Civility Linkblogging: Politics, Religion, and Golf

Civility Linkblogging
A Lynx, because Linkblogging

This post is part of an ongoing series that highlights discourse about civility from around the Web. We glean the links in this segment from as broad a cross-section as we can manage of blogs, newspapers, magazines, and other online venues, from the United States and around the world.

This week takes on three of the most touchy issues in our collective social landscape — religion, politics, and golf — and turns them all toward the purpose of civility. From all quarters, we have calls for moderation in our discourse, and calls to turn away from strategies like ad hominem attacks that do little but create bad blood. And we have a positive example in a round of golf played by Jordan Spieth and Jason Day at the recent PGA Championship where, by one account at least, the two athletes were competitive and focused on victory while still remaining genial.

As always, if you have an article that you think would be right for future civility linkblogging posts, please do not hesitate to email it to us at [email protected]. Include the title, url, and a short summary, and we will gladly review it for publication.

Now — the list:

American Politics Needs More Civility, Not Less
Posted by Jeff Jacoby at The Boston Globe, August 16, 2015

We have reached a point where politicians fear to commit themselves to even the mildest standard of civility. In 2009, two prominent political activists, Republican Mark DeMoss and Democrat Lanny Davis, launched a campaign to try and soften the nation’s harsh public tone. They wrote to all 535 members of Congress and the 50 governors, asking each to sign a simple Civility Pledge: “I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior. I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them. I will stand against incivility when I see it.” For months the bipartisan duo promoted their civility campaign. But in the end, of the 585 elected officials to whom they sent the pledge, only three — three — were willing to sign.

We aren’t the first Americans to live in polarized, passionate times, nor the first in which political rhetoric has grown so malignant….

America today may not be on the verge of a civil war. But our ability to find common ground is diminishing by the day, and even those who should know better are calling not for more civility, but less. We are heading in the wrong direction, and it will not end well.

The Case for Competitive Civility
Posted by Scott Eblin at Excellence in Government, August 17, 2015

The executive that signed professional golfer Jordan Spieth to a long-term endorsement deal with Under Armour should get a raise. In the year, since he signed on, the 21-year-old Texan has won two major golf championships, missed winning the other two by a total of four strokes and, with his second place finish in the PGA Championship yesterday, captured the No. 1 ranking in the world.

He did all of this while remaining calm, steady and friendly. In short, he’s an absolutely killer competitor who is, by the standards of any era, remarkably civil.

Civility in the Midst of Election Season?
Posted by Joe LaGuardia at Baptist News, August 19, 2015

For Christians who long to follow in Christ’s footsteps, words indeed matter….

We can bless or curse others depending on how we say something or express our opinions; but those who use tact and mercy not only bless others but receive a blessing of kindness in return. Words can be as nourishing as fruit that is shared within community.

When we engage in politics in the public square, we speak as ambassadors of Christ and citizens of the Kingdom of God. Let us not try to keep one foot in God’s Kingdom and another foot in the world or we, as one theologian put it, will only stumble as a result.

Civility No More: Where Are the Better Angels of Politics?
Posted by Dan Glickman at The Hufington Post, August 28, 2015

Today, things are different. We have witnessed a substantial erosion of civility in political discourse in contemporary politics. In my view, the end of civility in our political system is a true loss for every American, Republican and Democrat alike.

President Bill Clinton once said that, “when people feel uncertain, they’d rather have someone who is strong and wrong than someone who is weak and right.” It looks like that is happening in America right now.

The state of contemporary politics is one in which bombast is met with approval. Extreme viewpoints are greeted with appreciative nods by a disturbingly large segment of the American electorate, and so the incentive for political leaders to make such comments is significant. Of course, there have always been and will always be people in a free and democratic country such as this who hold views that are extreme or unpopular, and it is their right to do so. But in this country politicians weren’t always so easily able to accrue benefit from being egomaniacal, indecent, uncivil and frankly just plain rude.

Faith Focus: A Call for More Civility
Posted by Al Humbrecht at, August 29, 2015

The language of civility would suggest that each side look for the good (another forgotten concept) in what the other is saying and be respectful of the differences. I wonder what this would do to the ratings of these types of programs.

The virtue of civility implies a respect (maybe another forgotten concept) for the other as being created in the image and likeness of God. If we believe this then we cannot give pejorative labels to people just because they are different in some aspects from us. Most religions of the world contain in one form or another the injunction “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” In the book “The Little Monk” by Madeline Delbrel, a collection of sayings about life, one struck me as I was preparing to write this column: “When certain people question your character, don’t respond by doubting theirs.”

The (In)Civility of Some Arizona Churches

This is a curious story about civility – or the lack thereof – among the faithful. Apparently, in Fountain Hills, Arizona, eight area churches are collaborating this May on a campaign that they call “Progressive” Christianity: Fact or Fiction, which targets The Fountains United Methodist Church and its pastor, David Felton, who is the author of the bestselling book, Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity.

