In light of an unsuccessful campaign to become the president of my middle school as an 8th grader, I have no plans on entering politics and running for political office. But, I have been learning so much about civic engagement, policy making, advocacy, and the larger realm of politics. Several days ago, I spent 2 days in Washington DC to continue that education. And while I wasn’t able to play hoops with President Obama and throw him a couple elbows, I even had the opportunity to attend a briefing in the White House. While it wasn’t as surreal as I expected, it was a neat experience nevertheless.
While I’m not able to disclose too much of this gathering, we had a conversation that I feel like I’m hearing and reading quite often:
The topic of civility.
…And particularly around the discourse of politics.
Ahhh, the conversation of politics.
As I shared with my church recently, I’m not looking forward to the next election season in two years. If folks thought that the most recent presidential election were intense, heated, and vicious…wait till the 2012.
As an independent voter with
an interest in politics not because I love politics but because politics impact policies which ultimately, impact people…
I don’t see a way around it:
Christians need to be engaged with our civic responsibilities.
The unfortunate thing is that I’ve seen people feel isolated, offended, and upset because they think I’m espousing a certain view. I even had couple people leave the church simply because my face appeared on this cover of the “ultra liberal left-wing” Sojourners Magazine.
When people ask if I am a Democrat or Republican, I often respond:
On what issue?
But going back to the question and conversation of civility, I wholehearted agree that we – as a larger society (and as a Christian community) need to learn how to be civil:
- We need to learn how to listen.
- We need to speak without shouting and screaming.
- We need to not to accuse and attack.
- We need to stop demonizing one another or prominent leaders.
- We need to be better informed.
- We need to agree to give space to disagree. It’s ok.
- We need to learn where we agree and see how we can work together.
I have my thoughts and views and I’ve shared some of them like my thoughts on Glenn Beck, or Arizona, Immigration, and Xenophobia, and while I’ve received my share of disagreements and criticism, I’ve appreciated the freedom to be able to both convey and communicate – and – listen and learn.
But as Christians, we need to agree that the most significant aspects of our relationship are not our politics, our political views, or our political affiliations but that we are connected together as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Politics has its role. But Christ is the most significant aspect of our community.
It does seem true that the our larger society seems to be fueled and propelled by disagreement, tension, and vitriolic banter rather than harmony, cooperation, and unity.
But as I hear so many folks speak up, write, blog, teach, and preach about the necessity of civility in public and political discourse – all while citing numerous examples and stories of the lack 0f civility and mean-spiritedness against President Obama, I honestly have a hard time being fully engaged with their voices.
It’s not that I dislike Obama…it’s just that I wonder:
Why weren’t the same folks speaking up for President Bush? And when I say “folks,” I’m also referring to some Christians who – in my opinion – were absolutely cruel, vicious, and mean-spirited.
I agree. Let’s discuss and engage the commitment to civility but let’s make sure we apply that – even to those on “the other side.”