Monday, August 14, 2017

Changing the culture of racism

When I think of what happened last week in Virginia, I think of a phrase:

Ignorance grows best in isolation.

Another way of saying it is we lose our way when left alone.  Isolation forces ideas to inbreed and often the result is destructive and dangerous ideologies.  

Our culture reinforces this kind of isolation.  We cut off communication with people that think differently.   One of the reasons racism flourishes because we have created isolated ideological ghettos for people that we disagree with. 

To be clear:
Racism is a sickness.  

Racism is a sin.  

It is a sin that every Christian should denounce and condemn and never practice.  

But . . .
But as Christians, it is our responsibility to engage those that think differently - not write them off.  We don't de-friend those we disagree with, we seek to win them over.  One of the reasons that we have a culture of misguided and dangerous groups of people is because we have a de-friend option.  Evicting someone from your life because they disagree with you only allows their ignorance to grow because now your voice is gone from their life.  It may be the only voice of reason left . . .

An example:
Ted Kaczynski was a child prodigy who went to Harvard at sixteen to study math.  After graduating from the University of Michigan with his PhD he went on to teach at The University of California at Berkeley.  His promising early career came to an end when his resigned and moved to Lincoln, Montana as a recluse and nursed a grudge against technology. 

This grudge led to the darkness of hate as he eventually killed three people and injured twenty-three others sending explosive devices through the mail.

How different would our history have been if there was someone in his life?  What would have changed if someone noticed when he left his job?  Would there be a different ending to this story if the people in his life never allowed him to wander into isolation?

In response:
In response to last week, it sounds right to say that racist people don't belong here.  It sounds like we are accomplishing something by saying, "if you are racist you can just de-friend me right now!"

But racism does exist in this country . . . and racist people exist in this country.  The last place we want to send them is a rally of people who think like they do.  Because just like ignorance grows in isolation, evil is found in the gathering of many ignorants.  

So please - don't cut the lines of communication with those who ignore the fact that every human is made in the image of God.  Cutting them off makes their evil stronger.  Now more than ever, we need to see how important it is to influence the world for Christ's sake.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Maybe it is time to speak up

What in the world are we going to do for the next three and a half years?

Seriously, how do I make sense of any of this?

I have some Christian friends who are so happy we have a President Trump.  This confuses me.  I try not to think about it because then my brain hurts.  Convictions we used to share about integrity and leadership have been turned upside down.

Think about it.  We have a sitting president whose instincts cause him to respond to political enemies by issuing venom-laced personal attacks on Twitter.  Not only is that horrible leadership, that is horrible life advice.  This is the kind of talk you have with give a sixth-grader.

So we just smile and talk about the weather.

The bulk of my Christian friends that are embarrassed by it all and don't know what to think because the alternative seemed worse.  The firmness in that opinion erodes with each new embarrassing episode of really bad leadership.  Twice now on the eve of voting the health care bill was scrapped because there is no communication and leadership.  It's bad.

So we just smile and talk about sports.

I can rest in the fact that I voted for that Evan someone.  It is a small consolation.

But really, at some point someone needs to say something.  This Trump thing is really bad.  Just the other day he shows up at a Scout rally and with the opening line reveals his ignorance of his audience and his narcissism.  This is supposed to be a speech where you talk about values.  Morals.  What one ought to do as a leader.

This is the Scout Pledge:
On my honor, I will do my best 
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; 
To help other people at all times; 
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

Based on this pledge alone, Trump wouldn't make it as a Scout.

Like you, I have been quiet about this because it is a political thing and no one wants to get into political things.  I am sensing more and more, though, that this is not a political thing - it is a spiritual thing.  Talking about the dearth of morality from the White House is not political - it is prophetic.

Basically, we need righteous leadership - and speaking up about it is being loyal to our first commitment to Jesus.

Forget the politics and who you voted for or what the alternatives are - perhaps it is time to just say that what we are seeing by way of leadership in this country is morally bankrupt.  This is not a political opinion.  It is a spiritual opinion.  Attacking your enemies is not leadership.  Boasting about your election results to 50,000 teenage boys is not leadership.  Firing the people you work with because they won't do what you want is not leadership.  Getting nothing done legislatively because there is no vision or communication is not leadership.

And it is okay to say that . . . because I am looking to Jesus as an example of what a leader should do.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Is it really a blessing to have everything we want?

A few months ago I was walking through New York City with some 20-somethings and they saw a Nintendo Store so we had to go inside.  *eye roll*

They scattered throughout the store chasing Japanese-sounding nonsense names of things I have no knowledge of.  So I grabbed a seat by the door and just people-watched.

I saw a young lady (about 20 years old) with green hair tied in pigtails waiting for some friends.  She was dressed in a costume of some sort and carried a purple backpack.  She looked a bit . . . medicated perhaps?  I don't know.  She definitely looked like she wasn't sure where she was (or who she was, or if she was even there at all).  Disturbing.  When her two friends came over (similarly dressed like digital characters), all three of them slowly made their way to the door in the strangest manner I have seen a group of young ladies move.

