Agree to Disagree or Agree to Assassinate?

Today, as he continues to drop in the polls, he suggested that Americans wielding firearms take potential President Clinton's life. It wasn't even a funny joke.

The Problem of Donald Trump's Faith

The Donald is at it again. 

Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In a swarm of unlikely GOP candidates, Donald Trump caps it off by convincing almost a quarter of likely GOP voters that he's the one to go up against Hillary. There's already talk that if Rick Perry gets his way, Donald will personally fund his own third-party candidacy. This would likely rob Republican votes of a worthwhile GOP candidate and almost guarantee a win for the Democrats in two Novembers time. In a world where Fox News has warned its viewership of the plague of political correctness, it's not surprising that a straight-talking, wildly-rich, anti-political Mr. Fix It is attracting a bunch of regular folks who are fed up with the current Administration

At this point, Trump is almost impenetrable. He denigrated a beloved maverick. He read aloud a private cellphone number of a likable bachelor. He, perhaps most dramatically, racially profiled millions of America's workforce. And somehow each time, no matter how much the press has pushed him, he's managed to weasel his way out only to grow in the polls. It is fascinating.

His bit about John McCain at The Family Leadership Summit was untrue, unwarranted, and wildly stupid and though it received, by far, the most media attention, it wasn't the the most remarkable part of that interview for me. I found myself entranced by his comments about faith. Most significantly, forgiveness.

Bluntly, Trump was asked, "Have you ever asked God for forgiveness?"

Trump answered it as Trump always does, as only he can. "That's a tough question. I don't think in terms of...I'm a religious person, shockingly...I'm Protestant, I'm Presbyterian, I go to church and I love God and I love my church." He continued with a story about "the great" Norman Vincent Peale, a man he reveres and whose sermons made a lasting impression on him. Never, of course, answering the question, "Have you ever asked God for forgiveness?"

I love this next part. The moderator didn't let it go. "But. Have you ever asked God for forgiveness?" The audience laughed. Trump responded, stumped. "I'm not sure I have. I just go and try and do a better job from there. I don't think so."

He likely could not have been more honest. While later he rightly referred to taking the "wine and crackers" at communion as a way of asking for forgiveness, there was a certain attitude of humility and repentance that the moderator was looking for to which Trump, truthfully, could not admit. Maybe it's because Trump can't admit to wrongdoing; that certainly seems likely. Maybe it's because Trump thinks he's the greatest man to walk this earth; that seems possible.

I can't help but point to his own admission: his pastor, to which he immediately made reference and shared exuberantly about his influence, may have shaped--or at least allowed--this mindset of Trump. 

To those familiar with recent American history and theological thought, the name Norman Vincent Peale isn't foreign. A controversial pastor after the release of his book, "The Power of Positive Thinking", Peale's teachings were shunned by both the mental health and theological communities being regarded by some as heretical.

Indeed Peale's writings are problematic for Christians who seek not to find faith in themselves but to find faith in Jesus Christ. Even Amazon's description of Peale's best-selling book says it bluntly:

"With the practical techniques outlined in this book, you can energize your life—and give yourself the initiative needed to carry out your ambitions and hopes. You’ll learn how to:

· Believe in yourself and in everything you do
· Build new power and determination
· Develop the power to reach your goals
· Break the worry habit and achieve a relaxed life
· Improve your personal and professional relationships
· Assume control over your circumstances
· Be kind to yourself" 

Seems an odd set of goals from a Christian pastor, eh? It's a self-help book, sure, but its Christian message, if there even is one, leaves much to be desired.

Wikipedia's entry on Peale quotes John Krumm(the book linked above), Reinhold Niebuhr, and G. Bromley Oxnam on Peale's anti-Christian espousing in his book. Wikipedia's choice of quotes from Liston Pope was my favorite though, "There is nothing humble or pious in the view this cult takes of God. God becomes sort of a master psychiatrist who will help you get out of your difficulties. The formulas and the constanat reiteration of such themes as "You and God can do anything" are very nearly blasphemous." ("The Case against Easy Religion," William Peters. Redbook Magazine, September 1955, pp. 22–23, 92-94). I mean, come on Dr. Pope, tell us how you really feel.

Either Trump needed to name-drop to evade a question about his own brokenness or Norman Vincent Peale made a lasting impact on The Donald through his preaching. The evidence, Trump's refusal to admit to his need for forgiveness, points to the latter. If a preacher preaches that one can overcome the most difficult obstacles and accomplish anything simply by thinking positively about it, how can one be convinced of their own need for redemption and forgiveness?

It doesn't take a political genius to realize that Trump's humility is lacking. I'm convinced, as a Christian minister, that humility and a self-awareness of one's own brokenness is essential to their discipleship. If one claims to be a Christian, as Donald does, one must be convinced of their own need for grace. Without it, there's no point in Jesus.

The problem? GOP voters have already proven in large part that politicians speak louder in their hearts than their pastors do and conservative pastors continually shape the work of their sermons and their reading of Scripture within the political atmosphere. I fear that an influential presidential candidate might renew a sense in America's Christians that one's own humility is not necessary for the gospel.

That is a lie. That is a problem. 

-B


Mark Driscoll Briefly Steps Aside to Process, Heal, and Grow

The lead pastor of Seattle megachurch, Mars Hill, provided an emotional statement to his congregation this morning. See the entire nearly-18-minute clip below:

 

I thought the statement was humble, sincere, and emotional. These are all words I would have never associated with Mark before today.

Only time will tell if the six weeks he's chosen to step aside for will be long enough to accomplish his goals. The Mars Hill elders will need time to work through all of the accusations (there are bunches) against him in an appropriate way and a heavy dose of prayer will need to go with it. 

I'm encouraged by his statement, his sincerity, and his use of this space to share this with the world. I had been hopeful that he'd address the controversy earlier than this, and it's likely that the direct accusations against him brought this to a very public head, but all things come sooner or later.

