Posts Tagged politics

Season of Civility Promoted by Clergy

As Wisconsin continues to struggle through another year of divisive campaigning and elections, church leaders are voicing concerns that hostile political rhetoric is overstepping the bounds of civility, even decency.

A group of 35 religious leaders from throughout Wisconsin are calling upon citizens to enter a “Season of Civility” amidst the partisan rancor of the recall campaigns and the anticipated divisiveness of the fall election cycle.

“As a result of extreme political polarization in Wisconsin, many in our congregations and communities feel marginalized or demonized by their neighbors on account of their economic status, occupation, or political beliefs,” a statement from the group says.

Rev. Scott Anderson, executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, which represents 14 Christian denominations, commented that “politics is not a zero sum game or a winner-take-all contest. Rather it is a joint effort to reach a workable consensus on how to advance the common good. From the perspective of Wisconsin’s religious community, the current political environment is unacceptable in our public life.”

Local clergy react

“I applaud the statement and those leaders who signed it,” said Father Vic Capriolo from Holy Family Catholic Parish.

“The sentiments expressed are most appropriate in the light of all the attack ads the electorate were subjected to during the election just completed,” he said. “I dread seeing what the upcoming national campaign will bring. The truth is hard to find and the ‘Golden Rule’ has all but been totally disregarded. If anyone can come up with a foolproof way to achieve the expressed goals of this season of civility, that individual should receive the Nobel Peace prize.”

The “Call for a Season of Civility” statement declares that the “ability to cooperate to solve common problems and achieve shared goals is now undermined by rampant disrespect, disinformation, distrust and disregard for the interests and ideas of others.”

Calling for change, it draws a parallel between the religious values embodied in the “Golden Rule” — to treat others as we would like to be treated — with the idea of democracy, which is based on regard for the value of each and every individual.

Pastor Ken Nabi of Community Church in Fond du Lac quotes a Bible verse from the book of Romans that states: “For the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

“The law is to be honored and respected and in our democratic process, the value of morality must undergird all of our discussion and decisions,” he said. “Democracy will only work when we value one another above our differences even when these differences are passionately held.”

Sister Stella Storch, social justice coordinator for the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Agnes, said people need to develop better listening skills.

“It’s about learning how to listen to another person and understand what they were saying, instead of listening in order to give a response. If we listen long enough we will come to understand that we all share the same values,” she said. “I don’t think there is a person in the state of Wisconsin that wants us to be divided.”


Ascension Lutheran Church Pastor Jeff Blain said in a culture that claims tolerance, no one seems to be tolerating anyone. He is reminded of Martin Luther’s comments on the Christian commandment to not bear false witness against a neighbor.

“He said that when we are talking about other people we should ‘defend them, speak well of them, and explain their actions in the kindest way.’ It’s so easy for us to descend into innuendo, but we have to be able to speak fairly about the people we disagree with,” Blain said.

Civility is not only needed after the “winners” and “losers” have been tallied, but has been sadly lacking in recent political discourse and decision making among citizens and leaders, said Pastor Brian Hastings of Memorial Baptist Church.

“As a Christian, I am saddened to see how often and how easily politics becomes equated with the Gospel — the belief that one party or another has a monopoly on representing the Christian perspective,” he said. “It does great harm to our credibility and our community.”

Hastings, along with the other local clergy, points to working for the common good.

“When disrespect, disinformation, distrust and disregard for the interests and ideas of others are rampant in our behavior toward those we disagree with, it is correspondingly difficult to achieve this, or even to see and recognize another person’s basic humanity and dignity,” he said. “The starting point is respecting the other as a human being, not as a label or caricature.”

The initial list of 35 signatories to the Call for a Season of Civility is expected to grow over the next several weeks as more religious leaders are invited to support it.


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Thankful Thursday – Jack Powers

            On this Thankful Thursday I am thankful for Jack Powers. Jack is a friend from Woodruff and Furman days. He and I have known each other for a lot of years, but got to know each other best during two years in Mr. Brissie’s speech class. Jack reminds me of that passage in the Bible about iron sharpening iron. Because Jack is good at everything he touches, he always causes me to want to get better at what I do. Jack is the embodiment of those values we learned growing up in a small town and on a cotton mill villages: hard work, honesty, loyalty, patriotism, devotion to family and to God. When Jack gives you his word, you can depend on it. Jack and Audrey are a great couple and great parents. I probably should add grandparents to that list. It seems that I have known Audrey and her parents forever. After graduating from Furman, Jack had a great career with Criovac Corporation. Jack remains a staunch Furman supporter and still goes to as many games as possible. He and Audrey have attended the Hamrick Lectures in Charleston and we get together each year for our high school class reunion. Jack and I share some social, political, and religious views that are not always the most popular. Our friendship has only grown stronger and richer over the years. On this Thankful Thursday, I am grateful for the presence and influence of Jack Powers in my life.

            Thankful Thursday is a day set apart to recognize someone who is important in your life. Let her or him know of your gratitude. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Say Something Nice; Be a Lifter. You will be glad that you did.

