Disagreeing Without Being Disagreeable

standaloneSome of my recent posts have generated concerns that I’m getting “too political” on this blog, that my criticism of talk radio is an attack on the political views of those who listen to talk radio.  Not so.  As I said in a subsequent comment, “the vitriol doesn’t only come from one side. You can balance the ranting and raving of talk radio with some of the smug, holier-than-thou comments that come from the liberal elite.”  My concern here is not with politics, but with the level and tone of our public discourse.  We don’t seem to be able to talk to each other these days without yelling at each other. 

And so I was pleased to see this good example, forwarded by a reader.  Chuck Colson was asked by a young mother shortly before the start of the new school year how she could help her children understand that she does not support the President’s policies.  I’ll let you read the question and Chuck’s answer for yourself, but please notice how he turns down the intensity of the question, how he moves from generalities to specifics, and how he helps this woman voice her real concerns without disrespecting the office of the president.   While Colson’s own views are conservative and Christian, I think he sets an example here the whole country could learn from.

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My question relates to parenting Christian children who attend public schools. Specifically, I want to know how to help my children understand that I do not support the current President’s policies and values, as many of them are not biblical. I am furthermore concerned about his September 8th address to a captive public school audience. What kind of conversation do I have with them if they are in attendance at school the day that so much solitary focus is given to the President’s agenda?  —Jennifer Pixley

From Chuck Colson:

Good question, Jennifer. I have two words for you: honesty and respect. First, you need to be honest with your kids about your opinions of some of the President’s policies. But I would recommend that you don’t paint with broad strokes. Be specific. Tell them which policies you disagree with, and why.

For example, you may want to tell them why you don’t support the president’s policies on abortion, because we know that every child—even in the womb—is precious to God and created in His image.

But respect is also important. You may wisely criticize the policy, but it does no good to disparage the man who is the elected leader of our country. In fact, encourage your kids to pray for the President (as I do every day)—that he would be filled with God’s wisdom. It’s the right thing to do, and it will show your children that even though you disagree with (perhaps many of) his policies, as a good citizen, you respect the office of the President.

By the way, if the President talks to the students about the importance of education—as the White House says he will—it could be very positive. But whatever he says, use this as a teaching opportunity to discuss the President’s speech with your kids. Tell them the things you approve of or things that you don’t approve of. You need to be very balanced with them.

Chuck Colson