Letter and Pledge to Presidential Candidates

The following letter and pledges were sent to each of the presidential candidates by name and asked to respond by May 20.

June 1, 2016 is the eleventh annual Say Something Nice Day and June 5, 2016 is the tenth annual Say Something Nice Sunday. Our ecumenical committee is asking each presidential candidate to take our Civility Pledge for either one or both of those days. This is a wonderful opportunity to shine a bright light on the importance of civil discourse in America.

Our movement is supported by both democrats and republicans. We also have the support of the major religious denominations including but not limited to Baptists, Catholics, Disciples of Christ, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodists, and Presbyterians. We are also reaching out to the Jewish community.

Please sign either one and or both the enclosed pledges and return them to me by May 20, 2016.

We will release the names of those candidates who have taken one or both of our pledges prior to June 1. If it is possible please give our movement a mention in one of your speeches.

Thank you for your love for the United States and your willingness to run for the highest office in the land. It is a daunting task.

Sincerely,Mitch Carnell, Chair Say Something Nice Sunday Committee

Civility Challenges for Presidential Candidates

Civility Challenge One:

I pledge that on June 1, 2016 and or June 5, 2016, I will refrain from saying anything ugly, demeaning or derogatory to or about anyone especially any of the other candidates running for the presidency of the United States.

Signed: ____________________________________ Date: __________________

Civility Challenge Two:

I pledge that on June 1, 2016 and/or June 5, 2016, I will say something nice, uplifting or encouraging to or about at least one person running for the presidency of the United States. I understand that remarks related to physical characteristics are off limits for this exercise.

Signed: ____________________________________ Date_____________________

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When religion turns hateful, it loses its moral voice – Dr. Molly Marshall – Baptist News Global


In this craziest of presidential primary seasons, I have not mentioned the Republican candidate with the “best plumage,” the colorful description offered by Marilynne Robinson. I have found his words so offensive, his narcissism so egregious, and his attitude toward “others” so despicable. I have not wanted to draw further attention to this headline-grabbing vortex, so he shall remain nameless. (It is unlikely that he could fire a seminary president, anyway.) Nonetheless, I cannot keep silent about his uncontrolled depiction of the world’s fastest growing religion or about his mocking use of Christianity for political gain.

The statement “Islam hates us” during CNN’s recent debate is one more example of his pattern of reckless speech; it only serves to foment alienation for American Muslims and recruitment opportunity for radical Islamic groups. We must see this statement for what it is: a dangerous pandering to the most exclusivist understandings of Christianity. It also stokes fear in the U.S. Jewish community, given the close ties with Israel.

As a Baptist, I get very nervous when the political realm speaks too much about religion. It is the role of the state to create a context where religious pluralism can flourish; it is not the role of the state to impose or favor one religion over another. As Rowan Williams contends in Faith in the Public Square, the state serves as “mediator and broker whose job is to balance and manage real differences.” Nor it is the role of religion to commandeer the state for its own purposes, and the cynical use of Christianity (a.k.a civil religion?) to further candidates’ prospects demeans responsible faith.

Respect for the religion of others is more than simply tolerating religious difference; rather, it draws from the common affirmation of the dignity of humans and their right to religious liberty. It is a critical task of our time to learn from adherents of other ways of faith. The last thing a politician needs to do is denigrate another religion en masse. Every faith tradition has its radical fringe, and we ought to know better than to measure the whole by those who distort its essential teaching.

I had a conversation recently with a treasured friend in Thailand about whether there is a state religion in his country. He noted that there were stringent efforts to inscribe Buddhism as the state religion in the constitution, but the royal family would not allow it. It seems that the family’s positive acquaintance with Christian missionaries over the years would not allow this legislation to go forward. As a committed Christian leader, he observed that this approach allowed the kind of healthy competition between religions that offered real choice.

While traveling to Southeast Asia, I have been working my way through Miroslav Volf’s new book, Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World. Dense and carefully argued, the thesis is that the great world religions are a force for good as they prompt human reach for and response to the transcendent. For these religious pursuits to remain a constructive social force, adherents will have to embrace a distinction between religion and rule; i.e., religion and politics are two “distinct, though intersecting, cultural territories.”

