The Library Basement
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Speaking of Civility

Published: 2010-10-07 15:46:00
Category: Christianity Tags: civility ecclesiology

I came across this Covenant for Civility on the Sojourners site. It is intended as a pledge for civility within the church, and has been signed by representatives from many and various Christian groups and traditions. I think the content of the covenant is laudable, though I do have two quick nitpicks.

First, I would consider using another term than "civility." I'm not sure that the civis or city is the best metaphor for church internal relations. Perhaps "congregationality" or "ecclesiality"? They don't have the same ring, and are perhaps tautological. But I think another term would work better, especially when this matter is placed alongside the matter of national civility in discussions on the Sojourners blog.

Second, I'm not sure that this deals adequately with Jesus' "whitewashed tombs" language in the gospels. Perhaps Jesus is the exception to the rule of civility, because he certainly was not civil on certain matters. And I think there are times when Christians ought to be "uncivil" for the sake of conscience (though perhaps there is a distinction between incivility and civil disobedience). But I do think that civility is a Christian value in general (e.g. "seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile", "render unto Caesar").

Overall I think this is an important effort for Sojo, especially if it is calling for greater civility in our national life. We as the church need to do a bit of work to get our own shop in order on that matter before we present it to the nation.

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© Nathan D. Smith
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