No matter your opinions toward Mark and his ministry, I encourage you to share with me in prayer for this community. Mark and I disagree theologically and socially on most details, but I find it authentic when he and his church preach about the goodness of Jesus and the necessity of pointing the world toward him. This Mars Hill community is one that loves Jesus and does something about it and for that, and their healing, I remain in prayer.

 -B

Obstruction

I often find myself in the position of defending baseball as a sport. I get criticized for being a fan of such a boring sport and I find myself having to defend its virtue. During one of these sessions, I was explaining to the conversation partner that baseball is such a fantastic sport because of the dynamics of offense versus defense.   In how many other sports do you have nine members of the opposing team playing defense against (at most) four players of their opposing team? More often than not, nine players provide the defensive strategy against just one of the opposing players. I still hold that offense in baseball is one of the hardest things to accomplish in sports.

Because of that, the nature of the game, baseball’s official rules provide adequate protection for the members of the offense. On a force out, a tie between the ball’s arrival in the defenseman’s glove and the runner landing on the base will usually be awarded to the runner. Fielders cannot obstruct a runner’s path to advance to the next base, etc.

We found this all incredibly relevant last night at the end of World Series 2013 Game 3. After a bad throw from the Red Sox catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the Sox third baseman found himself lying on the ground in the way of the baserunner, called for obstruction of the baserunner awarding the baserunner home plate therefore losing the game for the Red Sox.  It was highly unfortunate, especially for Red Sox Nation.

Many articles and opinions have been written since last night, many of which were written by authors far more qualified to comment than I (me?). But whether it is appropriate or accurate or not, this is my perspective.

We’ve seen time and time again players running from first to second on a ground ball to the infield do all they can to obstruct the fielder from making the best double play he can.  Baserunners are taught to play mind games with the fielders, slide in hard, throw their hands up, and all kinds of crazy things that can prevent the defenseman making a double play attempt from doing so successfully.  You can see the results of this on almost any double play.  Typically the shortstop or second baseman making the play fall down over the baserunner, even though the force out has already been made.  As I see it, the baserunner has always had plenty of leeway in making obstruction part of the game. It is true that baserunners can be called for getting on the way, but more times than not it is simply seen as justpart of the game.

Take for instance last night’s play.  By most angles I saw it, Salty at home threw to Middlebrooks at third and did so a little wide.  Moving six inches to a foot would have solved this problem for Middlebrooks; he might have made the catch and saved the run. But he stayed on the bag and staying on the bag, and consequently NOT interfering with the baserunner reaching third, caused the ball to hit the baserunner, bounce off behind the bag and caused Middlebrooks to make a last minute jab at catching the ball.  As a result, Middlebrooks falls on the ground and the baserunner gets up from the slide and trips over Middlebrooks.

Technically, by MLB’s rules, obstruction isn’t something an offenseman can be guilty of. Obstruction is a different call than interference. But even with interference, if the offenseman whether intentionally or not interferes with the ball or the play, the ball is often called dead, bases are typically not awarded or taken away.  But this umpire last night, Jim Joyce, doesn’t (rightly) call interference; he lets play continue.

When Craig, the baserunner, gets up from the slide, he has an option to run to home if he thinks he can make it safely.  He does. But instead of getting up off the ground and running on the baseline chalk, he gets up and tries to go over Will Middlebrooks who is, remember, still on the ground.  Under a replay you can see that Middlebrooks makes the attempt to get up and is pushed back down by the runner.  Like normal in baseball, the runner has a right to do that.  But think about the runner’s choices here…

The runner could get up and run in a straight line on the baseline chalk, and wouldn’t had to have stepped over Middlebrooks at all.  He had a choice and chose to step over Middlebrooks.  As he does this, he pushes Middlebrooks down, “obstructing” Middlebrooks’s ability to 1) get out of the baserunner’s way and 2) field the ball (assuming outfield backup is unavailable).

 So Middlebrooks, who does not obstruct Craig, the runner, from reaching third falls over on a bad throw and is unable to move to avoid an obstruction call because the runner choose to step over him rather than running on the baseline and pushes him down in order to get over him, resulting in the runner’s tripping.

Jim Joyce is one of the best umpires in the business and I gained incredible respect for him when he apologized publicly for ruining Galarraga’s perfect game with a blown call at first base. I don’t doubt that Joyce knows the rulebook through and through and called the play according to the rulebook.

My argument is, and has been for a long time, that baserunners are on the borderline of having too much leeway because of the nature of the game.  The runners can make decisions that get an obstruction call on the defense, even if the defenseman doesn’t intend any such action (because intent isn’t factored into the call). We love a game that literally has everyone against you while you try to attack on offense.  As a means of making it easier for you, baseball rules that you’re given the tie and the right of way.  You get to make the decision you want to make, to a certain degree, even if that decision means that the defenseman is guilty of something he tried to avoid.

Last night ends differently if Salty holds the ball.  Last night ends differently if Middlebrooks comes off the base.  Last night ends differently if the runner runs in the basepath and avoids Middlebrooks’s useless body on the ground.

-B

God's Not Dead

Sometime soon a new movie will release. It's named after a song that originally held a different title and features a band that only licensed the song; they didn't write it.

The movie "God's Not Dead" is named after The Newsboys (but really, you can't have The Newsboys without Peter Furler, can you?) cover of a Daniel Bashta song which was actually made famous at Passion one year (I was in the room for its debut) by David Crowder. Crowder debuted it (if Daniel Bashta's twitter feed is to be believed, he was unaware of the song being used) as "Like a Lion." To the best of my knowledge, Bashta's recording of it wasn't even publicly released yet. He later came out with his own recording, but it was Crowder's use of the song that made it popular in worship circles. Our praise band did a tour of sorts in the summer of 2010 and we closed every night with the piece.

I say all that because The Newsboys changed the title of the song when they debuted it. Instead of "Like a Lion," they called the song "God's Not Dead" which, to be fair, is the prominent line in the piece.

