Posts Tagged civility

A Push For Civility

Tuesday was a great day for the cause of civility. Not only did Mayor John Tecklenburg of the City of Charleston issue a proclamation declaring June first as Say Something Nice Day, Charleston County Council following the leadership of Chairman Vic Rawls did the same. Mayor Keith Summey of the City of North Charleston issued a similar proclamation last week.

This is the 12th year of the event which started when Mayor Summey issued the first proclamation in 2006. Chairman Victor Rawls made reference to the beginning in the proclamation. He went on to say, “Charleston County urges its citizens to fight against unkindness and the lack of politeness that sometimes dominates society in the hopes that one day of pleasantness will grow until people are nice to each other every day.”

First Baptist School of Charleston conducted its first Say Something Nice Essay Contest as did Harborview Presbyterian Church.

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Religion in an Age of Intolerance – Linda K. Wertheimer – Author, Faith Ed

Q&A for Dr. Mitch Carnell’s blog – from Linda K. Wertheimer, author of Faith Ed, Teaching about Religion in an Age of Intolerance (Beacon Press) ; www.faithedbook.com

Hmer 2

  1. How can those of us in different faith traditions effectively communicate with one another?

Answer: “We can learn from some of the techniques teachers use when giving lessons about the world’s religions. In Modesto, Calif., for example, all high school freshmen take a required course in world religions, and the beginning lessons include instruction on how to speak respectfully when talking about an unfamiliar faith.  Don’t start out by saying, “Gee, what your religion does sounds strange. Why would you do that?” Instead, say something like, “That tradition sounds interesting. Could you tell me more about it?”

Show interest and curiosity, not derision. Some people are brought up in a religion that teaches that their faith and religious path is the only way. It’s fine to believe that, but when meeting a person of another faith, realize they may feel the same about their faith. It can be very offensive to a Jew when a Christian says what I heard throughout childhood: “You don’t believe in Jesus? You’re going to hell then.”

I belong to a multi-faith book club of Jews, Christians and Muslims. Each month, we read a book, typically related to one of the three faiths, and discuss it. We have an appointed discussion leader and some ground rules. We always speak with respect about all faiths. We avoid being judgmental. We can express our opinions about the book, but we don’t criticize the traditions of another faith. Our goal is to learn about each other.  The more we can look at people of different faiths as an opportunity for learning, the better. The biggest problems come when we look at different religions as the “other.” There should be no “other.”

  1. As a Christian, what is the most important thing I should know about Judaism?

Answer:  Let me first preface my answer with a caveat. Yes, I am Jewish, but I am not a scholar of Judaism. I’m expressing my personal opinion, which may be different than that of other Jews. I can’t pinpoint one important thing, but it would be good for all Christians to truly understand that Christianity in fact sprung out of Judaism. Jesus Christ was a Jew. Christians and Jews have similarities in some of their beliefs. The Jewish holy book, the Torah, is the Old Testament. Genesis is Genesis, the same book of the Bible, for both of us. Where our religions differ is on the place of Jesus in our faiths. To Jews, Jesus was a minor prophet. He is not a part of our teachings. So know that we have much in common, and yes, we have big differences, too. When it comes to basic values, we share a lot, including, of course, the Ten Commandments.

Hmer 1

  1. As you know my passion is for civility in the Christian community; however, my greatest desire is for a much broader approach to include other faith groups. What suggestions do you have for me in this regard?  Think local would be my biggest suggestion. Judaism has three major branches, Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox. It’s impossible to find one figure for Judaism. I’d reach out to other houses of worship in your community and connect with the religious leaders there. Many communities I visited have interfaith councils made up of different clergy. That’s always a great place to start to make connections. These councils sometimes sponsor public events, such as interfaith Thanksgiving services; talks on what happens when we die and what different religions believe; and community break fasts after Yom Kippur or community iftars at the end of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims. Book clubs, too, are a great way to bring people of different faiths together. To me, whether the rabbi is current or retired doesn’t matter. Find the person ready and willing to form an interfaith partnership.
  2. In the larger Christian landscape membership is on the decline in the United States in favor of an increasing category called “Nones.” Is this a problem in Judaism and if so what can we do?

Yes, Jewish leaders are just as worried about losing Jews to the “nones” group as leaders of other faiths.  Jewish organizations have been reaching out to the younger generation in a variety of ways, including with social activities and long-established trips to Israel for young Jews. For those interested in this topic, I recommend a new, fascinating book by Katherine Ozment, Grace Without God.

  1. Is, Faith Ed being used as a discussion in other faith groups?                                                                                                                                                     Faith Ed has grabbed the attention of many different faiths. Since it came out in August 2015, I have given talks at churches of many denominations; Jewish temples of different branches; and interfaith groups. Adult education groups at churches have invited me to speak, and I have led discussions with them about the experiences of religious minorities in our country. We also have talked about some Americans’ fear of their children learning about Islam or any other faith that is not their own. It has been heartening, though, to see how many people of different faiths care about improving their own religious literacy and their children’s understanding of different religions in our country and world.