And I am not sure they were all ladies, but that is beside the point.

As I looked through the store I saw more young adults that seemed to have everything they would want or need but just look so . . . lost.  I wondered to myself if this is what previous generations had in mind when they thought of prosperity, security and peace.

Fast forward: one month later I stood on Omaha Beach in France.

The largest invasion in history happened on this and a handful of other beaches in Normandy.  Tens of thousands of young men were gunned down in their pursuit of the beach and the defeat of Nazism.  Back home, hundreds of thousands of young men and women joined a war effort that helped us out-produce the world in ships and tanks and jeeps and aircraft.  All of them heroes.  All of them in their early 20's.

As I stood in the water of that beach, I wondered if we could do it again.

In a few weeks, the movie Dunkirk will come out.  I am really excited to see it but I am also nervous that I will see a very different time and culture.  I worry that we live in a time that is so focused on the self that we couldn't rise to the miracle of a Dunkirk or a Normandy.  I worry that we are so prosperous that we don't know what it means to sacrifice for the greater good.  I worry that we might be really good at Pokemon but not so good at defeating real evil.

I worry because we have a president that tweets out insults and the rest of us destroy each other because we have different ideas on religion, politics and life.  Ultra liberals are so smug and ultra conservatives are so obnoxious.  The rest of us are somewhere in between the great divide.  It wasn't always like that.  It used to be that we could disagree and still be friends.  Now we draw lines.  We have the greatest tools of connection at our fingertips and we have never been more fractured.

I worry because our entertainment nightly involves watching people shoot each other.  Then we wonder why people are shooting each other in our cities.  I worry because we have songs that glorify drug abuse and using each other and we wonder why our lives are so empty and our young people don't know what to live for.

We were best when our backs were against a wall.  Is it really a blessing to have everything we want?  Or is the blessing to have our character revealed when we have lost everything we had?

I don't want to lose anything . . . but I don't want to continue limping along here in Babylon - where we have everything we want and all the misery that comes with it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Before you get all indignant about Russian involvement . . .

So everyone is talking about how we finally have proof that Russia hacked our elections because of Trump Jr's emails.

Quick disclaimer:  I voted for the guy from Utah whose name I still can't remember - so this is not about politics and all about perspective . . .  

Ladies and gentlemen - foreign nations have been influencing the outcome of elections for hundreds of years.  

Illegal?  Yes.  
Does anyone care?  No.

For example:
In 2014 Obama intervened in Afghani elections when his guy Dr. Abdullah didn't win.  Instead of accepting the result, the Obama administration created the unconstitutional "Office Of the Chief Executive Officer." Both candidates Abdullah and Ghani were livid.  Big brother stepped in and forced their guy to win.

In 2009 Bush oversaw the (ahem) hotly contested election of Hamid Karzai.

In the 90's the Clinton administration was guilty of 'influencing' the election outcomes of Haiti and Honduras.  A claim that they don't deny.

The 1980's - Reagan - 'nuff said.

In the 70's Nixon worked with Vietnam to influence his own narrow victory over Hubert Humphrey (yes, this was while we were at war - unbelievable.)
Illegal and Unscrupulous.

In the 1960's The Kennedy administration brutally murdered Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba in an acid attack because they thought he was a Soviet sympathizer.

Guatemala in 1954.  Iran in 1953.  Winston Churchill colluded with FDR in 1940 to control information to influence his reelection.  Throughout the cold war, Russia mailed fake letters from KKK, started rumors discrediting MLK and began a campaign in the 80's that claimed AIDS was a virus created by the US government to subjugate its citizens.
Just plain weird.

In 2015 Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress that was broadcast to the public about how bad the Iranian Nuclear Deal was.  Talk about foreign influence.  
Honestly - no one even noticed.

So now we are supposed to care that a foreign country showed us the illegal activity of one of our candidates?  Voting booths weren't hacked.  Elections were not tampered with.  It was the release of emails.  

How can we be appalled when it has been our modus operandi for so long?
What's good for the goose . . . n'est-ce pas?

You can access more information on this and other 'collusions' - here and here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

These are the days . . .

These are the last days of June . . .

You should read that with the image of drinking the last few sips of lemonade.

June is soon gone . . .

Seriously, if you are not drinking deeply from the summer you are missing out in life.  You need to repent.

Because these are the days:

These are the days you pined for as you sat under a blanket and it sleeted outside.

These are the days that you ached for as you drove home from work in the pitch dark . . . as you woke up in the morning before the heat kicked on and you felt your way through the dark house for the thermostat.

Summer - days of t-shirts and flip-flops.  S'mores in the firepit out back.  Days at the pool.  Weeks at the beach.  Early morning fishing.  Afternoons in hammocks.  Ice Cream at sunset.

