Does God agree with you? with me?

20160617_144150In the face of all the many disagreements, and further, in the face of what seems to be a lack of ability to communicate in civil and well-intentioned ways, I thought this morning of these words from Isaiah 55:8-9
My plans aren’t your plans,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
Just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways,
    and my plans than your plans. (CEB)
Do you suppose that when God says, in Isaiah 55, that God’s thoughts and ways are not ours, God is referring to everyone? I have to admit that my usual first read of that passage is that God is referring to my enemy/opponent/anyone who disagrees with me.
 
To be fair, though, I have to admit, though it sometimes takes me a while, that God is, in fact, saying this to ALL of us.
 
(FULL DISCLOSURE: I do not have a second thought on my agenda for which this is the setup. Not that I never operate that way, but I am not this time)

Conditioned to Blame

Just a few months ago I posted about our tendency to blame.

Working on Sunday’s sermon, I had a further thought along these lines.

blame 1-6-16We have been conditioned to blame the government.  More specifically, we have been conditioned to blame those we view as “against us,” but I believe there has been a growing tendency for at least 30 years, to blame the government.

Not very long after Obama succeeded Bush as president, some people started complaining about his vacation practices.  How many days he vacationed. How expense it is for the US President to go on vacation.

Obama supporters, of course, immediately rush to his defense.

Which was odd, because some of them had spent much of the years 2001-09 whining about how much vacation President Bush took.

Not to be outdone, I have no doubt that some of Bush’s staunchest supporters have since been leading the charge opposing Obama’s vacations.

Can we all just get a grip and acknowledge that If you are President of the United States, you don’t actually get vacation?

But we have a felt need to blame someone, and for the last several decades the government, at every level, has been an easy target.

But let’s set aside government for a moment: can we just admit that we are all generally eager to cast the blame at someone, anyone, besides ourselves?

I am working on a sermon series about conflict between faith and science.  As I began to prepare the first sermon, I was struck with the realization that much of the perceived conflict between the two is related to our need to blame.January.png

Want to know more? Come Sunday, January 10th, to Euless First United Methodist Church. We worship at 8:30 and 11 am.

 

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?

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.

Assumptions

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.
Why?
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?