I do not always agree with the editorial stance of Sojourners, a magazine dedicated to faith, politics and culture. In fact I have subscribed to Sojourners on again and off again for some years. Right now I am not a subscriber. During the last national election cycle I felt like Sojourners became the evangelical voice of the left as much as some other publications were, and still are, the voice of the right. I do not begrudge this reality but I choose to limit my political reading more and more as I get older.
I have a read a good bit of the published work of Sojourners founder Jim Wallis. I have often found his economic and social stance too closely aligned with governmental solutions and social policies that I simple find objectionable. Having said this I respect Wallis as a voice that needs to be heard and one that often says something we all need to hear. This is why I gladly signed a recent appeal, sent to me by Sojourners, called a covenant for civility. It reads as follows:

Come Let Us Reason Together

How good and pleasant it is when the people of God live together in unity.—Psalm 133:1

As Christian pastors and leaders with diverse theological and political beliefs, we have come together to make this covenant with each other, and to commend it to the church, faith-based organizations, and individuals, so that together we can contribute to a more civil national discourse. The church in the United States can offer a message of hope and reconciliation to a nation that is deeply divided by political and cultural differences. Too often, however, we have reflected the political divisions of our culture rather than the unity we have in the body of Christ. We come together to urge those who claim the name of Christ to “ put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

1) We commit that our dialogue with each other will reflect the spirit of the Scriptures, where our posture toward each other is to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

2) We believe that each of us, and our fellow human beings, are created in the image of God. The respect we owe to God should be reflected in the honor and respect we show to each other in our common humanity, particularly in how we speak to each other. With the tongue we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God …. this ought not to be so” (James 3:9, 10).

3) We pledge that when we disagree, we will do so respectfully, without falsely impugning the other’s motives, attacking the other’s character, or questioning the other’s faith, and recognizing in humility that in our limited, human opinions, “we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We will therefore “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).

4) We will ever be mindful of the language we use in expressing our disagreements, being neither arrogant nor boastful in our beliefs: “Before destruction one’s heart is haughty, but humility goes before honor” (Proverbs 18:12).

5) We recognize that we cannot function together as citizens of the same community, whether local or national, unless we are mindful of how we treat each other in pursuit of the common good in the common life we share together. Each of us must therefore “put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:25).

6) We commit to pray for our political leaders—those with whom we may agree, as well as those with whom we may disagree. “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made … for kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

7) We believe that it is more difficult to hate others, even our adversaries and our enemies, when we are praying for them. We commit to pray for each other, those with whom we agree and those with whom we may disagree, so that together we may strive to be faithful witnesses to our Lord, who prayed “ that they may be one” (John 17:22).

We pledge to God and to each other that we will lead by example in a country where civil discourse seems to have broken down. We will work to model a better way in how we treat each other in our many faith communities, even across religious and political lines. We will strive to create in our congregations safe and sacred spaces for common prayer and community discussion as we come together to seek God’s will for our nation and our world.

If you would like to sign this covenant you can do so at the special Sojourners site made for signatures.

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  1. Gene Redlin May 5, 2010 at 10:23 am

    NOPE…they don’t mean it.
    It’s all a one way street. I was sent this and after reading it with suitably discerning eyes saw that this was the left’s way of saying, let’s have YOU agree with us and not question us…OK?
    The praying for our leaders is a given. Agreeing is not.
    Not buying it.

  2. George C May 5, 2010 at 10:52 am

    I do find that many if not most calls to unity are an offer to come do things our way or to agree with us, but how can anyone see this as anything other than a reminder to do what they already should be doing.
    I think it would help all of the “conversations” going on if people would not take “harsh” criticisms of their ideologies and beliefs as personal slights.

  3. Gene Redlin May 5, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    If you are at all interested, I did respond point by point to the “covenant”. I don’t think Jesus would have signed it.

  4. John H. Armstrong May 5, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Sorry Gene but the issue here is not: “What Jesus would sign?” You have no earthly idea what he would do nor do I. This kind of question is not biblical nor is your provocative answer. I love you brother but you reveal your sense of certitude in your response to a rather simple statement about something that we can all surely talk about without invoking with such certainty what Jesus would do.

  5. Gene Redlin May 5, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    I did say “I don’t THINK”…
    Not certain, but concluding from evidence in his historical words and behavior of what he would or would not sign on to.
    When it comes to anything from this tribe (sojourners) I’m cautious and dubious of anything they say or do. They have earned no currency from me for trust and many of my ilk have the same suspicions. At this point I would have to treat them in a 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 manner. They do NOT share our spiritual worldview.
    This isn’t about unity … it’s about agendas.

  6. Adam Shields May 7, 2010 at 6:12 am

    The original covenant is not a “Sojourner’s thing”. It is a wide swatch of the Christian world.
    Here are the original signature list http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=action.display&item=100308-civility-covenant
    It includes officials linked to: Mission American, United Church of Christ, Christian and Missionary Alliance, National Association of Evangelicals, Armenian Orthodox, Mennonite, Christian Reformed Church, Episcopal, Catholic, PC USA, Wesleyan, American Baptist, CCDA, etc.
    So Gene’s point that this is “Come agree with us” ignores the reality of the statement and the signers.
    Don’t sign if you don’t want to, but rejection of the idea of treating other Christians well just ignores the call of scripture.

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