Passionate Civility


What’s your passion?  If it’s baseball, you may well follow the Blue Jays’ triumphs and travails closely, and can debate the decisions of management and the performance of the players endlessly.  If it’s politics, you pay great attention to the policies and pronouncements of your preferred party, and love to examine the fine points of partisan maneuvering.  If it’s matters of faith, you contemplate doctrine and biblical interpretation and appropriate behavior for believers, and can discuss these things with friends far into the evening.

Passions are great.  Having enthusiastic opinions on things give spice to life, and often put a bounce into our steps.

Like every good thing that has been granted to us, however, passions can become destructive.  Because we support the Blue Jays so enthusiastically, we might disparage those who are New York Yankees fans.  Since we so identify with a particular political party, we might snidely question the intelligence of people known to vote differently.  And, since it’s so obvious that our faith tradition operates out of the purest of motives and the highest view of Scripture and the wisest of strategies, it could follow that those different from us are less pure, less obedient, and not as thoughtful as we are.

It’s easy to see how incivility grows.  Conviction can lead to pride, pride unbridled can lead to prejudice, and prejudice most certainly leads to alienation.  But it’s not automatic, and certainly not necessary.  We can be people of strong convictions and earnest passions, and still be kind, considerate and generous of spirit.

For that better way to be ours, we should listen carefully to each other.  What is it that you believe?  What’s the story of your tradition?  What were the formative moments in your story?  How does that impact your daily life and how does it shape your perspective on the past and the future?

Should we all commit to knowing and understanding each other, the result will be respect and growing affection.  It will not mean that our own passions dim, or that our faith commitments waver.  We can still cheer for the Blue Jays, canvas for our political parties, and worship confidently in our sacred assembly.

We’ll just do it in a broad context of peace and civility.  And that is wonderful.