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For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them - Proverbs 1:32



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8/25/2004


Convicted Civility

I hope Brian is enjoying his R&R. Why I'm in the "gang of three" is debatable for more than one reason. But I've chosen to discuss one of those reasons here on RadioBS, because this blog reflects the kind of content and attitude that I respect, though not always mimic.

I've been pondering the polarizing punditry so prevalent in this particular political period. Pondering in a mirror, that is.

Unlike the enjoyable posts on Wat Dan Ook and the powerful discourse on The Fourth Rail, I have occasionally engaged in a different kind of railing on The CSC.

Why?

The simply answer is that it's easy to do, requiring little effort towards developing a cogent argument. But the reasons may go deeper than just a newbie blogger shortchanging logic. Alexis Tocqueville writes,
"[Democracies, especially American democracy,] cannot form a precise code in the case of social graces...Thus one can say in a sense that the effect of democracy is not precisely to give men certain manners but to prevent them from having manners."
Robert Bellah states that,
"Cultures are dramatic conversations about things that matter to their participants...an argument about the meaning of the destiny of its members."
There is a lot of truth to these quotes, but I'm not about to blame culture or democracy for uncivil rhetoric. We each share individual responsibility in this regard.

The sad fact is that American citizens are shockingly shrill as they fight over "the destiny of its members." Possibly more now than at any time in our history. Charles Wilson laments the "name calling, shouting, crudity and lying [that] has become the norm in many quarters." And that "repeated screeds and rants have taken the place of factually based, well thought out, rational arguments in support of one's opinions."

At the same time, Bellah claims that of the three major strands of the American cultural conversation -- religious, republican, and individualist -- the first two were largely excluded from the public square during the latter part of the 20th century. Lately, however, those representing the religious and the republican have reasserted their views to the chagrin of the individualists.

We are dealing with foundational issues of social (e.g., Church and state, abortion, stem cell research, the definition of marriage and family), fiscal (e.g., privitization, job creation, pending entitlement failure), and "preservational" (e.g., War on Terror, immigration) importance -- problems that require more than just a passing concern while watching reality T.V.

So what's the answer?

Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary, says it's "Convicted Civility" -- holding "onto strongly felt convictions while still nurturing a spirit that is authentically kind and gentle." But he also cautions that "being civil doesn't require us to approve of what other people believe" but to treat them with dignity.

Christians have another term for this tension between conviction and civility. It's what the Apostle Paul called "speaking the truth in love." His point, under the turmoil of a persecuting Roman government, was that in the midst of defending our convictions about truths, we should not forget that one of those truths is that we are to love all human beings, including "those who spitefully use you."

The bottom line is that we, I, must get both the content and attitude right.

The Apostle Peter challenges me to,
"Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope. Give a kind and respectful answer and keep your conscience clear."
Brian has done a wonderful job at striking this balance, I aim to do the same at the CSC.

posted by: Dave


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