But then they debuted a music video for the song which prominently featured newspapers with the headline "God is a Myth" changing to
"God's Not Dead" by the end of the video.  The song, once proclaiming a message of resurrection and revival within one's life of faith and using the helpful metaphor of Christ's resurrection from the dead to do so, has been repurposed by The Newsboys marketing team to stand for an argument for God's existence against those countering such existence. I like Michael Tait (and I was so glad they invited Kevin Max to provide vocals for the bridge...hearing Michael and Kevin's voices together is such a treat for a true dc Talk fan) a lot and his music has served as an inspiration to me for years, but this song has now been repurposed and this changes the implications.

Repurposing is ok, I suppose. After all, there are many within the world who do claim that the existence of God is folly and that faith in something that doesn't exist is a waste. There are voices among us that claim that Christianity is all made up. So, the necessity of fighting against those voices is easy to see for an Evangelical; the voices threaten my very reality.

But there's a trend here and I think the use of language is dangerous. Within the very-well-produced-for-a-Christian-movie's trailer, appearances are made by actors like Dean Cain and TV personalities like Willie from Duck Dynasty. The trailer portrays a student whose philosophy professor makes him write a paper presupposing the deadness of God. As a Christian, the student is forced to defend his faith within the classroom by putting God on trial because he, as a Christian, must prove God's existence. He, as a Christian, is being persecuted by the professor.

Persecution is the point here, isn't it? If you read through the film's Facebook page, you'll get that feeling. "Share to prove them wrong" or "Share if you're not ashamed" light up the main feed. Of course, like sheep, the film's many fans share and share and share and share. Because the liberal world is trying to tell us that God doesn't exist. Because we are being persecuted.

The problem with this is that this language is difficult to repurpose without consequence. Philosophers and theologians HAVE put God on trial before. Some posited that God died in Auschwitz. Blacks in America doubted the reality of a good God because the white plantation owners understood the slaves as being provided BY God. Many many bad things have happened in God's name since Christ's resurrection including persecution after persecution.

And so, if persecution is the point, what does it mean to portray that in a film with a bunch of white middle class Americans trying to fight the liberal academy by proving God's existence? Who do we think we are to even come close to knowing what TRUE Christian persecution is? We can't. We can't. We can't.

So the song "Like a Lion", intended (clued in by its naming by Crowder and Bashta) to serve as a recognition for an inner revival for the soul gets repurposed by the Evangelicals to prove God's existence and in the meantime shows the Evangelicals cards completely.

The song begins, "Let hope arise and make the darkness hide." This hope, as we understand it in Christ Jesus, is a hope that defeats death and sin. The darkness to be hidden is the sinfulness of our own actions.

But in this film, in the Newsboys interpretation of the song, and in the Evangelical mindset, the darkness is the Liberal Left.

The cards are completely exposed.

-B

Change, Community, Communion, and Curation

It often seems unnecessarily radical to change one's ways of doing things.  When systematic ways are changed, either by brute force or previous failure, many many react negatively.  This is happening in Congress as the GOP-controlled House fights against the already-lawful-and-upheld-by-the-Supreme-Court-as-constitutional Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). It's something different, very different, being treated with hostility because of its difference and perceived (and somewhat realistic) hardships.  

Difference and change are difficult for so many to comprehend.

There are viable reasons for this. Many arguments made against Obamacare are valid and backed up by numbers and inevitable cost to typical Americans. In many ways Obama will take more money from each American in order to make health insurance for all Americans a reality.  It is very different from how America has traditionally treated her citizens since her beginning.  Valid concerns are heard, but change keeps on trucking.

The thing about change, historically, is that it is easily delayed but essentially unavoidable.  It only can be re-steered to go in the "proper" direction. Change is inevitable; direction of that change is somewhat controllable.

[Quick change of scene.] 

As a United Methodist, I have a common joke I make about our church: we are always 20 years behind.  It's only a joke but it strikes a strong chord on the reality guitar.  Take contemporary worship music for example.  Simply put, the United Methodist Church, for better or for worse, ignored the contemporary worship scene for years upon years.  "Contemporary" worship music pushed through the evangelical and hippie-ish movements in the late 60s and early 70s and began to refine itself in the mid-late 80s and early 90s.  Evangelical churches (read: non-United Methodist churches) were often the first to jump on board.  There might be many reasons for this, of which the fact that many of those churches do not submit to any larger governing body ought to be at the top, but evangelical churches by and large beat Methodists to this punch. United Methodists have moaned and groaned about how badly the music is written and how non-theological the lyricism is ever since, but the general public has seen some churches grow and some die.  United Methodist churches have been on the dying side of things far too often.

We are late to the game and they seem to be "winning." How to combat this then? Well, of course: We have to raise our numbers so that our church doesn't die! We must start a contemporary worship service! How then do we do that?  Well let's look at some resources.  Where are these resources?  Oh great, there are tons of resources available!  There is tons of music available! Who is providing this music? Oh! The Evangelicals. Great!  Let's hire a worship leader!  Great! Most of the good worship leaders are at the evangelical churches, so we'll get the pretty-good ones.  They should be able to lead the United Methodist Church into the next generation of worship! Great! This is going to be so great! 

And, what do we end up with?  We end up with a church whose tradition of well-written, theological singing is nearly lost because in the switch to the new medium/genre, we picked up someone else's tradition and theology simply because it was already there for us. We blindly took the cookie left for us without considering the consequences. Change came and we got on board and took the road-too-often-traveled without considering where it was taking us.

20 years behind, then, may mean that we need to curate a bit more than we'd expect.  What's the trade-off of simply using someone else's work?  What's the trade-off for our congregations and disciple-building? Have we fully examined this change, its constant insistence upon itself, and where our destination lies?

