Thursday, January 28, 2016

Let's stop talking about race. Again.

Cam Newton made news yesterday by answering a question.

He was asked why he is so polarizing.  

Translation - why do some people like you and some people don't.  

Uber translation - "Why do some people love the way you dance around in the endzone and why do some people absolutely despise it?"

If you ask 100 people this question you will find sports purists who react disdainfully to endzone antics and those who love some good entertainment (it is sports, people - have some fun).

Better yet - ask the people he is playing against and they probably don't like it in the moment.

This was his answer:

"I've said it since Day 1, I'm an African-American quarterback,"
“I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing that they can compare me to,”  (see full story here)

Oh man.

Are we really going back to this?  Is it really about race?  Because for me it wasn't.  

Well, first off - there have been a lot of standout black quarterbacks we can compare Cam to:

Russell Wilson
Randall Cunningham
Warren Moon
Steve McNair
Donovan McNabb
Kordell Stewart

That is the short list.

Six black quarterbacks have been to the Superbowl.  This is the fourth in a row starting a black quarterback - it is old news.  But it seems like we can never get beyond race because people keep bringing it up.

Please stop.

His coach Ron Rivera said,"“You think in this time, this day and age, it would be more about who he is as an athlete, as a person more than anything else. Hopefully we can get past those things.”

Guess what?  We can't.  Why? Because Cam reminded us that race is the issue.

It isn't.

Saying it is about race is like saying Tebowing is all about being white.  Tebowing made some people upset because it was not a part of their culture - but it had nothing to do with the color of their skin.

And really, when you infer that his endzone dances are somehow a black thing that is what sounds more racist than anything I can think of.  I don't assume because you celebrate in the endzone that you are black.  Dancing when you score a point does not necessarily correlate to being black.  Barry Sanders.  Emmit Smith.  Wilbert Montgomery.  All black - not prone to the endzone dance.  Maybe part of his culture - but not a product of his pigment.  Saying otherwise is patently racist.

Ty and Koy Detmer - both white quarterbacks celebrated touchdowns in the most ridiculously uncoordinated manner ever seen in another human.  I mean it was embarrassing.  

But it wasn't their race - and people were disgusted with them too.

Maybe we can learn something from Morgan Freeman:

When asked how we are going to get rid of racism:

Stop talking about it. I'm going to stop calling you a white man. And I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You're not going to say, "I know this white guy named Mike Wallace." Hear what I'm saying?

Loud and clear.

And yes, I Snopes'd Freeman's comments here.

Read more here:

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

When will we learn about terrorism?

When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. 

(Proverbs 21:15)

On November 13th, 2015 France was once again targeted by terrorists.  

Three separate-but-coordinated attacks left 130 people dead.  Americans overlaid their Facebook avatars with the French tri-colors out of solidarity.  It was the second terror attack in 11 months.  The French were understandably shaken.

And then we got back to our lives.  And Christmas. And the snowstorm.

The French have not moved on.

Today the Justice Minister has resigned because of a law that is being debated about the citizenship of terrorists.  Essentially if you are a dual citizen (French and Jordanian, let's say) and you have been convicted of terrorist activity then you can be stripped of your French citizenship.


Seems so common-sense.  Um, if you hurt people in the name of terrorism then you can't benefit from the country that you hate and want to blow up.

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira disagrees.  She feels that it unfairly targets those holding dual-citizenship.  

Yes - it targets terrorists who hold dual citizenship.  Perhaps it is ok to be unfair to the people that want to kill you.  If someone is kicking his way in my house at night I am going to look for any way possible to stop this person - even unfairly using my baseball bat to realign his skull bones.

I admire Mme Taubira's quest for justice, but justice has to have a common denominator.  You cannot respect Sharia justice and Western justice.  One has to prevail in the end.  It is a lesson we must learn before there is another November 13th.  

A lesson for us as well.

