Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Me Too?

October 16, 2017

Facebook’s latest protest meme is for women to post Me Too in a status update if they have been the victim of sexual harassment of some kind in the past.  The idea is solidarity with the women who were abused by Harvey Weinstein.   The intent of the Facebook thingy is to show that the headlines are only the tip of the iceberg, that it wasn’t just a few up-and-coming or hopeful starlets who have been bullied, harassed, abused, or worse.  Women of all walks of life have had moments of harassment that unite them in a common outrage.

I don’t have a problem with something that draws attention to a dangerous and sinful problem that human beings of all cultures and backgrounds have to deal with.  I have no doubt that there are many women who have been mistreated by men, manipulated mentally, emotionally, or physically simply for the gratification of another person.  This is a terrible and awful reality.

The problem I have with it is that in the effort to create unity, there is precious little talk about what actually defines harassment or manipulation.  We’re being indoctrinated to believe that it is possible to speak and act in ways that are completely inoffensive to all people at all times, yet the net result of this indoctrination seems only to be showing how completely and utterly untrue and impossible this is.  Someone is always offended, even if the person accused wasn’t trying to be offensive or was completely ignorant about the peculiar cauldron of experiences and issues that would lead someone to be offended in that moment.

Is asking a woman out an example of a man harassing or intimidating a woman, if she feels harassed or intimidated?  Obviously there are some behaviors and statements that most of us could and would agree upon as patently offensive or blatant examples of intimidation.  But the grey area seems inordinately large.  We can attempt to understand one another better in an effort to communicate more clearly and effectively and mitigate or reduce the number of unintended offenses.  We can be more diligent about protecting those who speak out against those who abuse their power to coerce or intimidate or harass others.  But there are limits to all of these things, and we’re also aiming at a moving target.  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim, but it should make us cautious about the self-righteousness of our attempts.

Particularly it should make us cautious of applying definitions and standards we have created today to characterize situations and behaviors and individuals in the past.  Trying people in our past by standards only acceptable and recognized today is potentially unfair, recasting the past in a light that it may not have naturally experienced.  Jokes and innuendos about casting couches have been around pretty much as long as films have been.  Calling out Weinstein and others for their abuses in the past isn’t unfair because there was an understanding in the past that those behaviors were inappropriate.

Is the supervisor at a workplace 30 years ago to be thought of as a sexual predator for asking out a young woman?  Maybe.  Was he intentionally using his position as a means of pressuring her to accept?  Was there the explicit idea that refusal would jeopardize her job?  Foul play.   But not every supervisor who asks out someone in a lower power position is a sexual predator, and we ought to be careful about recognizing this.  Making someone uncomfortable accidentally shouldn’t implicate that person as predatory or bullying.

Hopefully we can all learn together how to be better co-creations of God the Father, seeing one another as someone that God the Son has died and risen from the dead for, and that God the Holy Spirit is actively trying to work within.  We can help one another towards that end by articulating what is and isn’t appropriate.  So go ahead and post Me Too if that’s appropriate.  I pray that there can be some healing and forgiveness in that honesty.  But I also encourage people to try and ensure their feelings and reactions to something aren’t coloring the event, turning it into something it might not have been.



The Kids Are…Well, Predictable?

October 12, 2017

I don’t hide the fact that I am not a fan of all the cultural navel-gazing we do these days.  Builders, Boomers, X-ers, Millenials.  I know there are more than these now, but I just don’t care.  We keep psycho-socially dividing ourselves up more and more, when in reality we are more alike than we think.

For those who enjoy bashing Millenials, here’s an interesting little article that shows we had pretty much the same complaints about their predecessors.  Maybe if we spent less time talking about each other and more time talking to each other, we might discover more of our similarities!

More Mixing

October 11, 2017

It’s not just Sears  mixing up girls and boys, treating them as essentially the same thing for the sake of convenience, ideology and profit.  Today the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that girls will be fully integrated into the organization.  As Matt Walsh put it (on Facebook, so I can’t link you to it), this removes from the BSA “any remaining reason for their own existence.”  Ironically, this move was criticized by Girls Scouts USA (GSUSA) which interprets the move as an attempt to lure girls away from GSUSA and bolster a declining BSA membership.  Integration is good unless it hurts your membership numbers.  I look forward to feminists criticizing GSUSA for their response, but I’m not holding my breath for it.

