They say that deaths often come in three's. If that's true, then the death of civility in America may have come recently in the form of three "W's."
I know that "www" is most often seen in Web addresses. But, the three "W's" I am talking about are people whose last names start with the letter. Three names like Wilson, Williams, and West:
Joe Wilson's incredible lack of civility in yelling "You lie" at the president.
Serena Williams' expletive-filled rant aimed at a line judge at the U.S. Open.
Kanye West's rude tirade in stealing Taylor Swift's limelight at the VMAs.
What exactly is civility? Another word for civility is politeness. When I say politeness, I'm not just referring to good manners. While good manners are certainly an important part of civility, there is much more to being civil. For instance, everyone wants to be treated civil. In fact, the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," is based on the principle of civility. This implies that essence of civility must also include respect for others.
Civility also requires the curbing or controlling of anger. Ephesians 4:26-27 says, "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil."
Notice that this Scripture doesn't tell us that we can never be angry. It does, however, offer us a warning that if are not careful, our anger can get the best of us. I believe this happens when we lose civility in an argument.
Some of the worst examples today in these types of arguments are professional athletes. Watch a basketball game and you will likely hear the opposing players trash talking at each other. Watch a baseball game and you may see a bench-clearing brawl. And don't get me started about hockey.
Civility doesn't mean we never have disagreements. But, it does mean that we can disagree without being disagreeable. It does mean that even in our differences, we can still respect the other person. In other words we can still behave with civility.
In fact, Jesus tells us to respond with civility even when the other person attacks us in an uncivil manner. This is at the heart of what Jesus meant when he told us to turn the other cheek if someone strikes us. Their lack of civility is no excuse for us to respond in kind.
Come to think of it, the three people most affected by the three "W's" didn't respond in kind. The president didn't lash back defensively. The line judge didn't curse back. And Taylor Swift didn't respond in kind. They each responded in a civil manner to terrible boorish behavior. Maybe the rumors of civility's demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Doug Stockton is pastor of Christ United Methodist Church at 301 Wooster St., Marietta. Thoughts of Faith is a weekly column written by various ministers and lay people. Those interested in scheduling a date for writing a Thoughts of Faith column should contact Janet Gossett at 376-5446 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if a Thoughts of Faith column is written at the writer's convenience and sent to The Times, it will run the first available date.