Convictions and civility.
I wish I could take credit for what I called the 5 Cs of Engagement with my kids as they grew up. I wanted them to hold firmly to their beliefs (convictions) but do so in such a way that they could communicate effectively and get along well with others (civility).
I picked up the concept – and have probably butchered it to some degree – from Martin Marty’s hard-to-find little book, By Way of Response, published in 1981.
In today’s political landscape I am reminded that the 5 Cs of Engagement aren’t just a lesson to try to impart to my kids, but a reminder of what I need to season my interaction with in a world where many people don’t believe the same way I do.
Here’s how simple it is. But be warned, putting it into practice is much harder.
Convictions without civility lead to conflict.
Civility without convictions leads to personal compromise.
Convictions and civility lead to communication.
Does that guarantee true dialog, mutual respect and understanding, and a fair hearing for all? Probably not in today’s climate of political, cultural, and religious debate where straw men are erected and slain; ad hominem attacks (attacking the person, not debating the idea) are flung capriciously; false dichotomies, half-truths, ad ignorantiam (taking advantage of people’s ignorance of a topic), and a host of other logical fallacies are the rule, not the exception. Maybe worse, is the move to preemptively silence opinions and arguments before they are even spoken with a priori claims that the uttering of the thought is illegal or immoral – usually by setting up a false dichotomy or straw man.
But ultimately, we are only responsible for our own conduct in handling debate and disagreement.
In the words of the Apostle Paul: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18, NIV).