Posts Tagged civility

Civility or incivility, an alternative for the Church: ‘communionism’

As culture demands civility or incivility, an alternative for the Church: ‘communionism’

ERIC MINTON  |  JULY 20, 2018 BaptistNewsGlobal

The partisan bloodbath currently passing as our national political discourse has led to renewed discussion over the act of discussion – how we should go about dealing with our ever-widening differences. Some of us advocate for a new civility, one that seeks to dig out one another’s humanity from underneath the mountains of memes we now use to punctuate our preferred political positions. Which, in this post-apocalyptic-Ridley-Scott-directed-Presidency, comes across a bit like Lord Grantham clucking his tongue at a hastily re-arranged coterie of deck chairs on the Titanic. It seems glib, condescending and aloofly privileged in a world where there are children sleeping in cages near the border.

Others of us clamor for all-out-war on the “enemy,” with whom we live daily or see at holidays or worship alongside weekly. According to this thinking, blood has already been spilled by someone else, and when the Visigoths are at the city walls all appeals for decorum and proper protocols are sacrificed on the altar of our hemorrhaging and smoking democracy. In my experience I’ve found it difficult to ferret out the “truth” or the “facts” once the dopamine kicks in following my release of a string of self-righteous, ad-hominem sentence fragments.

I’m saying this too seems glib, condescending and aloofly privileged in a world where there are children sleeping in cages near the border.

Now that we’ve exhausted ourselves by either endlessly tone-policing or cathartically releasing our animosity into the ether of our broken national conversation, perhaps we might finally be ready for the world’s worst question most often posed by the world’s worst “therapist,” Dr. Phil: “Well, how’s that workin’ for ya?”

“Our raging incivility – or cool civility – isn’t very effective in keeping children out of cages, families out of poverty or your aunt from refusing to come home for Christmas because of your grandfather’s preferred news outlet.”

From where I sit, our raging incivility – or cool civility – isn’t very effective in keeping children out of cages, families out of poverty or your aunt from refusing to come home for Christmas because of your grandfather’s preferred news outlet. Which begs the question, is there a third option between civility and incivility that we’re too emotionally dis-regulated or cynically withdrawn to recognize?

In his initial correspondence to the early Christian community in Corinth, the Apostle Paul famously invoked “Communion” as a way of bringing this disjointed first-century community together. Here he is, blogging from the nearby city of Ephesus: “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’” . . . 

Paul ends the paragraph rather ominously: “Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

The Gospel of Luke’s account of that same meal echoes Paul’s (chronologically) earlier treatment: “. . . And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’”

 Again, the closing line, this time from Jesus, is telling: “‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table.’”

For most of my life, whenever folks attempted to prove Jesus’ divinity, they typically led with the miraculously sacrificial nature of his death on the cross and his tomb-clearing follow-up album, “The Resurrection (Part 1).” But then I read about how Jesus ate a whole meal with people who had known him for years and still misunderstood what he was trying to do, why he was trying to do it and what it meant for them and everyone else. One of them was so desperately misguided and politically motivated that he even sold Jesus out for money.

Yet, there our Lord was, supping with them all the same.

As I’ve gotten older and survived more than a few contentious Thanksgivings, I’ve come to realize that the Last Supper isn’t some boring intro we survive once a quarter in order to remember some othermiraculous part of Jesus’ life. Communion is the miraculous part.

The fact that a God (which is what we believe Jesus to be in the flesh) could stand to be misunderstood to the point of death by 12 people who would then be responsible to carry on his work after he was goneis beyond comprehension. A few towns over, in Babylon, they believed their God literally created the earth by ripping another monster in two (it’s an awesome story).

In America we believe our God has all the words – especially the best ones.

And in that rented room 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem, before the dry ice and laser lights of Easter, we find out that the Christian God is totally okay with people missing the point about who he is and what he’s here to do. It seems like he even sort-of expects it.

Perhaps, then, Jesus’ invitation to “do this” over bread and wine wasn’t to hermetically seal his words and actions behind a veil of professionalism, theology and traditionalism. What if, instead, the “do this” is for the whole of humanity to look one another in the eyes over good bread and better wine as a way of bringing all of us concretely back to the realization that there is something elemental – sacramental, even – about the fact that we all live on bread and wine, even if we give up or give in or misunderstand the way of Jesus. Or if we have different political ideas that cause us to sell him out again and again.

We all hunger and thirst, and Jesus just keeps breaking himself open and pouring himself out again and again.

As a way of bringing proper acknowledgment to the extremely radical (and unpopular) nature of just this kind of dinner, we might be better served by changing its rather tepid title from the Lord’s Supper to something almost blasphemous: communionism.”

“Communionism” is a practice demanding that followers of a misunderstood God engage in concrete solidarity across tradition, political identity, geography, theology, socio-economic status, ethnicity and what Paul later called “the dividing wall of hostility” in order to bring a whole new world into being – together. A world that begins with bread, wine and a shared commitment to surviving difference together, not by ignoring it or sacrificing it, but by looking it in the eye and washing its feet and passing the plate.