At least the GSUSA understand that there are benefits to having all boys or all girls organizations, and that the existence of such organizations is not a de facto affront in any way to members of the opposite sex/gender.  But in our bizarro-world culture, such obvious truths are now given very little airplay, let alone respect.  Boys and girls, men and women in the same locker rooms and restrooms?  Sure thing!  No problem!  The common sense respect offered by single gender places and organizations has been decimated by a miniscule (comparatively) group of people bent on an agenda of deconstructing our society from the inside out.

I assume it won’t be long until BSA renames itself.  After all I can’t imagine that, once admitted, girls are going to care for being labeled as boys.  I hope that boys and men would have the courage and honesty to admit that the name is no longer accurate.  And if we continue down (and it is a downwards movement) this road of confusing sexes and genders, particularly denigrating men and masculinity, any such male-oriented label is going to be seen as a detriment rather than an asset.  Self-preservation of the BSA entity (brand), rather than the ideas upon which the BSA was founded, is ultimately a betrayal and rejection of those ideals that serves and benefits nobody.


October 10, 2017

I don’t like to shop for clothes.  I told my wife before we married that I would gladly help wash dishes or do the laundry or clean windows, but I would not go with her while she shopped for clothes.  I’m too cheap and impatient to even enjoy shopping for myself.  I can still remember taking my Mom with me many years ago on an annual shopping trip.  I think she was in shock from the speed of it all.  My distant memories of going shopping with her as a small child to the mall are of endless hours spent wondering if we were ever going to go home.  On that particular shopping trip with my Mom, I got all the clothes I needed for two years in less than two hours.

But even a cheapskate recognizes that shoes are a necessity and when they are all worn through the soles, it’s time to go shopping.  Since my FAVORITE shoe store of the past decade was gone the last time I stopped by the outlet malls, I had to resort to a new shoe store.  I went to Sears.

Let me just say that not only have the door handles to Sears not changed in at least 50 years, it smells exactly the same as I remember it decades ago.  The only slight difference being that this Sears doesn’t have a candy stand selling chocolate covered peanuts.  That’s definitely a change for the worse!

But it’s not the only change.

I volunteered to do some shopping for our youngest son, who had no interest in going to help pick out his own clothes.  I located the boys clothing area and started looking (in the discount racks, of course).  I was surprised as I shuffled through hangers full of shorts to find a girls skirt tucked in there.  I chalked it up to some hooligan’s work.  But I noticed other girls clothing items mixed into the rack.  All the racks.  Then I noticed the signs – indicating that these were boys and girls clothes.

I have enough trouble shopping as it is.  Now I have to differentiate which items are boys and which are girls?  Or is the assumption that boys and girls clothing is interchangeable?  I suspect that it’s the latter.  Rather than risk offending some customer upset that the skirts are in a segregated girls clothing section while the shorts and t-shirts are segregated in the boys clothing section, this Sears decided to just combine them.  Not completely, mind you.  There was still an area that seemed more girl-oriented and an area that seemed more boy-oriented.  But there were also places where the two were mixed together.

Sears isn’t as unchanged as it seems.  Maybe, like much of our culture and even we as individuals, it has and is changing a great deal, reluctantly or eagerly, to accommodate new notions of gender identity and how to raise children.  I suspect that’s a more difficult and complicated and ultimately unfortunate change than getting rid of the chocolate covered peanuts.

Safe Space?

October 6, 2017

This morning I attended the mandatory initial training for folks hoping to get a program for the next ten weeks on the local state university public access AM radio station.  Not surprisingly, I was the oldest person there, which is kind of weird after nearly 15 years away from active campus ministry!

I was struck by a poster stuck in the window of the station office, declaring that this office and radio station was a safe space.  That really struck with me.