As I head to Myanmar during this time of unprecedented political transition, I am eager to learn how the new government will deal with the ongoing contraction of religious liberty for Muslims and Christians. Outsiders and cautious insiders have criticized Aung San Suu Kyi for her tepid reaction to the brutal treatment of Muslims by radicalized Buddhist leaders. And Christians are always on the margin, too, as they are not members of the “favored religion.” Baptist churches in the United States have witnessed and welcomed the tidal wave of refugees, our spiritual kin. Observers on the ground are hopeful that this courageous leader was wisely biding her time until the election was completed and the new leadership comes to power, which will occur in early April.

A Christian friend in Myanmar gives this perspective:

It is an exciting moment in our history. For many of us, all these things are new in life. … We do hope and pray that things would turn toward the common good of our people in Myanmar and finally peace and justice would prevail.

March 13th was Global Day of Prayer for Burma, and Christians here welcome spiritual support. I encourage you to sustain this praying, especially in this delicate time.

When a religion is an instrument of hate, it has abdicated its moral voice. At the heart of faith traditions is love of God and love of neighbor. We can offer this as a common word, even as we seek to preserve the religious liberty of those who do not share our Christian faith. This will be the best witness of all, demonstrating the remarkable dignity Jesus accords all people.

Molly Marshall is president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. She spoke twice at the Hamrick Lectures at First Baptist Church of Charleston.


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The Most Effective Thing You Can Do While Ministering – ethicsdaily.com

The Most Effective Thing You Can Do While Ministering

Mitch Carnell

The Most Effective Thing You Can Do While Ministering | Mitch Carnell, Communication, Kindness 

When we are too busy or too distracted to listen, we demonstrate a lack of concern, Carnell writes. (Image courtesy of Ohmega1982/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The ability to communicate is a gift.

We can bless others with this gift by using it to heal, to build up and not to harm. Conversely, we can use it to tear down, to harm and to destroy relationships.

We all need and search for connectedness. We know how it feels to be in a crowd and yet feel utterly alone and isolated.

We need and want to belong. We need to touch and be touched. We can be warmed by another person’s smile or simple acknowledgement.

Good conversation, like good music or a good book, nourishes the soul. Good communication builds relationships.

Nothing says more about a person’s caring than his or her willingness to listen without judgment or interruption. Sometimes our greatest ministry is simply to be 100 percent present in the moment.

One of my most cherished books is “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen. Allen stresses that what we think about is what we will become.

We can control our lives by controlling our thoughts. If we fill our minds with goodwill toward others, that is what we will express and demonstrate.

Don Kirkland, retired editor of the South Carolina Baptist Courier, states in his book, “Something Ventured,” that what Jesus did in all of his time not accounted for in the Bible is clear: “He went about doing good.”

Goodness was in his heart and so it expressed itself. Kirkland goes on to say that, “Our Christianity must be visible to others or it is not Christianity at all.”

My mother and my late wife had the same favorite Scripture passage: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto thee, oh God, my strength and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

They both understood that what comes out of our mouths is a result of what is in our hearts. If our heart overflows with love, that is what we will speak.

Every Sunday morning, Clyde stands at the front door of our church and gives butterscotch candies to every person who enters and is willing to accept his offering.

He is greeted by broad smiles and a lot of hugs. When he is absent, everyone asks about him. Goodness overflows from him. His gesture of kindness helps create an atmosphere for worship.

Sister Sandra Makowski makes a case for kindness as a central ingredient for the ministry of good communication in her book, “The Side of Kindness”

“Could we say that saints were kind people? My guess is that kindness became their constant companion,” she writes. “It is what they carried with them when they prayed, when they worked for justice, and when they were martyred for the sake of the gospel. It became their companion in their life of prayer and the gifts that they developed in the service of others.”

The tremendous role that listening plays in the ministry of communication is expressed by Pope Francis in his book, “The Name of God Is Mercy.”

He asserts, “Mostly people are looking for someone to listen to them. Someone willing to grant them time to listen to their dramas and difficulties. This is what I call the apostolate of the ear and it is important. Very important. I feel compelled to say to confessors: talk, listen with patience, and above all tell people that God loves them.”

I asked my friend, Monty Knight, both a minister and certified counselor, “How do you talk to God?”

“Mitch,” he said, “a much more important question is how do I listen to God?”

When Mother Teresa was asked how she talked to God, she answered. “I mostly listen.” When she was then asked, “What does God say?” she replied, “He mainly listens.”

There are times when there are no words capable of conveying what is in our hearts, but there are no times when being 100 percent present with another is not effective.

