Mark DeMoss, anevangelical conservative and Lanny Davis, a Jewish liberal agree on almostnothing. But on January 18, 2009, the day before President Obama wasinaugurated as president, they came together and wrote an editorial for TheWashington Times. In it they wrote, “We found ourselves drawn to each other’slove for this country and a conviction about the importance to its future oftrying to change the polarizing attack ori-ented political culture that hasbecome all too common in recent years and, instead, to bring civility back asthe staple of American politics and life.” And with that state-ment theystarted what they called the Civility Project. Together both Mark DeMoss andLanny Davis sent a pledge to every sitting governor and every member of Congress.The pledge simply had three bullet points:
1) I will be civil inmy public discourse and behavior,
2) I will berespectful of others whether or not I agree with them,
3) I will standagainst incivility when I see it.
Of the 585 people theysent it to (50 governors, 100 Senators, and 435 Members of the House ofRepresentatives), three people signed it. Three! In 2011, Mr. DeMoss and Mr.Davis disbanded the Civility Project, disillusioned that only three members ofCongress and no governors would agree to what many people would assume werebasic standards of public life and discourse.
But anyone who hasbeen listening to the recent ads and non-stop commentary from blowhards fromboth sides of the political spectrum know that political campaigns are anythingbut civil. A few weeks ago a headline on YAHOO news read that this would notonly be the most expensive presidential campaign ever, it would also be themost dishonest. When I walked by the booths for both the DFL and the Republicanparties at the State Fair last week, my family and I witnessed firsthand atboth booths people who were literally yelling at each other using language thatI cannot reprint. For a moment my daughter wanted us to stop because shethought it was an act, after all at one of the booth’s the person was not onlyyelling but also banging on the wall of the shed. She thought it was a streetperformance like one’s she had seen before at the Renaissance Festival we wentto in Colorado earlier this summer. But this time the people were actingirrational, belligerent, and vulgar towards each other, and no one waslaughing. In less than a minute she either realized it wasn’t that funny, orthat it wasn’t an act. Either way, she realized that it wasn’t worth stopping.
Earlierthis summer a youtube video went viral in a matter of days. It showed a bus ofJr. and Sr. High youth from a town in New York berating the 68 year old schoolbus monitor who was only riding on the bus to make sure the kids were safe. Onthe 10 minute video you can clearly hear the kids calling her a bi@#$, fat@$s,poor, ugly, and various other words of the like. At one point in the video, youcan hear one of the kids yell, “You’re so fu@#$%* poor you fat a$@” The moreshe tried to reason with the kids and have them stop treating her in such away, the more they increased their vitriolic speech. As the video became viral itwas political figures from not only New York but from other states as well whotook this as an opportunity to show their public disdain for such behavior. Inone news clip they showed a member of Congress from New York wonder out loud where these children could havelearned such behavior. I can only wonder whether this member of Congress wasone of the three who signed the Civility Project pledge.
By the timeyou receive this newsletter there will still be over two months until theelection in November. And between now and then I think all of us will haveopportunities to observe and even participate in political debates with thoseof whom we don’t agree. Despite the fact that it no longer exist, I would askthat you join me in trying to follow the three points of the Civility Project:
1) I will be civil in my public discourseand behavior,
2) I will be respectful of others whetheror not I agree with them,
3) I will stand against incivility when Isee it.
And thenjust maybe if we can hold ourselves and each other to this pledge when talkingabout who we want to be the next member of the town council, or the nextsenator or president, maybe we could then expand it to how we talk about thosewho are Muslim, or Jewish, or Hindu, or Gay, or Hmong, or how we talk with andabout anyone we don’t agree with. For no other reason than this: our childrenare watching. And more than that, they are learning.
~ Pastor Joel
Posted on Sat, September 8, 2012
by Pastor Joel