What Now? Faithful Living in Challenging Times - page 6




WHAT NOW? Faithful Living in Challenging Times
by Michael Cromartie, Vice President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center

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In these kinds of times, it is critical that we remind ourselves of the importance of civility in our public discourse and presentations with the wider public. Here I am concerned with our tone of voice when we write and speak in public. What we say in public matters. Words matter. Being a person who speaks in a civil tone and in a civil manner is a virtue. Practicing civility is a virtue. And for all the high-strung activists on both the political Right and the Left, I would remind them that being civil is not a cop-out, an effort to trim one’s convictions. Civility is not a wimp word. The American religious historian Martin Marty put it this way: “People who are civil often lack conviction and people with strong convictions often lack civility. What we need today are people who practice ‘convicted civility.’ ”

Civility is not just a matter of good manners and pulling our punches. Civility and kindness do not mean passivity. It is instead a matter of showing fundamental respect and decency for the people we are engaging in the public arena. In order to be persuasive, even with firmly held convictions, we must resist the temptations to respond in an emotive fashion and instead respond in ways that are winsome and appealing. We have no reason to be fearful or sullen or mean-spirited.

Why do I emphasize this? Because I could give you illustrations of people I have known over the years in the Christian community who are not taken seriously because of the tone of their voice, their words, and their very body language. We have a duty to be respectful to those we disagree with in the public arena. It is, quite simply, the will of God that we not kill each other over our differences concerning what the will of God is.

Put simply: we must speak with confidence and tranquility, with kindness and gentleness, so that people will begin to say of us that we speak with a “Galilean” accent that sounds a lot like Jesus.

I began by noting that many important commentators are saying we are living in a time of “great transition.” I want to conclude by suggesting that this “time of transition” is really the very nature of our lives in our earthly existence. We are always living in a time of transition. And so we are today. We have this tendency to see our era as the worst era in all of history. Times may be growing dark—but times have been dark since the Fall in the Garden of Eden. We are not, and will not, be the losers in history. The arc of history is long, but we know with confidence how it ends.

And so there is comfort in the midst of all this transition: the central doctrines of the sovereignty of God and the providence of God over all of life, and over all of history and where it is going, should give us confidence that the principalities and powers of this age will not have the final word.

And so for those of us whose primary allegiance is to the City of God, we do well to remember that every homeland is a foreign country and every foreign country is a homeland. We are to seek the welfare of the city, as Jeremiah says, because in its welfare we will also find our welfare.

This is our place of pilgrimage at this time until the future City of God comes. Until we reach that final destination, we must learn how to sing the songs of Zion in this our foreign land.

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