Diverse Faith Leaders Attempt to Revive Civility

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WASHINGTON -- Christian leaders from the left and the right gathered in Washington Thursday for the Faith, Politics and Better Angels summit in an attempt to find some common ground.

The phrase was taken from President Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address, in which he appealed to the "better angels of our nature."

Former Missouri Sen. John Danforth attended the event, hosted by theFaith and Politics Institute. He said the faith community needs to move past all the bickering.

"I'm here because I think this is a very important matter," he said. "I mean, the country is fractured. Politics isn't working. The American people realize that. It's gridlock."

Summit organizers say the goal was for Christian leaders to come up with a plan on how to use their influence to help change the divisive tone in politics.

"I think we are religious people and we have a sensitivity to when the nation is so sick that somebody better find a way to do something about it," Rev. James Forbes, with Riverside Church, said.

Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, with Concerned Women for America, insisted it was possible for people with different political philosophies to engage in civil debate.

"You don't have to comprise your principles in order to come together in civility," she said. "And that I think has been very refreshing to hear and refreshing to see people willing to talk about that."

Many Christian leaders say the church has a responsibility to promote a mutual respect when it comes to different political views.

"For instance, I am strongly pro-life, but that does not give me liberty to hate people who are pro-choice or to attack them and their motives," Dr. Richard Land, with the Southern Baptist Convention, said.

"I think that unfortunately we have gotten into a downward cycle and all sides deserve the blame," he said.

"I think it's part in parcel of our responsibility as faith leaders to say, 'Look, we can disagree about really important issues without impugning the motives of our opponents and without thinking that they're evil people," he said.

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