On the need for Christian civility

Take a moment to think about the blogs, editorials, and websites you read today. Does the word “civil” describe the discourse that takes place there? Now think about the content you write—in emails, on your blog, on your Facebook profile. Would you describe those interactions as civil?

At the Addenda & Errata blog, Dan Reid talks about a book arguing for Christian civility in an uncivil world. The gist of the book is that Christians are called to be civil in all of their interactions, no matter how vicious or uncivil the rest of the world is:

Civility is not enough in some situations. But I must repeat: its basic requirements are never canceled. Christians never have a right simply to cast aside kindness and gentleness. We are never justified in engaging in a no-holds-barred crusade against our opponents. Going beyond mere civility does not mean that we can become less than civil.

Sounds like a fascinating book. And a challenging one; I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we must admit that a lot of online Christian discourse these days, particularly in the political and theological realms, is less than civil. Christians are only human—when we’re provoked by people on the other side of a debate, it’s natural to want to snap back with the same sarcasm or name-calling that our opponents use. But the Bible tells us that just isn’t acceptable.

But it’s still a tricky question. For instance, where do we draw the line between being direct and being uncivil? When is humor an acceptable part of our interaction, and when does it become uncivil mockery?

I’ll confess that my own inability to answer those questions has led me in recent years to drastically cut back my own participation in political and theological debates online; I just can’t trust myself to keep within the bounds of civility, and I’d rather say nothing at all than cross that line.

But what about you? How do you keep your words civil and Christlike while still contending earnestly for the faith?

4 Responses to “On the need for Christian civility”

  • Rick says:

    This is definitely an issue I need to wrap some thought on.. I often find myself looking back wishing I’d be more civil in my discourse.. Such discourse is sharpening my humility and weakening my pride and that is a very good thing…

  • Skip says:

    The Lord has been training me in the elimination of cynicism, sarcasm, and their cruel step-sister, criticism. I have found in doing this, I am more thoughtful in conversations, AND, my vocabulary has increased.

  • jennifer says:

    The Lord has been dealing with my attitude and lack of loving conversation with my family. we have been so ingrained in being sharp with our own children, family members, but easier to be civil to others. some times being civil is thrown out the window when i am not prepared to hear a harsh comment made to me and i have been thrown off guard. a true evidence of a Christ like being is to have overcome such sinful behavior and it is a goal worth reaching for.

  • Morning to all!!!!

    WELL i do not know life has a lot of mind bother questions one to me being civil is treating one the way i want to be treated although it never really always turn out like that does it but i say this you never know what’s on one’s agenda so be as civil as life will aloud you to be i do not have the answer to this but i would like to be civil to all man kind if they so aloud me to be. In god’s grace amen.