January 2019

Revisiting civility

January 21 2019 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Two-and-a-half years ago, I published back-to-back editorials on the subject of civility. The first one appeared in the June 18, 2016, edition of the Biblical Recorder and carried the title “Is civility dead?” The column focused on The Civility Project, an initiative launched by Mark DeMoss and Lanny Davis in 2009, but dissolved two years later.
 
The second column, “Reviving civility,” ran in the July 2, 2016, issue. I told more of DeMoss’s story and introduced Cassandra Dahnke who gives leadership to the Institute for Civility in Government (IFCG), based in Houston, Texas.
 
I was drawn to revisit the subject of civility when DeMoss announced Jan. 15 that he will close his Atlanta-based public relations firm March 29 after 28 very successful years of service to many evangelical ministries.
 
In the reports of this recent change in direction, some news outlets pointed to DeMoss’s leadership as a primary crusader for civil practices and conversations in all arenas.
 
Reviewing my columns, I asked DeMoss why he launched The Civility Project in 2009, then closed down the effort two years later.
 
While he is still passionate about civility, the main reason DeMoss dissolved the project was the lack of time to do it right and make it successful.
 
“I think we were successful in some ways, but either I needed to put more money and staff into the project or dissolve it. I didn’t want to do it half-way,” he said.
 
“I didn’t dissolve it because only three people signed the pledge. The fact that only three signed it would be a compelling reason to keep going,” he added.
 
There are serious long-term consequences to unchecked incivility, according to De-Moss.
 
“I think there is a dumbing down of society to the point where fewer people can make an articulate case for something. All they can do is shout and hurl insults,” he said. “Condoning incivility is equivalent to saying ‘Anything goes.’
 
“As a parent, if my children see me behave in an uncivil way to a waiter in a restaurant, or an employee at the Delta ticket counter, or somebody in traffic, how would I punish my child who treated their teacher or another student the same way? I look at television and a presidential candidate is calling other people ‘losers’ or ‘morons.’ I don’t see anything good in that. I don’t think it’s a big leap to move from common incivility to violence. Incivility says if I don’t get my way, I will resort to any tactic to get my way.”
 
The current political climate is puzzling to DeMoss.
 
He said politics as a whole “may be one of the worst examples of incivility we see today. ... I couldn’t have a successful PR firm and behave the way a lot of people do in politics. Nobody would hire me, and nobody would work for me, frankly.”
 
I would like to see an increase in conversations about civility among our brothers and sisters. We need to talk about the way we address issues and relate to others.
 
All of us get angry about something, sometime. There is so much in culture and in government to be angry about.
 
It is easy to categorize the anger of others as sinful and our own as “righteous indignation.” 
 
But there is no excuse for believers to be uncivil in behavior or conversation.
 
Some know how to skillfully manage their anger. Others are convinced their opinion is highly valued or needed by others, so they are quick to inject their toxic thoughts into every conversation.
 
When the conversation is posted on social media, the snarky, critical, attacking, unkind, crude remarks do not represent our Father, His Son or the Christian family well.
 
Let’s review some of scripture’s principles on civility.

  • First, choose your words wisely. “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” – Colossians 4:6. The phrase, “know how you ought to answer each one” not only refers to having the knowledge to answer others, but also to using winsome, graceful words in our responses.

  • Second, we are called to decency. “Let all things be done decently and in order” – 1 Corinthians 14:40. I realize the context of that verse is behavior within the assembly of believers, but it certainly applies to all Christian behavior.

  • Third, we must ensure that God is the object of our attention, not man. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” – Colossians 3:23. Our goal cannot be to impress others or to win the argument. We must ask, does it glorify God? Is God pleased with my words and actions as I relate to others?

 
Social media seems to be fertile soil for incivility, so let’s begin there and intentionally change the conversation.
 
Do I believe social media is an evil tool? No, I do not. Social media can be compared to money. The Bible says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” – 1 Timothy 6:10.
 
We preachers like to point out that the Bible does not say “money is evil.” Money is used in some very positive ways. It is the love of money that is problematic.
 
Likewise, social media tools are not evil, but they can certainly become very evil methods of uncivil communication.
 
Twitter, Facebook and the like can also be useful tools in the spread of the gospel.
 