God and common sense align nicely here - one man's justice will often be another man's pain.  We must always fight for grace and redemption of people - the miracle of changed lives as a result of compassion and understanding.  However, this almost always comes about as the result of the consequence for one's actions.

People change when they have been called on their evil - seldom when they are indulging in it.

Monday, January 25, 2016

What will happen over the next several weeks?

Proverbs 18:2

"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion."

I am sure that you are like me in some measure.  Worried about what is about to happen over the next several weeks.

By March we will have begun a process where we are electing our next leader.  Now, obviously God is bigger than American politics, but there is reason to worry as the Bible defines foolishness:

* A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. (Prov 29:11)
A fool's lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. (Prov 18:6)
Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. (Prov 28:26)

Several of the candidates fit these descriptions - and most likely one in particular.

So how do we get ourselves in this mess?  Who picks these people?  What is this mess that we have created?

Scroll through the feeds of any social media over the next few days and see if you don't see a slew of opinions and ideas that worry you - regardless of where you land on the moral or political spectrum.  Thoughts that come from the gut - unreflected and without any regard to the complexity of humanity.  "I'm right and anyone who disagrees is an idiot."   Sad.  I wonder if what we see happening over the next several weeks is a snapshot of who we are.  Our leaders are us.  We get what we deserve.

Which is especially why we need to be praying more and more for our future - as a people.  We have moved beyond the scope of politics - we need to be praying that God delivers us from ourselves.

And what if He doesn't?

What if we get exactly what we have asked for?  God, the perfect gentleman, allows us to have everything we want.

What then?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Boycotting the Oscars this year

There has been a big flap about the Oscars being to "lily-white" - a term coined by Spike Lee.

Apparently there is not one non-white nominee in the Academy Awards this year.  This has sparked many non-white actors, actresses and directors to boycott the Academy Awards.  Will Smith and his wife Jada have joined a chorus of actors calling for others to not attend the ceremony. 
 "This is so deeply not about me," Smith said, "This is about children who are going to sit down to watch this show and they are not going to see themselves represented." (see full article here)
My first thought is, 'kids?'  What kids watch the Academy Awards?  Yes, I am sure some do whose parents are in the business or have great interest in movies, but very few kid wind up watching the Oscars.  It's too late and too boring.

Anyway, this is less about the children and more about the grownups. 

I started to ask some questions - Who nominates the actors and actresses?  Because the way Spike Lee talks about it you would think that ten old white men in tuxedos sit in a mahogany-and-brass room somewhere and determine the nominees.  

Not true.

The process is surprisingly egalitarian.  Over 6000 ballots are sent out from an accounting firm to the fellow actors, actresses, directors and producers in Hollywood.  You get a ballot if you have been a part of three films in the last five years, have been nominated by the board or have been nominated for an oscar (see the full rules here).  That means all the stars that we would know by name are part of the academy.  So it would seem that the real culprits behind the lily-white Oscars this year are the actors and actresses of Hollywood.  

You know, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence - those are the people who voted for these nominees (along with Spike Lee and Will Smith).  Yup - alot of them are white, but if they practiced what they preached there would be a lot more color in that group. 

What gets me is that white actors and actresses are starting to lecture us on racism.  Dustin Hoffman is calling it subliminal racism but he was one of the voting members.

So yes, I would agree that there is a massive oversight of talent from all over the skin-pigment-spectrum  not just black but in every non-white category (if we have to take note of that).  

It seems weird to me that the same actors and actresses that are starting pontificate about racism in America are the same ones who came up with the 'lily-white' list to begin with.  So I am thinking we need less sermonizing about skin color from actors and actresses and maybe more mea culpas.   Less finger pointing and more, "hey, I probably should have thought about all my non-white buddies who are actors and actresses when I voted for this thing." 

So don't think about some croney system of old white men and think of Brad Pitt and George Clooney.

Because really, I didn't get a ballot, chances are you didn't either.

