Thursday, January 28, 2016

Can't we have a bit of Civility?

I've been trying to refrain from engaging in too much political talk on the blog. I have decided on a candidate for President. I hope she wins, not because she's a perfect candidate but because of those running I feel like she's the most equipped to handle a difficult job.  

My concern as I watch the current situation is the lack of civility that is present in our current context. I understand why people get angry and get upset. But anger by itself is destructive. We can't let anger drive our lives, especially when that anger keeps us from pursuing the greater good. Yelling obscenities. Calling opponents names. It's just not productive. 

We need cool heads who can find solutions to deep and abiding challenges. We have an immigration problem. It needs to be fixed so that people can come out of the shadows and live productive lives. Young people who came here as children, who have lived their entire lives in this country, need to have the freedom to live out the American dream. Refugees from countries that are torn by violence need to be able to find safe havens in our communities. We are largely a country composed of immigrants and refugees. Unfortunately, too often once here we want to shut the door on others.

I'm concerned that religion is being drawn into the debate. We have people arguing that specific religious communities should be banned or excluded from entering the country. We have others that want to make my faith, which already dominates, the ruling faith. This does nothing to create respect or peace in our midst. At the same time there are those who want to ban all religion from public life. I'm sorry, I can't separate my faith from who I am. At the same time, I can and should respect and honor those whose faith is different from my own.

I'm reading Miroslav Volf's wonderful book Flourishing (Yale, 2016), which seeks to set out a vision of respect that can lead to peace. When it comes to religion and the state, Volf notes, religion and politics are "two distinct, though intersecting, cultural territories."  He goes on to say:
 Drawing the distinction between the community called the 'Body of Christ' and the political order of the empire, early Christians, for instance, embraced graded levels of loyalty.: Christ gives substantive direction to Christian's lives, and they given him ultimate allegiance; the political order provides for the conditions of their living, and they give it conditional loyalty. All world religions have internal resources and motivations to make a similar distinction. [Flourishing, p. 135]  
Religion has a place in the public square, but the state and religion should remain separate. The state, if it is going to promote the necessary pluralism where respect can emerge among religions, needs to remain impartial when it comes to religion. It establishes none and denies rights to none. 

I pray for civility. We can and will disagree on issues large and small. We needn't demonize our neighbors, however. We can instead open our hearts and our minds to them. As the political season really ramps up, let us keep this in mind!!   

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