The scriptural admonition to pray for those in political authority is more than a religious duty, it promotes good civic behavior. It is more difficult to hate someone when you are praying for them. Jesus' commandment to love our enemies, including those with whom we politically disagree, is even more challenging and defies the ideologies of both left and right.
These commitments are as demanding as they are necessary to the integrity of the faith community's witness but also, in their secular forms, to the working of democracy. Therefore we call on all citizens to model better behavior in the public square—in word and deed.
This could, and should, become a moment of reflection for the nation. The only redemption that might come from the horror we have seen in Arizona, and some of our worst partisan reactions to it, would be a renewed civil character in public discourse, and more restraint and respect in the halls of government and our media channels, moving us toward a kinder and gentler public square. That would be a fitting tribute to those whose lives have been lost or forever changed by this tragedy.
Jim Wallis is president and CEO of Sojourners and author of Rediscovering Values.
Chuck Colson is a former aide to President Nixon and the founder of Prison Fellowship and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.
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Earlier Christianity Today articles on civility include:
Putting Faith Over Politics after Tucson Tragedy (Jan. 14, 2011)
Civility Project Disbands after Low Interest in Congress (Jan. 11, 2011)
'Civility May Not Be Sexy' | Amid a call for civility, Christians trade political jabs. (Oct. 8, 2010)
Assemblies of God Leader Bows Out of Civility Statement | Signatories included nonevangelicals and people who support gay marriage and abortion rights. (Apr. 14, 2010)
Blog Comments and Christian Courtesy | Some otherwise loving believers could use a remedial course in table manners. By LaVonne Neff (Apr. 21, 2009)
A Gentle Plea for Civility | Why America needs An Evangelical Manifesto. By Os Guinness (May 9, 2008)
An Open-Handed Gospel | We have to decide whether we have a stingy or a generous God. By Richard J. Mouw (Apr. 3, 2008)
Attack Dogs of Christendom | Is this how to bring grace and savor to a crumbling civilization? David Aikman (Aug. 27, 2007)