Do you have â€œchannel markersâ€ in your life? Iâ€™m referring to those people whose deep insights and good example command your attention. Wherever you are in life, you keep half an eye on them (as you would a channel marker when youâ€™re sailing) to see what theyâ€™re thinking, writing, or doing. A glance at their words and actions helps you chart a straight course. Â
Jim Wallis of Sojourners is one of my channel markers. Heâ€™s a born-again Christian with a deep concern for peace and justice issuesâ€”so he confounds the conventional wisdom that religious always means conservative (and that liberal always means godless). His prolific writing has found expression in three books, a popular daily blog, and the magazine where he serves as editor-in-chief.
Yesterday, he asked me to sign a civility pledge.
Not just me, of course, but anyone and everyone. Like me (and probably you, since youâ€™re reading this), Wallis is deeply concerned about the climate of polarization that pervades U.S. culture. Like me, he believes people of faith have a unique role to play in nudging us toward dialogue. So heâ€™s asking said people of faith to sign his Covenant of Civility as a critical step.
Iâ€™m skeptical of pledge signing in general: itâ€™s too easy to pledge and too hard to deliver. (Think New Yearâ€™s resolutions.) But this may be different. According to the site, â€œchurch leaders from diverse theological and political beliefsâ€ have already signed on. Just as important, Jim Wallis is a â€œchannel markerâ€ for a wide swath of the faith communityâ€”including, I believe, people in very high placesâ€”so anything he produces has more clout than the average effort.
Civility, as Iâ€™ve mentioned before, is only the first step, a precondition for the dialogue that draws us close to one another across all manner of divides. But it is an absolutely necessary first step, because you canâ€™t talkâ€”or, more important, listenâ€”until youâ€™ve stopped shouting. I encourage you to visit the site and sign the pledge.