We hear a lot about safe spaces these days, whether you side with the concept or ridicule it to the secondary issue which is that we have always as human beings sought safe spaces.  But for a long, long time, those safe spaces were connected in one way or the other with the spiritual and religious.  The hunchback crying Sanctuary! in Victor Hugo’s famous novel is but one beautiful example of countless others spanning thousands of years.  God himself designated sanctuary cities for his people in the Old Testament.  Rather than being places of exception to the law, they were places where those accused of major crimes might flee in the hope of being announced innocent by the law and spared the retributive justice otherwise in force.   Even science fiction has availed itself of this concept.  In the questionable cult-classic movie Highlander and the myriad offshoots and sequels, the age-old process of might makes right is hindered only on sacred ground.  Only in a church could an immortal be safe from the predations of other immortals intent on becoming the only one left.

Is a church a safe space?  It isn’t to those who reject God and his mercy, who either embrace only his Law as a means for justification, or reject his Law in rebellion against him.  To the unrepentant the Church is not a safe space because there they will be confronted with their sin and their need for a Savior.  They will not be coddled or swaddled in false affirmations for the sake of niceness.  The Word of God is never safe to those who think they satisfy the demands of God’s Word or to those who reject or ignore repentance.

But the Church is the ultimate and only safe space for those who recognize their shortcomings, who are willing to deal as honestly as possible with the reality that they are broken and ugly inside, and that no matter how hard they try, they can never become the person that even their own moral standards – let alone God’s! – say they should be.  For the broken, the penitent, the hopeless, the Church is the only safe space this side of eternity.  Here they will hear about the love of God manifest in history and geography and culture in the incarnate Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.  Here they will hear about how the innocent sacrifice of the God-Man makes forgiveness and grace available to them here and now.  Here they will hear that there is no sin that cannot be forgiven, cannot be washed clean if they are repentant and receive the death and resurrection of Jesus as their own.  Only in the Church is the means and assurance of salvation objective and changeless.  Only in the Church will God’s Word stand consistent and clear, not shifting with the tides of culture and preference.  Only the Church can announce and deliver the only true safety in this world – safety in the love and forgiveness and the hope and life promised to us in the Word of God and made palpable in his Sacraments.

Can a radio station be a safe space?  I can applaud the goal.  But I don’t think it can.  This particular station prides itself on being alternative.  But the very definition of alternative shifts and changes over time.  Sign on to a major record label after sweating blood in small venues for years?  Sorry, you’re no longer alternative enough (the station’s definition, not mine).  I can only imagine the number of groups over the past few decades that started out sufficient alternative and anti-establishment, but with the passage of time have been judged outdated or even mainstream.

We’ve already seen in other arenas how those that start out as part of a unified front can be cast off for not being alternative enough.  It’s all well and good to support women’s rights, for instance, but if you happen to also support Trump, you might no longer be welcomed, as Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama both stated in the past few weeks.   What is considered alternative or edgy or counter-cultural is prone to shift as culture itself shifts and changes.  Someone who might be championed today might be left in the dust tomorrow if it’s discovered that they somehow disagreed with others in the alternative realm about something or other.  Like any clique, loyalty and membership can be fickle, and the line between being edgy enough and too edgy can be difficult to discern.

The safety that the radio station office can offer is pretty limited.  Walk out the doors and you’re once again confronted by a big, bad world that doesn’t necessarily care about your feelings or your ideas or your aspirations.  It doesn’t care that you’re hip and edgy and cool, and will be happy to squash you or not.  The variables are myriad and uncontrollable.  You might be safe in the confines of the radio station office, but that safety disappears at the doorway, and even the safety offered within is transitory and solely at the discretion of the university administration or other Powers-That-Be.

The safety the Church offers doesn’t end at the door.  It’s not dependent on being surrounded by other people who think and act the same way you do.  It doesn’t require everyone else to set aside their perspectives in order for yours to be heard and respected.  The safety offered by the Church is the only real safety to be had in this world.  Nestled in the arms of the God who created us and loves us and is committed to making us holy and perfect.  A safety that isn’t dependent on being successful on the world’s terms or raging successfully (or unsuccessfully) against the machine.  A safety that acknowledges the inherent danger in every moment of our lives, from the unpredictable and uncontrollable world around us to the hatred of our immortal enemy, Satan.

