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The Table Video

Nicholas Wolterstorff

The Church and Incivility: What Happened to Honoring Everyone?

Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, Yale University
June 12, 2017

1 Peter 2:17 commands that Christians “Honor everyone.” Is that the true state of the church’s public engagement strategy? Christians have too often opted for a harsh approach to interacting with public communities. How can we get back to the concept of honoring everyone, regardless of their status or religious and cultural perspectives?


So, there’s this growing incivility and extremism, around our public discourse.


How have you seen that worked out in specific moral issues that you think the church should be careful for?

So, yeah, a feature of this. Well, there are many, many signs of this. Not only the inability or unwillingness, I suppose the word is, to accommodate, to compromise, but also, the incivility of language, the willingness to just demean the people in the other party. And evangelicals who are or people who claim themselves to be evangelicals who are running for political office seem perfectly happy to cooperate in this. And, Evan, I don’t understand it. I mean, when I read the New Testament, first letter of Peter, honor everybody.

Evan: Honor everyone, yeah.

Paul in Romans 13, honor the authorities. So this seems for a lot Christians today to have no purchase anymore. So, I think the church has become complicit in this breakdown of moral culture. I mean, the church will often talk accusingly. It’s those atheists or those leftists or whatever, but they’re complicit in it.

And once we lose the ability to communicate about things, about which we disagree, we begin to isolate ourselves, we begin to stop the effort for progress or moral progress, finding ways to introduce policy that does honor human dignity.

Exactly, what, you no longer listen to what the other party is saying, so you don’t learn anything from the other party. It’s entirely internal and you think purely in terms of force and winning.

Evan: Yeah.

As I said, that’s like Iraq. [chuckles]