Thinking Out Loud

April 22, 2010

Better Than Roberts Rules of Order

You can’t expect to run a society by the rules of parliamentary debate, but it often seems like a little bit of civility and decency might be in order.   So it seems rather timely that George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation should be released by so many publishers over the last few years.

American kids grow up knowing the rules as part of a penmanship exercise, but the title is foreign to Canucks, Brits, Kiwis and Aussies.

Many different publishers have availed themselves of this public domain title with 24 editions printed since 2002 currently available.

One publisher, Applewood, has the lone currently-available pre-2000 edition in print and markets the book with this history:

“Copied out by hand as a young man aspiring to the status of Gentleman, George Washington’s 110 rules were based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. The first English edition of these rules was available in Francis Hawkins’ Youths Behavior, or Decency in Conversation Amongst Men, which appeared in 1640, and it is from work that Washington seems to have copied. The rules as Washington wrote them out are a simplified version of this text. However much he may have simplified them, these precepts had a strong influence on Washington, who aimed to always live by them. The rules focus on self-respect and respect for others through details of etiquette. The rules offer pointers on such issues as how to dress, walk, eat in public, and address one’s superiors.”

Prices vary from $5.99 US for a simple 52-page edition to $37.95 US for a 180-page edition with commentary.

However, you can actually read all 110 rules at this Wikipedia page (#91: Make no Shew of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed not with Greediness; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on the Table neither find fault with what you Eat) … though it’s in desperate need of a Eugene-Peterson-Message-style update.   Or maybe they can get James Reimann, the guy who updated My Utmost for His Highest.

On the other hand, KJV-only advocates should feel right at home with the language this title presents.

Better yet, here’s a question to end on:  Do they still teach any of this stuff to kids today?   Maybe we need this to be more than a writing exercise.

Related posts in this blog:  Don’t Blame Seniors (Aug. 2009)

Another reason you’ve heard the word civility in the last few days:  The head honcho of the Assemblies of God removes his name from The Covenant of Civility, perhaps rather missing the whole point in the process.   Read that story here.

June 7, 2009

Trumpeting Your Offering

Filed under: Christian, Jesus, philanthropy — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:56 pm

Titles Wordle

So there we were, on the website of a well-known, Canadian,  Christian organization making a donation by credit card.   You know the kind.   They trust you to be able to type your name and address alright, but when it comes to your state or province, you have to defer to a drop-down menu in case you mess it up.

Only this site also had a drop-down for “title.”   Mr.  Mrs. Ms.  Rev.  Dr.   Only it didn’t stop there.   There were all these:

Col. (ret)
Lt. Col.
Mr. Justice
Mrs. Brig.
Mrs. Capt.
Premier Ministre
Prime Minister
Rev. Fr.
Right Rev.
The Hon.
The Most Rev.
The Rev.
The Rev. Dr.
The Right Honourable
The Right Rev.
Pastor and Mrs.
The Venerable

…plus a couple I didn’t include.    For you Americans, the M. and Mme. represent Monsieur and Madame; and the inclusion of Prime Minister in both English and French is appropriate if Stephen Harper decides to donate, but there’s no such option for President in case Barak decided to donate to this group, nor Her Royal Highness or HRH should the Queen decide to throw some money their way.

My wife noticed that the military designations tended to be upper level.  There was no Sgt. or Cpl.    And the St., meaning  ‘saint’ was just too funny.   Bet they get a lot of saints donating.    We also wondered how many rabbis donate to this very Christian organization.   And who knew that Evang. was now the official abbreviation for Evangelist?   Of course, we both noticed that there was no option for ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ collectively, which was the very one we were seeking.

Christians are very hung up on prestige and position.   The faith that encourages people that “the last shall be first” and that “those who humble themselves will be exalted” still puts a premium on earthly achievement.   At the end of the day, if Pastor Joe Smith is donating $50.00; I’m not sure it matters that he’s a pastor if he’s just donating in his own name.   And the tax department doesn’t need the title on his receipt.

What pomp!  What fanfare!

Imagine someone like the woman in Jesus described in “The Widow’s Mite” story negotiating a website like this in our century.    Just wants to make a small donation, but hey,  look at all those important titles.   If they have that kind of people donating, then perhaps they can cover all the needs.   Maybe my “two mites” aren’t really needed here.

This led me to think of the classic passage in James’ epistle on favoritism.   When someone comes into your church, do you ask to see their titles?   Of course, from there it was a short jump to thinking about the letters that come after a person’s name.   How can we avoid thoughts of status and preference when pastors measure academic degrees among themselves. MDiv.  MTh.  MThS.  MA.  PhD.  Etc.

Thankfully, in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, rich nor poor, slave nor free.    Though I’ll compromise on leaving the Mr., Miss or Mrs. option on the form.  Okay, Ms., too.   Then again, that’s the ‘male nor female’ thing; why not just ask for names?


Suggested reading for those with titles:  Mark Sanborn’s You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader.

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