It is no secret that the shortage of civility is a problem on social media platforms. We’ve seen it from Democrats and Republicans, Christians and non-Christians. But, it does not have to be that way. Believers are called to make a difference. 

1/21/2019 4:13:54 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments



Top five editorials in 2018

January 7 2019 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

What stories interest the Biblical Recorder’s readers? There is no reliable way to measure the answer to that question for those who read our content in print. But we can easily measure the interests of our loyal website guests at BRnow.org.
 
On pages 8-9 of the Jan. 12, 2019 print issue, we list the website content that received the most web traffic in 2018. This is helpful to our staff as we gauge your interests and concerns. We hope you find the lists interesting.
 
My most read editorials last year and the related posting dates are:
 
1. Are we teachable? (May 1)
2. Are you communicating? (Aug 21)
3. Revival, judgement and the SBC mess (May 29)
4. Voting is important (Oct. 1)
5. My next chapter (Oct. 15)
 
The last editorial tracked for less than three months. Based on the number of readers it garnered in that short period, given a longer time-frame, it could have outpaced the other posts.
 
Obviously, the post was about my pending retirement as editor of the Biblical Recorder. I appreciate your interest. I’m also very grateful for the support many pastors, churches and church leaders have given to me personally and to the ministry of the Recorder.
 
With less than five months before I step down, my aim is to leave the Biblical Recorder with as much potential for success as possible. But, I cannot do this alone. I need your help.
 
Our mission is to serve all Baptists in North Carolina and beyond. We are not good stewards of the resources entrusted to us if we serve only one segment of our Baptist audience. Therefore, the Recorder serves those who are engaged with digital media and those who are not.
 
The print edition of the Biblical Recorder serves a broad audience. Most of our readers fall in the fastest growing segment of the nation’s population – those who have lived 60 or more years. Print is also growing in its appeal to a younger population group. Those who have experienced digital overload or prefer to limit digital exposure increasingly look to a good book, magazine or newspaper as an enjoyable respite. We want to continue serving these audiences.
 
Although the print is profitable, we must increase our readership to sustain a viable publication. Our potential readers are in our Baptist churches, but most do not know about the services we offer and the low cost of an annual subscription.
 
Our digital platforms are very popular. BR’s website traffic is regularly among the top state newspaper sites in the Southern Baptist Convention. But, advertising income is not sufficient to sustain the website and our social media platforms. Baptists are not willing to pay for access to a website, and we understand that.
 
I am asking you to help us in at least two specific ways.
 
First, provide the Biblical Recorder in print to everyone in your church family, or at the very least, to all key leaders. I believe the news and information they receive will ultimately benefit your church, the Great Commission, the Cooperative Program and all of the ministries Baptists support in North Carolina and around the world.
 
Second, place the Biblical Recorder in your missions budget or make a one-time gift to this ministry. Many churches met their budget needs in 2018 and ended the year with excess funds. Will your church consider a gift to support our ministry?
 
Eight years ago, I was called to serve North Carolina Baptists as your editor. I accepted the challenge of refocusing the message of the Recorder and rebranding our name. Our staff has focused on providing news and information with a biblical worldview that advances the Great Commission and ultimately glorifies our almighty God. We want to continue that focus and serve our Baptist audience faithfully. With your help, we will do that.
 
Why should your church members be reading the Biblical Recorder? 

  • To be connected to ministries of sister Baptist churches and partnering associations in the state.

  • To be informed on the work of the Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and related ministries like the Baptist Children’s Homes, Baptists on Mission, the Baptist Foundation and the Baptist Hospital.

  • To learn about the educational training available through Fruitland Baptist Bible College, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and other equipping organizations.

  • To be inspired by stories about evangelism, missions and community outreach.

  • To recognize how other churches are engaging the culture reaching their communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Your church members will potentially give more generously as they understand the value of Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program as well as special offerings including the North Carolina Missions Offering, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and the Baptist Children’s Homes Thanksgiving Offering.

  • If your Bible study groups use LifeWay materials, the Recorder provides a weekly summary of LifeWay’s two popular plans: Bible Studies for Life and Explore the Bible.

 Visit BRnow.org.

1/7/2019 5:49:17 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments