Oct. 29 ~ Civility is marked by humility, patience and candor. #civility
Oct. 28 ~ Civility offers the needed apology. #civility
I knew eventually I’d hit a day when it slipped past me to get a saying on civility posted before falling into an exhausted sleep, and that was yesterday! I’m sorry.
That means today is a double day! And civility does offer the needed apology. Incivility doesn’t apologize because the apology is so easily stopped by anger, pride and the desire to be “right” or to be “dominant.”
It’s that base of humility, patience and candor that allows civility to function. On such a solid footing one’s own mistakes are clearly seen, reflected on and owned. Owning mistakes and offering apologies unlocks new vistas of discourse.
Oct. 22 ~ Civility is humility on parade! #civility
Because humility, like civility, is one of those strengths that never gets old, never fails you, never goes wrong! When we showcase civility we are letting humility put on it’s “Sunday best” and strut down the street with a marching band!
I am so grateful for the three young men that Teresa and I have raised, because past all my own failings, each of them teach and encourage me on a daily basis. Recently, Isaac caught me off guard with a reminder to be thinking of others before myself.
I have said for years, and when I was a pastor I preached it, that we should not fight to get the front spots in a parking lot when we go shopping. “Think of someone who might be arriving just after you who needs that closer spot,” I would say. “We’re all healthy and we can easily walk an extra fifty feet. We should be thinking of others in practical ways that help them have a better day.” I often made the bold claim that this was an important spiritual practice to help make a kinder, better world.
A few weeks ago the family came and joined me at the Mall for dinner when I got off work. Since Teresa drove up with the boys we had to decide who was driving home with whom, and Issac ended up with me. As we exited the Mall, and he saw my car right up front by the door and he says, “Wow, dad.” “What’s up?” I asked. “You parked really close to the door.”
Ouch. Like every good person caught not quite walking like they’re talking, I started to rationalize for my son. I immediately began with something like “Well, you see, when I arrive for work really early in the morning there aren’t many people here and the older folks walking for exercise at the Mall have already arrived and found parking.” Blah blah. And my son says, “Hmmm.”
As I thought more about it I realized that getting caught like that was a better occasion to humbly thank my son than to undermine one of the central things I’d been trying to teach him all his life. Later, I did thank him for the reminder and promised to park further back from then on. And I did start parking further back the next day.
I’ve been praying my daily prayer for several years now, “Let me love, let me learn, let me serve.” I’m glad for the little reminders along the way to stay on top of my game. I’m glad for the humbling that comes from raising our kids. I’m glad that God sometimes answers daily prayers not always with more things to do, but with needed reminders of who to be.
Proverbs 3:34, “He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.”
There is an undeniable stream of thought in scripture that highlights the thrill God feels in elevating the poor and disenfranchised, often at the cost of the rich and un-empathetic who have prospered while their neighbors suffer. It’s not a stream of thought that supports a hatred of rich people or a disdain for wealth, but certainly does remind us that God doesn’t judge our value based on our financial bottom lines. In contrasting generosity and greed Jesus famously said, “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” (Matthew 20:1-16)
So the Proverb above warns us against a pride which isolates us from God’s favor. God prefers a person to live in humility instead of an inflated idea of self. God favors the oppressed. I think it reflects on God’s character that the joy of the Divine is found in favoring the least able and most needful. God doesn’t sit back and revel in one person’s great accumulation of wealth and pride in self, but in the opportunity to lift another from despair or to reveal that person’s hidden and less known value and worth. I get a strong sense that humility is actually the inner wealth we carry and live, while pride is an infection that can grow from the accumulation of material wealth. I said “can,” not must.
God mocks the mockers. Among the lessons for civility we find in scripture, this one rings loud and clear. A prideful, disdainful attitude that mocks and decreases another’s value is not in line with the movement or favor of God. God isn’t laughing with you when you tear another person down. But a humility that reveals the worth of the other person is joining God in the Divine disposition.
I think civility will be a natural outgrowth of choosing to reveal and support the other person’s value and dignity. It doesn’t mean I have to agree with everyone, but I sure better not value myself over them. I can disagree with someone while still protecting the inherent value of their life, opinions and aspirations. It’s not just that God loves an under dog, God loves to fill gaps of inequity and oppression. Civility, and the humility from which it grows, will create fewer of those gaps by affirming and revealing the value and dignity of others.
