Now Playing Tracks

  • Track Name

    Restoring Political Civility with Richard Mouw

  • Album

    Krista Tippett On Being

  • Artist

    On Being

beingblog:

How Do We Live and Honor Each Other Despite Our Differences?

by Krista Tippett, host

Richard MouwThis show with Richard Mouw was as hard as any in my memory to produce, edit, script — and even to justify, as news unfolded while we were creating it.

I have known Richard Mouw for 15 years and interviewed him on this program in its early days. Other Evangelical Christian leaders have been more visible in American political and media life: Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Ted Haggard, James Dobson, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, and on the more progressive side Jim Wallis and Richard Cizik. I have followed them, but I have also always kept my ear and eye on quieter figures like Richard Mouw. As president of Fuller Theological Seminary, with more than 4,000 students from 70 countries and over 100 denominations, he is training generations of Evangelical and Pentecostal pastors and global leaders.

A book he first wrote in 1992, Uncommon Decency, has recently been released in a revised version with the subtitle, “Christian Civility in an Uncivil World.” Mouw has long been a kind of bridge person — theologically conservative on some issues and more progressive on others — but he most fervently insists that the way people are treated is a greater measure of Christian virtue than the positions one takes. I’ve wondered rhetorically how our political life would have evolved differently if the Christian re-emergence into politics in the late 20th century had modeled a practical love of enemies.

My own deepest despair at present is not about the vitriol and division per se — as alarming as they are. It is about the fact that we seem to be losing any connective tissue for engaging at all, on a human level, across ruptures of disagreement. Across the political spectrum, many increasingly turn to journalism not for knowledge but to confirm individual pre-existing points of view. What we once called the red state, blue state divide is now more like two parallel universes where understandings of plain fact are no longer remotely aligned. This leads to a diminishing sense of the humanity of those who think and live differently than we do. And that is the ultimate moral slippery slope, for everyone on it and for the fabric of our civic life.

Richard Mouw lays out the imperative to all kinds of Christians for gentleness, reverence, humanity, and “honor” of the different other at the heart of the Bible and the life of Jesus. But this is not a feel-good plea for harmony. Even as he calls for civility and gentleness, Mouw reasserts his public and private opposition to gay marriage and civil unions. The civility he calls for would not minimize difference, at least at the outset, but would create a different space for discussing and navigating it — indeed for bringing differences into public life with virtue and vitality of expression. Picking up on a phrase coined by Christian historian Martin Marty, Richard Mouw builds upon this idea of “convicted civility.”

We had impassioned and difficult discussions on our production team about his ideas, and the complications and contradictions they present. When he says that, as a Christian, he sees other human beings as “works of divine art,” can that genuinely apply to a person whose sexual identity he defines as fundamentally wrong?

This all drives towards a question I pursue in so many of my conversations: How does social change happen? We will not all be “on the same page,” as Americans like to be, on sexuality or many other issues for generations to come. The 21st century has opened up questions Western civilization thought it had put to rest. Some of them are intimate and raw, terrifying in every life at some point and therefore all the more unsettling when we are forced to ponder them out in the open together. Same-sex marriage is but the tip of an iceberg of human redefinition: What is relationship? What is marriage? What is friendship? What constitutes a family? In this messy moment, we retain our rights and responsibilities as human beings and citizens to discern our truths and live by them. But we have no choice, at the same time, if we want this to end well, to search for new ways to discern our multiple truths while living together.

1990 Ordination of Gay and Lesbian Pastors

Richard Mouw suggests that we need to start some of our conversations again from the beginning, certainly the conversation about sexuality. He believes that only by naming our hopes and our fears, articulating them among ourselves, revealing them to each other, can we begin to recreate something called a common life, which can contain, and not be destroyed by, our differences. I want to believe him, to believe that this is one answer to the question of how social change happens. If I didn’t believe that a new kind of conversation can also be a starting point for walking forwards together — living together, differently — I would not do what I do.

And yet, maybe another reality we have to live with is that these critical new conversations will start small, in many places, compelling us to connect dots for awhile in lieu of convening the sweeping dialogue we might hope for. We’ve posted a piece we admire by fellow journalist Sasha Aslanian titled “Sex, Death, and Secrets” — featuring an interview with two lesbian pastors who’ve experienced a roller coaster ride of discernment within their own denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Please add your thoughts, stories, and pictures — your dots, if you will — to this difficult, dispersed, essential conversation.

thepoliticalnotebook:

Nancy Wake, a former WWII spy and hero of the French resistance died last Saturday at the age of 98. A former journalist from New Zealand, she became an important anti-Nazi spy, whom the Germans referred to as la souris blanche (the white mouse) because she was uncatchable. Wake established communication lines between the resistance and and the British army, killed a German sentry with her bare hands and was awarded highest honors for her actions by France, Britain and the US.

Wake was also one quotable lady. She once told an interviewer:

I don’t see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas.

Also:

I was not a very nice person. And it didn’t put me off my breakfast.

Above is an undated photo of her provided by the Australian War Memorial via EPA. 

Read her full New York Times obituary

What it's like

  • Man:

    Hello, I'd like to report a mugging.

  • Officer:

    A mugging, eh? Where did it take place?

  • Man:

    I was walking by 21st and Dundritch Street and a man pulled out a gun and said, "Give me all your money."

  • Officer:

    And did you?

  • Man:

    Yes, I co-operated.

  • Officer:

    So you willingly gave the man your money without fighting back, calling for help or trying to escape?

  • Man:

    Well, yes, but I was terrified. I thought he was going to kill me!

  • Officer:

    Mmm. But you did co-operate with him. And I've been informed that you're quite a philanthropist, too.

  • Man:

    I give to charity, yes.

  • Officer:

    So you like to give money away. You make a habit of giving money away.

  • Man:

    What does that have to do with this situation?

  • Officer:

    And that's what you were wearing? That suit? While walking down Dundritch Street at that hour?

  • Man:

    Of course it is. What could that possibly have to do with the crime?

  • Officer:

    You practically screamed at the guy, "I have money for you."

  • Man:

    Are you kidding me with this? He had a gun, and forced me to give him my money.

  • Officer:

    You knowingly walked down Dundritch Street in your suit when everyone knows you like to give away money, and then you didn't fight back. It sounds like you gave money to someone, but now you're having after-donation regret. Tell me, do you really want to ruin his life because of your mistake?

  • Man:

    This is ridiculous!

  • Officer:

    This is a rape analogy. This is what women face every single day when they try to bring their rapists to justice.

  • Man:

    Fuck the patriarchy.

  • Officer:

    Word.

To Tumblr, Love Pixel Union