Many church groups I’ve spoken with see this topic as a social justice issue. They are distraught about the growing Islamophobia in our country. They also are upset about the anti-Semitic incidents I describe in my book and the incidents that have happened since then. Jewish and Muslim groups naturally already had those concerns. I have more talks this fall with interfaith groups, so I see these conversations only continuing to grow. At the front of my book, I include a quote from Mahatma Gandhi from his book, All Religions Are True. Where do I see these conversations going? I hope people believe what Gandhi did so fervently: “I hold that it is the duty of every cultured man or woman to read sympathetically the scriptures of the world. If we are to respect others’ religions as we would have them to respect our own, a friendly study of the world’s religions is a sacred duty.”

 

 

 

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Civility: Os, David and ME! – Doug Hunter* – CSU – Whitfield Center

Doug HunterSeveral years ago, I was part of an international conference of Christian business leaders for which Dr. Os Guinness was a primary speaker.  His first message focused on his book The Call, which, for many in the room, myself included, had been a personal affirmation of their own c all to business as their platform for ministry.  It was one of the first clear articulations of the value of business – as well as other non-church related callings – as ministry, and essential to the building of the Kingdom of God.  The message received a standing ovation and rave reviews.  It affirmed all of us.

His second message also focused on one of his books.  This time it was The Case for Civility, and the response was somewhat different.  If you have read this excellent work, you know that Os has one primary theme:  Unless we learn to listen and converse with those whose opinions and worldviews are different than our own, it won’t matter what “truth” we want to get to the table for consideration.  It won’t be heard because of the noise of our biases and acrimonious ways of communicating.  Os’ call for “a naked public square” where we leave religious, political and other identities at the door, and come only to examine truth claims based on their own merit and the fruit of living them out was challenging to say the least.  To that group of business leaders who were fighting to be able to express their faith through their businesses – and, most of whom are wired to be strong willed (maybe “opinionated”?) – it was hard not to hear a message seeming to say civility calls for “being nice” and letting other have their say – no matter how wrong they might be.  However, Os was reminding us that “To be human is to have deep and abiding differences with other humans over worldviews and values” (The Case for Civility, Page 180), and that civility “is a tough, robust, substantive concept that is a republican virtue, critical to both democracy and civil society” (The Case for Civility, Page 3).

Dr. David Dockery, former President of Union University and now President of Trinity International University, often used a term that is helpful to this consideration when he spoke of “Convictional Civility.”   Generally defined as “a lifestyle of bearing witness for Christ and of contributing to the common good.  From the pulpit to the public square and from the campus to the courtroom, followers of Christ are to demonstrate Christian virtues through winsome civility and Christian values through wholehearted conviction.” (Convictional Civility, Page vii-viii)  Or, as I hear Dockery saying, the robust hard work of engaging in evaluation of truth claims and contending for those I believe to be real truth is best accomplished when it is accompanied by a life or lives that demonstrate the power and actual results of those particular truth claims … living out what you really believe to be true.

Of course, this is nothing new.  Ever see any lack of civility in the pages of the Bible – even from the “good guys”?   And William Wilberforce’s second great purpose after the abolition of slavery was “the reformation of manners”, which had a distinctly civility-related impact on England.  Nevertheless, our need to restore civility to the public square here in the United States is perhaps the most understated, misunderstood and yet essential challenges we face if the truth of the gospel is to get the kind of culture-impacting hearing we all desire.  (Note:  Please don’t assume I am discounting God’s ability to shine the light of truth anywhere or at any time He chooses, e.g. dreams and visions in the Middle East, etc.  I am simply contending for our role in stewarding His truth.)

Let me conclude this post with several things I have been convicted to do as I ask God to work on my own civility.  Perhaps they will be helpful for you as well.

  • Understand that true civility is a spiritual discipline, and requires work and practice.
  • Understand that true civility is not possible for me apart from the power of the Holy Spirit
  • Learn to listen and work on hearing what is being communicated
  • Understand that just because I speak the loudest or hold the floor the longest, that does not mean I have communicated or “won” my point. Civil discourse is never a monologue.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak what you are thinking even if you are not sure how to say it clearly or you are afraid of the response it might receive. Robust conversation includes working through bumps in clarity and in conflicting ideas/worldviews
  • Don’t just read or study an idea or issue – take time to think and to listen to God. It’s amazing what God can say to a mind open to and focused on hearing Him.
  • Balance the comfort and encouragement of being with and hearing from people who are like minded with the need to be challenged by the company and ideas of people who don’t think like or look like me
  • Ask God to give you the wisdom to discern when and the courage to interrupt a conversation when it is clearly not laced with civility or leading to a God-honoring conclusion.
  • Be sure your spouse knows she/he has permission to speak into your life about your own display of convictional civility.

