Southern Religion

Nonpartisan call to civility II

Key parties are absent from the interfaith Christian Covenant for Civility. Like vociferous HCR opponent Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. Yet with more than 100 signatories of varied background, that’s not enough to rob it of effectiveness. And more will sign.

Whereas Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele declined to join DNC Chairman Tim Kaine in signing a straightforward call for civility that Kaine proposed. Thus killing a worthwhile joint effort.

Talking Points Memo reports that the draft statement said:

As leaders of our respective national parties, we want to speak to all Americans about the importance of conducting our political debates in a manner and tone that respects our political system and demonstrates to the world the strength of our democracy.

We have a system of government that allows the great issues of our day to be resolved peacefully and civilly and that serves as a beacon of hope to those around the world who yearn for political freedom, political stability, and governing without the threat of violence.

We have a system that allows people to express approval of their government or change the party in power peaceably through the ballot box.

Our Constitution affords Americans the right to assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Clearly, we have different positions on the merits of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. However, we together call on elected officials of both parties to set an example of the civility we want to see in our citizenry. We also call on all Americans to respect differences of opinion, to refrain from inappropriate forms of intimidation, to reject violence and vandalism, and to scale back rhetoric that might reasonably be misinterpreted by those prone to such behavior.

Steele’s weak rationalization for refusing to sign was, “we don’t need to do anything on their schedule or on their timetable.” There’s no political percentage in looking weak, and refusing to stand up with your competitors against racist slurs and threats for civil behavior is worse than weak. Especially when you’ve recently been castigated by a key donorCivility Project founder Mark DeMoss — for using “fear” and other incivility to raise money.

Image from an RNC presentation on donor motivation

Chairman Steele might recoup by invoking his time at the Augustinian Friars Seminary at Villanova University as qualification for signing the multi-faith Covenant for Civility. He would find good conservative company — former Nixonian Chuck Colson, African-American Bishop Harry Jackson and others. Although the covenant makes far more rigorous requirements than the written-to-be-accepted Democratic proposal.

Steele could be, in short, serious. Even if that entailed (heaven forefend) a slight adjustment in the Republican fund-raising strategies which have helped build the fire others are now trying to put out.

March 28, 2010 Posted by | Churches, Politics | | Comments Off on Nonpartisan call to civility II