After our opening prayer, we began with a discussion about what "discourse" means ("off course?" "against the course?"), both intelligent guesses for an unfamiliar word. No...just conversation or discussion (though "debate" could be used as well). And then a few minutes to explain "civil discourse." My lesson plan for the middle schoolers during Bible Time at LOGOS was scrapped in favor of letting them talk about the previous day's presidential election. But we needed to set some ground rules first.
I reminded them of the one rule of LOGOS:
Treat everyone as a child of God and not as if others don't matter
And then we reviewed the covenant that we had established together on the first night (listen when others are talking, be polite...). Next, the floor was opened for them to share their feelings about the election. Let me just say, I was proud of these youth. Their parents and other teachers and adults in their lives should be proud too. Though their opinions were all over the political spectrum, they were respectful, polite, gracious, and only needed to be reminded about civil discourse a couple of times (and only a gentle reminder...nothing like Anderson Cooper and others dealt with at the debates). I'd rather listen to these youth talk than read my Facebook feed any day.
It's obvious they're listening and part of conversations at home (and elsewhere) because they were well informed. Some had strong opinions and others were just as tired as the adults with the whole thing. No "echo chamber" in that class. There was a great diversity in opinion and yet they were respectful to each other and good listeners.
It helped to have Jesus in the room. Flat Jesus. He's our class's talking signal--only the person holding Jesus is allowed to talk. And when you're done, you pass Jesus to someone else who wants to talk. That necessitated a few more reminders. "Where is Jesus right now?" "Do you need Jesus so you can share?" "Jesus is with David right now so it's his turn to talk." It brought some levity to the serious discussion.
There were about 15 of us and we sat in a circle. I half-expected the conversation to die down after about 20 minutes and then I'd use my prepared lesson but they were still going strong when the bell rang to signal their change to Worship Arts. The lesson on Good News will have to wait a week.
I knew they'd have something to say (middle schoolers always have something to say) but I expected it to be about fear or anger or hope or questions about "what will be different?" But no, they knew the issues and they could defend their points of view fairly well. I inserted a few "but why?" or "how do you feel about that?" questions and sometimes they just didn't know. But mostly they did.
I wanted them to have a safe space for the conversation with others who think differently and practice treating all others as children of God. LOGOS is not just an environment for learning the Christian faith but for practicing it too. We closed with an explanation on what "peaceful transfer of power" means and how blessed we are to live in a country where that happens. And then we prayed.