When I was a seminary student at Saint Paul School of Theology I took an intensive course called: Theology, Civics and Civility
. The course was taught by the Rev. Emanuel Cleaver, who at the time was the Senior Pastor at Saint James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, MO. Today, Cleaver is a member of the House of Representatives representing the state of Missouri.
This course challenged us as students to ponder the intersections between theology, civics and civility. As well as those intersections between the church, the political landscape and secular culture. As part of the course work we as a class had to draft and adopt a list of Rules of Civility. Our conversation as we took on this project as a class was passionate, yet respectful. Our hope was to hammer out a list that would shape not only our own conversations but those of the faith communities we were serving.
As we transition from the season of elections to the season of governance I thought it might be helpful to all of us to revisit the list of Rules of Civility this class developed.
Rules of Civility
Shortly after the turn of the 18th Century, a young colonist by the name of George Washington developed what became known as the 110 Rules of Civility which were based on and borrowed from Jesuit educators.
President Washington used these principles throughout his life to guide his disciplined style of leadership. These 110 hand written rules heightened his successful Presidency and contributed to the shape of the Office of President.
We the students of the Theology, Civics and Civility course at Saint Paul School of Theology, believe that civility in the tradition of Washington, can spiritually transform society. Toward that end and because of a commitment to human dignity and Creation, we offer our 25 best suggestions as the following Rules of Civility.
Let others go first
People have names, use them
Consider everyone’s point of view; all voices have something to contribute
Avoid generalizations and blanket statements
Debate should end when the meeting is over — keep conversation in the room
Consider your responses before acting — practice prudence
Be conscious of one’s surroundings so as not to impose on others
Be proactive in hospitality
Acts of lying, cheating, stealing, coveting are uncivil
Speak the truth in kindness when expounding a grievance
Use language that uplifts rather than language that degrades
Listen carefully to the words of others before distracting yourself with your own response
If you take initiative take responsibility
Be willing to laugh at yourself and smile often
Let insults go unheeded — Never kick a SKUNK
No fingers pointing regardless of what finger you use
Endeavor to raise standards rather than lower them
Share all you can without resentment
Make sure everyone understands the rules and customs that will be followed
Play well with others — everyone gets a turn
Challenge uncivil behavior
Respect God’s creation all life depends on it
Recognize your own self worth and the value of others; we are all Children of God
Pursue Physical, Emotional and Spiritual health and Wholness
EVERY RULE HAS EXCEPTIONS