Civil Discourse in the Church

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Johan Maurer

Feb 17, 2013, 9:52:08 AM2/17/13
May 20 2004 at 5:08 PM Johan   (Login Reedwood)
Forum Owner
These suggestions (if I had the power, I'd make them "commandments") for civil discourse in the church were partly inspired by Yakov Krotov's rules for missionaries. For Krotov's words, see the March 9, 2004, entry (Quotations III) under the topic, "Books, Links, Quotes & other resources.")

If you have suggestions for improving these, please let me know! I tried to keep them as brief and simple as possible - pointed enough not simply to be platitudes, but not so concrete as to provide temptations to legalism.
  1. Be committed to the well-being of everyone. Do not engage in conflict without such a prior commitment.
  2. Before criticizing, understand the position and the context you are criticizing.*
  3. Be committed to truth. Do not use gossip, unfair comparisons, or polarizing rhetoric; do not use the power of religious rhetoric for personal political advantage.
* Elitism and anti-intellectualism have a long, sad history of conflict. To those at the self-conceived "superior" end of this polarity, I say do not despise the power of raw faith. Fortunate are those who are capable of unaffected prayer and praise and whose love of God is not conditional on God meeting their intellectual requirements. On the other hand, when someone claiming such raw faith begins to tarnish the reputation of others, or to propose coercive limitations on others because "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it," I believe that as soon as they cross that line of coercion, they are subjected to a higher standard of study, dialogue and reflection. Naive faith can be very God-honoring, but it is not an excuse for intellectual laziness at the expense of others.

Now, how do you word that in one sentence?? 

Licia Kuenning 
(Login LiciaKuenning)
Civil Discourse August 13 2004, 9:59 AM 

Good principles, that almost anyone would probably agree with in the abstract. Getting anyone to follow them is something else.

One form of anti-intellectualism I often encounter is the resentment shown toward anyone who, having done their homework, knows something about the subject being bandied about. When one tries to share one's knowledge one is met with, "Who says so? you?" or the old canard about "being bred at Oxford or Cambridge," with the insinuation merely by having studied and having shared the results of one's study, one is usurping authority over those who prefer to make their facts up or repeat rumors. I think this attitude has a long history in the Society of Friends. In the 17th century, when education was available only to the wealthy and privileged, there was some justification for it; though even then I think it was overused. I can see no justification for it today.

Licia Kuenning
Friends of Truth/Glenside Friends Meeting/Quaker Heritage Press
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