It’s a safety not couched in the acceptance of the world but rather a looking forward to a world that is yet to be but is already starting to break into reality here and now by the grace of God.  A safety that is based not in ourselves but rather in the promises of the God who made us and died for us and works towards our perfection here and now and in eternity.

A radio station can be a lot of things to a lot of people.  But there can only ever be one truly safe space in this world, the space that the Son of God created through his disciples, and against which He promised the gates of hell would never prevail.  I’ll keep broadcasting that message as long as I can, whether I get a slot in the university radio station line-up or not.





Challenging Vocations

September 27, 2017

As a ‘bonus’ for now being a vice-president, I got to hang around for an extra morning of meetings today!  Truth be told, I would probably have had to stay anyways, but still.  It’s a painful sort of gratitude, if you ask me.

Our District President was welcoming and providing some training to the Circuit Visitors (which was another of my titles – along with Grand Poobah – until very recently).  These pastors serve as the most local representation of the larger District and ultimately the District President, and are his go-to guys for helping out with situations good and bad that happen throughout the District.

He shared that currently there are 19 congregations in our District that are in the process of Calling a pastor.  Normally that number is higher but there were a lot of Calls and installations that occurred over the summer so the number is momentarily lower.  There are also another 40+ congregations who can’t afford to Call a full-time pastor.  He discussed how, due to the very high cost of living in coastal Southern and Central California, it is increasingly difficult to find pastors able to come here because they’re afraid they aren’t going to be able to afford to live here.  While our District provides guidelines to congregations to assist them in paying their pastors a living wage, some estimate that at least half of the congregations in the District are paying below the District recommendations, either out of necessity or ignorance.  He then commented that his word to guys considering Calls to this area is to advise them that they need to expect that their wives will have to work outside of the home to generate additional income so their family can survive.

And that reality sticks in my craw.

Culturally, of course, the idea of women working outside the home has been championed not as a choice that a woman might avail herself of based on her interests and abilities, but rather a necessary demonstration of the equality of women.  Because feminism quickly jumped the rails ideologically, it defines equality between men and women as women doing everything that men do.  This assumption is remarkably misogynistic, ironically – that what a man does should be the basis for generating respect and therefore is the definition of equality.  Rather than demanding equality for women as women – in whatever vocational direction they prefer to go – feminism insists that only by working outside the home does a woman have any real worth, and that opting to work at home as a mother and spouse is demeaning and a betrayal of women everywhere.

How is the Church to respond to this redefinition of equality?  Rather than being created equal, we are only equal in terms of what we do.  I don’t have an issue with a woman or a wife working outside the home.  I don’t view them as inferior to men in their productive capacities in the workplace at all.  Nor do I espouse the mentality of men who assume or assert that a woman’s place must be in the home.  But I do have an issue with an ideological assumption in our culture that women will or even must work outside the home – whether for ideological reasons or economic reasons.  And I worry about a Church culture that goes along with this because it’s economically advantageous.

I’m blessed to serve a congregation that pays me enough to live on so that my wife can work in the home – raising our children, educating our children, and being a partner par excellence.   I say regularly that she has the harder job of the two of us, and I’m mostly serious.  And just like a man working by the sweat of his brow in a field or an office, the burden of responsibility she bears in her work takes its toll on her.  Only an idiot presumes that a wife not working outside the home isn’t working.   And only an equally ignorant person would assume that just because there isn’t a paycheck made out in her name every two weeks that the work she provides is worth any less than her husband earning a paycheck.  My paycheck is also hers.  Only by working together can we earn it.  We support one another.  This is our equality, that we support one another in complementary and different ways – not that we do exactly the same sorts of things.

This is the Biblical understanding of the relationship between men and women, a relationship that was damaged significantly in the Fall (Genesis 3), but is being restored in Christ, to the point where Paul can cryptically share that marriage is actually a representation of the relationship between Christ and his Church (Ephesians 5:32).  It is an equality that celebrates our differences and complementary natures that express themselves physiologically, psychologically, theologically, and in all sorts of other -allies that I’m too lazy to list.