The same has happened in online communities.  Online communities, if you can believe it, are old now.  They began, essentially, with the advent of email and have continued to be refined and refined over time. What one sees in Facebook, and all Facebook is meant to be, is simply and refinement (albeit a very well done refinement with its share of quality innovations) of the original idea of communicating and communing online. Online communities may seem like a new thing to people (and maybe especially to United Methodists) but they're simply not.  Hey, United Methodists, you're late again.

And so we pick up where we left off. Many non-UMC churches are offering well-done online churches in which a church attendee can log on, converse with a online pastor, watch the worship service, and even pray online with the guidance of the pastor.  The difference is, of course, one doesn't feel the pastor's hand on your back as you pray; she's generally miles away from you.  This sort of idea isn't new, it's simply new to United Methodists.  A popular church in Florida is doing just that (a high school friend of mine is heading it up...you can check it out at www.engagemenow.net).  

The new conversation (happening right now in Nashville, TN) is whether or not United Methodists ought to offer the sacrament of Holy Communion over the internet.  Practically speaking, it's exactly as it sounds.  The viewer (and I use that term intentionally) provides their own bread and grape juice (or wine), while the pastor blesses the elements through your computer or TV screen.  It's along the same lines as that pastor praying over you but without being able to physically feel their presence...except it's with the sacrament of communion.

Perhaps this is an controversial concept to speak about because many of the other churches don't hold communion (Eucharist) in the same regard as United Methodists (or, if we're speaking honestly, maybe many of them actually hold it in HIGHER regard simply due to their insistence on the frequency of participation in Eucharist) . In other words, maybe Methodists are trying to graft United Methodism onto a medium and evangelism technique that someone else, someone different than us, already created. The difference is that the penalty for moving in that direction on that road of change is a loss of traditional practice that has been important to Methodism. In my mind, it's not much different than us trying to sing that one song and trying to change the lyrics because the song is so...like...Calvinist. We couldn't write a comparable one!  We just have to graft Wesleyan theology onto whatever trends come because we were late to the game and not innovative enough to pull ourselves out of the hole.

Goodbye, Wesleyan sense of community.  Goodbye, Wesleyan understanding of Jesus's presence in the Eucharist and the necessity of physicality for incarnation to be experienced.  Goodbye, sung Wesleyan theology with an emphasis on the unending and unchanging love and grace of God. 

I'll maintain until I die that change is inevitable and good in this world.  But, change comes with responsibility.  Change comes with the need for curation.  Change also comes with the need for innovation and outside-of-the-box mentalities. And, while all those seem so poorly connected, it is indeed necessary that they all work together cohesively so that the good parts of what we have are not lost. The danger of Calvinistic theology creeping into Wesleyan churches--even if only through the music--is, and has been, upon us.  The danger of cultural definitions of "community" and "experience" is creeping in on us and our livelihood is at stake.

Online communities are coming.  The challenge and calling is there for churches to attend to.  People want religion and they want to be online.  Ignoring it seems silly and simply jumping on the bandwagon blindly seems sillier. Change is necessary and inevitable.  Curation and innovation are necessary and often forgotten.

Let us not be so persuaded by a new movement that we forget who we are.  Maybe, just maybe, we can feed a need within our society in a new and better way.

-B

 

We Run Things, Things Don't Run We

I'd say that in general I care very little about Miley Cyrus's life.  I suppose I'd like to see her be a positive role model on my future children but because that isn't a current reality of mine, I generally don't care much about her. Her new song, "We Can't Stop" has a catchy hook though so I turned up Spotify when it came on.  So that you don't get bogged down in the disgrace that is the song, I'll sum it up for you: Miley owns the world and she doesn't care if you care. 

I'll say it: Hannah Montana is creating a whole new persona and its first name is "badass." But what do I care?  She has friends, they like to party, they're poorly influencing America's youth, and they have poor grammar.   As a concerned citizen with children I'd care, but I reiterate: Miley's life really doesn't concern me much.

But then I heard these lines:  

To my homegirls here with the big butt
Shaking it like we at a strip club
Remember only God can judge ya
Forget the haters, cause somebody loves ya

Oh! Miley's a theologian now. Now her life concerns me.

I've been bothered recently with liberal America's approach to ethics and morality.  Actually, that's not quite accurate, I've been bothered with liberal Christian America's approach to ethics and morality.  Given that Miley is a baptized Southern Baptist and is outspoken about her support for gay marriage, I'll assume that she's part of that club.

In liberal Christianity, the jump to "Only God can judge ya" is, in my opinion, made far too hastily.  The line is often used to justify our earthly actions that society may deem as "wrong."  Because the Bible, as many people read it, is inconsistent about exact sins, those arguing for progress in America often fall to this simplistic thinking and when those people are Christians the situation gets messier.  It's reactionary too.  Conservatives tell a gay couple that their actions are sinful in the eyes of God but it feels natural and right to the gay couple so they result to "Only God can judge us."  It's a decent starting point maybe but the line is unhelpful in continuing a theological conversation about a very important topic.

When I read Scripture and hear it proclaimed in worship, I don't understand God to be one who calls for a world in which people do whatever they want however they want whenever they want and just wait for judgement day to find out if they were on the right path or not.  There's no participation in salvation in that scenario and there is certainly no growth into holiness.  This runs along neo-Reformed thinking and scares a disciple like me who longs for the world to move in a holier way and requires action (due to God's grace) on the part of the Christian. There is perhaps "progress" there, but it doesn't seem to be holy progress.

If one wants to argue for things like gay marriage in the church, the conversation (at least in the Wesleyan tradition) must be framed theologically and, along with that, within the realm of holiness and salvation.  In the VERY least, the argument about the sinfulness of homosexuality ought to be centered around how we are created and not that we can "just do whatever we want." The Scriptures must be wrestled with for liberal Christians.  The teachings of the Church throughout time must be wrestled with.  But everything, no matter the direction of the conversation, must be contained within a framework appropriate for the conversation.  Otherwise, we Christians that seek inclusion and equality are faced with a temptation to leave the Christian framework completely.  That's a no-no.

