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In Unkind Culture, Is There Still Something Nice to Say? ethicsdaily.com

I helped launch the Say Something Nice Day movement 13 years ago.

Never in my wildest imagination did I think that the greatest barriers to our success would become a president of the United States and evangelical Christians who support his coarse way of communicating and his behavior.

I remember when President Bill Clinton was skewered for his sexual exploits and Vice President Joe Biden was roundly condemned for his foul language.

I remember when the Republican Party campaigned vigorously as the party of family values.

I remember when the Southern Baptist Convention apologized to the African-American community for its racial discrimination in the past, promising a new day of race relations.

Those days have faded.

The pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Robert Jeffress, says that the president’s sexual behaviors will not keep him from supporting the president. “Evangelicals knew that they were not electing an altar boy,” Jeffress said.

Franklin Graham, son of the famed evangelist, says that Trump is God’s chosen: “God put him in the White House for a reason.”

Henry McMaster, the Republican governor of South Carolina, said that the students who protested in support of the Parkland, Florida, high school students were a disgraceful tool of the left wing.

Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Center, says that evangelicals have given the president a mulligan on the Stormy Daniels adventure.

I have searched the Bible from cover to cover and I can’t locate either 1 Mulligan or 2 Mulligan. I must have been asleep when my pastor preached from that text.

I was wide awake when my pastor preached on forgiveness, but President Trump said that he has done nothing for which he needs to seek forgiveness.

Perhaps Peter was misquoted. “How many mulligans should I give, seven times seven?”

On the president’s language, Franklin Graham said, “He is a businessman. That is just the way he talks.”

Growing up, when I talked as the president so often does, I got my mouth washed out with Octagon soap. Dad did not give me a mulligan. Maybe he was asleep that Sunday also.

After all of the crudeness and meanness in the public square today, is there still something nice to say? Yes.

Amy Butler, pastor of Riverside Church in New York, is planning a conference on God and guns for pastors and church leaders.

Former president Jimmy Carter is still leading a brave movement for the inclusion of women in church leadership.

High school students are still exercising their right to protest peaceably. A second-grade teacher in Oklahoma, Haley Curfman, encourages creativity by allowing her students to write kind things on her white dress.

Pope Francis continues his pleas for mercy and forgiveness. Mayor Tom Tait of Anaheim, California, campaigned on a platform of kindness.

Large sections of our society have become mean and disrespectful of others, but those of us who cling to the teachings of Jesus are faced with a great challenge: How do we persevere when so much of our opposition is in the church and so much of the meanness is coming from the pulpit?

We turn to Jesus for the answer. Most of his opposition when he was on earth came from the church of his day. Most of his criticism was directed at the religious leaders of his time.

In spite of the opposition, he stuck to his message of love and forgiveness. He never deviated from that message. From the cross, he pleaded, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

The message of Easter is that when he arose from the grave, he returned to those people who killed him. He never gave up on them or us. He hasn’t given up. Neither should we.

June 1 is Say Something Nice Day. June 3 is Say Something Nice Sunday. These are tangible opportunities to model constructive conversations and to infuse some positive rhetoric into the public discourse.

Keep on keeping on. Go about doing good. Say something nice to everyone you meet.

 

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Baptists in Early North America: First Baptist Church, Boston, Massachusetts,

Edited by Rev. Dr. Thomas R. McKibbens.  Macon, Mercer University Press. ©2017. $60.

Reviewed by: Mitch Carnell

Reading about the beginning struggles of the First Baptist Church of Boston should cause every Baptist heart to swell with pride. These pioneers in the faith suffered unbelievable persecution. Massachusetts was simply not a good place to be if you believed in freedom of religious conscious. Decenters were publicly whipped and jailed.

The founding members worshiped in people’s homes before erecting a meetinghouse. The doors to their first meetinghouse were nailed shut by the authorities on March 8, 1679. At least for one week the congregation met outside in the cold. Religious freedom did not come to Massachusetts until a new constitution was adopted in 1833.

