

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