Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Stephen Reeves: "A Christian Voice in a Public Arena"

On March 29, Howard Payne University hosted the 5th Annual Currie-Strickland Distinguished Lectures in Christian Ethics. Stephen Reeves, legislative counsel, Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission (CLC), led off this year's lecture series with an address entitled "A Christian Voice in a Public Arena."

Reeves began by declaring that Christians in America have a responsibility, both as Christian citizens and as citizens of a democracy, to "work for justice and engage the public square." Avoiding the public arena, he explained, not only abdicates our responsibility as citizens but also "leaves a vacuum that will be filled by others."

He then posed a series of questions and presented what he considers the appropriate Christian responses to them:
  • Who should engage?
  • A variety of Christian voices and perspectives; "the Christian voice should not be a monolithic one."
  • Who should we speak for?
  • The CLC speaks for those who have no voice. "We are lobbyists," he said, "for the 'least of these.'"
  • What strategies should we use?
  • Use research, facts, experience, and an in-depth understanding of issues. Reeves called this "the CLC way."
    Use personal experience; "tell your story; testify on an issue about which you are passionate."
  • How should we talk about issues?
  • "Do it in a way that makes others feel free to disagree with us. Don't act as if scripture and faith give us the last word on an issue."
    Show respect and civility. As an example, Reeves cited the recent public "discussion" between former President Jimmy Carter and Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Though they had strong disagreements with each other, they treated each other with respect.
    Show humility. Here, Reeves cited the late Texas congresswoman, Barbara Jordan, who once pointed out, "We are God's servants, not God's spokespersons."
    Work in coalitions with disparate groups and people. Reeves cited the CLC's work with groups across the political spectrum, "from the Eagle Forum on the right to the Texas Freedom Network on the left."
    Be nonpartisan; "focus on the policy or issue, not the political party or a personality." He and Suzii Paynter, Reeves said, are welcome in any office in the Texas Capitol, on either side of the political aisle, because legislators know that the CLC will treat everyone with equal respect and work with either side of the aisle, depending on the issue.
    Do not appeal to fear and anger. "Anger should be directed at those who perpetrate injustice, not against those on the other side politically."
    Take the long-term view. "Impact the public square in a way that makes it a better place."

No comments:

Post a Comment