What we can (must?) learn from the Bloods and Crips.

On this day, April 28, in 1992, the Bloods and the Crips, rival gangs in Los Angeles, declared a truce.

This was the day before the riots started in response to the not guilty verdict in the trial of police accused of beating Rodney King.

This is not written about what is happening now in Baltimore, or these days around the country. This post is not about police violence or the violence in communities that leads to police violence.

This post is about peace. Or at least truce.  The Bloods and the Crips can lay down their arms, their hatred, their distrust, their contradictory narratives of who is a fault or who is right and who is wrong.

They could stop fighting each other. They could, and did, stop killing each other.

It makes me wonder. Ooh, it makes me wonder.

Can Tea Partiers and Progressives stop fighting each other?

Can Republicans and Democrats stop fighting each other?

Can Sunni and Shia stop fighting each other?

Can evangelical Christians and progressive Christians stop fighting each other?

Can opposing factions in The United Methodist Church stop fighting each other?

Let’s see if we can learn this simple lesson from history: that on April 28, 1992, the Bloods and the Crips stopped fighting.

What we can (must?) learn from the Bloods and Crips.

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

Jesus Loves Everyone Except Greg Hardy

Just when you thought it was safe to watch professional football again, Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys sign Greg Hardy to a 1 year contract.

We couldn’t be more excited.

We couldn’t be more outraged.

If my facebook newsfeed is any indication, everyone loves @DaleHansen‘s commentary on this incident. “Is there no line you won’t cross? Is there any crime you won’t accept? Is there no behavior you will not tolerate?”

Great questions, Dale.  As we approach Easter, here’s my answer:

All of Greg Hardy’s behaviors are included in Jesus’ willingness to give up his life to reconcile humanity with God.  While we’re at it, all of your behaviors, and mine too, fit in that list.

Should Greg Hardy be punished for his behaviors?  Should you? Should I?  We have a criminal justice system to weigh those questions and mete out answers.

Perhaps if we are so opposed to violence, we can find other things to do with our time and money than support the NFL.

Or at least we can admit that we look elsewhere for moral exemplars.

I absolutely believe that professional athletes (like TV sports commentators) do well to consider they are role models whether they like it or not.

As a parent, and especially as a pastor, I am also a role model. Whether I like it or not.

One of the roles I must model is that of forgiveness.  I have no business talking about a savior who offers not only forgiveness but transformation if I don’t model the same.

A long time ago, someone wisely wrote “Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2)

BTW, Greg, if you read this, I apologize for the title.  To be clear, I fully believe Jesus loves you.  I apologize for the way we are treating you.

Jesus Loves Everyone Except Greg Hardy

Racial This, Ethnic That…

The first step is admitting you have a problem. Or, in this case, the first step is admitting you have an identity.

A racial identity.

An ethnic identity.

Once more I received notice from something/somewhere United Methodist offering “racial/ethnic scholarship”

Does this mean that anyone who has a racial or ethnic identification, but only those who have such identification can apply?

Of course not!  It clearly means that emphasis is being made to attract and include people of racial and ethnic minority groups to participate.

Am I opposed to that?  As Pete the Cat would say, “Oh, heavens no!”

Rather, I think that recognizing the condition of racial ethnic minorities as such is not enough.

I think that we ought all recognize our own racial and ethnic identities.

Using “racial/ethnic” as shorthand for “racial/ethnic minorities” maintains the fiction that some of us have no identity except as individuals.  It’s just all those other people – the hyphenateds – who have some specific identity.

That some people have an identity as individuals and others don’t is fiction.

All of us have a story.  More importantly, every one of us has a story and is part of a larger story.

If or when some of us pretend we all have the same story we deny the reality of another person’s story.

If or when some of us pretend that we have no story at all, that we are each just absolute individuals in the moment, we deny social reality and the fact that we live in time.

There is no subset of humanity that can be defined as “racial/ethnic.” We all are.

And I am quite confident we will be better off once we admit it.

Racial This, Ethnic That…

Do you really want what you want?

snowroofAfter a few fleeting moments of playing in the snow this morning, the kids were inside, warm, and dry. And ready to watch something.

Hello, Netflix!

Eliza wanted to watch Annie.

Liam wanted to watch Mater’s Tale Tales. Then Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

It turns out it was Liam’s turn to choose, so two things happened:

1) we started Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and
2) Eliza the a small fit.

