Panelists last week at Ripon College included, from left, Rebecca Feyen, the Rev. Joanna D’Agostino, the Rev. Kevin Mundell and moderator Brian Smith.
Panelists last week at Ripon College included, from left, Rebecca Feyen, the Rev. Joanna D’Agostino, the Rev. Kevin Mundell and moderator Brian Smith.

   Four church leaders participated in a 90-minute panel discussion last week to discuss the role of civility at a time when it seems Americans’ viewpoints are more divergent than ever.

   Appearing before a standing-room-only crowd at Ripon College’s East Hall to discuss “How to Engage in Civil Dialogue with Those with Whom We Disagree Politically” were:

  • the Rev. Joanna D’Agostino, pastor at the First Congegational Church of Ripon;
  • Rebecca Feyen, moderator of Prairie Lakes Unitarian Universalist Fellowship;
  • Luke Hatfield, campus minister with His House Christian Fellowship;
  • the Rev. Kevin Mundell, pastor at Our Saviour’s United Church of Christ.

   Moderator Brian Smith, Ripon College religion professor and co-director of the event’s sponsor, the Center for Politics and the People, opened the discussion by describing the toll political division can take on society.

   “This polarization is not merely a political issue, but a moral one,” he said. “Strong disagreements are healthy for democracy but close relationships are so important in life that when we damage these through hateful or disrespectful conversations over politics, we are guilty of serious ethical failures.

   “Communal life in our town and on our campuses is also severely damaged by disrespectful language and behavior over politics.”

   Read comments by the panelists in the Nov. 16, 2017 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.