Sunday, March 11, 2007

Religion and Politics: Let's Have a Civil Talk

Faith in the Public Square
Dr. Robert Cornwall
Lompoc Record
March 11, 2007

It's been about 15 months since I began writing regularly for the Lompoc Record, and it's been a privilege to share my ideas about religion and its place in the public square with the readers of this paper. There's a lot of interest in both subjects - religion and public life - especially at the points where these two intersect for good or ill. My intention in writing this column is to stimulate the conversation and to argue that it's possible to be religious and responsibly share the public square.

Last fall, a Faith in the Public Square forum at the Lompoc Public Library elicited considerable interest in having more public conversations about religion and its place in American society. With that in mind, I'd like to issue an invitation to the community and the readers of this column to join me in marking Faith in the Public Square's anniversary with another forum (though this is a bit late, as far as anniversary celebrations go).

The next Faith in the Public Square Forum will occur at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 28, in the sanctuary of First Christian Church, 1517 West College Ave., across from Clarence Ruth Elementary School. There will be ample opportunity to share ideas and concerns about the community, the nation and the world. I hope, of course, to get some ideas for future columns. And, of course, there will be cookies, coffee, tea and maybe some “Kool Aid!”

As for the topic of conversation that evening, I thought that with a presidential race heating up (even though the first primaries and caucuses are almost a year away) and with the ongoing but divisive war in the Middle East, it would be good to talk about civility.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that with all that's going on in the world today, the level of uncivil rhetoric is rising. You can hear it from right and from left, and it's almost a badge of honor, if you're a radio or TV talk show host, to be rude, inconsiderate, and uncivil. The AM radio dial is especially full of commentators spewing angry and bitter messages that poison the national conversation. (To continue reading click here).


David from Lompoc said...

I have enjoyed reading your commentary on faith and your borrowed term: "in the public square." I have been a reader of the Lompoc Record for many years and before you began your literary quest, there was a Pastor from Church of Christ who wrote weekly, then came Ben Peavy of Crossroads church and Bernie Federman of Foursquare and then some 15 months ago, as you describe your entrance on paper. You have written some great things and yet one thing you have done that these others have not done is to use your space given to you for promotion of events and meeting place. Prior you invited people the the "public square" to meeting. It was, if I recall the Lompoc Library. Later you invited people to come to a church for a forum on council candidates. We were once again robbed of good city leadership but I stand in prayer for those who need God's wisdom to function in their role as overseers of the flock, hence the city. Now you invite people to your church facility to discuss religion and politics. I am not offended by your move and position to do so, yet I must underscore that those who wrote about faith and blazed the trail with our paper, which allows you now the place to write never promoted their own church or facilities, rather the church in general. Recently Federman wrote something like, "find a church, there are many great ones in the community to choose from." Peavy used to write of the value of the church in our communuty and he too underscored the value of local connections and fellowship. While some may seem your 'brand' of religion a bit dimented from classical evangelical stance and others wonder your motivation (things people share with me) I question two things: 1)Why invite the public to a forum held by you and held at your church. Why not the public square so the public will not feel a 'religious' connotations. 2) Why promote your church above others connected with your faith group? 3) Have you looked into the issues and problems associatted with promotion of candidates may cause tax exemption status issues. I am not an attorney nor do I know the laws clearly but Robert Schuller and others have gotten in trouble for crossing bounds into the political road.
I hope you do well with this.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...


Thank you for the kind words and the questions about the invitation. I have used this space to promote conversations about faith and public life. There is not law against such invitations, and the city council event did not carry any recommendation and falls within the legal guidelines. The reason for the invitation this time is simply to offer an opportunity to share in conversation with my readers -- with no expectation that anyone will choose to attend the church or join it or anything else. I'm just using this facility to talk about important issues.

It is, however, always good to consider the benefits and deficits of such an invitation.