So for the Church to say to a husband and wife we want you, but we want to force you both to work outside the home rather than honoring and supporting the roles that you have found work well for you and your family is dangerous to me.  We lament the demise of the family but are unwilling because of fear of cultural backlash to look at how the redefinition of family and gender roles has contributed to this.  We marvel that our kids and grandkids aren’t in church, yet we entrust their intellectual and social formation primarily to an institution that is now actively working against encouraging or even just respecting a life lived in faith.  We presume that the constant mantra of buy, buy, buy must be answered with dual incomes.

Again, this is not a diatribe against women working outside the home!  But it is intended as an alarm to a church that demands this.   The work of the Church should not come at the expense of the family.  The family is the original and first Church, and the Church would do well to remember this and promote and support the family in every possible way, rather than seeking to put the family in service to the Church.  I would far rather, if I had a congregation of young parents, that instead of spending all their time at congregational functions and events they would spend time together at home intentionally as a couple and a family.  That they would take on the major responsibility for raising their children in the faith and nurturing faith in one another.  The Church should stand ready to assist in this, but it is a dangerous turn when the Church ends up putting programs ahead of the relationships those programs should serve.

I will be having conversations with our District leadership in my new capacity to explore and discuss this issue further.  There isn’t much to be done about it officially since our congregations are self-governing.  But we certainly can and should, I believe, adopt an attitude that challenges congregations who make these sorts of assumptions and place these sorts of expectations on the families they wish to serve them.  Sacrifices for the Gospel shouldn’t surprise us.  But it ought to surprise and dismay us when the Church is the one demanding the sacrifice.


Community Growths

September 11, 2017

Last night we had a home-schooling mom and her son join us for Happy Hour.  We’ve had one other home-school connection join us months ago, and both times the people joining us weren’t people of faith.  Considering that the vast majority of the other attendees are recent grads from the local Christian liberal arts college, we’re never sure what the topics of conversation will be.  We’re learning, however, not to let that worry us too much.  I attended a Christmas party a few years back that a colleague of mine threw, and I was amazed at the diversity of folks there, from motorcyclists to college professors.  My colleague enjoys that sort of social and intellectual free-for-all, and I’ve tried to adopt a similar attitude.  It isn’t always easy though, probably because (unlike my colleague!) I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to forecast the results in order to ensure that everyone else has a good time.  I need to try and stop doing that.

My wife and I are discovering that as people get to know us (mainly her and our children), they’re curious.  They have no idea what a pastor is or does.  They have no idea how and why we open our homes to people regularly, whether it’s hosting international students or hosting happy hours.  They have a lot of questions and curiosities, particularly as they go through difficult times in their lives.

We also had three third-culture-kids (TCKs) last night, including my wife.  This is an emerging field of study in psychology related to kids born or raised substantially in a culture that is not their parents’ culture of birth, and who are taken out of this other culture at some point when their parents return to their culture of birth.  The parents are going home in this sense, but their kids are not.  The kids have to learn to figure out who they are because they aren’t part of the culture they were born in, even though they feel like they are.  And they aren’t part of their parents’ culture because crucial formative years were spent outside of that culture.  It can leave them feeling a bit lost as to who they are and how to fit in.  I was able to have some fascinating conversation with one of the guys who is a TCK, and of course I’m interested in this topic more and more because my wife is also a TCK and I’m beginning (slowly) to understand how deeply this defines her.

It’s fascinating to watch this time evolve!

Law and Order

September 7, 2017

I was 17 quite a few years ago.  It was a different world then, to speak without too much exaggeration.  Whether it was a simpler time or not, it was simply another time.

At the age of 17 and being somewhat of a social outcast it was decided one cool evening to take our squirt guns to the airport for a game of squirt gun tag.  The very writing of those words elicits fears of bloodbaths these days, but it was many years ago.  Most of my friends were running around with large neon plastic squirt guns.  But my buddy Mike and I, we were different.  We were better.  Who wants to run around with a child’s squirt gun when we could opt for higher quality, very realistic squirt guns?  Not us, that’s for sure.  So we took our $5 squirt guns – in the days before those orange tips they put on all squirt guns or air guns or other non-lethal, gun-like objects – that looked like very real semi-automatic handguns and headed for the airport.  Being the 80’s, we naturally were wearing our jeans jackets.

