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

Thinking without thinking

We had a fascinating discussion yesterday at our Lenten Wednesday Lunch Study.  As you might expect, the discussion really got me thinking.

We were talking about being righteous. Specifically about whether or not we are. Righteous, that is; whether or not we are righteous.

Of course, the talk quickly moved toward our being righteous “in God’s eyes.”  This, many Christians understand, is the work and gift of Jesus.

God sees us as righteous thanks to Jesus’ life and sacrificial death on the cross.

Good news, right?

Yes, except that thinking of ourselves as righteous tends to get us into trouble.  (See “self-righteous”)

On the other hand, refusing to recognize that Jesus actually opens this opportunity to us, leaves us as miserable sinners, condemned always to fail.

How do we carve out space in the middle – acknowledging AND accepting this good gift from God – to understand that, thanks to Jesus, we are (first) seen as righteous by God and (second) actually grow in righteousness as we follow Jesus?

I’ve got a few ideas, and invite yours as well.

  1. We must keep in mind that the righteousness that indeed becomes ours is given – offered freely – to us.
  2. In would likely help if we focused more on recognizing everyone else as someone who has been offered this gift even more than remembering that we (ourselves) have been offered the gift.  In other words, practice this: every person you see, think to yourself “God sees that person as righteous through Jesus’ gift.”
  3. Take some time each day to reflect on the ways God has worked in your life that day.
Thinking without thinking

US Christians Demand Religious Freedom…

for everyone!

I have long said that Christian are at our best when we are advocating for the rights, liberties, fair treatment of others.  I suppose I am willing to allege that this is true for everyone, not only for Christians.  But I especially want Christians to own it.

I think it represents Jesus far better than getting all whiney about our own rights, liberties, or fair treatment.

To be fair, people can advocate for their own rights, etc., without being whiney.  This is just my opinion: but US Christians seem to go whiney awfully quickly if we feel our rights, etc. threatened.

Just look at all the fuss we’ve been making over the persecution of Christians around the world lately.  I believe we would make a better case AGAINST persecution of Christians and FOR following Jesus if we opposed all religious persecution.

Speaking of which, I don’t know if you noticed, but a case of religious freedom was argued before the US Supreme Court yesterday. Samantha Elauf was 17 when she applied to work at an Abercrombie and Fitch store.  She was rated as a very good candidate.  Her rating dropped when management found out she wore a hajib – a traditional headcovering worn by some Muslims.  This dropped her rating enough that she wasn’t hired.

I don’t know how the case will come out.  The report I heard indicated that most of the Justices, in oral arguments, sounded like they leaned in her favor.

I have heard Christians lament about not being allowed to wear cross necklaces to work; shouldn’t we be just as concerned for the religious liberty of others?

US Christians Demand Religious Freedom…

Blogging for Lent

Three years ago I gave up blogging for Lent. This year I am moving in the opposite direction.  it has been over a year since I have regularly posted here, so for this season of Lent, I will commit to blogging each day.

Except Sundays, of course. Sunday’s aren’t counted as part of Lent.

I know that six posts a week is way more that optimal blogging.  Consider it making up for lost ground.

Feel free not to read them all.

I had already made this plan when I came across Jeremy’s latest at Hacking Christianity, “Would a Missionary give up Swahili for Lent?”  Here’s the Len Sweet (@LenSweet) Quote that secured my commitment to blog this Lent:

Good luck with saying in the past 500 years “I’m sorry, I don’t do books.” Good luck with saying in the next 30 years, “I’m sorry I don’t do Internet.” As the book was the delivery system for learning and faith development, the Internet will be the delivery system for learning and faith development…

What’s the first thing a missionary does? Learn the language. This is the language of the world we live. I’m sorry if you don’t like it. You could go “okay, I don’t like Swahili.” Well, if God has called us to be ministry now in this kind of a world, so you don’t get to choose: you have to learn a new language.