So Miley is encouraging this "No one owns me and I can do whatever I want" attitude.  Fine.  It's not ideal for the youngsters of America (frankly, it's downright terrible) and her culture writing insists on a degradation of our youth.  Fine.  I could approach that another time (and we should).  But, it seems to me that Miley is perpetuating a mindset that is unhelpful for Wesleyan Christians.  If we insist and believe that we can (by the grace of God) participate in our own salvation, we must reject the simplistic and unhelpful line, "Only God can judge me." Judgement and accountability by the community (the church) are integral parts of discipleship. 

Miley, put on some clothes.  Your dad watched that video. 

-B

 

Rebranding My Facebook

On Monday I begin the next 'chapter in my life' (though I'm not fond of that phrase) as I take a position at Florida Southern College as the Associate Chaplain. Florida Southern is my undergraduate alma mater and I couldn't be happier to be beginning work at such an institution. I'm even happier still that I'll finally be with my wife again after a long hard year living separately.

Attending seminary at Duke was a mind opening experience. I've written about it previously on this site, you can browse below to find it. What most seminarians will tell you but you might not realize is that the power behind the learning doesn't really happen in the classroom. The learning happens in the conversations, the study sessions, and the field education placements, in which you and those around you discuss communally and practically those things which are so important to the faith.

I've become infamous over the last three years for living out those conversations very publicly online. I've said things I still, to this day, agree with. I've also said things that, after going back and reading them, I have no idea how I logically arrived at the conclusion I did. Whatever the case and my feelings toward my statements now, they officially live in the permanence that is the Internet.

Many who see the Internet as a dangerous place will tell you that this new pervasive permanence is a bad thing. While the degree of pervasiveness is likely higher than at any other point in history, the idea of publication being permanent is not new at all. In fact, since the printing press, ideas could be easily distributed among the masses. These ideas came from people whose, say, Board of Ordained Ministries were watching and reading them. Conveniently, when the time was right, the Board would be able to pull up their latest published book and say, "In your last book, you said ________. We think that's foolish." Though the American criminal system allows one to keep words they say from being used against them in court, our extrajudicial bodies have no such ties. Since publication was a possibility for humans, the idea that their words could come back to haunt them has been in strong force.

What the Internet HAS done is this: make it so that every single person on the planet can publish themselves. There is no overseeing publishing company saying things like, "Should you really say that?" Or even, "Should you say that in that way?" Now, because of the gift of Facebook, we are all treated to an abundance of knowledge and record of what everyone in our lives had for dinner last night and what their position is on gun control. And now every word and picture can come back to haunt them later in life.

Back to me. I've chosen to use the road of Facebook to engage in what I consider to be worthwhile conversations regarding real things that affect us day in and day out. As someone who has scoured Internet forums for years, I see Facebook as a far more accountable tool for conversing. Facebook has my daily activities, places of employment, pictures, name, and other useful information attached to it. If I say something that is unfair, unkind, or egregious (and I do), my name is attached to it. Anyone who took considerable time to read online forums and compared them to my Facebook wall would quickly realize that the conversations are far less vindictive and quite a bit tamer on my wall. Facebook, because of its nature, allows that.

Now, I've found the conversations on my Facebook wall to be eye opening. They're a lot like the lunch conversations in seminary. Some of the highlights include my recent tirades on why guns are fundamentally bad for us, Beyonce's Super Bowl performance, and my constant avoidance of difficult topics like abortion. Many have characterized these threads as hateful and rude, but I don't see them that way. I don't approach anger in disagreement as a negative thing; I approach it with excitement. The chance to learn, to see differently, and ponder anew is right around the corner. What fun!

The Internet, more specifically the Facebook News Feed feature, brings a new dynamic to Internet publication and response though: it forces it into the faces of your thousands of friends whether they wanted to read it or not. The anger in some of these threads is perceived by many as a a negative way for a Christian to interact with the world. Many many many have brought this to my attention, even calling into question my character because of the threads. Their point is this: I publish a status, I get a response, I respond, the thread goes down a dark way, and it feeds my ego that people comment on the status. While this isn't how I've perceived it at all, the point is well taken. Their argument often follows that no real conversing is done here. Instead, we have fighting for the sake of fighting.

Those who tell me such things have their own opponents in this regard too. I can't describe how many people have privately contacted me or commented in the thread itself letting me know that they're glad that I say the things I do. They're glad that I have the courage to be as outspoken on issues that normal Christians won't touch. Their comments often fill me with confidence and joy; being in the heat of arguments like those that occur on my wall can be depressing.

Both sides have a point and up until this point I've shown little regard for trying to walk the balance beam that exists between these two sides. Like a free agent, I've kind of done whatever I want, whatever I feel is right, with little regard for the political or social implications of my actions.

While this ignorant world that I've been living in is incredibly fun and freeing, I'm also keenly aware that this is not the real world. As a Christian and pastor I know that my words have meaning. My words speak. My words matter. And not only that, my words are accompanied by the manner in which I speak. This is where those Internet haters have a point. The way that I say things matters more, often, than the things that I actually say. This is perhaps where I have been loosest in walking that balance beam.

And so, with this, because of the pervasive permanence of the Internet, my new role in representing institutions, the dynamic differences in Facebook publishing, and the constant bombardment of threats on my character, I'd like to announce a rebranding of my Facebook. From now on, I plan to keep most controversial things that I feel like need to be said to places like this blog where I can be more thorough in my approaches, I can think through more, and where the blatant information and conversations are not thrust into the faces of every Facebook friend I have. Knowing me, some of it will creep in and out of my statuses from now and then, but I fully intend on those updates being a lot more trivial than they've been in the past. The old material will, for now, remain on my wall. However, I'm not going to go back to engage in conversations like I did before. Facebook will, hopefully, not play that role in my life anymore.

These conversations are worth having, but the context of them will continually need to be rethought. If I feel like something is missing here, I'll reevaluate, but I think it'll work.

Keep up with me. I greatly enjoy it.

