Cumberland Times-News

May 19, 2012

Is civility losing out to the ‘culture war’?

Bob Doyle, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— In today’s America, we face an important choice: being civil (respectful of the views/rights of others) or continuing “the culture war.”

There is a remarkable book by noted Christian thinker, Os Guinness, a frequent speaker at Universities and business conferences around the world.

Guinness’ book is “The Case for Civility: And why our Future depends on it,” 2008, Harper One, ISBN 978-0-06-135343-7. On the back cover are statements praising this book from pastor Rick Warren, Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center, a professor from a Jewish theological seminary in New York and a Chair of Islamic studies at American University in Washington.

This book opens with an excerpt from a commencement address delivered nearly 50 years at American University.

“So let us not be blind to our differences — but let us also direct our attention to our common interests and the means by which these differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit his planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” President John F. Kennedy, June, 1963.

Guinness in his first chapter states that in the last century about 100 million people were killed by secular regimes, another 100 million people were killed in wars and yet another 100 million people perished in ethnic and sectarian violence.

These fatalities in one century alone surpass the number killed in all religious persecutions and repressions in western civilization history. Today in America, there are great religious and ideological rifts that tend to divide us, rather than unite us.

Despite this, Guinness feels that the civility has its most fertile ground here in America. This is due to America’s origin based on equal opportunity, due rule of law, representative government, freedom of religion, speech, assembly, public education and the presumption of innocence.

Guinness (who lives in Washington) sees the U.S. reduced standing in the world due to “America is not modeling the American way as once she used to.” The culture war being waged on television, in newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet have diminished America.

Here is a summary of America’s five big challenges according to Guinness.

I. The challenge of living with our religiously grounded differences in America is one of the world’s great issues today.

II. All members of the educated class must realize that minimizing religion in American society is flawed and damaging to our heritage.

III. The development of the electronic media has created a “global public square.” (It is as if all our stained and dirty clothing are on display for all the world to see.)

IV. As most of the world begins to accept the American way as modern; our way of life is now under severe stress and is now longer a model.

V. Americans must choose whether they still value the idea of our country as a force for the common good as opposed to a narrow ethic of self interest. (What’s in it for me?)

I see the American “culture war” as being waged against our government (both federal and state), against people who have a different sexual orientation and against people who don’t believe as most of us.

Those in the forefront of the culture wars use taunting language that invites an emotional reaction, lessening rational thought. Instead of stating realistic consequences of a new law or practice, the culture “warriors” portray extreme scenarios to fan public fears.

The use of these tactics insure that there will likely be no resolution of our differences. The “culture war” has ground progress in our present Congress to a halt. The prospects for next few years are not encouraging.

I encourage readers to respond to the above ideas by emailing me at .

THIS WEEK’S EVENING SIGHTS: Late this afternoon, the moon will swing from the morning side of the sun to the evening side of the sun. This Tuesday, a narrow crescent moon will appear to the left and slightly below the brilliant planet Venus very low in the 9:15 p.m. western dusk.

The orange planet Mars appears high in the southwest in the early evening. In the South, the planet Saturn can be seen above Virgo’s bright star Spica. While these bright planets appear as points (due to their distances), they shine more steadily than bright twinkling stars near them.

LAST GRAZER SHOW TODAY: For four months, I have been giving presentations on the wonderful animals in our Science Discovery Center in Compton Hall on Sundays at 4 p.m. Today, we will have our last free public program in Compton 224.

“Grazers of the African Plains” describes such animals as the Springhares (of lower Africa), the graceful and elegant Antelopes, Baboons, Zebras, Buffaloes and Elephants. After a 25-minute live talk, our visitors will enter the Science Discovery Center (on first floor) to see the Cavallaro Collection, rich in African wildlife.

You are invited to bring a camera. While you can’t touch our specimens, you can take pictures of your children next to a Lion, Leopard, Baboon, Antelope, Zebra, etc.

Our animal talks will resume next September with “Mammals of North America” on Sept. 9 at 4 p.m.

If you like, leave your name and mailing address on my voice mail at (301) 687-7799 and I will mail you a bookmark schedule of our fall presentations.

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.