It was a very small fit: actually fairly worthy of the moment, and quickly left behind.
Within minutes – no more than 10 – both of them were enjoying the movie.

This is how it often goes with our kids.  Loudly (and proudly?) claim your preference.  Get louder if someone else claims an alternative preference.

Stand your ground

Raise the stakes

Refuse to listen, negotiate, or compromise.

Throw a fit if you don’t get your way.

I realized yesterday that we don’t necessarily unlearn this pattern as we grow up.

We don’t always want what we want. Sometimes we just don’t want to let someone else have a say.

It’s hard to listen when you are shouting, “My way or the highway!”

While this is worth considering for anyone, I particularly hope my church, the United Methodist Church #UMC, will give it thought.

We’ve not been listening so well to each other lately.  On some things, we have dug in for decades and refused to actually listen.

We want what we want. Or do we?

Do you really want what you want?

Free Speech Isn’t

I’m probably the 3 billionth blogger to chime in on the maddening murders in Paris yesterday. Last I remember hearing there were a dozen dead and the killing was centered on but not limited to the offices of a satirical magazine that dates back to 1969.

Though I am not marching or protesting, I am, like so many others deeply saddened at this horrible news.

I may be less inclined than average to toss in with the Free Speech Folks.

That’s what Charlie Hebdo was is all about, right? Each report I’ve heard about it, anyway, seems to be defending the satirical magazine with claims like, “But they made fun of everyone!”

Then I heard this: “One ought to be able to make fun of oneself, and of one’s opponents.”  And of course, “Within civilized society there must be room for satire, for free speech, for poking fun.”

All of these make very good arguments for those of us on the inside; for those of us, in other words, already convinced we are a part of this thing we call civilization and who think this is a good thing.

But what about those outside what we consider to be “civilized society”?  How many of us expect that simply referring to them as “uncivilized” or perhaps satirizing them ought to snap them out of their uncivilized-ness and awaken them to the reality we all know and love as civilization?

The problem is, of course, that civilization itself has some problems.  And you and I can see this from within what we call civilization! Can we allow for the possibility that, from outside our civilization, our way of life might not appear entirely desirable?

So, among the constraints you and I have agreed to on our way into “civilized society” is the notion of free speech.  It is not a natural law or right, existing amorphously somewhere until we claim it. It is, rather, an agreement at a large scale that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

Except they do. Words do hurt.  Therefore, as we all learn in relationships and, one would hope, in society, there are things we don’t say, even if we have the right to say them, out of respect for other persons.

How much more ought we learn to respect those who haven’t even bought into the same understanding of “civilization” that you and I have?

I am not justifying the massacre in Paris.  I am also not arguing against Free Speech.  I am, rather, suggesting that satire for satire’s sake is, perhaps, not the greatest good.

Or, larger, free speech for the sake of free speech is not free, if free means without consequence.

Free Speech Isn’t

Never Forget & Rascall Flatts

Here we are, September 11, 2014.

The answer to the obvious question:  I was at my office, at the church in Mart.  Internet wasn’t then what it is now, so the first I heard of the day’s events was from our building’s caretaker.

“Have you heard…?” 

I had not.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure at first that he was talking about something real or maybe he had just dreamed us into the latest of the “Left Behind” series.  It kinda sounded like that.

Once I realized it was indeed real, I did what most of us did – found a TV and glued myself to it.  Wonder, worry, pray, repeat.

Today, thirteen years later, before the date kicks in in my brain, I see several “Never Forget.”

Dang. Had I forgotten?

Clearly I had not; those social media posts took me back immediately to the same day in 2001.

Perhaps, though, I had forgotten if only in the sense that Rascal Flatts had helped me “forgot” my divorce.

I had never been much of a Country Music fan, but separated and divorcing in Mart left me with a lot of alone time AND one one music video station – GAC.

I became something of a fan of country music.  Looking back, it seemed an appropriate era of life to discover country music during.

Among the songs I discovered and listened to and bought and downloaded was Rascal Flatts “Moving On.”

I had a good bit of moving on that needed doing.  So I did.

But I didn’t forget.

I’ll never forget September 11, 2001.  But in many ways, I have moved on. I believe health, personal and social, is finding a place between the two.

Never Forget & Rascall Flatts