The Boston Church was not the first Baptist Church in New England but it grew to be one of the most influential spreading its influence from Boston to South Carolina. The connections between the First Baptist Church of Boston and the First Baptist Church of Charleston are strong. The first pastor of the Charleston church was ordained by the Boston church. William Screven established a church in Kittery, Maine before moving his flock to Charleston. When the Boston church was without a pastor in 1707, he was invited to return to Boston as pastor but declined the offer.

The most successful pastor of the Boston Church, Samuel Stillman, was trained by the pastor of First Baptist Church Charleston, Oliver Hart, and ordained by him in 1759.  Stillman served the Boston church for over 40 years. The meetinghouse was expanded twice during his pastorate. He and his Charleston mentor were both originally from Philadelphia where Baptists were more welcome.

The minutes of the First Baptist Church of Boston, 1635 -1830, provide both informative and interesting reading. The handwritten minutes are contained in two leather bound volumes currently located in the Franklin Trask Library at Andover Newton Theological Seminary. McKibbens, has meticulously and painstakingly transformed these priceless records into a form accessible to every interested scholar or layman. These minutes faithfully record insights into church doctrine, politics, finances, church discipline and church personalities. McKibbens speaks of his joy in being able to handle these documents. He served as interim pastor while preparing the manuscript.

Dr. McKibbens has produced a volume of great value to anyone interested in religious freedom and the growth and history of Baptists in America.

The Rev. Dr. Thomas McKibbens is no stranger to South Carolina Baptists. He was a speaker for the Charleston County Baptist Association and at the John Hamrick Lectureship. He delivered the sermon at the 325th Anniversary Celebration of First Baptist Church of Charleston.

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Never Criticize;  Always Encourage

My second grade teacher, Mrs. Workman, said to me, “You are a polite young man.” One of our children’s directors at Northside Baptist Church said to me, “I am surprised at your behavior. I expected better from you.” Two very different statements about my behavior at about the same time. It is a vivid example of our ability to make choices about what side of ourselves we choose to share. We are in control of us.

Each of us has the power within for good or evil. We can choose to be truthful or to lie. We can choose to be kind or unkind. We can choose to be polite or rude. We can choose to build other people up or tear them down. Our words reveal what is in our hearts.

The temptation is to blame others when we show our more unattractive side. “The devil made me do it,” is an easy out. I was being attacked or I had to defend myself are often cited as reasons. for revealing our darker sides. In today’s toxic climate it is easy to fall into the victim role or to lash out. It takes determination to stay the course. That does not mean that we will get it right every time. There are no pills to take that will insure lifelong success. We can only try each time the opportunity to show our better side presents itself. The more we succeed increases our chances of success next time.

We are all works in progress. We are under construction. Finding the right words never becomes easy; however, it does become easier with practice. Words are powerful instruments for good or evil. “Loose lips sink ships.” “I no longer call you servants, but friends.” “We the people.” “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” “Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.” “You lie.” Once spoken words can never be recalled. They are out there forever.

Words are powerful. Use them wisely. We all have choices whether to be instruments of harmony or whether to be instruments of discord. Most of the people I know are desperately in need of words of encouragement. There is already enough negativity out there.  We are constantly being drowned in a sea of poison language. Resist the urge to strike back. Let it go. If possible, offer a positive word. Remember, “People may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.”

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Follow Me at mitchcarnell.com

All good things must end. From now on I will only post at mitchcarnell.com. I want to Christian Civility Screenshotthank all of you wonderful people who contributed to this blog. You made it so much better and your work was a real joy for me to read. I also thank all of you wonderful readers. Without you, there would have been no reason to write other than I enjoy it. There will be a Christian Civility Section.

My son, Michael, will make the new set-up happen. He is a whiz at this stuff and operates MichaelCarnell.com. You might know his online publication, Just British. It has all the bells and whistles. I am really indebted to him. You will be also.

Happy New Year!