My guess is that we may have had a different result if we did.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Feeling good about not winning the Powerball Lottery

Like some of you, I used a gift I received over Christmas to buy a few Powerball Lottery tickets when the jackpot was 1.3 Billion Dollars.

After taxes - about $900,000,000.00

Insane amounts of money.  Over thirty years' time that is $30,000,000 a year.  Which is $82,000 a day for 30 years (or approximately $3500 a second for thirty years).

And no, you cannot possibly spend $3500 a second.

Basically this is an inconceivable amount of money.  As Forest Gump would say, "They have more money than God."

Which is precisely why I shouldn't win.

You see, life is a very intricate balance of the things that I can control versus cannot control.  My happiness is directly related to how I need to work with other people (as much as I'd like to think it is about getting my way).  Being in relationship is what leads to happiness if we do it right.  Removing myself from needing others (a boss, coworkers, people in my life that tell me the truth) is an attempt to remove myself from humanity.

Sometimes we think that the best life possible would be filled with money - one in which we always get our way.

Nobody wants to help us?  Give them money.

Don't feel like doing something?  Pay someone else to do it.

No one is listening to me?  Pay them to care.

The problem is that the opposite is true.  We are most happy when we are interdependent - not independent.  As much as it is a pain sometimes - working with people in life is much more rewarding than getting what we want every time.  If we always got our way then life is a prostitute - yes, we had a good time, but I made it happen with money.  This is a hollow life.

It is precisely why William Young, author of the Shack gave most of his money away.  When his book became so famous that he was a millionaire many times over, he made the wise choice to give large portions of it away because money changes you.

So don't feel bad that you lost the lottery.  Count yourself lucky that you got up this morning and had something to live for.  And a God to depend on who can make you happy with no strings attached.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

It's worth it in the end . . .

Some of us are skeptics.

Some of us are believers.

Some of us are somewhere in between.  Sidelined.

Maybe someone hurt us that claimed to be close to God.  A prayer was never answered.  Maybe we have recently come to faith through a deep and resonant voice within.  Or maybe we are slowly losing faith over the years of questions piling up and rotting in the corner of our minds. 

Keep going.  Consider the story of Abram.

Early in Genesis we come across a man who grew up in Ur - the city of moon worship.  Abram grew up worshipping Nanna - god of cows and tides and the moon.  Once a year he would have gathered all of the family's dairy goods and walked to Nippur and celebrated the cycle of harvest and sung to Ningal the way we listen to Christmas carols and eat Christmas cookies.  It was not myth to him or polytheism or ridiculous - it was his reality - as cozy as Egg-Nog and Triscuits.  

And then he heard a voice . . .

. . . he hears a voice calling him to leave his family, friends and home.  Walk hundreds of miles to a place that this voice was calling him to.  And he left it all to follow the voice.

That is faith.

The voice - what we now know as God - called him to what we now know as Israel.  From there Abram would become a father of nations.  In fact, God changes his name to mean "Father of many a multitude."

But he had to wait a long time  - he was childless for 25 years until his wife had a child.  

Can you imagine having to explain your name "Father of a multitude" to people when you don't even have a kid?  Try that for 25 years and see if it doesn't wear on you.

That is faith.

Doing it even though there is no reward for it.  Belief for the sake of faithfulness.  Sometimes we have a test of wills with God.  We want reassurance.  He wants faith.  If he wins this battle of wills, you win the battle of soul.  In fact, we can't build faith until we go through the times in which we are faithful for the sake of trusting a God we don't understand.  Imagine 25 years worth of that.

I want that kind of faith but I am scared about the process I have to go through to get it.

So let's keep encouraging each other in the midst of our 25 years . . .

. . . and don't give up faith.  It's worth it in the end.  

Monday, January 11, 2016

Sentimentalizing Ziggy Stardust?

Okay, so someone needs to ask these questions . . .