-B

People Change. I Fear My Own Change.

I've been meaning to write this for awhile.

I believe in human change. I believe that humans, no matter their upbringing, are able to change who they are. As a Christian, who has seen the change that God can make in an individual's life, I believe in change. As a Christian I believe that God's grace can show a child of God (all of us) who we truly are, so that we might set eyes on God alone, the one with the power to transform. Our hearts are aimed inwardly, God can change such a heart.

Humans can change not only for the better, however. They can also change for the worse. We've seen that all throughout history. People who have been known to destroy the world with their power and violence were often unrecognized as violent people previously. We see this in some of the mass shootings too. How many of the mass shooting criminals were caught beforehand? After, we often hear family and friends say, "He was quiet, but I could have never foreseen something like this," or "He was a good kid, made jokes, etc. How could he even be capable of such a thing?" This is true in immediate history as well as we all watched Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's parents claim that America had framed their children for this tragedy. A parent can rarely imagine their child doing that much harm.

At the heart of this issue is something we know deep down inside our souls: people change. Some people grow up in loving households with loving parents. Then something happens. Something makes them angry. Something depresses them. They become passionate about something. They play a violent video game. They begin to dream.

And one day they walk into a high school and kill 12 of their classmates. Or they mail a box of evidence to NBC news. Or they walk into an elementary school and open fire. Were there warning signs? Sure. There always are. Did the signs go unnoticed? Sure. They often do. Because of the lack of friends, a parent's unbelief that their child would be capable of something like that, or the busyness of others' lives, blind eyes are often turned and terrible tragedy strikes.

There is much discussion as of late as to how to prevent such tragedies for fear that if we don't do something it'll happen again. As it has over and over and over again. Many supporters of personal gun rights argue that the problem isn't the weaponry itself. They have a compelling argument; after all, guns require human intervention to actually inflict harm on another being. If legislation involving guns, however, is not feasible because of Second Amendment guarantees, those wanting to stop such violence turn to other means.

Many pro-gun people are advocating that mental screenings ought to come into effect at the point of gun sale. This seems helpful to me. If we can stop someone who is mentally unstable from purchasing a dangerous weapon, perhaps it will not only save others' lives but it will save theirs as well. What about, though, a person owning a gun for years before they use it to mow down a classroom of elementary schoolers? What about a mother who stores the guns in the violent child's bedroom? What about a grandfather passing a gun down to his grandchild just for his grandchild to develop depression later in life and decide to take life into his own hands?

There are many, many questions. None with perfectly viable solutions.

At the heart of those questions above though is the principle discussed previously: people change. If a weapon exists that allows them to cause damage and they're able to get the weapon before they go crazy, or through other means who won't ask them about their craziness, what is the solution? The NRA suggests that more gun owners would mean a safer environment. But if more people, who have the potential to change from good to bad, own dangerous weapons, doesn't that mean that the potential for more bad people to have dangerous weapons is there? Couldn't a good person with a gun, under the right circumstances, turn into a bad person with a gun? Isn't the issue, then, in some sense the gun itself? Isn't there a point in which we realize that the weapon simply isn't good for us?

We cannot control the change in people. America is a society where the winner wins and the loser gets screwed. America is a society where community is only valued in nationalistic sense and where someone who does us harm or simply doesn't fit in is written off in an instant. America simply isn't set up to care about the change in people (see how criminals are treated when they're released from prison as an example). If America, then, can't prevent a change from good to bad in its citizen, what then can it do?

People ask me why I'm "anti-gun" all the time. The answer is simple, really. I'm scared of this change. I'm scared of the change in me. I recognize my own brokenness. I am what I consider to be a "good person" who "could never do something like that." I have no history of violence. I passed my psychological exam for ordination. I'm a normal guy who cares for people, loves his family, and wants less people to die in the world.

And yet I fear, under the right circumstances with the right tools, the damage I could do...due to my own brokenness.

Further, I think anyone who denies that their brokenness couldn't, given the right situation, get the better of them is fooling themselves. And they're not familiar enough with Peter, who is the rock upon which the Christian church was founded yet who denied Jesus three times, raised a sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, and who Jesus referred to as Satan and an obstacle.

People change. It's time that we realized that. And cared. We can't prevent every human being from being violent in the midst of their change. We can't prevent them from changing. What we CAN do is affect the damage done during such violence, hopefully resulting in less people dying.

That's all I want. In the midst of change, I want less people to die.

-B

On Guns

"Guns are bad for us" my repeated refrain often reads. It's simple and to the point: guns do little good for our society.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about guns and their impact on our society lately.  Two obvious events have brought the conversation to my mind.  On July 20, 2012, a man walked in (dressed in armor) to a packed movie theater and opened fire on the room during the opening of a movie. I have yet to watch that movie because of the incident.  He killed 12 people and injured 58 others in one of the largest mass shootings in the US's history. All of that occurred in what witnesses say was about three minutes; from the moment he shot until he was arrested was less than ten minutes. Later that year, one week after the 71st anniversary of the 'day that will live in infamy', a deranged 20-year-old entered an elementary school in Newtown, CT with no intentions of walking out alive, or letting anyone else survive.  Mercilessly he continued his shooting rampage that had begun against his mother, killing 28 people in total (including himself and his mother) in about 11 minutes.

These were two horrifying tragedies.  I grew up in the age of Columbine and 9/11. I was in college for Virginia Tech.  I, and the rest of my generation, have experienced more mass school shootings than any generation should.  We are beginning to see a time in our nation's history when, through the internet and other means, young people have more access to more things.  These things include immediate information, pornography, instant access to all their friends, and…most of all, guns. James Holmes, of the 2012 Aurora shooting, bought his weapons, legally, from shops around the Denver, CO area. He bought an unbelievable amount of ammunition on the Internet, where massive quantities of product are available in two days with free shipping.  Guns, as we have understood them, are a different threat to our society than they've been in the past. So, if they were bad to begin with, they've become worse.

