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Faith leaders promote civility in Washington

 |  NCR Today

Well, if faith leaders can do it -- actually promote civility in Washington, D.C. -- they will have worked a miracle that rivals those recorded in the Gospels.

Apparently, some are trying. Recently, the nonpartisan Faith and Politics Institute sponsored a two-day conversation among faith groups, "Faith, Politics and Our Better Angels: A Christian Dialogue to Promote Civility."

According to Religion News Service, 25 religious leaders came together with the goal of promoting civil discourse. The meeting included both ends of the political/religious spectrum: Kenda Bartlett, executive director of Concerned Women for America; the Rev. Jeffery Cooper, general secretary of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; Barrett Duke of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Sr. Marge Clark of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby; and others.

Also present was Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal church. She told the media, "Faith leaders have a remarkable opportunity to shift the conversation, but it's very challenging, particularly in a larger society that wants to understand everything as a battle, as engaging the enemy, rather than with someone who might have something to teach us."

They are reportedly considering the institution of a national day of civil discourse to promote the idea and encourage preaching on the topic.

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While I'm glad to see this, much more is needed. Right now, nothing of substance is getting done in Washington. There is also a stubborn inability to come together for the benefit of the American people. I can remember when conservative Ronald Reagan and liberal Tip O'Neill bridged wide gaps to reform Social Security. That day is long gone.

So words are a start. But we need to move beyond civil rhetoric to civil action and legislation.

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