Archives For culture

Last week was a pretty notable week, to say the least.600x570

A well-loved celebrity passed away tragically. A heretofore unknown Midwest city exploded in unrest.

Let’s just be honest. Last week was many a blogger’s dream week. No shortage of news to comment on! A constant flood of images to post on social media! If you did not have anything to say about one story, you could surely find something to say about the other. And for those bloggers who were bored with both, we even got a Christian worship singer coming out as a lesbian. The whole blogosphere just had an epileptic seizure.

I watched the goings-on. I read story after story and blog after blog. But I wrote nothing. I read blogs that told me I was not ashamed enough of my country. Others said that by my silence, I was tacitly endorsing oppression in Ferguson. The storm of angry words tried to suck me in, tried to make me say something.

But I held my tongue, er, fingers as it were. And that was a very purposeful decision. I decided I would not write any opinions about Ferguson, about racism, about suicide, or any other topic du jour last week.

Why? Because for perhaps the first time, the events of last week proved to me one thing:

My opinions don’t count for much.

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It’s a new day, a new week, a new school year for many of us including myself.

But in many ways, I don’t know how to begin, even to begin writing this new paragraph.

My classroom, for all of the chaos that it might contain, is actually something of a retreat from the outside world. And in many ways, I needed a retreat last week more than usual. You may have felt the same way. There are times when the world just does not make a whole lot of sense.

I’m not a sociologist. But what I think I saw on display last week was a whole lot of hate being exposed. It takes a lot of hate to create a system that oppresses people. The hate that oppresses also brings out hate and anger in the oppressed. I saw a lot of people rush to judgment, to judge people they do not even know. Passing easy judgment on people feels good, and it is another kind of hate, a disdain for others, a refusal to understand them.

Sometimes, hate is so casual, so quiet, so acceptable that it doesn’t even look like hate to most of us. It happens in increments of neglect. Maybe it is layer upon layer of lazy, purposeless hate that has built up like a blanket of dust on our culture.

Here is what I do know:

I know that Jesus had to command us to love one another. He had to make that command because love is hard. It is unintuitive. As much as we want to wax poetic about our common decency, I know that if my most honest moments, I have to work to love my neighbor as myself. I love myself far more than I love my neighbor. I accept my own sins, while I hate the sins of my neighbor (something Jesus did not command.) In fact, it is easy for me to love myself and hate my neighbor, simply by not caring about my neighbor.

Worse, it is our mutual disdain for each other that keeps us in the tragic place we find ourselves. It is hate that keeps us simmering, distracted from our larger problems. Hate keeps us socially and spiritually poor and weak. And no matter how much hate and judgment we indulge ourselves in, we always have more. It doesn’t run out the more we engage in it. It only increases.

If it was Jesus’ will that we all hate each other, judge each other, neglect each other, he would never have had to say anything at all. It is almost our default mode. People have recognized this for thousands of years. Take Euripides, the Athenian playwright.

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Here is what I know. This week, it is going to take a lot of work to love our neighbors as ourselves. It is going to take work to put down our judgment, our incessant opinions of others, to love, rather than to hate.

Who is up for the challenge?

What did you want to be when you grew up?sandlot-01

When I was in school, I was fascinated with outer space. I thought I wanted to be a scientist and work for NASA. Over time, I discovered more about my natural gifts and inclinations, not to mention limitations and so I quietly gave up this ambition without any real fanfare.

I was unusual in my boyhood ambitions. Many boys do not dream about going to work for NASA. On the contrary, it is no secret that many boys, a majority, harbor hopes and dreams of being professional athletes. I know this because I am a teacher and talk regularly to children about what they want to be when they grow up.

A teacher.

A veterinarian.

A doctor.

Those youthful ambitions are almost exclusively held by the female students. The boys on the other hand, by a wide margin, tell me that they want to play for a living. They want to be soccer players, baseball or basketball players. They want to be stars. They don’t dream of being writers or artists (though there are plenty of males in both of those fields.) The one widely acceptable career goal for boys is to throw, catch and hit a ball for a living.

I did not always think this was a big deal. Who cares, they are just silly childhood dreams, right? But the more I think about it, especially now that I’m going to be a dad, I have to wonder why so many boys dream of lives of athletic conquest, if we as adults are encouraging this fantasy, and if it is even a healthy dream to begin with.

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So, I was not very successful in avoiding the internet this week.hobby-lobby

The Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby and other Christian companies has produced a veritable flood of contradictory comments in my social media feed. One person praises Jesus for a religious freedom “win.” The next person shakes his fist at the heavens. (I credit this to me, being very non-discriminatory with whom I associate with online, thank you very much.)

Still, it can make for a frustrating exercise to see so much anger on one side and so much righteous glee on the other, and everyone in favor of burning everyone else at the stake.

So I’ve sorted out the facts and the opinions.

And I’ve come to an inescapable conclusion.

I believe the Supreme Court had to rule the way it did. Evaluating religious beliefs in a court is a dangerous precedent.

But, the decision is by no means a “win.” It is bad…for everyone. We are all losers in this fight. We would still all lose if the court had gone the other way.

There is just no good outcome of any of this. Here’s why.

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We Americans enjoy celebrating a lot of stuff.

There are literally millions of images like this on a Google search.

There are literally millions of images like this on a Google search.

Those of us who consider ourselves Christians like to talk about and celebrate God. That goes without saying.

We like to celebrate family too.

Some of us like to celebrate freedom.

Or even America itself. Many of us will celebrate America in just a couple of weeks…on Flag Day, the most important and widely celebrated holiday of national patriotism. Well, maybe not. Most of us will celebrate a lot of “American” stuff a couple of weeks after that. I don’t really know what Flag Day is for.

Here’s what’s happening though, and it might be something to think about the next time we come to a holiday or other celebration.

People can celebrate anything they want. Americans celebrate a lot of diverse values. But those of us who celebrate God, had better be extra careful.

Because God is sharing space with a lot of other things that seem to get equal billing.

Here’s what I mean.

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You may have heard, because the internet lost its mind temporarily last week.Gift Catalogue - Kandia ADP - Animals

World Vision, known for sponsoring desperately poor children in dozens of countries revised its hiring policy, opening the door for employment to legally married homosexuals…

Then they revised their hiring policies again…back to their original status.

The entire process took about 48 hours, give or take.

And in between the beginning and end was a whole lot of yelling (virtually speaking). A lot of people lashing out at World Vision, heaping on condemnation, so much so that apparently World Vision could not ignore the protests.

This would probably have been an event that I would have been able to ignore entirely if it wasn’t for the collective outcry that drew so much attention to it.

And in retrospect, I have come to an inescapable conclusion, that this event says more about all of us than it does about World Vision.

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