Rights v Right makes wrong

Having the right to do something does not necessarily make doing it the right thing to do.

Case in point: Jacyln Pfieffer was allegedly fired from her position as a teacher at Aloma Methodist Early Childhood Learning Center. Further, she was allegedly fired because it was learned that she was living in a lesbian relationship.

The discussions about this that I’ve seen, and been part of, on social media, tend to end up with people on either of two sides of this polarity

  1. The ECLC was within its rights as a religious organization to fire someone engaged in conduct they believe to be immoral; and
  2. Ms. Pfieffer was a victim of discrimination.

I am not taking sides on that polarity.

Knowing a little about Church-State matters, I expect the ECLC, related to its host Church, may well be perfectly within their rights to have fired her.

Even if they were within their rights as a religious organization, though, I think they blew it. They failed.  They did not represent Jesus well.

This is stronger language than I usually use on this blog, but this is serious business.

Whatever your position on sexuality and orientation and same-sex marriage, if you are a Christian, I assume you would agree that we (Christians) represent Christ, and therefore God.

I think you would also have to agree with this: whether we approve of someone else’s behavior/orientation/lifestyle/fill-in-your-preferred-term-here,we are commanded to love them. All of them; friends, enemies, strangers, etc.

Christians do not get to choose whom to love and whom not to.

But we do, according to the law, receive some leeway according to our religion, in choosing whom to employ and whom not to.

I believe that choice is far better made before hiring than after.

So, even if you fully support Aloma Methodist ECLC’s decision, you must agree that they would have represented Christ better had they been open upfront and refused to hire Ms. Pfeiffer in the first place than to fire her.

I don’t know where the law places the burden of proof. Should Ms. Pfieffer have self-identified as lesbian in the hiring process?

How self-disclosing are you when you apply for a job?

No; from my perspective – and it would be very, very hard to sway me on this – it is on the church-affiliated organization to be very, very clear during the hiring process what their moral expectations of employees are.

If Aloma Methodist ECLC presents itself as representing the God we know in and through Jesus, they owe it to the world around them, the culture in which they serve, to love the other. If this means anything, it at least means treating them with respect.

Simply put: I’m pretty sure that if Jesus wouldn’t allow a lesbian to work for him, he wouldn’t have hired her in the first place.

Go, thou, and do likewise.

Rights v Right makes wrong

How could anyone…?!

How could you…?

How could anyone…?

One of my earliest recollections of this was early in my first year of college hearing someone say, “How could anyone grow up sane if they have to move a bunch of times as a child?”

This friend had grown up (all her life) in the same small town.  12 of the 16 in her high school graduating class, if I remember correctly, she had also started kindergarten with.

My response, a military brat who had moved at least ever 4 years, had wondered the opposite.

I have wondered the same thing: “how could anyone _____?”

I bet you have, too.

But this is another of those times that, if we are honest, we must recognize we don’t know the full story of the other person.

Just like no one else knows your full story.

At our best, we remember that we don’t know the other person’s story.  Then, still at our best, we acknowledge there may be good reason for whatever it is about them or their behavior we cannot imagine.

And if not a good reason, at least a reason we had not thought of.

Please don’t feel the need to hone your skills to learn every possible reason someone might do something differently or be something different from you.

Just let them be who they are.  Learn more (than you already know) about who they are.  Listen to their story.

You might still not understand them or what they do, but by the time you’ve listened to their story, you’ll likely be too tired to judge them.

How could anyone…?!

Too much excess?

I like to think I am a “make your point and move on” kind of guy.  I tire of repetition. Especially when I feel like it is repetition for repetition’s sake.

But this one thing bears repeating.

During this season of Lent, we are looking at excess and what to do about it.  We believe that we live in a culture of excess – voices around us, and in us, tell us we should want more, we should have more, we need more.
Jesus, on the other hand, calls us in the opposite direction.  Jesus recognized that stuff – money, food, clothing, power, media, friends, etc., cannot satisfy.  Only God and a relationship with God can satisfy the deep longing of our souls.
Yet, as much as we talk about excess and our mutiny against it, we are not being judgmental.  Let me repeat that: we are NOT judging you or your excess or other people in their excess.
We are not even judging ourselves in our own excess.
Our intent, during this season of Lent, is to open ourselves to God’s presence and God’s leading. Judging can be off-putting and conversation-ending.  We want to start the conversation or continue it.  We want to admit to ourselves and one another that excess challenges us and that following Jesus means getting all excess out of the way.
If all of it is too much for you right now, feel free to start with a little.
Too much excess?

