Civil Rites

As soon as our kids could speak, we taught them little gestures of civility. Say "thank you" and "please." Don't hide your face when an adult talks to you. Say "Yes sir" and "Yes ma'am," not ironically or grudgingly, but respectfully. I don't think I ever told my boys, "Don't scream at old people." It was a given.

We weren't making a political statement. It was just the way things were supposed to be. It's the way my wife and I had been raised, by parents whose moral instincts were formed in a different world.

Conservatives, reactionaries, and aging cranks have long complained about the erosion of these kinds of civil rites. They warned our habits of familiarity and casual vulgarity would come back to haunt us.

Aging cranks are easy to ignore, and then you become one. You realize they were right.

You know what I'm talking about. The nightly scenes from city streets across the country. The arson, the beatings, the shootings are horrific.

But I found myself nearly as disturbed by the complete disregard of everyday politeness - by crowds of people screaming "F*ck you!" at old people, passersby, policemen, U.S. Senators.

As if the anger of man could establish the justice of God (James 1:20). Every day, we glimpse flashes of hell fire (James 3:6).

This isn't a partisan point. For every clip of BLM intimidation and vulgarity, you can find a corresponding one from someone on the right. You've probably seen the guy in the Texas Longhorn cap teeing off on WalMart employees.

If people grow up with no respect for others, for their elders, and for those in authority, we lose the capacity for intelligible debate and conversation. We are left with nothing but reciprocal rage, which only increases until it has to be resolved by brute force.

I'm angry at the people who misbehave in the streets. I also pity them, because I'm also angry at parents, teachers, and others who failed to instill even a minimum of respect for the likeness of God (James 3:9).

The streets may calm down, but the cultural breakdown is foundational. And it's suicidal. We can't secure civil rights unless we restore civil rites.

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