I feel a bit awkward in writing this post. It is probably because I feel insufficient to be the one writing on this topic. I hold views about which I could easily get polemical…but I don’t, or at least I try not to. I am committed to speaking my truth as through my experience in this world and in conversation with the Word of God (this is what I call self-responsibility). I am committed to voice. Voice meaning the proclamation and bearing witness of God experienced through my sense of agency. I give myself permission to take up space in this world. My feminist lens reminds me that many women and people of color often do not feel empowered to take up space because the dominate voice controls the landscape. In some sense I am aware that my very, נֶפֶש – nephesh (body, soul, mind), can initiate conflict by my mere presence.
Speaking Your Truth
I yearn for people to offer their truth and experiences in the public discourse just as much as I expect it from me. When people offer themselves there is bound to be tension, disagreement, and a difference of opinion. It can be uncomfortable and sometimes we don’t know what to do when we feel uncomfortable. Thus when someone offers their perspective that differs from ours we internalize this as someone attacking us thus we sometimes fight back with words that are quite mean and downright degrading of the image of God in the community around us.
An easy example of these mean spirited words (I won’t even say conversation) is often found in our political discourse. Our politicians sometimes act like hungry predators tearing apart their prey but they have forgotten that they are neither predator nor prey but people exchanging public policy in the efforts to better care and govern our nation. So the political arena, which is supposed to be filled with elected officials who care about the shaping of the city, often look more like a bunch of apes beating their chests to show they are the more powerful one. Politicians, who we elect to speak their truth because it resonates with our truth, end up spending more time, than I like to see, berating and belittling those who think differently than them.
What has happened to our discourse? Why is civility so damn difficult? How do we recover civility?
Every week I listen to Krista Tippett and her podcast On Being. On August 18, 2011 Ms. Tippett interviewed the president of Fuller Seminary, Richard Mouw. I sat captivated to their conversation as Mr. Mouw and Ms. Tippett engaged the topic of restoring political civility. His words and his composure were beautiful and refreshing. I offer the podcast to you here as I wonder with you all, how do we recover civility while being committed to speaking our truth? I am not interested in a watered down “niceness”. I am not interested in finding the lowest common denominator to unite us. I am, however, interested in people who hold different opinions coming together in civil conversation. How do we do this?