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Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World Paperback – July 31, 1992

4.4 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"This book is right on target and just in time--when Christians in the same churches and denominations have trouble talking to one another. Spiritual leaders in these churches and denominations need to embody and practice it."

"A convincing case . . . . We can think of so many people who need to read this book, even as we suspect most of them think it would do us a heap of good. They're probably right."

"Mouw convincingly argues that the need for civility is pressing. The virtue is nearly extinct. Civility is a Christian virtue whereby we enter public discussions with a strong conviction of Christian truth, a willingness to learn from those with whom we disagree, and a desire to honor the humanity of even our fiercest foe. Civility is not a passive politeness that defers to everyone and stands for nothing. Neither is it relativistic. It is a mannerly demeanor in which an inner intensity never overpowers self-restraint or rational discourse. . . . The book articulates an urgent message Christians should take to heart."

About the Author

Mouw is president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Before coming to Fuller in 1985 as professor of Christian philosophy and ethics, he was for seventeen years professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 173 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (July 31, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830818251
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830818259
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,263,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Mouw delves into a helpful critique of how people, especially people who profess to be Christians, can interact in the world in a positive and helpful manner. The book is an easy read that humbly critiques as well as offers ideas for insightful ways of seeing how one's belief system can be developed to promote respect and positive civil discourse. I found especially helpful his description of the problem of "triumphalism" which is a concern to me in our society. This is a good read that will promote solid self-examination in a fresh manner. I felt edified and challenged after I had read the book, and I recommend it as an individual reading as well as reading the book as a group.
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Format: Paperback
Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, wrote this short and simple book a dozen years ago, but it is, perhaps, even more timely today than when it first appeared. The last several presidential elections indicate that our country and our churches are badly divided over a broad range of important issues like gay rights, abortion, stem cell research, the place of America in the world, global economics, health care, and the list goes on. Many people employ a military metaphor to describe our so-called "culture wars." President Bush divided our world in terms of an "axis of evil." In a war, to state the obvious, you have friends and foes, enemies and allies, the goal being for Good (that would be "our" side) to defeat Evil ("their" side). Sharp, partisan and demonizing rhetoric about these issues divides us even further. One is left to exasperate with Rodney King, who lamented after police who had publicly beaten him were acquitted and riots erupted, "why can't we all just get along?"

Mouw shows how and why Christians should not only be people of conviction, but people of compassion and civility. We are, he reminds us, to "pursue peace with everyone" (Hebrews 12:14), and to "show every courtesy to everyone" (Titus 3:2). Civility does not mean we have to like everyone we meet, forfeit our convictions to a relativistic perspective, or befriend people as a manipulative ploy to evangelize them. Rather, it means caring deeply about our civitas and its public life, because God so cares. After defining the nature and parameters of Christian civility, Mouw investigates its implications for our speech, attitudes, pluralistic society, sexual mores, other religions, and leadership in a fallen world. He explores the limits of civility, when there is no "on the other hand.
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Our society has become much more diverse. Measured in terms of race, the number of non-Hispanic whites has fallen from roughly 84 percent in 1965 to 62 percent in 2015. Among children under the age of 20, the trend is even more pronounced. Stated in terms of perspectives, we are more likely today to meet someone with a different cultural background and point of view than at any time since the Second World War.

Rodney King’s 1992 question: “Can we all get along?” remains a serious question for everyone, but especially Christians who are supposed to model the love of Christ to those around them.

In his book, Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World, Christian ethicist Richard Mouw attempts to address Rodney King’s question. Mouw defines civility as: “public politeness” where “we display tact, moderation, refinement and good manners towards people who are different from us” (14). He further observes: “being civil is a way of becoming more like what God intends for us to be.” (15) Importantly, he stresses that we do not have to approve of other people’s views (22) or to like them (24), but only to recognize their inherent right to express their views and to listen to them.

Mouw tells the story about a “crusty old Irish Catholic judge” whose days were filled with judging inner-city criminals. One day this judge had a what-would-Jesus-do (WWJD) moment just as he was about to give a tough sentence another street tough kid. He started to see this kid as a divine image bearer and in terms of his potential, not the person who he currently appeared to be (24-25). Suddenly, this judge had a completely new attitude about his job and started having good conversation with these street kids.
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Format: Paperback
I heard Richard Mouw give a talk on this book a dozen years ago. I often have turned to this book since then to remind myself of what the tone of Christianity should sound like in this day and age. Too often, I am afraid, Christians express their convictions without much generosity, tact, or sensitivity for those who do not share these beliefs. I do not see this as the example of Jesus who saved the "strong language" for those who already understood grace, and still needed some pointers on how to live. This book is a breath of fresh air and gives good general guidance on how a person can hold beliefs that may run counter to the values of any one particular culture ... and do so in a manner that reflects a heart and spirit of love. It is a book that genuinly wrestles with tough issues without shying away from them, and shows where Christians have cracks. This is one of my favorite books to remind me of how Christians, myself included, should try to live.
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