Rev. Al Hoksbergen and I were on the way to Grand Rapids for an important meeting. He and I served on a committee charged with making recommendations to the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church of North America regarding its position on capital punishment.
Al was driving. Handing me a Bible, he asked me to look up a certain passage which he intended to use in opening devotions. The scripture verse was First Peter 2:17: “ Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers…”
“There may be differing opinions on the death penalty,” the good pastor explained to me, “and emotions might get high. But, we must remain kind and respectful.”
I’m thinking of that today after watching the President’s press conference yesterday. During the Q and A session, NBC reporter Peter Alexander asked, “What do you say to Americans who are scared?"
President Trump replied: "I say that you are a terrible reporter. That's what I say."
I’m miffed by that for two reasons. Number one, I still try to abide by what my mentor, Al Hoksbergen, insisted on: civility. And number two, I’m an honest, legitimate journalist. So is Peter Alexander, by the way.
If I were a smart ass, and in that situation, I might like to respond with a quote from our third President, Thomas Jefferson: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Civility was something I demanded when I hosted a daily talk show on my own radio station decades ago. Listeners were welcome to call in, but they were not welcome to rough up my guest, regardless of any differences of opinion. If they didn’t cool it, I cut them off.
Civility has trickled down in the HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS office. It is only natural that prisoners get frustrated by inadequate or inappropriate medical care, by rude prison staff personnel, or just by the atmosphere of heartlessness. But, that is no excuse for rude behavior toward our team. We may come up with an answer the prisoner doesn’t appreciate. We may come up with NO answer, which can be even more frustrating. Still, we insist that our clients communicate in a civil manner, and we’ll try to do the same.
In this day and age, it appears that we cannot look to the top voices in government for good examples of civility.
We can go to Holy Scripture. Says the writer of Proverbs: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
God knows I’m no hero when it comes to civility, but I’m praying for its return.
Quoting still another President: “Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage.” Theodore Roosevelt