*Doug Hunter – Executive Director, Whitfield Center for Christian Leadership and International Programs 

Charleston Southern University    

Doug Hunter began his business career in the vertical transportation industry in 1971 with Carter Elevator Company, being named its President and Chief Executive Officer in 1987.  As a Christian CEO, Doug became involved with the Fellowship of Companies for Christ International (FCCI), and was invited to join FCCI’s board of directors in 1992.  When he sold Carter Elevator in 1994, Doug moved to Atlanta to work full-time with FCCI.  In the years that followed, God developed his heart for international ministry by allowing him to work, speak and influence business executives in over 30 countries.  He participated in ground-breaking ministry in both Mongolia and Vietnam, became the Founding CEO of Media Asia – a project utilizing sports television in China as a platform for the gospel – and worked with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.  In 2002, Doug joined the staff of Perimeter Church in Atlanta to lead Business Partners International (BPI), a strategy to facilitate the global kingdom impact of men and women through the use of their business skills and passion … building on the belief that Business IS Ministry and Business IS Mission … and that the “call” to business is as essential to building the Kingdom of God as any other calling within the Body of Christ.  In 2007 Doug returned to FCCI / Christ@Work as President and CEO, and saw God expand its ministry of equipping and encouraging Christian business leaders both throughout the US and to 30 countries across the globe.  He stepped out of that role in 2011.  Doug currently serves as a consultant and member of the Global Leadership Team for the Global Cities Project of Campus Crusade for Christ International / Cru.  He is also engaged as a member of the Lausanne Workplace Network, the Global Think Tank on Business As Mission and serves on the Leadership Teams of Call2Business and the National Faith & Work Association.  In February 2013, Doug was named Executive Director of the Whitfield Center for Christian Leadership (WCCL) at Charleston Southern University in Charleston, South Carolina. The WCCL is seeking to be at the leading edge of the movement to provide a steady flow of next generation leaders – whatever their vocational calling might be – who are equipped and committed to learning, leading and serving from a distinctively biblical worldview.  At the same time, Charleston Southern is uniquely positioned to be a resource for marketplace / professional leaders whether they be in Charleston, the Southeast or anywhere in the world.  In September 2015, Doug assumed responsibility for strategic leadership of CSU’s new International Programs. Doug has been married to his college sweetheart, Janet, for 46 years.  They have 4 grown children and 3 grandchildren.

 

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Approaching Civility in a World Awash in Self – Thomas Crowl*

PSALMS: 138:6…Though the Lord be high, yet He hath respect unto the lowly: but the proud He knows afar off…

Thonas CrowlI observe another American political season filled with vile, hate-filled language attacking the very basis of our democracy. I think on a simpler time when a bright mind called P.M. Forni would pen “The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct”. I look forward to a few months ago when a Charleston Churchman would call for a “Say Something Nice Day” as a reprise to anger and hatred. I look at the 25 rules and see many that look to the denial of self and the observation of the souls around us. It is a blessed similarity.

My dear wife is always the first to remind me that we should always look to the best reason for a particular act rather than descending to the depths of doubt and anger. Our news media calls out to a different spirit and looks to the phrase “if it bleeds it leads” as a sensationalist press seeking to grab the attention span of a media world.

I challenged my spirit today to review so many examples around me of civility. Just the other day a noted country singer would speak the words “always be humble and proud” finding strength in the meek spirit that found genuine pride in humility. I see our Savior on the cross saying “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” pushing back from the well of anger and self-pity that surrounded him. Often civility expresses itself best when we just listen calmly and do not react. In this respectful…inclusive…welcoming way we invite our Savior to be our guide.

Civility is the oil that calms the roughest wave…is the honey in the ears of the tormented spirit and always seeks to “walk in the other man’s shoes” as Franklin Roosevelt once said seeking empathy in a world embroiled in tragedy. Civility is generous looking for the best and offering frequent praise, positive advice and reinforcement to advance our brethren.

The civil world looks to the best that grows within us, respects our positive efforts to improve and gives kindness to the lowly animals and our blessed environment that all may grow in peace. It is an eternal value that is known to God and is so needed in our world where discrimination, separation, isolation and greed call out to us from every corner.

HEAVENLY FATHER…grant to me this day the civil tongue…the welcoming hand and the loving spirit that will heal a divided nation and world gone mad with self. Never let us forget the wondrous example you sent to us in your divine Son those two thousand years ago.

KING DAVID KNEW THE POWER OF GOD FIRST HAND AND YET CHOSE TO PRAISE HIS SPECIAL ATTENTION TO THE LOWLY…IT WAS SACRED ADVICE THEN AND IS EQUALLY IMPORTANT TODAY.

*Thomas Crowl is a retired judge who works in Florida as a volunteer having been born again in His service.

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