Thursday, February 11, 2010


I'm getting frustrated, and I hope I'm not alone in this. I'm getting frustrated by the lack of civility in our public discourse these days. Obviously there are exceptions, but by and large it seems like we're considerably less civil these days.

The most obvious culprits (usually?) are the politicians. It seems like for the past couple decades, the conservatives and the liberals haven't been able to actually talk with each other, let alone work together. With every change of power, the culprits and the victims switch roles, so right now the Republicans are holding together in a bloc, now with the votes necessary to filibuster. They don't seem to be willing to consider compromise, perhaps in order not to seem weak by the time the next election cycle comes around. At the same time, though, the Democrats had an amazing opportunity, when they had the supermajority, to take the high road and reach out to the other party in order to rebuild across the aisle relationships.

Unfortunately, I feel like the president (as much as I'm glad he's elected, and as much as I think he has the right ideas about how to start moving forward with international relationships and with health care) should have taken the lead in reaching out to the other party. His campaign led me to believe that we were moving beyond quite-so-partisan-politics ... but it looks to me (from far away) like business as usual.

Even still, the party in power holds the greater responsibility for making the first move in the right direction.

And politics aren't the only arena where civility is going by the wayside. If you've driven recently, or if you've listened to talk radio (from the left or from the right), or especially if you've listened to talk radio while driving, you know that the hostility in our society is significant.

The most unfortunate place where I'm seeing a lack of civility these days is in the church. We seem to have entrenched ourselves as deeply as the politicians. Especially in the ELCA (my denomination), it seems like what we believe about the August votes on sexuality has split us into camps, and now we can't talk with one another without hurling accusations back and forth. The media doesn't do anything to alleviate this tendency. They're looking for sound bites and headlines, without any apparent attempt to notice or appreciate any nuances in the conversation.

And we in the church seem to get sucked in by the reporting, assuming that we need to be on one side or the other, thinking we're diametrically opposed to one another, when in reality we probably haven't actually talked with one another. Because if we took the time to truly listen to the joys and sorrows, to the celebrations and pains of those with whom we disagree, we'd probably recognize brothers and sisters in Christ. And we'd certainly move beyond uncivility to civility, and beyond civility to deeper and more meaningful relationship with one another.



  1. I hear you, even I live in another country I feel the same way, I hope that a little of solidarity helps :)

  2. Add the workplace to that... those who you think would show that working together is better than pointing fingers--they don't really act that way now... just my observation.

  3. Speaking as an ELCA clergy, I have been most disappointed of all with my colleagues. Only one word for the treatment of each other I have experienced - appalling. Not at all a good representation of Matthew 18.