Hillary Clinton, former first lady, former Secretary of State, former Senator, and 2016 Democratic candidate for President of the United States said in an essay published by the Atlantic and reiterated in an interview on CNN,
“You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about.” (CNN).
She said the time for civility is over. Who are we and how do we function in relationship to one another if not with civility?
But then her point is clarified. She is only interested in suspending civility until such a time as those who align with her worldview and vision of the future are in power. Yes, that’s actually what Hillary Clinton said.
“If we’re fortunate enough to win back the House and or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again.”
Mrs. Clinton is calling for incivility toward everyone who is not of her way of thinking until those who share her thinking are in power and then, as if civility can be turned on and off like a cultural switch, civility can start again. Exactly how do you suppose that would work out? It is absolutely counter to the Golden Rule and the call to love our enemies and to live as people of integrity to the Truth, no matter what.
In President Lincoln’s first inaugural address he said,
“We must not be enemies. Though passion may be strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”
Lincoln is advocating genuine love, mutual commitment to the common good, the understanding that although we may disagree, we remain one body, one nation, under God, indivisible. He knows that once passions trump mutual affection, the union is lost.
With someone with the influence and gravitas of Hillary Clinton says we can no longer be civil toward our fellow Americans because they are on the other side of the nation’s two-party system, we have arrived at a very dark day. As Christians we must recognize both the reality of the darkness and the calling to be light. The apostle Paul reminds the Christians of his day in Philippians 2:15 to “shine like stars, even in a perverse generation – as you hold out the word of truth.”
That’s our calling: to hold out the word of truth. To let the light of Christ so shine before others they will see our good works and glorify God.
We do not match incivility with incivility. We redeem conversations, we do not demean people. We hold out open hands of reconciliation when others reach for verbal swords. We do not surrender our position and we do not compromise the truth but neither do we treat people as if they are anything less than fellow image bearers of God.
This battle – and it is a battle for hearts and minds – but this battle is not against flesh and blood. The people on the other side of the political aisle are not monsters, they are people. They are no more evil than any of us, sinners, in need of redemption. They may be blind to the truth and they may be proceeding down paths of unrighteousness, but we don’t win them back by burning the bridge between us.
The need for the restoration of civil discourse has never been more apparent. Christians, as people of the Word, representatives of the King and the Kingdom of God, are charged with remaining civil even when all around us rages with mania.
What then are we to do?
Pray in all circumstances.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
Hold out the Word of Truth.
“So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.” Philippians 2:15
Be civil, even when others are not
“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.” 1 Peter 2:12