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Christianity and Civility

Since the Democratic National Convention, our nation has hit full stride in the political process. Each news broadcast leads with stories about the candidates, and every edition of the newspaper contains letters advocating one party or decrying one candidate.

Maybe this is a good time to consider how following Jesus Christ has an impact on our speech and the words we use. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
I lay blame on the evening news discussion shows for a serious decline in Christian civility in our nation’s public discourse.
 
You know the kind of show I’m describing: the host is in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />New York, a Democratic strategist joins the discussion from Los Angeles, while a Republican spokeswoman is in the Washington studios.
 
For the next 10 minutes they bait each other, interrupt each other and insult each other’s opinions. Typically, one is louder or more rude than the other and dominates the conversation. The one who has spoken the most and the loudest usually appears to have won some sort of victory.
 
This model carries over into many other areas of public discourse, including letters to the editor. Writers do not argue policy; they call names and criticize appearance. Too many speakers, and too many writers, believe the more acidic their words, the more correct their position.
 
This trend is both dangerous and embarrassing for our country.
 
It is dangerous because of the way it shapes the political process and creates more and more division among various groups within the United States of America.
 
Bitter words spoken during a campaign are not easily forgotten when the election is over. And I am not talking about words between candidates. Rather, I am talking about words between neighbors who supported different candidates.
 
This trend is embarrassing because some of the people who move us in this direction, some of the people who use this tactic, are also people who profess the most loudly to be Christians.
 
In my Bible, Paul says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” I have a hard time thinking many of the comments made are done in “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
 
I doubt we can change the political process or the trend of the nation. But we can refuse to contribute to the decline of public discourse.
 
No matter what anyone else does, we can remain true to the belief that being a Christian means more than displaying the Ten Commandments or avoiding strong drink.
 
We can allow the heart of Christ to guide us every moment of very day, including when we speak about politics or politicians.
 
Joel Snider is pastor at First Baptist Church in Rome, Ga.