Skip to content

Civil Discourse – A Reflection

December 25, 2020
Early voting in Georgia for the January Senate race.

Christmastime is here… I have been thinking a lot about the effects that the Pandemic and the toxic political environment have had on our ability to simply communicate. In a season where the church has traditionally reflected on the call of the Prince of Peace to live differently for at least one day a year; I am seeing something far different.

Where once we were able to have civil discourse in the religious and political arena, instead I see hate and fear mongering being spewed by far too many. Instead of working across the aisle for the benefit of the people they are elected to serve, far too many politicians are digging trenches and lobbing verbal grenades at each other. What is missing far too often is simple, respectful, civil conversations and sharing of ideas. I am not certain if it is pandemic fatigue or political fatigue that has me in a dark mood so often.

One of the books that I have been browsing during this season has been Thomas Merton’s collection of prose writings, Raids on the Unspeakable. With his remarkable candor and direct questions aimed at the reader and at himself, he confronts many of the demons society would rather keep buried and out of view. Even sixty years after its first publication, Merton’s words speak just as much to us today as they did when they were written in the age of Vietnam, the Nuclear Arms Race, and racism.

In the chapter titled, “Letter to an Innocent Bystander” Merton wrote the following: If I dare, in these few words, to ask you some direct and personal questions, it is because I address them as much to myself as to you. It is because I am still able to hope that a civil exchange of ideas can take place between two persons—that we have not yet reached the stage where we are all hermetically sealed, each one in the collective arrogance and despair of his own herd. If I seem to be in a hurry to take advantage of the situation that still exists, it is, frankly, because I sometimes feel it may not continue to exist much longer. (Raids on the Unspeakable, p. 53)

The challenge for us today is to regain that civil discourse in order to work together to build a better society and world where peace and the celebration of unity in the midst of our diversity. Where dividing walls are broken down and bridges are built to connect us. In the words of John Lennon:

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

  1. Thanks for your reflection on civil discourse. Every now and then you see it – a breakthrough. And you want to capture the moment to repeat it. May 2021 be a year of bridge building.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: