Wisconsin’s seemingly nonstop election cycle may be over for now, but religious leaders around the state are continuing the conversation on being more civil in the political arena and our everyday lives.
The Wisconsin Council of Churches kicked off the “Season of Civility” in 2011, after religious leaders were disturbed by politics dividing the state.
Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faith organizations and hundreds of religious leaders pledged to foster civil conversations which they hoped would rub off on politicians.
Wisconsin Council of Churches volunteer Helene Nelson says the month following the presidential election has been a perfect time to reflect on what's working. She says they know they have a long way to go.
“You have to hope for something a little bigger than you can accomplish in your lifetime," she says. "If you just think about what you can do effectively and really get done in the next five minutes, you’re thinking about something pretty small.”
Nelson says having a civil conversation requires listening and trying to find the common good and doesn’t require a person to give up their core beliefs. She says it works best in small groups and takes a lot of practice.
Tom Thibodeau is the director of the Servant Leadership Program at Viterbo University. He says eventually leaders will have no choice but to civilly work together.
“Politics has to be about leadership and what’s leadership? Bringing people from different perspectives together to work together," he says. "I think citizens are going to start to demand this of our leaders at every level of every organization, whether it be religious, business health care, or education.”
Thibodeau says it's important to strive for a more civil society, but concedes it will never be perfect.