In many ways, our nation is divided more than ever. People are hunkering down into tribes, holding fast to thoughts and actions that scream, ‘If you’re not fully aligned with me, you’re against me.’ So we wrestle as we look back at our history and its impact on how we look ahead to our future.
But how would Jesus — who sits outside of our nation and our time — demonstrate his kingdom and share his words in times like ours?
I believe, at the very least, he’d be civil.
As those who’ve chosen to follow Christ, we’re called to be civil. As Jesus was. His language was kind, empathetic and full of grace. Scripture makes it clear that we are to live in peace with one another, but I wonder if some of us Christians choose incivility. If you turn on any newscast or read any news story, there is no civility. We Christians are often right in the middle of the fray, stirring the pot to pull it closer to home.
So what should we be doing as Christ followers? What posture should we assume?
Recently, I had the privilege to sit down separately with U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, former Sen. Chuck Robb of Virginia, and former U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough. Pondering the mix of all four of these individuals gave me insight on the need to regain civility in our nation.
Here are some things I’ve learned about civility from my recent interviews:
Civility speaks from truth. Platforms speak from agenda.
Jan. 6, 2021. A day we saw our nation under siege against itself. The day our nation’s Capitol was stormed.
As I sat in my house watching the meltdown of our country on full display, I considered the underlying issue that got us here. Was it QAnon and others with a conspiracy-based narrative that had indoctrinated those who were a part of the mob? Or those who sat at home throughout most of COVID feeding themselves conspiracy theories? Or those glued to singular media sources? It became clear to me that many influences produced that dreadful afternoon.
As Christ followers, we must be cautious with agenda-leading wild and crazy conspiracy theories and those who peddle them.
“As Christ followers, we must be cautious with agenda-leading wild and crazy conspiracy theories and those who peddle them.”
During my time with Mike Lindell, many things struck me as an interviewer to be out of place. First, he was speaking from his car in an unknown location — seemingly on the run. Second, when asked about his current support of former President Trump, he said, “I haven’t spoken with the president, but because I have the platform, I want people to know the truth, that China and other outside influences have rigged our election system.”
What struck me as odd about this conversation is the word “platform.” Not truth, but platform. Lindell’s platform. And that may be the problem. As Christ followers, we need to be careful on what platform we stand. It has been widely debunked that the election system was rigged, and Lindell is being sued for spreading conspiracy lies. As Christ followers, we need to avoid crazy, wild conspiracy theories — and people like Mike Lindell.
Civility is focused. Agendas are divisive.
Growing up, when my sister and I would fight in public, my mother used to say that we were being watched, and if we’re not careful, people wouldn’t be able to tell that we were brother and sisters.
The same thing is true when we allow people who claim to be Christ followers to speak on our behalf.
“If we’re going to lead the way in our country toward civility, racist and derogatory language can’t be in our vocabulary.”
Marjorie Taylor Greene, a self-proclaimed Christian, has been known to make wild assertions and use anti-Semitic language. Our interview was friendly and made me think some of those assertions seemed unfair. But her body of work proves something beyond that interview’s “niceness.”
Anti-Semitic language on one side. A proclaimed Christian — following a Jewish carpenter named Jesus — on the other. In the kingdom of God, there should be no room for her kind of rhetoric. If we’re going to lead the way in our country toward civility, racist and derogatory language can’t be in our vocabulary. And the people that use such language should be challenged when they do. The Apostle Paul makes it clear that they will know us by our fruit. If Marjorie Taylor Greene’s fruit is rotten, every pastor in her district should be calling her out for this — with civility, of course.
Civility attracts. Tribalism repels.
If our nation needs civility, we can’t hide our heads in the sand and pretend things will straighten themselves out. We have been called to live in the culture where God plants us — alongside others.
During my time with Chuck Robb, I was reminded that we are called to live a life of attraction and action. In Robb’s new book, In the Arena, he shares his perspective as someone who served our country in the Vietnam War, then as governor of Virginia and U.S. senator from Virginia.
When as a veteran Robb states, “I’m concerned that we are becoming tribal as a nation,” we should take notice. As a writer whose roots trace back to Africa, tribalism and its dangers, I have familiarity. Many times, tribes cannot exist or speak with each other.
“If our nation needs civility, we can’t hide our heads in the sand and pretend things will straighten themselves out.”
When I was interviewing Robb, I realized he is a man who has served with, or was connected to, just about everybody in government in our country. I was struck by how thankful he was to have been a part of serving our country. He also is proud of the civility with which he served.
“When you’re well-mannered, you don’t have to walk anything back that you’ve said,” he explained.
Robb would be the first to say he isn’t perfect. But he is a reminder that we have been called to live not merely as well-mannered people, but to approach our duty to living “in the arena” with civility.
“God knows everything I’m doing.” As Robb said these words, I was reminded that in this life God sees how we’re behaving in the arena, not just our service.
Civility allows for country and kingdom.
After my interview with Joe Scarbrough, I was left with the mandate in my ears that, as Christ followers, our kingdom is not to a political party or a country but to God.” I think Christians have forgotten that they have the truth,” he said.
On this Fourth of July holiday, my hope and prayer is that if we are to lead our country to civility, we remember that yes, it’s OK to love our country, but we have been called to lead people to something greater — the kingdom of God.
If the kingdom of God is our pursuit, we must know that no one will listen to uncivilized people about a kingdom they can’t see if they are lied to, talked badly to and can’t maintain their behavior. Therefore, being civil will lead others to a higher standard and just maybe even to higher kingdom.
Maina Mwaura is a freelance writer and communications consultant who lives in the metro Atlanta area. A native of Orlando, Fla., he earned a bachelor of science degree in communications from Liberty University and a master of divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.