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Vote for your hypocrite not against the other hypocrite.

Today is election day.  Or is it Election Day?

Facebook just told me that more than 3 million people on Facebook have voted or plan to vote today.

Facebook also told me that someone is a hypocrite.

I know: right?  Newsflash!  There’s a hypocrite among us!

It so happens that I didn’t like that particular accusation showing up on my newsfeed because I happen to respect the person who was therein proclaimed a hypocrite.

Is that person a hypocrite?  It is very likely that he is.

All of us are.  Well, perhaps not quite all of us.  But there are a lot more hypocrites than non-hypocrites.

So I posted on facebook, in response, “Let the one who is without hypocrisy cast the first condemnation.”

But that wasn’t enough.  No, my mind was far from finished with that!

Perhaps it is because almost a decade ago I placed an ad in the local paper of the town where I then served as Pastor. The ad looked something like this:hypocrites banner

Members of my church were split.  Some were offended.

I changed the ad the next week back to some generic “we are a church” info.

But I stood by my point, and do so today, on election day, in church or on the street or at City Hall.

We are ALL hypocrites.

Then I began to think about the value of pointing out someone else’s hypocrisy.  If we are all hypocrites, and we are, then the primary value of pointing out, calling attention to someone else’s hypocrisy is to keep people from noticing your own.

Projection is what the professionals call it.

And most of us are really, really good at projection.

So, if you haven’t voted yet, please consider this when you vote today, or next year, or whenever: vote FOR the hypocrite you approve of rather than against the hypocrite you don’t like.

In fact, maybe we would all be better off dealing with our own hypocrisy and using other criteria for political choices.

Important final note: to those of you who will comment to tell me that the hypocrisy of the person you can’t stand rises far above the hypocrisy of the person you voted for: project on.  It’s gotten you this far.

Giving God more than ‘token’ attention

The Point of Hospitality

I was in a Starbucks the other morning – I haunt this particular Starbucks when I have a car in the shop.  It’s a decent little walk, good coffee, and a place where I can get some work done while I wait.

Friday, I did something I almost never do.  I asked them to leave room for cream.

As I set my cup on the counter and reached for the half-and-half, I knocked over my coffee, spilling all but about half an ounce.  I got a good bit on myself, a little on the next customer over, and a lot on the floor.

I wanted to clean up my mess.

They wouldn’t let me.

The employee was incredibly polite and gracious about it.  They even refilled my coffee at no extra charge.

But I didn’t want them to serve me by cleaning up the mess I made.

Should I have felt well taken care of because they insisted on cleaning up my spill?

I wonder these things because we, the church, ought to be hospitable.  I want to learn from others about what hospitality looks like and incorporate such practices into our own.

But I wonder if what some who are acculturated in church intend as hospitality can feel smothering or even self-righteous to those who are not acculturated in church.

We seek to be hospitable in ways that are received as hospitable, not in ways that a list of duties tells us is hospitable.

Self-Censoring

Listening to the radio this morning on my way to work, I heard the story of Kenny G’s brief foray into political endorsement. He tweeted a picture of himself with some of the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

I knew the political leaders of China wouldn’t like this.  I had no idea Kenny G. was so popular in mainland China.  Realizing he’d put a lucrative lifestyle in jeopardy, Mr. G. soon deleted his tweet.

Yesterday I wrote about 2 of the 3 reasons I’ve been blogging less.  Kenny G’s relationship with China reminded me of the third reason.

In June of 2012, I was appointed Senior Pastor of Euless First United Methodist Church. I blogged fairly freely while at the Methodist Children’s Home.  Few, very few of the people, staff or students, there, read my blog.  I was, therefore, free to write about whatever struck me, without having to filter.

Euless would not be so.  Not only was I likely to have more readers among my congregation, I wanted to write such that they would want to read.  I understood my congregation as part of the audience for the blog, where before I perceived them as two separate, mostly distinct audiences.

I speak differently to my congregation than I do in other settings.

You might say that, like Kenny G., I am aware of the source of my support.

Let me be clear:  I don’t change my opinions or positions on matter based on my perception of my congregation’s opinions or positions.

I still believe I am right.  Most of the time. I still believe that especially in terms of things theological, I want to influence people to agree with me, to come to see things as I see them.

Since I believe I am right, of course I believe people would, as a whole, be better agreeing than disagreeing with me.

At the same time, I have become more aware of the huge variety of ways influence can be exercised, leveraged, used.  Sometimes it is wasted.  It is always less effective at the heart level when influence is forced.

