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…

Getting past labels and first impressions

On our way out of a meeting, I struck up a conversation with the new guy.  This had been his first meeting, and I’m not sure he felt like it went all that well.

He had raised a dissenting voice more than once.

“I’m really not a negative person,” he said after a couple minutes of interaction.

A thought hit my brain lightning fast: “Then you might try saying things that aren’t negative!”

The filter held.  Just a minute or two later I realized I had a potential blog topic.

If you don’t want people to think of you as negative, don’t say negative things. Well, that’s a pretty short blog post.  Maybe I could flesh it out a little.

Fleshing out such a seemingly clear and straightforward concept quickly caught me in potential hypocrisy.  Sometimes I spout negative ideas or points of view pretty darn quickly.

Am I a negative person?

What’s more, I just began reading Wiser, a book about “Getting Beyond Groupthink.”

We need people willing to stand, to share, to question, against the status quo or the dominant direction of thought a group takes.

Do we need negative people?

Is there a difference between saying something negative and being a negative person?

Of course there is.  And I had quickly dropped this “new guy” at the meeting into the “negative person” bin of my categorizing mind.

I was ready to leave him there.

But, then, I pursued conversation.  As he and I will be serving together on a committee for at least the next year, I didn’t want to leave it at “the new guy is just negative.”

Sunstein and Hastie (co-authors of Wiser), write about the danger of groupthink.  Spending time only with people who tend to agree with you and who tend to side with you on issues has the effect of making you -individually, and as a group – more extreme.

If there is one thing we need no more of these days, it is people at the extremes.

It would do us all good to spend time with people we don’t agree with on everything.  We practice listening, and we practice saying things in ways that can be heard by someone not already on the same side of the fence we are.

Then, perhaps, none of us will be judged by the first words out of our mouths.

Getting past labels and first impressions


I saw a couple walking together. Or were they?
Matching sweatshirts matching sweat pants matching white shoes step for step both had headphones on one was walking about 6 feet in front of the other.
How were they together and how were they not?
Their appearances matched so well I asked they were together.
I group things, and people, by their appearance and behavior all the time. Sometimes fairly, sometimes not.
The Sesame Street sing “One of these things is not like the others” comes to mind. Differentiation is an important skill, but figuring how deeply distinguishing features go is even more important.
Categorizing, even stereotyping, I believe is beneficial for negotiating a world of differences. Locking the one or ones observed into the limits of a stereotype, on the other hand, is extremely dangerous.


“Yes, and” beats “No, but” (or, Man Up, Rick Perry!)

handshake3Governor Rick Perry rejected an opportunity to greet President Obama with a handshake on a visit to Texas. Perry said he would, however, be interested in meeting with the President about the crisis at Texas’ southern border. More than 50K unaccompanied minors have crossed the border this year seeking residence in the US.

Perry has let us all know, for some time now, how dissatisfied he is with the President’s handling of the situation. Or the President’s lack of handling the situation.

Sometimes it seems to me that Perry is more interested in making Obama look bad than in actually making progress on issues.  (Insert here all your opinions about how Obama doesn’t need help looking bad as President.  That’s another post)

If the children in South Texas are more the issue than grandstanding against Obama, though, wouldn’t it have made sense for Perry to accept the invitation to meet Obama with a handshake, and then lead him into a discussion about the issue?

I have found that a “Yes, and…” almost always gets a discussion further than a No, but….”

On the other hand, it may not be a fair assumption for me to make that any politician is actually interested in discussing things with a view to make progress on any particular issue.

On this matter, at least, shouldn’t it be more about the children than about who is right and who does what?

“Yes, and” beats “No, but” (or, Man Up, Rick Perry!)

You don’t know… You CAN’T know…

Bill Cosby, in the interest of helping men understand the agony of giving birth, likened it to “taking your lower lip, and pulling it up over your head.”  I’m not sure how close a match that would be, but I know it is closer than  this:

Rachel was in the hospital the day after giving birth to our son Liam.  I had gone down to the first floor for something and got onto the elevator to return to the Labor and Delivery section.  I rode with a man and a woman, who I quickly identified as a father and grandmother of a newborn.