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Taking on Civility – Thomas C. Fox

Published on National Catholic Reporter (

Taking on incivility By Thomas C. FoxCreated Nov 30, 2009

E.J. Dionne Jr., in the Washington Post [1]today writes that “the most surprising and disappointing aspect of our politics is how little pushback there has been against the vile, extremist rhetoric that has characterized such a large part of the anti-Obama movement.”

I concur. It is disappointing, especially when one believes that civility is a mark of a mature democracy and should characterize U.S. politics.

Dionne explains: “Republican politicians, worried about future primary fights, have been reluctant to pick a fight with a radical right that seems to be the most energized section of their party. Their ‘moderation’ has consisted of a non-benign neglect of the extremists and of accusing the president merely of ‘socialism.'”

Meanwhile, John Gehring, media director and senior writer for the Washington-based Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good has contributed to a book on the subject of civility, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World. The book was recently reviewed in the Post and Courier newspaper [2]in Charleston, SC.

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Why Did You Write Christian Civility?

Smythe&Helwys, the publisher of Christian Civility in an Uncivil World, sent me a list of questions that they thought you would like to know the answers to. I gace each question a lot of thought. In most cases my answers could have been much longer. Here goes.

1. How would you describe your calling and mission as a writer and as a Christian?

            My calling as a Christian is to live a life that reflects my faith in Jesus and that causes others to want to share in that faith. My calling and mission as a Christian writer is to communicate the love of God and the blessings of being a member of His family to everyone I can in the simplest and most loving way possible. I want to encourage and help others to share their faith and convictions in ways that glorify God and honors fellow Christians. 

2. Which books have had the greatest impact on your ministry?

            It would be difficult to name all of the books that have influenced my life. Other than the Bible, five that have had great influence on me are: As a Man Thinketh by James Allen, Communicating for Life by Quentin Schultze, Uncommon Decency by Richard Mouw, Words That Hurt, Words That Heal by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and The Power of Positive Thinking. by Norman Vincent Peale.
3. How important do you feel writing is in the world of religion?

            Writing is important for many reasons. Many people are drawn to reading who would not listen to a sermon. Many are drawn to reading for inspiration, encouragement, comfort and entertainment. Others are seeking explanations, information, clarification or guidance. There must be a variety of resources available and at varying levels for all of these seekers. Books and articles can be read and digested when there are small tidbits of time available or while waiting for other things to happen. The Internet opens a great venue for both writers and readers.

4. When did you first become interested in writing?

            I became interested in writing in the sixth grade when our teacher introduced us to poetry and then had us practice writing poems of our own. After initially dismissing the idea, I experienced some success and was hooked. My first paid story was published when I was in the eighth grade.

5. What are the great joys in writing for you?

            The great joy in writing for me is when I receive a note or telephone call from someone who tells me that a particular piece has helped him or her in some way. After I wrote about the death of my first wife, a woman called to say that she had posted the article on her refrigerator so she could read it often and that it had helped her re-engage life after a difficult and traumatic situation. 

6. What events led up to you writing Christian Civility in an Uncivil World?

            Christian Civility in an Uncivil World, grew out of my deep concern about the direction rhetoric is taking in our society and especially the way many denominations, churches and individuals are treating one another. Some groups are taking out full page newspaper advertisements denouncing and demonizing other Christian organizations. My experiences at the Chautauqua Institution in New York State and with the John Hamrick Lectures at First Baptist Church of Charleston, SC let me experience that people of different backgrounds, experiences, and faith traditions could engage in civil discourse without rancor. Because of my background in the field of communication, I felt a deep calling to use whatever knowledge, skills and abilities I have to help Christians of all backgrounds find a way to communicate with and about each other and with non-Christians in a way that would glorify God.
7. How do you feel Christian Civility in an Uncivil World can impact the reader and/or small groups?

            My prayer is that individual Christians as well as small groups will receive the book in the spirit that it is written and that each person will consider its message. I hope that small groups will discuss the issues thoroughly and then resolve to help change the dialogue in their faith community. My greatest hope is that the book with its distinguished list of religious thinkers will help move us toward a dialogue that creates more understanding than heat and disrespect. We will never agree on all the issues that divide us, but we can agree to respect each other as brothers and sisters in Christ with the same Creator.
8. Briefly describe your current ministry.

            I am an active lay member of my church where I serve on the diaconate. I am deeply involved in promoting Say Something Nice Sunday on the first Sunday in June each year and hope to see it adopted by churches and denominations nationwide. I continue to write, speak, and conduct seminars on improving communication. I am currently involved in writing a book tracing my own faith journey. My lifelong mission is to help give voice to those who have no voice.

9. Outside of your ministry, how do you enjoy spending time?

            My wife, Carol, and I enjoy traveling, attending plays and concerts and getting together with friends and family.covered bridge

10. What would readers be surprised to know about you?

            Readers might be surprised to know that I have had a passionate interest in politics since going with my dad, who was a precinct worker, to the polls when I was in elementary school. I miss the great orators of the past and am dismayed at our reliance on misleading and inaccurate sound bites.

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