Of All Things Civil
Posted on August 18, 2015

I have always prided myself on taking seriously my rights and duties as a citizen, so I daily check the status of the world of politics. I am beginning to feel very discouraged as the line between entertainment and news has almost disappeared. Is it our 7 minute attention spans or laziness about thinking? I can’t tell you.

But I went to my dictionary for some reassurance and I looked up “civil”. I was told that it means “relating to or benefitting a citizen”. I then ran down usages such as “civil defense”, “civil disobedience”, “civil discourse”. I paused at the last one. How civil is the tone of the current political exchanges on the election front? I have witnessed junior high school debates that were definitely more civil. If name calling and gratuitous insults make one electable, then we have many candidates, don”t we?

Back in my dictionary I found that synonyms could be found by referencing “polite”. We seem to have strayed from that too, haven’t we? I went back to thinking some more and, of course, I ended up in the Bible.

I remembered the day that Jesus had sent his eager disciples on ahead to prepare a place for him to rest as they traveled to Jerusalem, and they found that the next Samaritan village was not willing to be hospitable. Filled with zeal for their cause and anxious to test their own gifts they rushed back to report to Jesus and to ask permission to call down fire from heaven on the recalcitrant! Happily they did so, since Jesus advises them to move on to the next town and to restrain their fiery impulses to incinerate all opponents (Luke 9:52).

Jesus was no “pushover”. He could be angry before injustice against the poor and the helpless,. He could be strong in his condemnations of those who twisted the Law that he loved into some meaningless literalism. But he was always “civil”.

Is it possible to be strong, yet civil? Can one take on an opponent without name-calling? I have noticed that what goes on on the national stage has trickled down to my own small city and local politics too. I wonder what will ultimately determine an election.

In the meantime I am practicing civil discourse. And you?


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