From the Bishop

I don’t really understand the Healthcare Reform bill recently passed by Congress and signed by President Obama. It worries me more that so many congressional members, healthcare professionals and insurance companies also don’t understand it. I suspect it will take months and years to sort out the meaning and implication of all 2,400 pages in that bill.

What I do understand is something important has been lost in the process of this bill being discussed, debated, voted and amended.

  • We have lost a sense of civility, politeness, cooperation and mutual problem-solving.
  • We have lost the ability to have intelligent disagreements.
  • We have lost the sense that all of us Americans are working together for the good of our country and our world.
  • We have lost our basic sense of common courtesy and civility.

I have seen this coming for a long time. Drivers honk at one other and cut off other vehicles over presumed insults. People conversing in restaurants and even in restrooms do so in loud tones, even answering cell phones and talking in ways that interrupt everyone present. Meetings often turn into divisive encounters. E-mails have become ways of blasting others in a fashion that would never happen if those involved had to compose and mail an old-fashioned letter. Blogs and Facebook messages and tweets have become the tools of those who want to accuse, disrupt and blame.

I blame the political rhetoric on both sides of the aisle. I blame the media for their use of inflammatory language like “battleground states” and “final showdown” in describing the American political process. But I also blame all of us in America for our quick use of inappropriate language, our eagerness to label one another, and our willingness to condone violence and violent language.

We have lost our basic sense of common courtesy and civility, and I am not sure how it can be recovered.

Maybe we, in the church, can show the way. Maybe we, in the church, can demonstrate how to disagree in love. Maybe we, in the church, can drop all of our caucuses, political groupings and divisive language. Maybe we can lead the way in practicing the most basic teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

I grieve our loss of civility, and I pledge myself to grow in my ability to live by that Golden Rule. Will you join me?

Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Conference of
The United Methodist Church
“Making a Difference in Indiana
and around the world”

We have lost our basic sense of common courtesy and civility…