Let's think about the nature of guns, shall we?  What is it that makes guns different than say, a knife?  Most agree that the first effective projectile weapon used predates any recorded history.  That weapon was the bow and arrow, best known in the United States for being used by Native Americans to hunt for their food.  Perhaps, when processing projectile weapons, we ought to begin there.  Why would the bow and arrow have been invented?  Generally, tools are developed by humans (because we are an innovative people) so that our lives could be made better.  Think about the first people to use spears.  The spear is technically a projectile weapon which humans used to capture their prey.  What if a human could invent a device that could essentially throw a spear, but from a further distance and more accurately?  Wouldn't that be better for killing prey?  Wouldn't that be better?  Enter the bow and arrow.

The bow and arrow did something innovative, something new.  It, for what some consider the first time, allowed a stationary human being to inflict harm on something else (human, animal, or whatever) without moving.  A spear, for any accuracy at all, required a human to be close to its target.  A bow and arrow allowed the human to shoot from a distance with increased accuracy.  Humans were suddenly able, with their innovation, to kill with more accuracy and deadliness than ever before. The earliest guns are typically dated to around 1,000 years ago, appearing first in China (where else?).  These guns accomplished what many were seeking to do: improve upon these projectile weapons.  The Chinese were able to use their extensive knowledge and experience with explosive powders to create a projectile weapon that could inflict harm on its target from a ways away.  The shift here is significant: humans beings were now able to inflict harm on something that they were not touching.

This shift is fundamental to my argument and one I think we cannot take lightly.  If, prior to projectile weaponry, humans wanted to inflict harm on other beings, humans needed to be touching them.  Once spearing became popular and bow and arrows progressed from that idea, the ability for defense against such an act by the other being was eliminated.  The power shift happened.  Because of innovation, one being had declared power over the other being by simply employing a 'tool' that could cause harm to the other. This shift is significant.  How much could a person well trained in the martial arts defend themselves against a weapon that sent its destructive force through the air?  If one is not in contact with a human body, how could someone defend themselves?  Innovation, here, meant a paradigmatic shift in how we understood defense and violence.  The winner of a wrestling match used to be the smartest and strongest one there.  One could be smart, but it was likely that in order to defend oneself, they would also need to be able to physically combat the other.  Fighting back, in other words, required brute strength as well as smarts.

Innovation though, as it always does, won out.  Suddenly, with a projectile weapon, one could combat another who was significantly physically stronger than them.  This is a fundamental shift in how our world thought about winning.  In order to win, then, required no physical strength…it simply required you to own a projectile weapon.  Think about the change that has happened because of the mass production of weaponry as well: one doesn't even need the brains to out smart another with a projectile weapon, they simply need the weapon.  Even if I am both strong and smart, I will still lose to a gun. Every time. This principle is crucial to one's understanding of how to deal properly with talk of weaponry.  If a human's dependency on winning is no longer intimately connected to their physical well being or their traits, then the enemy of the human is no longer the human.  The enemy of the human, the one that can destroy a human's essence, is then the human who created the weapon which the human holds.  The enemy, in a sense then, becomes the weapon itself.  The enemy becomes innovation.  The weapon has put into place an entirely new power dynamic.

And so we have a situation like the one on 12/21/2012 (the day some thought the world was going to end) where someone could stand before a grieving America and make a statement like, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."  Guns, projectile weapons that become extensions of the violent bodies we maintain, are unstoppable.  We can only defend ourselves by using the weapon itself.  LaPierre suggests that the only way to solve our murder crisis in America is to arm our schools.  So the solution to the enemy that he proposes is to carry more enemies, not to rethink the enemy itself.  Aren't we allowed to look back at innovation and ponder whether it was good for us in the first place?  Should these fundamental shifts be taking place?

Guns are different than anything our society has ever dealt with before.  They extend our brokenness on others, without the immediate danger of being broken ourselves.  This shift takes lives every day.  It has taken more lives since December 14, 2012 than those outside terrorists took on 9/11/2001 (talk about a reactionary shift!).  This shift, in the form of a weapon, not only shifted power but as the iterations of innovation rolled in it has increased the likelihood of one shot being killed.  Now not only can shooter warn an opponent, a shooter can kill an opponent without the opponent having the God-given ability to defend oneself.  An opponent, then, is left to resort to the manmade innovation, the enemy, in order to even have a chance at survival--and that's only if they get the shot off first.

It seems to me that playing in this territory is dangerous.  I believe some, in fact most, innovation to be good.  But innovation that exists only to kill?  That innovation is dangerous at best, and catastrophic at worst.  

This isn't a conversation, or shouldn't be at least, about 'rights' (even though this 'right' to bear arms is not what was considered a certain 'inalienable' right endowed by their creator).  This conversation must be about what is good for us. This is why I maintain that if statistics exist that point us to see that guns are regularly stopping mass shootings, or preventing more deaths than they're causing, then I am open to change my views.

Until then, I maintain that guns are bad for us.  They fundamentally change the way that humans exist.  This fact, above all, should constantly be brought into question.

-B

To Whom Much Is Given, Much is Required

I'm not positive where that phrase came from. Someone with more energy than me should do the research.

To be honest, I've never really given the phrase much consideration. The world, from my view, has always cared only for itself and its own success. That is to say that those who make most of the difference in the world likely care only about their own popularity, their own success, and how well they can do. Maybe instead of "world," I should say, "America." However, my statement above is also to say that we are inherently a self-centered people. So, maybe it is the whole world.

In my constant pursuit of turning the world against itself via Facebook posts I have stirred some controversy over the past week. During the Super Bowl, I posted a criticism of Beyonce's halftime performance and made some pretty bold (and probably unfounded) claims about her reversing the work that had been done for equality in both black and women's rights by forming her artistry in a sexual manner. Of course I posted it at the exact right time, at the exact right place (during the world's most popular time to engage social media--the Super Bowl--and on my Facebook page, which inevitably is the home of unrighteous and righteous dialogue about the wrongs of the world). The post blew up almost immediately and I was told by several people whose opinions I greatly respect that my thoughts were unfounded because of my white maleness. "She is empowering those like her, reclaiming sexuality, I am proud" they essentially said.