Most of the influence I seek to have I would like to make a difference at the heart level.

So, I self-censor.  I speak differently with some people than with others.

A church member told me of a conversation he had had with another church member a couple of months before I arrived.  The other person (who is no longer a member here), had found an internet reference calling me “progressive.”  I was told that he said in response to that revelation that I would be “starting with 1 strike against me.”

So I blog more carefully – more thoughtfully – than I used to.  I do so because I still think you are better off agreeing with me than disagreeing, but I realize some of you will likely quit reading what I write, or listening to what I have to say, if I write and speak less thoughtfully.

I self-censor.  I bet you do, too.

 

2 of the 3 Reasons I haven’t been blogging much lately

As opposed to nostalgia as I am (here and here.  Better yet, check out The Way We Never Were.), can I admit to you that I kind of miss the days when I would post something more regularly?

Once upon a time, I posted here 3-5 times a week.  That’s been almost my monthly average for the last couple of years.

Why, you might ask, have I dropped the volume?   Here are the main reasons:

1. Two Kids. I’ve got two kids under five.  I want to spend as much quality time with them as possible.  Work wasn’t likely to yield time, so the blogging has.  In my mind, blogging is a comfortable mix of work and pleasure.  A lot of the things I’ve blogged about have proven good sermon fodder.  Many have otherwise informed, shaped, inspired my ministry.

When I first started blogging, it was at an invitation by my brother Richard to share a blog.  For several months, I posted only after he reminded me we were sharing a blog.  Eventually, I would post every week or two.  As I had been writing a weekly column for the local paper for a few years already, this seemed like a natural transition.

Finally, in 2006 or 07, I determined to blog as a spiritual discipline.  I  would comment on current events sometimes, but mostly I would share something, or some combination of things that were stirring within me.  The practice was good for me.

Getting married in 2007 didn’t harm that.  Having one child in 2010 didn’t phase that rhythm for long. Having a second child in 2012 really brought change – more in routine than in focus.

2. I changed jobs.  In 2012 I left the Methodist Children’s Home, where I had served as Chaplain for 5 1/2 years, and was appointed Senior Pastor at Euless First United Methodist Church.  While it would be wrong to say this is more work, for me, at least, it has been very different, and in many ways, more taxing.

I’ve felt it important to pour even more of myself into sermon preparation and worship planning.  Thus, much of the energy that once flowed into and through my blog was now channeled in a different direction.

The blogs serve me well for several years.  Thought I’m not quite ready to give up totally in the practice, the creativity and spark I once found here I now find in other places, through other media,

Tomorrow, the third and decidedly most powerful reason for my recent decline in blogging, and what I intend to do about it.

Good news and bad news

Book Review: The Mainliner’s Survival Guide

Hi.  My name is Steve, and I’m a Mainliner.

Through all my years as a Fundamentalist, then an Conservative Evangelical, then some variation of Emergent, I have been a member of The United Methodist Church, a mainline denomination.

I believe this is where God has called me.

Plenty have tried to convince me otherwise.  I’ve sat face to face with some of the leaders of the Emergent movement and heard them explain, with rather convincing rhetoric, why getting out (of the mainline) would be a good thing.

Yet here I stand.  I can do no other.Penwell book

Perhaps, then, you can imagine how appreciative I was to find Derek Penwell’s The Mainliner’s Survival Guide to the Post-Denominational World.  Here was a book written from inside a mainline denomination, yet, ostensibly, with the recognition that the glory days of American Denominationalism are clearly gone and not returning.

Let me be clear:  I wasn’t hopefully expecting Penwell to make it sound ok.  The last thing I wanted was some platitudes encouraging me into hospice care as the denomination and its version of Christianity continue to linger.

Reading Diana Butler Bass’s Christianity for the Rest of Us brought me such great joy when I read it almost a decade ago that I bought a dozen or so copies and offered them free to any clergy friends who would agree to read the book.

I would consider doing the same with this book from Derek Penwell.

The book opens with what I find to be a stellar comparison of our times with post-Revolutionary War American.  I found this comparison helpful and Penwell’s historical work insightful to the point of making me wonder why I hadn’t read this elsewhere.

Penwell does an excellent job, I feel, of stirring up the conversations that must happen.  Mainline denominational folk know that something is wrong, but this book offers to help us identify and make corrections without simply trying to keep up with whatever the ecclesiology-of-the-month might be.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

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