Which Jesus are we talking about?

jesusThe other day I was involved in a thread discussion in a United Methodist Clergy group. The subject of that discussion is irrelevant for my present purposes. If you really feel the need to know, ask me.

In this discussion, a friend – no, an acquaintance – no, a colleague – maybe – a fellow UM clergyperson wrote this: “If you do not follow the rules, then you have lost all integrity.”

Whoa, I thought. I am, apparently, and have always been, low on integrity.

This won’t surprise those of you who know me, but I push at rules.  Over the years I have come to respect the need for rules, and the benefits.

I still have within me, though, a desire, an urge, to push against the rules, the norms, the status quo.

Which is one of the reasons I read as someone who, according to my colleague, has lost an integrity.

In my reading of the Gospels, Jesus is almost constantly breaking rules. When I was younger and more of a mind to break rules just because they were rules, I read Jesus this way, too.

And it is possible to read the gospels this way.

I have grown up. I know longer believe that all rules were made to be broken.  I understand the benefit, even the need, of rules and standards.

As a matter of fact, I now tend to read Jesus as having this same kind of attitude toward rules.

I will probably always tend to read Jesus favorably to the way I understand and work in the world.

If Jesus matters to you, I expect you do this, too.

You may suggest that we ought to interpret our own lives in terms of Jesus rather than the other way around.  I would agree that this is an admirable goal. In fact, it may be a good way of identifying true disciples.

But I am pretty sure that before we proclaim too loudly that we are more like Jesus than someone else is, we do well to investigate which Jesus we are comparing ourselves to. More often than not, I fear, we will find that we will find ourselves looking down on others by comparing them to the Jesus that we have made look an awful lot like the ideal version of ourselves.

Which Jesus are we talking about?

Meaning missing

Easter is less than three weeks away.  Let the advertising onslaught begin!

risen ChristIt seems to me like way too many of these Easter ads emphasize the wrong image, and thus miss the meaning of Easter.

And if you think I’m referring to bunnies and eggs, think again.

I refer, friends, to the cross.

The cross is not the central image or focus of Easter.

Do an image search for Easter and you’ll get a bunch of bunnies and eggs in pastels, but you’ll also get a lot of crosses.

I am not anti-cross!  I am deeply appreciative the cross and all that it represents.

Valuable – no, essential – as the cross is to Easter, the cross isn’t the main point of Easter.

Easter is the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection!  Easter tells us that death – even death on a cross – is defeated by what God has done in and through Jesus.

So, enjoy your bunnies and eggs.  Ponder and reflect on the cross and all it says and means.

But please, this Easter, remember, and celebrate, the resurrection of Jesus!

Meaning missing

How close is too close?

As with most Mondays, I follow Rachel to work in the mornings.  She drives the kids to preschool, then we go to work.  Sometimes We leave home at about the same time, sometimes I follow by a few minutes.  Today, I was right behind her all the way.

toocloseThe first time we reached a stoplight, I pulled up very close behind her.  Closer than I would normally do in traffic.

Closer than I am comfortable when I look in my rearview mirror and see someone else.

This was not exactly like normal traffic, though.  I was driving behind a person I know and who knows me. Once the light changed, I gave her appropriate lead time, and followed at a safe distance.

After I had pulled that close, though, I became a  little uncomfortable with what I had done.  I wondered how analogous driving patterns are for personal relationships.

You know: people have very different senses of personal space!  I remember particularly a professor I worked with at one point in my academic life.  He was, what we called, a space invader.

For normal conversation, he would stand within a foot of me.  Though I never felt threatened or endangered in any way, standing this close to a professional acquaintance was uncomfortable for me.

Thankfully, I was a good 6 inches taller than he, so could find space by looking up a little.

In addition to these, I’ve come to notice many different ways we live in space relationship with others.

Just yesterday, in fact, a variant:  I entered the sanctuary well before the next worship service and proceeded to greet the few people who were already there.  As I approached one, he asked if he could talk to me briefly.  I said yes, and as he stood he said, relatively quietly, that this was confidential.

I leaned in a little and nodded to indicate my understanding.

Then, with a raised voice (to normal conversation level, but clearly loud enough for others to hear), he proceeded to tell me what he had to say.

I thought about asking if he was familiar with the word “confidential,” but choose not to.

What he meant, I think, was that he was telling me this “for my own good,” and not for me to tell others.

I had moved close enough to listen, only to find out I really hadn’t needed to get closer at all.

How sensitive are you to the space around you, and the distances you maintain from others?

How close is too close?