Christians and the Public Square (October 7-28)

Teaching in General

Why do we study the Bible? For guidance? To discover God’s will for our lives? To understand our world? For inspiration? For information? For encouragement? To be transformed? The hope for most of us is probably that we will somehow be changed for the better. Yet change can be difficult. While it may be our desire that God would transform us and shape us through the study of God’s word, at some level we may resist change and cling to the familiar. One of the biggest and most important challenges for Bible study is to create an environment in which learners can feel free to reconsider long held attitudes, habits, and ways of thinking. We want to be open, like a lump of clay, for God to mold us. Trying out new perspectives can help. Sometimes changing to new perspectives is warranted.

These lessons are particularly challenging as they deal with political issues—a topic on which your class members likely have strong opinions and divergent views. How can we create an atmosphere for healthy dialogue where we could, potentially, learn from those with whom we disagree?

Here are some guidelines for constructive dialogue, which you might consider using with your class:

Center for Parish Development:
“Let us declare that it is OK to…”
1.    Use our best active listening skills
2.    Disagree, share a divergent point of view.
3.    Be skeptical about the instructor’s and others’ presuppositions, while being equally skeptical of our own.
4.    Take responsibility for our own learning.
5.    Scratch your head, chew on your pencil, ponder and reflect.
6.    Build on one another’s ideas—and give them credit for it.
7.    Try out new ways of thinking, perceiving, and behaving in a safe environment.
8.    Build up one another.

Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
1.    Think Win/Win
2.    Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
3.    Synergize

Introduction to the Unit

With the upcoming presidential election, the airwaves filled with political campaign ads, and the vice-presidential debate coming to Centre College on October 11, there should be no lack of interest or illustrations for this lesson series on “Christians and the Public Square.”

The Centre Debate website (http://www.centre.edu/centredebate2012/events.html) lists a number of events on a vast array of political subjects during this election season. You might call attention to these events and hear reports from members who attend any of these events. These events might be a way for Christians to be involved in the public square.

The Debate Festival scheduled to begin at noon on October 11, the day of the vice-presidential debate, looks interesting:

Centre College and AARP welcome the public to take part in celebrating the spirit of democracy by joining friends and neighbors for a FREE Debate Festival on the Festival Lawn starting at noon.

Festival attendees can watch the Vice Presidential Debate as it happens via a live televised broadcast on the Festival Lawn and enjoy the following programs and performances:

•    Earthman Lanny Smith's "Please Don't Litter" Concert
•    “You’ve Earned a Say”: A conversation with Debate Festival sponsor AARP
•    Centre’s very own Brass Ensemble
•    Local family favorite The Danville Children’s Choir
•    Popular student/faculty group The Kentucky Ensemble
•    Mercer County’s very own Nashville-based country pop duo Aly’an
•    Kentucky cellist and singer/songwriter Ben Sollee
•    An official Kentucky welcome from Centre College President John Roush
•    A headline performance by Southern rock pioneers The Marshall Tucker Band
…and much, much more! Actual performance times to be announced.

They Kingdom Come Thy Will Be Done
The Lords’ Prayer, we pray each Sunday, “Thy kingdom come thy will be done,” reminds us that our ultimate devotion belongs to God and God’s kingdom. Whatever patriotism we might have, whatever respect we have for America as citizens, is second to our citizenship within God’s kingdom. Each Sunday you might make this suggestion to your class members, whenever they pray the Lord’s Prayer: “As you pray the Lord’s Prayer in worship this morning remember that it is our citizenship in the kingdom of God that unites us as Christians—with Christians in America and in every nation.”