Opinion: Restoring civility to the public square

Opinion: Restoring civility to the public square

October 25, 2010
Written by Gregg Brekke

As people of faith, we are called to be engaged in the public arena we know as politics. When we doubt our place in the political process, we need only listen to the words of Jesus in sermon after sermon appealing to the people to be actively involved in seeking the common good.

When we wonder whether we should be part of election activities, we need only remember Jesus' actions as he continually challenged the powers and principalities in search of justice for the "least of these."

As people of faith, we are not only important in this country; we are a critical influence in the world. As an international power broker, we in this nation must recognize how important U.S. elections are to the whole world. So, it is appropriate and necessary for local congregations and church structures throughout this land to develop nonpartisan programs that help faith communities reflect upon the political order for the common good.

The public discourse has turned into a mean spirited debate attacking the character of candidates rather than the issues at hand. Restoring civility to the public discourse and giving voice back to the people is essential to a sound democracy. Most will agree that shouting matches and name calling have no place in a civilized democracy, but that is what we witnessed during this last year. We must find ways to negotiate and rebuild our relationships with mutual respect, even when we disagree.

This year, the UCC's Our Faith Our Vote campaignis centered on restoring civility. Our Faith Our Vote is designed to assist members and congregations discover ways in which to get involved in the political process.

Congregations can develop and engage in a number of nonpartisan programs such as sending teams to interview candidates, holding candidate forums in churches, organizing education sessions for members, or conducting voter registration and voter participation drives. The IRS tax code provides latitude for churches and religious organizations to be involved in advocacy and be politically active
Stand up members of the United Church of Christ; stand on the foundation of the 11th General Synod over twenty years ago when they resolved that the UCC has, throughout its history, sought to "equip the saints for the task of prophetic ministry within the biblical tradition."

The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo is the executive minister for the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries and a member of the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers. 

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