. . . but because there are so many tributes to one of the ‘elder statemen’ of rock –n-roll, someone should ask the tough questions about David Bowie and his impact on our culture. 

Again – these are questions – not necessarily statements, help me if you can to see things more clearly.

First off: I too mourn the loss of David Bowie – although I was probably more enamored with his more highly produced Nile Rodgers album of work “Let’s Dance.” 

But, just who is it that we are mourning?

I mean, Bowie popped onto the seen (pun intended) in a manner that had most parents worrying about his influence over their children.  Much of his lyrics and persona dealt with drug-filled androgynously sexualized imagery.  Is that something worth celebrating as having influenced our culture?

Yes, I realized this was the 70’s . . .

But ‘glam rock’ – though a very profitable genre – contributed to a decades-long unhealthy outlook of sexuality and intergenerational relationships.  Imagine Madonna with a touch of Marilyn Manson and you have the idea.  Imagine that reaching the heart of your 12 year old in her iPod this year.

Is that the kind of thing that we want to mourn?

Now of course the guy matured and changed and the end does not look like the beginning in David Bowie’s case.  But perhaps we should be talking about his transformation as an artist over the years rather than looking misty eyed back at Ziggy Stardust.

Time has a way of sentimentalizing the past and the things that in the moment were not good for us.

Something to remember in the present as we seek to have lives that are healthy tomorrow. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Taking sin seriously.

Thursday marks the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.  A year ago, nineteen people were shot and killed by Muslim Extremists at the magazine headquarters and a nearby market.  Hebdo was targeted because it featured a cartoon of Mohammed.

Just think of that - a cartoon meant people had to die.

All across Paris there are memorials taking place - plaques dedicated and observances held.  On this first anniversary, a knife-wielding man near police headquarters at 11:30am (same time as last year's attacks) charged police and shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great in Arabic).  He had a note taped to his chest and wires extending from his jacket.  These wires were discovered later to be just for show as the police shot him dead.

Just a reminder that terrorism comes in all forms and sizes.  This guy seems to have been small potatoes but apparently he was ready to die for some sort of cause - and take out other people with him.

An event that reminds us to be vigilant against extremists but also brings us back to guns.

Depending on how you look at it, there are points to be argued from both sides of the debate (and both are great points):

- Not having a gun didn't stop this attempted murder. (Point for the gun people).
- No gun meant no victims in this instance. (Point for the anti-gun people).
- The only thing that stopped him was a gun. (Point for the gun people).

I mean really, I am no gun enthusiast but I would have been very grateful for the French police who shot this guy dead if my children were nearby.  I'm grateful for a gun today but the chances are I will lament the use of a gun in the next two months.

The whole thing is complicated - and we trivialize the issue when we post things or approach the issue with ridiculously one-sided and narrow-minded solutions to the problem of violence in our society.  The issue is not the 2nd amendment or gun control laws.

The issue is sin.

No, not sin like "Tha Lawd sees y'all as sinnuhs!"  Preachers that make a big deal about your sin and then quietly conceal their own.  Sin is more than something that doesn't line up with a prescribed or inspired list of do's and don't's.

Sin is simple - it is living in a way that is disconnected from our creator.

I sin when I insist on my way.  I sin when I ignore the one who created me.  I sin when I feel superior and I sin when I let other people walk all over me.  Sin is not a religious word - it is an indicator light - like when I am driving and the Check Engine light comes on.  I can ignore it or I can have someone check it out.  Yeah, it is going to cost something but it is important to get it checked out or I am going to break down at some point.

As a culture we are broken but I am not sure we have realized it yet.  The gun issue and Muslim extremists are not about more restrictive laws or carpet bombing ISIS.  They are symptomatic of a deeper problem of sin.  They are flashing check engine lights that have been ignored too long.  I realize it is not a popular word, but we have tried everything else - maybe it is time take sin seriously and start living again in rhythm with God.