These are the days to forget what the date is.

These are the days to have friends over.

These are the days to throw a frisbee and take walks in the early evening.

These are the days to laugh at SNL as you give your wife a backrub and a fan blows relief through an open window.

Time is short.

Lightning bugs will soon disappear.

Summer has crested.  Even as we speak we are racing back to the shortest day of the year.

Don't miss this day to drink deeply from everything and everyone you love.

Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

                                 -Psalm 90:12

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Run, Hide, Tell? How about fight?

Terrorism is not going away anytime soon.

First off, let's not kid ourselves . . . it's not terror, it's war.  

Terrorism follows the pattern of frightening the public with a repeated list of demands.  It is meant to wear down a public through fear and eventually get them to the point of capitulation to an organization's goals.

So what are the jihadist's goals?

Yesterday a man in France used a hammer on a policeman in France saying, 
"this is for Syria."

Yesterday was about Syria.  Last week it was about God being great.  The Manchester bombing was believed to have been planned on the anniversary of the death of Lee Rigby.  There are no unifying aims coordinated to pursue a single goal of the Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians, Saudis, Hezbollah, Al Aqsa, ISIS or just those that hate Israel.  The purposes for these violent outbreaks are all over the map.

That is not terrorism - that's war.  These are battles.  Radicalized Islam is at war with the Western World or the Western World is in the crossfire of Jihad in the most bizarre way - it doesn't involve holding land or claiming countries.  It wages war by never going away.  

It is never going away.  We can't run from it.

Which brings me to the "Run, Hide, Tell" policy of the London police.  An adaptation of the American, "run, hide, fight" protocol of an active shooter, the police are advising the public to have a response ready when terrorists strike.  Instead of freezing up, they want people to run or hide (or do both) and then let the police know what is going on.

The plan saved many lives in the latest waves of attacks in England because people actually had a plan.  No one played the hero - they got out of the way for the police to do their job.  

I don't disagree with the basic idea - but there is something that just doesn't sit right with me.

If we are in a war, maybe this is the time to be a hero.

If they are never going away, then why are we running?  Maybe we should aim to stop the attack the second it starts - with as many bodies as possible smothering the attacker.

I think of almost 75 years ago yesterday how tens of thousands of our young stepped onto a beach and ran into gunfire because we were at war with evil.  2500 men died that day, but tens of thousands lived on to defeat Hitler.  We changed the world by stepping into danger.

Those were soldiers, not civilians, I get it.  

But if this is a war and they are bringing it to our cities and civilians, then maybe we shouldn't be running and hiding.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

When your biceps aren't big enough . . .

Ok, so I'll ask the question . . .

"Have we become way too sensitive about everything?"

And it really is a question.  I am open to hearing from everyone on this.  I just wonder if we are becoming way too sensitive when someone makes a comment about our bodies that it becomes 'body shaming.'

Here's the situation:

Olympic Gold Medalist Aly Raisman sent out a series of tweets about her experience at the airport.  Going through security, a TSA agent recognized her as a gymnast.  In response,  a male TSA agent remarked that it couldn't be her because her arms didn't look big enough.  

Her full Tweet:

“I work very hard to be healthy and fit,” she tweeted. “The fact that a man thinks he [can] judge my arms pisses me off. I am so sick of this judgmental generation. If you are a man who can’t compliment a girl’s [arm muscles] you are sexist. Get over yourself. Are you kidding me? It’s 2017. When will this change?

Back up.  This is sexism?  According to Raisman, if I can't compliment a woman on her arms I am sexist?  If the comment came from a woman would it still be sexist?  Perhaps the TSA agent was making an assumption about gymnasts, not females.  Again, I could be completely wrong about this, but making a remark about whether you look strong enough to be a gymnast sounds ignorant and weird . . . but sexist?

Rule number one for a TSA agent should probably be: "Don't make remarks about other people's bodies."  I think that this guy should probably have some kind of re-training.  Especially if the guy has creepy stares - I would think you would get rid of someone for creeping people out that just want to get through security.

But to make this about sexism makes me wonder if there is something else at work here.

In my own life, I have seen this first hand.  I am a thin person and sometimes women will say something like, "yeah, but you're so skinny."


Ladies - heads up - skinny is not a compliment for a guy.  Maybe it is for women, but no guy wants to be known as skinny.  Like, ever.  Same goes for beanpole, scrawny, gaunt and bony.   I have heard all of these words in my life but never once equated it with sexism.  In fact, I figured it had more to do with their own waistlines than mine.  

So having experience in this area, I don't think I am blind to it.  To equate this with sexism because some guy thought that gymnasts have bigger biceps seems like we have wandered way too far into ultra-sensitivity.  Aly - you had a conversation with a creepy guy who lacks social grace - to apply this to an entire generation and say that you were judged seems like overkill.

But maybe I am wrong.  I am willing to be taught.  What say you?