Civility in American Religion and Life

In our 24-hour news cycle and short attention span culture, there is often a concern of the moment. That is a concern that is taken upon by people, believed to be a mass concern, and is often, unfortunately, dropped in order to promote the next concern of the moment.

Right now, the concern of the moment is civility in American political discourse, especially in light of this month’s tragic shooting in Tuscon, Arizona. It has gotten the attention of both the Political Right and Political Left, as well as religious leaders on both sides of the political and theological spectrum. Even more, President Obama is likely to discuss civility issues when addressing the nation in his State of the Union Address.

Civility is needed in American political discourse – from both the left and the right. However, it will take more than a few words and passionate remarks from President Obama to change the landscape towards more civility. This is not to discredit the power of the presidency and the bully pulpit that is the White House. Instead, it is to recognize the deep problem that exists within America in regards to the lack of civility. No one person can bring this change about. It will only take place with a movement of concerned people who take up the cross of moving against the current of rash discussion, and bring forth language of peace and respect.

To become more civil, we have to want to be civil. There is no other course of action than that. In order to be more civil, we have to, once again, view our neighbor as our neighbor; to see our co-worker as no competition for the next promotion but as a colleague and supporter; we have to see those on the opposite political aisle as not barbarians of the worst kind, but as public servants seeking to do what they believe is best for the country. We have to respect one another.

Ultimately, we must realize that America is one giant community – for that matter the world is one giant community as well – and we are all together. Our community is simply not limited to just those whom we can agree with, get along with, or want to be with. Our communities are much deeper. They must include those whom we disagree with our not like, because humanity is not stripped away simply because we do not like the viewpoints one may share.

This is not going to happen overnight, nor will it take place in time for the 2012 election. Our republic is one that has professionalized uncivil behavior from the political sphere – a brief political history from the 1800s will show we’ve not always had the best intention at heart. Yet, it must happen if we are ever to be untied under one cause, or to be united for what is best for this country.

Let this not be an argument against disagreement. We can, and should, disagree on what is best for the country, and what decisions are to be made. But, it is the mentality and action of our disagreement that must come into question. Let us end the slander and libel from both sides of the aisle, let us end the parade of gotcha accusations, and let us end the vile nature of politics that is all about the name on the front of the jersey, and not on the cause of what is best for the people of this country.

Who should lead this charge? I believe the president has a lead, but I believe those who care about the future of this country – in the moral sense – must take a stand as well. The church cannot sit silent and act as though the world does not exist, and that there is uncivil or immorality taking place. We’ve failed when we believe the only problems we can address are those sitting in our pews each Sunday. We must take a stand. We must represent the true nature of Christ’s love for all people.

We can be a more civil union, once again. I believe we have no other choice.

The only question remains – do we want to be more civil? That is a question for all of us – voters, political leaders, columnists, and others – to decide in the days and weeks ahead.

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An Open Letter to Westboro Baptist Church

Friends,

I greet you in the name of the Risen Lord. It is with much anguish of heart and soul that I write this letter (blog posting) to you and your followers this day. My heart is torn in frustration to hear of your planned protests of the funerals in Tucson, Arizona following the recent shootings this weekend. My heart breaks as I think of the families that will be impacted by your message during these protests.

The common theme of protesting funerals is not unexpected. When there is a major media event, we have come to expect your protests in shame and disgust. At a time when families are hurting, grief is being expresses, and feelings of loss overwhelm families and friends, your church desires to promote a message of hate and anger.

I wonder where in your message of hating the homosexual is the love Christ expressed for the sinners all throughout the New Testament? Where in your message is the proclamation of redemption through the blood of Christ? Where is the hope of the cross? Where is justice being proclaimed? Where is truth being exalted above all other truths?

The message that your church proclaims is not the Christian message. It is a self-focused message that lives in fear of the culture and seeks to create a God that is sympathetic to your own views instead of passionately entering a relationship with the Holy Trinity. You are not a church, nor do you proclaim the Christian truth.

Yet, I know people hear your message and believe they are hearing the Gospel proclaimed. They see that you represent a church and believe that this is what all Christians are like. Instead of bringing people into the fellowship, your protests are turning people away from the message of Christ. Instead of evangelizing and proclaim a message of love, your message of hate closes the door to a generation of Christians that are desperate for the truth Gospel’s message of Christ’s salvation and God’s grace.

God’s grace is open to all, and I believe that grace is available to you as well. I wish you will repent from the sin of misrepresenting the Gospel, and close down your harmful and distracting message of hate. I pray you will find the true God, the true God that sent his Son, who humbled himself in the form of a servant, died on the cross, and rose again, so we may be free of our sins. I pray you will find Christ, for when you do your message will be about love and reconciliation instead of hate; peace instead of anger; hope instead of despair.

May God’s grace pour into your heart this day.

Peace,

 

Shannon

Thinking Through the Arizona Shooting

On Friday, we all lived in the shock and horror as the news reports rolled in. A congresswoman, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords shot in an apparent assassination attempt, and several others were killed or wounded outside a Tuscon-area grocery store. All while Rep. Giffords was attempting to reach out to her constituents.

In the days since the shooting, we have heard the typical blame game. It wasn’t long after the shooting that the left began blaming the right; and the right began blaming the left. The activist sides of both political opposites were attempting to spin the shooting to fit their own political needs. Even before we knew anything about the shooter, the blame game started through social media.

This blame game showed a disrespect for those whom were wounded, for the lives that were lost, and for the families that were now left wondering how to make sense of everything. Politics is a game of power, where even the most tragic of days must be spun in order to favor one’s own political views.

Something must change.

We must move past this vile expression of thought. We must embrace civility and concern for the other because they are our brother and sister. Forget the politics, forget the power game, and let us once again be a people who are willing to see others as people, first, and not as a political opportunity.

We must be a country that desires community, once again. We must be a culture that values humanity and the sacredness of life, and not the grab for power.

Yes, power corrupts all, and we have seen how it has corrupt the Political Right and the Political Left, and dare I say, even the Religious Political Right and the Religious Political Left.

Let us be about God’s love to embrace one another. Let us be about God’s call to see the image of God in each person. Let us pray for the victims, the families, and even the alleged shooter and his family. Let us, most importantly, live out God’s call and not the political call as we go forward from today.