We wandered the airport for some time, successfully avoiding our friends but at the same time getting rather bored with our prowess.  Towards the end of the evening Mike found a way up to the second level of Sky Harbor Airport.  From there we surveyed the concourse below, which wasn’t too terribly busy at 9:00 PM at night.  Realizing even in those halcyon days that running around with a realistic looking squirt gun might get us into a bit of trouble, I had dutifully kept mine in the inside chest pocket of my genuine Levi’s jeans jacket.  I had to repeatedly remind my buddy to keep his out of sight, and he routinely ignored me.

So it was that as we stood looking down on the assembly below, Mike had out his squirt gun.  And so it was that we were seen by two active duty police officers walking underneath.  I will always remember the moment that they glanced up at us, and the one guy slapped his buddy in the chest with the back of his hand, and they both started running.  Fortunately for me, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize they were running for us.  Being young and dumb, we decided to make a getaway.  Mike ran to the elevators but I yelled for him to follow me to the stairwell.  The police were obviously going to be coming up the elevators.

We ran up a couple of flights of stairs, emerging into a clear Phoenix night on the top of a four-story parking garage.  There were no police in sight.  Recognizing that my car was parked a long way away, on the top of an adjoining parking garage, we ducked around a small service shed, panting and panicked.  We waited for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only a minute or two.  Still no sign of police.  Maybe we had lost them.  We decided to make a run for it.

We probably only got 20 yards or so when I heard the first *ding* of an elevator, and knew that a police officer was about to emerge behind us.  Sure enough we were assaulted with shouts of “Freeze, police!” or some such language.  Because it was the 80’s and police were not the enemy in our lives, we stopped.  We were ordered to lie down on our faces on the pavement.  Mike tossed his gun to the side of him.  The officer was slowly advancing on us, gun drawn and pointed at us.

His partner emerged a minute or two later, gun also drawn and pointed at us as the first officer reached us.  He kneeled on Mike’s back as he patted him down, gun still drawn.  He kicked Mike’s gun further out of reach, and at this point I decided I would be helpful.  I said something to the effect of “Officer, my gun is in my pocket,” and started to reach towards my jacket to get it for him.

This was not a good idea.

He swung around and pointed his gun at my head, perhaps a foot away.  He let fly a stream of obscenities and made it clear in no uncertain terms that I should make no further movements if I wished to keep my head attached to my body.  His partner arrived to hold Mike down in place while the first officer quickly located my gun and tossed it aside.  I presume that at this point they realized they were dealing with two morons rather than hardened criminals.  We were allowed to stand as they kicked the guns around and laughed between themselves about it.  They ran our IDs and realized we were just dumb kids.  They made us promise we would never, ever come to the airport ever again.   And they let us go.

It was shortly before Pope John Paul II paid a visit to Phoenix, and security was extra high.  They told us, perhaps more to scare us than anything, that had we failed to stop, or had we turned to face him instead of stopping with our backs to him, he would have “blown us off the top of the parking garage.”  I saw no reason to doubt him.  I was just relieved to be allowed to leave without being arrested.

I’d like to say that I was wise beyond my years and could calmly evaluate things in the heat of the moment.  I wasn’t.  I’m still not.  I was lucky, at best.  As lucky as an idiot who takes a gun replica to an international airport could be.  Or, more accurately, as lucky as someone who takes a dorky friend who can’t keep his gun out of sight can be.  Regardless, my instinct in that moment of adrenaline was to do what I was told.

Some will say that’s a sign of weakness.  It might have saved my life.  If the worst had happened, I would have been arrested and my parents would have had to deal with me – which was far more terrifying than dealing with the police.  Did the police manhandle us?  Not overly.  Not given the situation, and the fact that they might have been a little worked up as well.  They were pursuing two possibly armed young men.  Who might have others around them for backup.  I don’t blame the police for being careful or riled up.

