Mark DeMoss is a conservative evangelical Christian Republican from Atlanta who founded the Civility Project: www.civilityproject.org.
We also got a copy of his book “The Little Book of Wisdom” with chapters such as:
• A Matter of Life and Death
• Work Less. Think More
• Honesty Can Be Costly
• There are No Degrees of Integrity
He spoke to a group of clergy of various faiths this morning at Temple Beth Yeshurun in Houston. His message was alternately hopeful and chilling.
Lanny was shocked by the level of incivility during the debates over Proposition 8 In California. Mormons vilifying homosexuals. Homosexuals vandalizing Mormon buildings.
“I decided to start a website. I went online and reserved CivilityProject.org. “I was surprised to find it was available.”
He developed a three-point pledge for speaking an acting with civility.
“In contrast, a Christian conception of civility is grounded not in skepticism, but in conviction of the dignity and worth of each person, endowed by their Creator, which runs deeper than – without denying – our differences.”
I decided on what this would not be: This is no a surrender of personal beliefs. This is not a tolerance campaign. This is not an effort to define hate speech. This is not a call to unity. “I’m not promoting unity. I’m promoting civility. They’re not the same thing.”
I cannot attract people to my faith without civility. As a follower of Christ everything you do must be done in love.” Galatians lists nine fruits of the Spirit. Incivility violates at least eight of those nine.
Oz Guiness writes in “The Case for Civility:”
“How do we live with out deepest differences, especially when those differences are religious and ideological?”
“My strongest criticism has come from my fellow conservatives. My highest praise has come from liberals.”
We mailed the Civility Pledge to every Senator and Representative and Governor. We got three back. In January he dissolved the project. Officially, he wrote an Op Ed. He thanked the three. A week later was the shooting in Arizona, reigniting the debate on civility.
Five reasons DeMoss thinks civility isn’t winning.
1. It’s wrongly perceived by people as unilateral disarmament. Politicians feel it’s as disadvantage to be civil. “What if my opponent attacks me and I can’t attack back?”
2. People are afraid of being seen as compromising or selling out.
3. Our society doesn’t elevate or value civility anymore. A mean-spirited good fight on TV attracts a bigger crowd.
4. The louder the act, the more outrageous, the louder the Amen-crowd gets. The more “red meat” you throw out, the more enthusiastic the crowd gets.
5. The lines are more sharply drawn than ever: liberal/conservative, evangelical/mainline, etc.
Truly the problem is worse than it should be.
I know we’re all busy, and shooting off a nasty email while sitting at a red light might seem easy, but civility really takes no more time than incivility. In fact, incivility may take more time. There’s often a lot of clean up to do afterwards.
Some things you can do.
1. You can write a letter. Create a new friendship. Build a bridge. DeMoss devoted a chapter to the lair art of letter writing.
2. Speak, Preach and teach civility.
3. Call out those who step over the line. Politicians are the only commodities we market by trashing the opposition. Car companies and hotels don’t do this. Write: “I can’t support this kind of tactic…” Speak to those in your own ideological camp. “I don’t chastise people on the left.”
4. Build a relationship with an ideological opponent. Eat together. It’s hard to be unkind to someone you’ve had dinner with in your home.