Where Has Civility Gone? Concern For A Culture Of Outrage

Grace For The Journey

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12Mar When I was younger, the trend of the day was a large picture book called Where’s Waldo?  Every page displayed an assortment of pictures that overstimulated the eyes with colored objects and chaotic disorder.  But hidden somewhere on the page was a little man named Waldo, wearing his rimmed glasses and a red and white beanie hat.  The game, of course, was to find Waldo in the midst of the chaos.

As I look at our culture today, I am overstimulated by all of the disrespect, name-calling, and unrestrained expressions of emotions.  In the midst of all the blogs, tweets, Instagrams, social media blasts, and political rancor I am left wondering, “Where’s civility?”  Civility has been lost in the midst of all the partisan rhetoric and name shaming.

We live in a culture

That seems to value outrage,

Intolerance, and disrespect.

The louder and bolder one shouts their message, the more “likes” they get on social media.

As the political contests heat up during this election year, I think it is important and imperative that we ask, “Where is civility?”  Even the word seems to be outdated and antiquated.  Think of it: when was the last time you used the word “civility” in a sentence?  Its synonyms include words like “politeness, courtesy, respect, graciousness, and good manners.”

Where are these important and needed traits in culture?

  • Where are the good manners from one human being to another?
  • Where is the graciousness of speech that treats others with respect even if there is disagreement?
  • Where is the courtesy where people of opposing sides at least have a posture of politeness to their common man?

I wonder how long we would have to look at culture before we begin to see civility emerge.

A recent Wall Street Journal article was written about civility in American history.  The article examined where good manners have gone in America, citing a work from 1899 by Isaac Peebles called, “Politeness on Railroads.”  In that work, Peebles was aiming to “help Americans navigate a new mode of transport that had suddenly thrust people into close proximity – and to correct the evil of too great laxity of true politeness.”  In other words . . .

With Americans now rubbing shoulders

With strangers on a regular basis,

What rules should govern their interactions?

What standards of conduct should

People display toward other?

For Peebles, the starting point in 1899 was to “give special attention to the ladies, aged, feeble and the cripple.”  The primary posture of cultural interaction for Peebles was this: “Let all look after the interest of one another, assisting one another when necessary.”  In other words, Peebles called Americans to a standard of civility that would govern our social conduct.  That is good advice, but where is the power to be able to live in this way.  There are highly educated and cultured people who know better but have given in to the climate of the day.

The last two years the political discourse in our country has been push to new extremes of disrespect, intolerance, and outrage.  There is so little evidence of politeness and courtesy, it makes one wonder if it even exists anymore.

We may not be able to influence all of American culture, but we can influence our workplaces, homes, and neighborhoods with a spirit of civility towards one another.  God calls us to such attitudes and actions and the Bible teaches us that what God requires He provides.  I offer just a sampling . . .

Philippians 4:5, “Let your gentleness be known to all men.  The Lord is at hand.”

Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”

Titus 2:7-6, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”

That is what civility looks like in a culture of outrage.

  • It looks like our speech being “gracious.”
  • It looks like a life that models “good words and works.”
  • It looks like people who are “reasonable and respectful” in social interactions and on social media.

America needs a course correction for 2020.

This is one course correction that

We can implement in everyday life.

It is time to sort through the cultural outrage and reclaim civility, politeness, courtesy, repect, graciousness and good manners.  For Christians seeking to live by biblical principles, politeness “means more than graceful manners, courtly conversation, and rules of fashion. It was an inner disposition, a heartfelt sentiment that grows out of our personal walk with God and leads to a constant consideration for the honor and edification of others.”  What we need to reclaim is a heart and mind change that leads to attitudes and appraisals that honor and glorify God and has a constant aim for the uplifting and edifying of others.

As Christians . . .

We do this not as an end in itself,

But to display the glorious riches

Of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We seek to show civility

Because the One who has redeemed

And changed us gives us the power

To love, respect, and seek to honor others

Who might think differently than us.

We seek to show civility because

We are children who represent

The most gracious God

Man has ever known.

We aim to be polite and reasonable

Because in doing so we stand

In sharp contrast with

A world of chaos and disorder.

Where’s civility in America?  If it is anywhere, may it be found in the people of God.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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