According to the Fox affiliate in Phoenix, The Fountains is the only progressive church in the area. And it is geared, as Pastor Felton says, toward letting people know that there’s a choice out there, they don’t have to deny science, they don’t have to hate their gay neighbor, they don’t have to read and take the bible in a way that causes them to abandon their rational mind.

The pastors of the eight collaborating churches – Rick Ponzo, Don Lawrence, Rod Warembourg, Tony Pierce, Todd Forrest, Bill Good, Steve Bergeson, and Tom Daly – wrote in an op-ed piece in the Fountain Hills Times on May 13 that they will present a series of sermons, the objective of which is to answer three primary questions:

  1. What is the difference between “Progressive” Christianity and Biblical Christianity?
  2. Does that difference really matter in a relativistic age?
  3. How can a Christian decipher what he or she should believe?

In the op-ed, they couch the sermon series as an exercise in promoting ecumenical cooperation and civility:

Unity among churches is a wonderful thing when the truths at stake are greater than the differences between us. By teaming up to stand for the essential truths that we embrace, eight pastors and their churches are making a key statement: Truth matters to us.

But as Daniel Schultz of the USC Annenberg School’s Religion Dispatches blog writes, the whole thing is fundamentally divisive. It airs the enmity between liberal and conservative Christians. It is a further sign of the same increasing polarization along ideological lines that infects American political culture. And the net effect, writes Schultz, is roughly analogous to when campaign ads go negative: the base is kept strong and in line, but the majority of people say “to hell with the both of you, I’m staying home.”

For our purposes, though, what’s even more interesting here is that it’s not just the “Progressive” Christianity: Fact or Fiction campaign itself that betrays this breakdown in civility. Though a group of eight conservative churches teaming up to discredit a lone progressive church has an odor of bullying about it, progressive pastor David Felton’s own words are hardly innocuous. In his response to Fox’s Phoenix affiliate, his characterization of other Christians as irrational science deniers and homophobes is essentializing, and demeaning, and certainly does no justice to the nuance of opinion of the folks who sit across the aisle from him.

What’s going on here seems to be a kind of breakdown of empathy that’s caused by a failure of imagination on both sides.

In his Beyond Vietnam speech, Martin Luther King Jr. said that the meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence is that it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. It helps us to see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and to know that those whom we call the opposition are in fact brothers and sisters in another guise.

And that is what’s missing here. In their public statements, the churches promoting “Progressive” Christianity: Fact or Fiction – and also the church being targeted being targeted by the campaign – seem unable to see themselves from their adversaries’ point of view. Adherence to ideology, and adherence to an essentializing understanding of who the other side is, have left them blind to the weaknesses in their own positions. And so they are able to claim and care for their own needs, but they are unable to do so while respecting the needs of others.

From the outside, this seems like a classic case of extreme measures cutting off lines of communications between parties just when a set of civil conversations is needed the most.

Civility Linkblogging: Pennsylvania, Montana, Tennessee, and Ephesians

By Anita Pratanti, via flickr

This post is part of an ongoing series that highlights discourse about civility from around the Web. We glean the links in this segment from as broad a cross-section as we can manage of blogs, newspapers, magazines, and other online venues, from the United States and around the world.

This week’s edition of linkblogging might well be subtitled: playing catch-up. It features articles articles about civility and civil government from the greater part of September and the beginning of October — from just before the government shutdown.

But just because these items are a little bit old in terms of current events does not mean that they are irrelevant. Here, we have what happened in Levittown, PA when Republican Representative Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-8) took the stage with Missouri Democrat Emanuel Cleaver (MO-5) to talk about civility and civil discourse. We have retired pastor Jim Bell’s scripturally grounded call for greater civility from politicians who self-identify as Christian. And we have a success story — of the ascendency of civility in municipal government in one California town.

If you have an article that you think would be right for future civility linkblogging posts, please do not hesitate to email it to us at [email protected]. Include the title, url, and a short summary, and we will gladly review it for publication.

Now — the list:

Covenants of Civility
Posted by Jim Bell at Pastor Jim Bell’s Jottings, September 16, 2013

The church in the United States can offer a message of hope and reconciliation to a nation that is deeply divided by political and cultural differences.

Too often , however, we have reflected the political divisions of our culture rather than the unity we have in the body of Christ. We come together to urge those who claim the name of Christ to “put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Fitzpatrick Promotes Civility with Democratic Congressman
Posted by James Boyle at Levittown Patch, September 18, 2013

Cleaver carried his new devotion to self-control and quiet strength throughout college and into public office, where he became the first African-American mayor of Kansas City, Mo., in 1991 and now serves in the House of Representatives alongside Mike Fitzpatrick, who represents Bucks County in Pennsylvania’s 8th District.

They sit on opposite sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C., but Monday afternoon Cleaver and Fitzpatrick shared the same stage at Neshaminy School District’s Maple Point Middle School in Langhorne to highlight the importance of civility.

Watching Civility and Fair Negotiation in Action
Posted by Yvonne Holt at The Modesto Bee, September 25, 2013

I realized during these meetings that civility works when people are willing to participate in civility. It became apparent to me that the board members and the residents in attendance all wanted what was fair for the entire homeowners’ association. It is hard to resolve every single issue that is brought to the table.