So it looks like I’ve got a lot of writing to do over the next 40 days.  If you’d like to help, send me a topic or a question for me to answer.  Either comment here, twitter (@steveheyduck), find me on facebook, or email me at steve (dot) noncon (at) gmail.com

Blogging for Lent

I cannot even imagine.

restareashade 2On our way home from a vacation week in Galveston, we stopped at a Chick-fil-a.  Unsure what the muzak was that I was hearing in the background, I listened more closely than is probably ever intended by the purveyors of such.

It was “I Can Only Imagine,” the slowed down, instrumental version.  Felt odd to hear this song muzakked (is that a verb? Did I spell it right?)

I can only imagine.

Later today, I got stuck on “I cannot begin to imagine.”

This second phrase is what I’ve been thinking since hearing of the overnight death of a 3 year old grandson of one of my parish.

Yes, I hugged my own kids more often and more tightly the rest of today.  I likely will again tomorrow as well.

I cannot imagine.

Yet, as people who follow a God who refuses to be distant, even when we don’t understand, we know that we must move closer rather than further away in such times.

Some of the best, and most regularly used pastoral advice I received in seminary was this: “If you don’t know what to say, don’t force words; just be present.”

I cannot imagine. I don’t have words that work.  I will be turning to the Psalms deeply the next couple of days.  The Psalms are full of words and phrases and images that come along side us as we feel whatever we feel as humans.

Please hold this family in prayer.  Even if you cannot put words into the prayers, please pray.

I cannot even imagine.

Thank you, Robin Williams!

20140721_100448This won’t be the blog from which you learn that Robin Williams has died.

This may or may not be a blog on which you read anything you haven’t already read somewhere else. Or everywhere else.

As I was in a Finance Committee meeting last night when I got the news.  Shocking as it was, this news didn’t justify excusing myself from a meeting to rush something out into the blogosphere.

Now that you have read everything else about William’s life and death; now that you’ve searched for, found, and shared your own collections of quotes and clips, I offer you this.

Everyone wants a new angle.  Everyone wants to say or write or share the perfectly unique perspective on the fact that Robin Williams’ life and work.

I am not alone in this.

I am, however, one who has reminded a few hundred people that “there is nothing new under the sun” rather frequently here recently.

Yet I want, I almost crave to say something different.  I want – do I need? – to share something you hadn’t already thought of?

All these thoughts marinated in me last night and again this morning.  As I sat down with the intent to blog, I realized something about all the reflection – reflection about myself, and Robin Williams, and life and depression and death and shared experience.

What I realized is this: part of the reason news of Williams’ death has so shaken so many of us is exactly because he managed – for over thirty years – to say and do things that struck us as both unique and new, but also as familiar and comfortable.  He made us laugh to the point of drooling and snorting. He brought us to tears with moving moments of humanity.

Did Robin Williams disprove that there is nothing new under the sun?  No, but I think he drew us together in ways and with methods that were, at least, out of the norm.

So, instead of trying to share something about Robin Williams’ life that is new, unique, or out of the norm, I’ll just share with you my thanks for his ability to draw us past the weight of our lives into the experience of joy and sadness that connected and connects us with each other.

And… about that…

No doubt some of his comedic genius and some of the source from which he was able to draw his acting ability came from the same deep well as the depression and addiction issues.  He struggled with and against these, I suppose, all his life.  He ultimately fell victim to them.

His death saddens us both because we won’t have another Robin Williams movie or series or stand up routine, and because we don’t want lives to be taken from us by such insidious means.

Death touches us all – this time a single death has touched a great many people.

Yet this singular death of an individual suffering from – perhaps tortured by – demons of depression and addiction serves us.  It reminds us that we are people who, to a variety of degrees, know the power of depression and addiction.  Some of us know it from the inside.  Some only from the outside.

It is my prayer for you today, in memory of Robin Williams, that you will check in with those close enough to you for you to know the power of depression and addiction in their lives.  Let them know they are not alone.  May doing so remind you that you, too, are not alone.

Thank you, Robin Williams!

Thank you, Robin Williams!