- (Photo: The Christian Post)
WASHINGTON -- A prominent black church leader believes that the level of civil discourse in our country regarding politics and faith is at an "all-time low."
The Rev. Franklyn Richardson, chair of the National Conference of Black Churches, made that assessment Thursday. He was one of several church leaders invited to an event on public discourse.
Richardson said that the key element of the low level of good discourse could be found with "articulated intolerance." He told CP that he felt in order to raise the level of civil discourse, the Church must "own its part" in creating the poor environment for civility.
"First of all, the Church must own its own contribution to this. The Church is not without accountability in this area," said Richardson. "The Church is not just a mere spectator of it, it was a participant. So the Church must own, we must own the ways in which we have been intolerant in our views."
Richardson's remarks came on a day when he was part of a day-long dialogue between church leaders of varying political backgrounds. Held at the Frederick Douglass Museum, the "Better Angels Dialogue" was sponsored by the Faith & Politics Institute.
Dr. Richard Land, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was another attendee of the summit. Land told CP that he believed the state of civility in the United States was "pernicious and cancerous."
"It is up to us people of faith to try to lead by example and by exhortation to get people to elevate the discourse by understanding that we can disagree with everything somebody may say without attacking them as a person," said Land.
"For instance, I am strongly pro-life, but that does not give me liberty to hate people who are pro-choice or to attack them and their motives … I think that unfortunately we have gotten into a downward cycle and all sides deserve the blame."
Other leaders invited to the summit included the Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin, immediate past president of the National Council of Churches; Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church; and Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, senior fellow at Beverly LaHaye Institute.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Crouse stated, "There is a general recognition that it's not just compromise for the sake of compromise but a matter of finding principles on which we can agree without discarding our own basic very deeply held beliefs and values."
Crouse believes that churches play a "pivotal role" in the effort to make public discourse on various issues more civil.
"So important that we have prophetic voices from the pulpit and that we have believers who are willing to really tackle the problems without resorting to clichés and without resorting to stereotypes and putting people into boxes," said Crouse.
"Christ commanded us to work together and to believe in each other and treat people as equals. That does not mean sacrificing your own beliefs but it does mean standing up for truth and standing up for basic principles of faith."