It is eye-opening to witness fair negotiation between leaders and residents who are willing to try to stick to facts and then make decisions using due process.

Montana Governor: Politics Can Be Made More Civil, But Will Take Time
Posted by Charles S. Johnson at The Missoulian, September 26, 2013

Gov. Steve Bullock told a Leadership Montana gathering Thursday that he remains hopeful that civility eventually can be restored to the U.S. and Montana political systems, but it will take efforts by many to make the needed changes.

“I am still confident about the future of politics and civility in our system,” he said. “I think it’s going through a rough time. I look ahead to what we want in 10 years.”

Civility the Latest Casualty of Politics
Posted by Otis Sanford at The Detroit News, October 3, 2013

When President Barack Obama visited Chattanooga July 30 to talk about the economy and job growth, not a single ranking Republican official in Tennessee was anywhere around.

Sen. Bob Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, stayed as far away as possible. So did Sen. Lamar Alexander and Gov. Bill Haslam.

Even the Chattanooga Times Free Press newspaper was unwelcoming. “Forgive us if you are not greeted with the same level of Southern hospitality that our area usually bestows on its distinguished guests,” the newspaper said in an editorial before the president’s arrival.

Civility Linkblogging: Feminism, Christianity, Academia, and Government

This is the first in our ongoing series of posts highlighting discourse about civility around the Web. Here, we search out thoughtful, up-to-date articles about civility-related problems and solutions, about conversation and action across the political aisle, about being heard by people who believe differently from ourselves, and especially about listening to people who say things that may be difficult for us to hear.

We glean the links in this segment from as broad a cross-section as we can manage of blogs, newspapers, magazines, and other online venues. And though our ordinary modus operandi is to highlight articles and analysis pertinent to civility in the United States, you will occasionally see links to upcoming events, lists and infographics, and discussions of currents of thought from all around the world.

Do you have a link that you think would be right for this segment? Please do not hesitate to email it to us at [email protected]. Include the title, url, and a short summary, and we will gladly review it for publication.

Now, onto the list:

Brushes With Civility
Posted by Fannie at Fannie’s Room, June 13, 2013

When I’ve been involved in experiments, so to speak, of civil debate in Internet forums, I’ve often picked up on frustration when the topic of civility is mentioned. Many people believe that civility is a means to “censor” people from telling certain truths, purportedly “politically incorrect” truths that need to be said no matter how brutal they are – even as some of these same folks readily admit that intimidating people out of conversations is the end goal of promoting “anything goes” policies in Internet forums. I question the line of thinking that posits that truth is the enemy of civility. Form and content are, I think, often inseparable.

Why Christians Must Seek Civility in Communication
Posted by Mitch Carnell at, June 5, 2013

A group of 25 religious leaders met in Washington, D.C., recently to promote civil discourse. They wanted to turn down the harshness of the rhetoric in our nation’s capital. Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church, told the media, “Faith leaders have a remarkable opportunity to shift the conversation, but it’s very challenging, particularly in a larger society that wants to understand everything as a battle, as engaging the enemy, rather than with someone who might have something to teach us.”

Civility and Cross-Cultural Communication CLE
Posted at Robert’s Fund

Seattle University Law School is offering an all-day continuing legal education program titled Civility and Cross-Cultural Communication, on August 15, 2013. According to the course description: this seminar introduces the fundamentals of civility and key research about cross-cultural understandings, and suggests practical approaches to more effective cross-cultural encounters. A relevant part of the presentation is devoted to building the participants’ own cultural profile, and familiarizing them with the fundamental societal values that shape how people think and act. This understanding will empower them to interact more effectively with people from other cultural groups, well beyond anecdotes and stereotypes.

Civility and Sex Speech
Posted by Carlin Romano at The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 17, 2013

Supposed classroom civility that suppresses edgy voices is not civility, but repression with a smooth surface, which can trigger anger and violence (catcalling, gay-bashing, rape, and more). Unbridled conversation and readings change minds. Martha Nussbaum’s precise analytic dissection of prostitution in the context of other traditional women’s work convinced a surprising number of my students that they should support legalized prostitution. Mary Roach’s hilarious, info-packed Bonk turned many of them deeply introspective about the physical preconditions of sex. The dignity and force with which a number of openly gay and transgender students challenged other students and their professor altered and softened, I believe, initial inclinations toward intolerance on the part of some.

Civil Ways to Solve Real Problems
Posted by Robert Rack Jr. at, June 17, 2013

Can partisan politicians govern collaboratively? We still hope so. In an Enquirer op-ed last September, a local group of civic leaders calling itself Beyond Civility: Communication for Effective Governance announced its intention to address the disabling problem of political polarization. We noted that in a healthy democracy, as in any healthy relationship, it is critical that people with different views be able to hear and be heard by each other. We reported on communication workshops for elected and civic leaders, and promised a series of Side-by-Side presentations in which pairs of high-profile leaders would tell stories of their early political and social formation. Now, a year later, we’d like to share what we’ve learned from this experience.