So I’ve watched with a fascinated curiosity as two events dominate the news over the past week.  First the nurse in Utah who was handcuffed for refusing to allow a police officer to draw blood from an unconscious patient.  I watched the video and she freaked out, screaming and protesting and struggling.  I empathize with her shock and surprise.  The police officer clearly seems to be acting improperly.  But her reaction strikes me also as improper and excessive.  She’s told him what the law is.  He’s insisting on doing what he wants.  Something is going to get sorted out at some point, for certain, but in the meantime, resisting arrest even if you’re convinced you have the legal grounds to do so is terribly unwise.  She could have been hurt.  Someone else could have been hurt.  The whole thing was being filmed and had multiple witnesses.  It would have been – and was – sorted out pretty quickly.  She’s been trained to handle stressful situations, and I find it surprising that she reacted the way she did.

The second incident is football player Michael Bennett complaining about the treatment he received from Las Vegas police.  He claims the police singled him out for detainment, that they were rough with him and pointed a gun at him in the process.  The closest I can make out is that he was part of a group of people running from what was believed to be gunshots when the police arrived on the scene.  Some reports indicate that he acted in a way that led police to believe that he might be involved in the shooting or at least have something to hide.

Michael Bennett is black, and he views his treatment as a racist act worth possibly suing over.  Michael Bennett is also massive.  6’4″ and closing in on 300 pounds.  He’s a defensive end for Seattle and an impressively sized human being.  How many other people surrounding Bennett were 6’4″ and 274 pounds or more?  Probably not very many.  If police were trying to contain a situation where they didn’t know what was going on, there could be worse courses of action than making sure that this very large man was not going to pose them any problems.  I’ve not heard whether there were any white team-mates or other athletes of similar stature near Bennett at the time, and if they were treated any differently or better if they were.  There doesn’t appear to be indication that Bennett resisted in any way, which is wise, given the situation.  He claims he was singled out for this treatment, but what does that mean?

In both cases, the worst thing that could have happened was that these people would be arrested and taken to jail.  Absolute worst case, they would have stayed there a few hours until somebody found out what had happened and came to bail them out or get the charges dropped.   Absolute, worst case ever, they would have had their day in court to explain why their treatment was improper.  Resisting arrest or running from officers for whatever reason is not the smart course of action and could have resulted in much worse consequences.

Are there bad police officers out there?  Undoubtedly.  There are bad pastors out there.  Bad organic farmers.  Bad yoga instructors.  People are the issue, not the vocation.  The vocation, however, does increase the possibility of things going wrong in a very, very bad way.  Which is even greater reason to make sure that rather than fight the police officer, you do what you’re told.  The fact that you’re innocent means nothing in the moment.  The police don’t know that.  Their job is to try and ascertain the situation and make sure that people are safe.  All people.  Including themselves.  Innocence will get sorted out in due time, but you don’t help yourself by fighting against it like the nurse did.

And rather than assume it’s simply your skin color rather than your size that is the issue, remember that the police might have been just as frightened and wary as Bennett was.  If a man that big found it reasonable to run from a potential threat, imagine how cautious the police are going to be.  While there are bad police officers out there, there are also many, many, many good ones.  And those good ones get ambushed and killed just as well as the bad ones.

This is America, not some third world country.  Overwhelmingly I believe – based on the preponderance of evidence – that police are here to protect and serve and we should work with them towards those ends.  Things are not perfect here but in general I believe that people of all races and ethnicities that cooperate with the police are going to find their treatment far better than those who resist, regardless of how firmly they believe they are in the right.  People make mistakes – including police.  Staying calm goes a long way towards working things out on both sides of the badge.  Do what you’re told, even if you don’t think it’s fair.  There’s a lot riding on your actions and responses, just as there’s a lot riding on the actions and responses of the police.  Surely cooperating toward the mutual goal of resolving a situation peacefully and accurately is the most important thing?