Honestly, what sounds more like Jesus to you: only participating in religious rituals with people who have the appropriate credentials? Or breaking bread and pouring wine with people who sold you out and abandoned you and constantly misunderstand you and your motives?

These days it seems as if our polarized and violent civilization could use more followers of Jesus radically committed to bravely eating with difference, even if the difference is almost impossible to bear. To commune together, even when there’s good reason for withdrawn civility and hostile incivility, seems a miraculously unlikely experience – one that requires profound faith.

Which is probably why the Church has spent the majority of its life protecting the metaphor instead of practicing its meaning.

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Honest Questions to Ask About Some Christians’ Vitriol – Nick Lear

June 4, 2018
Section: EthicsDaily.com’s Latest Articles
My hope is that an honest effort to consider and answer these questions might just help us (Christians) to be more aware of our own behavior, Lear writes.

There are times when I read what another Christian has written or said, and I wonder whether I am reading the same Bible as them because I can’t justify their behavior based on what I read in my Bible.

Now, I realize that in writing this column I am opening myself up to an accusation that I am making judgments about other people, and that’s something Jesus said we should not do.

So, I am writing this in the form of open questions based on my observations rather than accusations against anyone in particular. And I am writing this to Christians; the rest of you can relax.

I ask these questions of myself as much as anyone else, and if I am being honest, I am uncomfortable with some of my own answers. As always, I am not suggesting that I live a fully sorted life as a follower of Jesus, but I want to be open to his Spirit’s transformational prompting.

Where in the Bible does it say that it’s right to use unpleasant, vitriolic and hateful language against someone with whom you disagree?

Doesn’t the Bible say that the way people will know we are followers of Jesus is by the way that we love one another?

How can it be right that Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God and the second one was to love others, yet some comments that Christians have posted online about fellow believers and some behavior between Christians appear to be devoid of love and full of hate?

And how are some of the hideous comments made against those who don’t claim a Christian faith showing them what God’s love and grace are like?

Where does it say that it’s OK to condemn someone for interpreting the Bible differently from you by denouncing them as “unbiblical,” which presumably means the denouncer has absolute confidence that their interpretation is entirely “biblical” and there’s no chance they could be wrong?

Wasn’t Jesus regarded as “unbiblical” in his day?

Where does the Bible tell us that we should consider ourselves better than others, using our superiority to tell them how and why they are wrong, and we are right?

Why do Christians spend so much energy arguing about relatively trivial things like doctrinal differences and not spend as much time and energy tackling poverty, injustice and conflict?

Jesus spoke much more about the use of and love of money than he did about doctrine, didn’t he?

Given how much Christians have been forgiven, and how much Jesus said we should forgive, how come some of us find it so difficult to apologize to other Christians when we are wrong and ask for forgiveness?

Is admitting we are wrong so difficult?

I realize this is rather an incendiary post, and it really isn’t my intention to have a go at anyone in particular.

My hope is that an honest effort to consider and answer these questions might just help us (Christians) to be more aware of our own behavior and open us up to God’s Spirit changing us to become more like the Jesus we follow.

Nick Lear is a regional minister of the Eastern Baptist Association in the United Kingdom. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Nukelear Fishing, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @NickLear.

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Say Something Nice Sunday June 3 Join the Movement

On June 3, all churches, all denominations and all faith groups are encouraged to join in the celebration of the 12th.  Say Something Nice Sunday. Originating at First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina, the movement has gained followers from almost every denomination across the US and some in the UK.

The Rev. Marshall Blalock, president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and The Most Reverend Robert E. Guglielmone, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, have both endorsed the program. There is nothing to buy.

Why Have a Say Something Nice Sunday? The simple answer is that words are powerful. Words have the power to build or destroy. Words have the power to heal or wound. With our words we have the power to build up a Christian community or to destroy it.

Nowhere are words more powerful than within the church. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Words take on a life unto themselves. Once they are given life they are on their way for good or evil.

This special day is an opportunity to build the community of faith, strengthen relationships and heal old wounds. Our national discourse has become so strident and even in religious circles the rhetoric is often far from Christ-like. In Philippians 1:27 we read, “Let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.”

This is a day to say thank you to those who make our lives better just by being a part of them. This is a day to recognize those who contribute to our lives in specific ways. This is a day to apologize for words spoken in frustration, anger or disappointment.

One suggestion in addition to the main sermon is to use it as a theme for the Children’s Sermon as Robin Boston will do at the Circular Congregational Church in Charleston.

Mitch Carnell, Chair of the Ecumenical Committee said, “One day is one day, but perhaps we can stretch it to two days and then just maybe if we encourage one another and ask for God’s help, we might change the world!”

Free materials are available at www.fbcharleston.org. Click on Messages/Resources at the top of the page. Scroll down to Say Something Nice Sunday. There is also a Say Something Nice Day for secular celebration on June 1 every year.

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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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