When I started the car and the radio came on, an interview was already underway with the author of a recent book about the significance of civil discourse at every level of our lives. I was unable to get the name of the author or of his book. However, in the course of the interview, he made this statement about the statutes, ordinances, policies, guidelines, and customs which govern us: "These are the structures we have set in place to make it possible for us to collaborate."
I'd like to add that followers of reveal religions like Judaism and Christianity believe some of those structures are God-given. The Ten Commandments come to mind. They are given to us as a revelation of God's desire for the children of God to live together in ways that advance God's vision for creation.
Because human beings are by nature more or less suspicious of authority, if not defian of it, we tend to resist rules that are imposed upon us. And, yet, the author's words remind us that we need such things to make it possible for us to work together toward common objectives and shared visions. If our human structures for collaboration are ineffective, then we have structures to guide us through an orderly process of improving them. We have been given higher order thinking ability to move us past our fears and mistrust into collaborative behaviors.
Theologian and University President George Rupp wrote a book about community and commitment in which he points out that there is no life without community and no community without commitment. God created us for community. We have been placed in families, tribes, nations, societies, nations, and organizations. Jesus' first act in his public ministry was to form a community when he called his disciples. The call to follow Christ is always a call to life in community with others of his followers. Continuation of community requies something of us. We need each other!
In our life together in the Church, the nation, or the global village, we accomplish more together than apart. We live in an increasingly interdependent world. At the same time, we are more aware of the differences that threaten us. In light of that interdependence and diversity, perhaps effective collaboration is more critical now than at any point in human history. Our world and our progress as God's children requires that we devote ourselves to working together in effective ways.
The Baptismal Covenent in The Book of Common Prayer of The Episcopal Church contains two questions that invite us to commitment to civility, collaboration, and community:
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
Our answer to these questions is, "I will, with God's help." Those of us who have given such an answer to these or similar questions are in the best possible position to become specialists in civil discourse and collaborative behavior in pursuit of our Creator's vision of healing and advancement of human life on "this fragile earth, our island home." God help us do it!