When I was young, one of the highlights of my week was Sunday school.
Growing up in Otto Township, I attended Rixford Evangelical Church. I remember having services in the church’s basement, singing those wonderful songs like “Jesus Loves Me,” and having Bible stories told on an easel covered with felt.
We learned about Jonah and the whale, and Joshua and the walls of Jericho, Noah and the ark.
We also learned something more — civility, manners and love for fellow man.
I remember my mother saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” In this “Kardashian kulture,” the saying is more like, "If you don’t have anything nice to say, you get your own television show and make millions.”
Phrases like “famous for being famous” or excuses like “he doesn’t have to have manners, he’s a celebrity” are sickening to me.
We see this name-calling and attack culture playing out on a grand scale every day — just look at politics. But that isn’t the point I want to make here.
When I pull up Facebook, I often look through posts to see if there is something that catches my journalist's eye. Often what I find are posts that make me cringe.
I don’t want to call anyone out, per se, but I want to delve a bit into an argument I watched play out. A political group was looking for a meeting place. It contacted a church. Church officials said no for a few reasons: one, the facility is often busy for church-related functions, and two, they desire to stand neutral in political matters.
What this became, instead, was an attack on religion, on people who attend the church and on morals of churchgoing folks and accusations of hypocrisy and even gay-bashing.
It was eye-opening, and not in a good way.
Is it no longer OK to have an opinion if yours doesn’t match that of the masses? I don’t speak about my personal politics for many reasons, and now I shall add one more to the list — I have enough people yelling at me without adding more.
One of the things I take pride in hearing is when people contact us at The Era to talk about how kind and friendly our region is. The PA Wilds might not have a lot of people, but the ones we have are often commended for their warm hearts.
I guess I’m a throwback to an easier time, or maybe I am naive in that I want to believe in civil discourse.
One of my best and most highly respected teachers from high school had different political beliefs than I did. But there is not one time I can point to where he made me feel singled out or wrong for feeling how I did.
I know some diehard fans of President Donald Trump. Regardless of my personal beliefs, I respect their right to feel the way they do. And I can say they are truly nice people.
I know some diehard haters of the president, too. And they, too, are welcome to exercise their right to free speech and beliefs. Many people I care deeply for and highly respect are in this group.
One thing neither side has learned so far — and again, maybe I am just naive — is that shouting your beliefs at those who feel differently does not change their mind. In my experience, being shouted at or belittled for one’s beliefs merely bolsters the feeling that one is right.
But hey, what do I know? I laughed at Bill Cosby’s jokes before I knew his predilection for abusing women. I watched "Fat Albert," "The Cosby Show" and even the cartoon "Little Bill" with my daughter.
Does that mean I support sexual assault? Hell no. Sweeping generalizations and assumptions are dangerous to make.
And so are cruel and demeaning comments. I’m taking a moment here to make a plea for civility.
Pass it on, thank you.
(Schellhammer is the Era’s associate editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)