Vocationally Challenged

September 6, 2017

Talking with your kids and grandkids about what they want to be when they grow up is a cherished, necessary and important task of family.  These days, however, make sure that you’re providing them with some good perspective on what vocations are going to be challenging for them in the future.   The cultural landscape is shifting rapidly, and if you hope that your family member will remain firmly rooted in Christ, yet still be able to avail themselves of the career options that were once so open in our country, I have bad news for you.  At the very least, it’s sobering news that needs practical application.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein today criticized a nominee for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals because of her Catholic faith, something which Senator Feinstein basically stated was a stumbling block for conflicting with the ideologies of others.

Senator Feinstein criticized and questioned Amy Coney Barrett because of religious writings and lectures she produced as a Law Professor at Notre Dame.  Feinstein specifically questioned and challenged Barrett’s actual adherence to and defense of Roman Catholic theology that Feinstein correctly assesses to be at direct odds with the prevailing spirit of the day.

“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.” (And let’s ignore that large numbers of people have fought against some of these big issues.)

In other words, any dogma that challenges the status quo dogma is dangerous.  And to protect against any such outside dogmas, we’re going to pretend that dogma is not permissible to a judge.  Unless of course the dogma is in complete agreement with the spirit of the day.  So if you are against abortion on theological grounds, you shouldn’t be a judge because judges are supposed to support abortion because it’s been legal for almost 50 years.  Since we can’t legally – yet – prevent someone who disagrees with abortion from being a judge, we’re going to pretend that anyone with a strongly held belief is ipso ex facto inacceptable as a nominee.  Unless, of course, they happen to agree with abortion, in which case we’re totally fine with that because it’s not really a dogma.

So if your little darling wants to go into law, and hopes to one day be a judge, and may aspire to be an important judge, they may have to decide whether they would rather be an important judge or an actual follower of Jesus Christ.  Because if they’re going to practice what is preached to them, they might not be allowed to progress up the vocational ladder of judge-ness.

Isolated and unique situation, you say?

  • What about pharmacists?
  • What about if you believe that sexuality and gender confusion can be clarified and resolved through therapy?
  • What if you want to be a teacher?
  • How about a doctor?  Are you going to prescribe your patient enough medication so they can kill themselves if they choose to?  Doctor-“assisted”-suicide is legal in several states today.

The reality is that in more and more fields, being a committed Christian is being defined as a career liability.  And parents and grandparents and other key people need to be aware of this to help young people make sense of the rapidly shifting career landscape.  Especially before you take out $100,000 of student loan debt to achieve your goal, only to find you aren’t employable.





Mixing Up the Mixers

September 4, 2017

Last night was a wonderful happy hour.  One of my concerns about the community that has been forming on Sunday nights at our house is that it is almost completely made up of graduates from the local private Christian university.  Thus a lot of those stories and experiences form a major portion of the conversations that go on.  It’s more of a historically oriented discussion about who people were and what people did, which makes it difficult for my wife and I and others to join in.

But last night the mix was more even, with almost half the folks not coming from that school.  These weren’t regulars but folks that are part of our church community about half the time.  Plus one of the folks there last night is new to our area and worshiped with us for the first time that morning.  I invited he and his wife and he showed up.  It was cool to see him comfortable mingling, so much so that he stayed over four hours, until things started wrapping up!

The Epistle lesson for yesterday was the final sections of Romans 12.  Verse 13 includes an exhortation to show hospitality.  I never know how hard to emphasize this.  Obviously, our family is tuned in to this particular spiritual gifting and find it both beautiful and important.  It’s also exhausting – particularly after a week filled with people.  But it’s part of who we are.  But as a culture we seem more isolated, more fearful of people we don’t know well.  Less inclined to open our homes to someone that we don’t know.

I don’t know how hard to push people on this.  There are many types of giftings, after all, and certainly hospitality is not one that everyone will share.  But it’s also one that rarely if ever gets talked about in our larger culture or even within Christian community and church.  It seems like something we ought to be examining more closely since it’s not part of our larger cultural practice.  Welcoming the stranger and showing love to people is intimidating but also so rewarding.  Every week we’re reminded of how important this simple thing is – being available, being willing to welcome people into our home to show them love with food and drink.

How many people out there have this gift and are using it?  And should we be talking about it more?  Not in the sense of pressuring others to do likewise, but in terms of reminding the body of the value of this seemingly simple act?