The man mentioned that his back was hurting. He had not slept well on the pseudo-bed the hospital provided for partners of those giving birth.  Then he said this, “my back hurts so much I know how my wife must feel.”  (I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP)

No, sir, you don’t.  You can’t

My own wife had, the day before, gone through a rather brief labor.  She delivered Liam without any pain medication, in less than 3 hours.  I think I would rather pull my lower lip over my head.

His wife, he explained, had endured 36 hours of labor and then had a C-section.  I don’t care what kind of mattress he slept or tossed-and-turned on; it didn’t match what the mother of his child had just done.

I know we are wired to make comparisons.  Sometimes, when motivated by empathy and compassion, such comparisons may be helpful.

I don’t think this man’s was.

There are things men don’t know, and can’t know, about being a woman – including giving birth.  Even if you (or a comedian) offers us an analogy, we will not and cannot really grasp it.

There are also things women don’t know, and can’t know, about being a man.

Categories are now flooding my mind of all the possibilities of limits on comparison here.  We are all humans, but not a single one of us is *just* a human.  Every one of us is identified in multiple other ways, too, that limit the ability of some to really grasp everything about us.

And vice-versa.

However many hyphens this adds to your self-description, I believe it is incredibly helpful for us to humbly acknowledge not only what we *all* have in common, but how very much we don’t.


You don’t know… You CAN’T know…

What kind of Church is that?

In correspondence with another pastor last week, I read his description of his congregation as “a conservative church.”

While I understood what he meant (I think), this really made the wheels turn in my head.  I could, perhaps, so characterize every church I have served in the past as either “conservative” or “liberal.”  [our correspondence was about American politics, so I am referring to American political labels “conservative” and “liberal.”]  The more I think about all this, though, the less helpful it seems to me to identify a church, a congregation, a representation of the Body of Christ, with one political label or another.

You can argue that this trait of Jesus is “conservative” or “liberal” but these labels as they occur in 2012 do not translate directly to Jesus’ day.  This means that, generally, they are not helpful in doing what we who follow Jesus are called to do, which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Except, of course, the one political label that I believe all Christians ought to proudly wear – that “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

I hope this, the Lordship of Jesus, is the political message members, visitors, outsiders, and passersby get from the Church I pastor.



What kind of Church is that?

What will you give?

I intend not to weigh in on this year’s elections on this blog.  At least not in a  partisan way.

In this particular way, I may weigh in several times before and after the election.

I would like to join the call for civility.

I heard this the other night on some television show or another.  It was a drama, so, yes, “any similarity between this show and actual events is purely coincidental.”  Whatever.  You know as well as I do that  truth comes as well from fiction as non-fiction.

Anyway, I share this brief bit of dialog:

“You just did what you thought was right.”

“So did Josef Stalin.”

Most all of us (I think) would agree that much of what Stalin did was NOT right.

Can we all agree that in Stalin’s mind, though, it was right?

I ask this because it really seems to be that today, in American Politics, there is a lot of unwillingness to give the other side, whichever side that may be, the benefit of the doubt about motivation.

Such as anything that follows the statement “what [insert political opponents name here] really wants is to (pick one): a.destroy our country; b. ruin the economy; c. hurt [insert an interest group] by heaping favor upon [insert other interest group]; or d. [other malicious threats].”

I am not going to refuse to vote for anyone who makes such claims as there would be no one left for whom to vote.

Can we at least give those with whom we disagree the benefit of the doubt?

I will, though, invite everyone to join me in this:  I will do my best not to question the motivation of those with whom I disagree.  I do, in fact, believe, that each American politician really believes that his/her intent is, by his/her own understanding, in the best interest of the nation.

Are you with me?

What will you give?