Call for CivilityFebruary 20, 2006
Here is an article detailing the response of Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family to conservative Christian critics who attacked him for supporting legislation in Colorado that would grant some legal rights to homosexual couples: Dr. Dobson Calls for Civility in Disagreements. Regardless how one feels about the Colorado legislation, the article makes some good points about the need to know how to appropriately critique others.
One article harshly attacking Dobson was published on a website of conservative activist Alan Keyes. It was later removed and Keyes apologized to Dobson. He wrote:
"Whatever the merits of the arguments Mr. Longman intended to present ... the piece was extremely disrespectful to Dr. Dobson personally, and characterized by ad hominem sarcasm that was un-Christian and deeply offensive. ... We have not, and may not, always agree on every issue, but we agree in our love of God and our respect for one another. Mr. Longman’s piece utterly disregarded this community of mutual faith and respect, and this I repudiate and unequivocally condemn."
After detailing the conflict, the article about Dobson's response ends with comments from Joey Cope, executive director of the Center for Conflict Resolution at Abilene Christian University. He stated:
"Rather than take the time to deal with the (real issues) in a conflict and unwrap what's really going on ... we often, instead, turn to personal attack and we dismiss the person out of hand—(when we should) take the time to understand the other person and build a relationship with them. ... When we treat each other with nasty comments and vitriolic attacks, we are not showing God to the world. It is only through showing God's face to the world that we can introduce them to the message of reconciliation—which is the whole message of the Gospel."
Amen! We will not always agree but we must find better ways to express our disagreement. It is sad see Christians treat their brothers and sisters with contempt, anger, and hate. Cope is right on point when he explains that this sends a negative message to the world and hurts our witness. As it has often been said, "we must learn to disagree without being disagreeable."