Raymond DeSchazo, former professor at Mars Hill University, was fond of saying, “The way you know when you really love another person is when you can be in a room together for hours and neither of you says a word. Just being present is enough.”

For communication to be effective and work its magic as ministry, what we do and what we say must be congruent. There must be no conflict between our words and our actions.

Active listening is an essential behavior for showing concern and compassion for the other. When we are too busy or too distracted to listen, we demonstrate a lack of concern. We can change this perception by being 100 percent present in the moment with our communication partner.

Never underestimate the influence of an encounter no matter how brief it might be. It leaves an impression for good or bad. A simple act of kindness has the power to transform lives. An act of grace never goes unnoticed.

Mitch Carnell is a consultant specializing in effective communication. He and his wife, Carol, are members of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina. He blogs at MitchCarnell.com and ChristianCivility.com

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How Christian Ethics Guide Cultural Engagement – Guy Sayles – EthicsDaily

Guy Sayles

How Christian Ethics Guide Cultural Engagement | Guy Sayles, Ethics, Culture, Community, Civility, Virtues, Discipleship

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us,” Winston Churchill said. “The Churchill principle” is a “church principle,” too, Sayles writes.

How can Christian ethics guide our engagement with U.S. culture?

That is the question my students and I are exploring together this semester, seeking the ways in which various approaches to Christian ethics conflict and converge with the values of U.S. culture or cultures.

One of our conversation partners is Albert Borgmann, a professor of philosophy at the University of Montana, whose book, “Real American Ethics: Taking Responsibility for our Country,” is one of the assigned texts.

Borgmann asserts that Americans’ best ethical commitments include “landmarks of decency” (equality, dignity and self-determination), “virtues of excellence” (wisdom, courage and friendship) and practices of justice, grace and stewardship. Clearly, both Aristotle and Christian faith inform his perspective.

It’s his concept of “real” ethics that I find to be especially helpful. “Real” ethics, he explains, means “taking responsibility for the tangible settings of life.”

Borgmann uses what he calls “the Churchill principle.” In 1943, when the House of Commons had to be rebuilt after Nazi bombing, Winston Churchill said to the members of Parliament, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.”

The tangible settings of life are the “buildings” – the institutions, shared public spaces, cities, neighborhoods, voluntary associations and households – in which we live.

Corporations, governments, schools, parks, coffee shops, bookstores and families either nurture or constrain our abilities to live ethically.

Borgmann writes, “If we are unaware of how the shaping of our household typically shapes our practices, we can tell our children to do their homework, to stay away from soda pop and snacks, to talk to us and to practice their instruments till we are blue in the face – it will only create frustration and resentment unless our home is so arranged that doing the right thing comes naturally or at least does not require heroic self-discipline.”

It’s a powerful idea: We may and should arrange all our “tangible settings” so that the kind of life we hope to have seems possible.

Our focus is too narrow if we see an individual’s choices and decisions in isolation from the shaping contours of context and community.

Our tangible settings make and unmake us or, at the very least, they enlarge or shrink our vision of what we may become.

“The Churchill principle” is a “church principle,” too. Faith communities make it either more or less likely that people will be able to live a Jesus-kind-of-life.

It’s difficult to nurture peacemakers in a faith community that uses attack as its main way of relating to culture, to encourage love in a group that uses fear to manipulate people’s behavior, and to celebrate the essential equality of all Jesus-followers in a community that privileges the ordained, males, Anglos and the “successful.”

By contrast, a community of servanthood provides an alternative to the culture’s jungle of competition.

A community of generosity offers an alternative to the marketplace of greed. A community that treats people the way Jesus would treat them – not as strangers, but as friends – opens up an alternative to our society’s too-common alienation and loneliness.

Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder once said, “A racially segregated church has nothing to say to the state about integration. … [And] only a church doing something about prisoner rehabilitation would have any moral right to speak – or have any good ideas – about prison conditions or parole regulations.”

What a community says matters only if its words become deeds. Truth calls for more than announcing; it demands enacting.

We need alternative communities guided and inspired by the Jesus-story in which people develop, by means of steady and shared practice, greater capacity for living in the Jesus-way and in which faithful and functional structures support and reflect the Jesus-mission.

Guy Sayles is a consultant with the Center for Healthy Churches, an assistant professor of religion at Mars Hill University, an adjunct professor at Gardner-Webb Divinity School and a board member of the Baptist Center for Ethics. A version of this article first appeared on his website, From the Intersection, and is used with permission.

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