I have avoided writing or saying much on the Chick-fil-A vs. Muppets squabble. I like Chick-fil-A’s sandwiches and their slaw is awesome. And I like the Muppets, a lot. But since I didn’t even realize they were doing business together, it’s no heartache for me that they broke up. I suppose that I have been most afraid that saying something lends validity to the squabble, but it’s grown big enough to captivate a nation without any input from me (said tongue in cheek, since probably twelve people will read this blog), so here goes…
It’s been common knowledge my whole life that the Chick-fil-A tries to mix it’s owner’s values with the way they do business. They’ve always been closed on Sundays. I’m pretty sure they used to have Veggie Tales toys and prizes, and I am quite sure they have had other kids toys of that tied into Bible stories and characters. That’s who and what Chick-Fil-A has always been. I have to wonder what the Henson folks were thinking when they entered into a business relationship with the group if they weren’t aware of this.
Chick-Fil-A has given money to organizations that promote heterosexual marriage and oppose same-sex marriage. However, I’ve not found any articles or accusations that they have discriminated against people in their hiring/firing policies or broken the laws of our country. I’d be curious to know if they have had such accusations or problems.
Then, there’s the actual quote that this whole broo-ha-ha has grown out of… did you read it yet? Before presenting the quote, I’d like you to do something: Stop thinking about gay marriage! Gay marriage doesn’t seem to have been mentioned in the article, and Mr. Cathy wasn’t asked about it. Try for a moment to step back and let the quote be itself: “‘We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that,’ Cathy is quoted as saying.”
Ok, so this guy is all about the “family.” And he invokes the idea of a “biblical definition” of the family. We can all read different things into that depending on our theology and cultural experience/tradition. We can even safely assume he would include defining family as based on the marriage of a man and a woman. But he didn’t decide to go there. When he expanded on things he said this… “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives.” What? What?!
I understand that someone reporting on this story may not be up on all the conservative Christian vocabulary that gets thrown around, but I’ve not heard a single friend or Christian writer respond to “first wives.” Now, if Mr. Cathy were Mormon, then maybe he would mean that those men in his family aren’t polygamists. But he’s Baptist, and “first wives” means that they don’t practice the ultimate evil (at least it was before gay marriage supplanted it) of divorce. That quote is a direct slap at divorced people, not gay people, by it’s own explicit content.
Of course, we can assume he would exclude gay marriage from his “biblical definition,” but he chooses to hang his hat on the absence of any “second wives” in his family. I know a lot of Christian friends who have been like “Whoo Hooo, let’s go support Chick-Fil-A!” who are also divorced, the spouses of second wives and even, dare I say it, “second husbands.” Why aren’t they aggravated at the lack of grace Mr. Cathy showed for divorced people? I think it’s because of the great law of media that once a story has been framed one way, it doesn’t get a second framing. A wise friend who spent years in news broadcast around the DC area let me in on that media law, and it’s so true. The story was framed around gay marriage, and there it has remained.
Plenty of people have written on the absurdity of this public debate over eating at Chick-Fil-A or not. I haven’t seen anyone actually pointing out that Mr. Cathy was blithely devaluing divorced people, not gay people. Why not? Because the story was framed about gay marriage, and that framework holds, it sells, it galvanizes, it’s fires people up on both sides of a silly culture war that no one will win. And that framework has no place to process the “first wives” vocabulary.
So, what do I do with the “first wives” thing? I would say to the divorced people out there, the second wives and second husbands, “You’re welcome in my church family!” I say that because my biblical definition of family is inclusive of biblical things like grace, love and humility. We don’t distribute labels in our church family like “divorced,” “first” or “second.” I personally thank God for my wife, not because she’s my first wife, but because I get to share life with an amazing woman. I’ve known many people who felt the same about their second spouses. I’ve spoken with and read things by gay friends who felt that way about their partners and spouses.
What do I do with the whole “gay” thing? I would say to gay people out there, married or not, divorced or not, “You’re welcome in my church family!” I say that because my biblical definition of family, whether we’re talking about my biological family or my faith family, is based on biblical things like grace, love and humility. We don’t distribute labels in our church family like “straight” or “gay.”
Grace, love and humility. God forbid I ever make a move or say a word to win an argument or achieve dominance in any cultural arena of thought, if I have to trade one single opportunity to show grace, love or humility to claim that win. So where’s the grace, love and humility in this whole Chick-Fil-A vs. Muppets carnival? I’ve not seen much on either side of the argument. So, it’s not my argument. I’ll let Chick-Fil-A and the Muppets handle their own fight, after all they’re the squabbling couple. I’ll just keep trying to find those moments when I get to live the grace, love and humility the Bible has taught me. And I’ll pray I’m better at it today than I was yesterday.