Today news broke that a fraternity on the campus in which I live hosted a party on February 1st whose theme and advertising were overtly racist. While more people were in support of my criticism of such a fraternity's action than they were of my critique of Beyonce, the post still engaged a conversation. I knew that friending all those people would pay off. While in class today, I saw a classmate reading about the party on none other than Yahoo News. "Great," I thought, "Duke University once again makes the national news scene because some smart but oh-so-stupid undergrads made some awful decisions."

"What's the impact of the national stage?" I wondered. And then it hit me. This is not too unlike my critique of Beyonce's performance.

My argument over Beyonce's halftime performance was based around her potential as a performer. If she really has the "power," as many have suggested, then she has the "power" to make a significant impact on the way our culture views things. It seems to me that one of the messed up understandings in our current society relates to sex. We live in a world where more high schoolers are pregnant than ever before. Pornography is one of the larger industries in our society. Sex Slavery is a real thing in America. Our daughters, sisters, and friends are literally getting sold to the highest bidding John. Pastors, teachers, policemen, and politicians are arrested more often than we'd like attempting to have sex with underaged minors (males and females) after soliciting it online. Like, really...they actually show up at the house. Our society is in a sexual crisis. The way to fix this, to me, doesn't seem to be being scantily clad (no matter how well you can wear it) on a national stage, dancing in a semi-erotic fashion. Beyonce is an incredible performer, few doubt that. She has a large audience (some might argue, the largest) these days. She, having built much of her career on her strong sense of sexuality (she's gorgeous and sexy and shows it), has the potential to make a change in this culture. My argument is that she didn't.

The same might be true of Duke undergrads (and administration). Duke is an elite university which fluctuates between an 11% to 13% acceptance rate. Students who score a 1400 on their SATs (on a 1600 scale) are the dumbest kids here. Duke students are often the future leaders of our economy, our churches, our political system, etc. Duke University has a huge national stage. And guess what, friends? Greek life, and college partying in general, is in a bit of a crisis in our culture. Duke, whether it be the students or administrators, has the potential to make a huge impact on the surrounding culture. Duke University could have put an end to the "Asian Prime" party. Duke University could have come down hard on these groups and partying years ago. My argument is that they didn't. And, based on the past, they likely won't.

When someone or someones have prestige and popularity, they have the potential to influence a self centered world. When they don't, it becomes harder and harder to have hope for the future of our society. Christians, since Christendom became a thing, have had that worldwide stage. We have miserably failed to affect that change in the culture because of our own self centeredness and brokenness. Societal change often relies on those who have been given much.

I honestly don't expect much of that change from those enslaved to album sales or popularity, or 18-22 year olds who have had much of their life handed to them. Christians can do better. Because we have been given much.

-B

Macklemore's "Same Love"

I'm a sinner. At least, that's something I believe.

Every week, heck sometimes even multiple times a day, I pray a prayer in church that recognizes that sinful nature and confesses it before God and our neighbors. Then, as one whole body, those gathered partake in the meal that Jesus instructed us to partake in. It's a bit of grace, reconciliation, confession, mercy, atonement, and love all rolled into one mysterious experience that Christians have been sharing together since Jesus Christ himself.

We live in a society where sinfulness is celebrated. In much of the secular world, it is becoming increasingly acceptable to act in a certain way.

The only thing that holds one from acting in a completely "wrong" way is the fear of the consequences of their actions. The world acts within a framework of consequence. In example, if I'm willing to be held to the consequences of my actions...that's something I am totally ok with...then I can act however I'd like. The individual becomes the standard for what is "right." How else is it to be judged? Respect the individual because they are being themselves.

Now, look at this individualism in a different light. From this comes respect for the individual comes a respect for the unique. This, perhaps, is something a bit more modern. If someone challenges the status quo in today's society, they are looked up to for their courage and uniqueness. There was once a time in our society that if you didn't conform to the status quo (either in your very being or your thoughts and actions), you could be tried and killed.

So, to recap: sinfulness is celebrated in our society now because the only standard against which actions are judged is the willingness of the "sinner" to accept the consequences of their actions. That's the secular world. The reason that this is the judging standard is because individualism is the dominant force and uniqueness is celebrated. This is the secular world. This is the world of Macklemore's "Same Love."

Many Christians argue that this is bad. They argue that the standard against which we ought to be judged is God. The closest tangible evidence that we have of God's standard is the Bible. Hence, they argue, the ways of the world ought to be judged by what is outlined in Scripture. Since the beginnings of Christianity flowed out of Judaism and Judaism was ruled by a "Law," they argue that the words of Paul and many other biblical writers ought to hold the world to account. Paul was against homosexuality, they argue. Therefore, homosexuality in the world is wrong. It's unnatural. It's unbiblical. It's just wrong. This is a different language than the one Macklemore is speaking.

Macklemore, in his song "Same Love," argues against the "paraphrasing of a book written 3500 years ago." He argues against a church preaching hate. He argues against the idea that it's a changeable thing. He argues that the "right winged conservatives" are "playing God." The hook of the song says, "I can't change...even if I tried, even if I wanted to...my love, my love, my love, she keeps me warm." The individual wins, here. "Just be yourself," Macklemore raps.

The church doesn't speak that language and it never really has. The church has been in the business of telling an individual that how they act is wrong. That it's keeping them from God. That it's sinful. That they need to change in order to follow Jesus and live into holiness. The church speaks a language of sin. And, now, perhaps more than ever before the world is speaking a language of uniqueness. A language of the individual. A language where the understanding of something being "wrong" is reliant completely upon the individual and their level of comfort with the consequences of their uniqueness. Two different languages.

Because so many Christians today live in the "individual" world and yet still belong to the church, the conversation, the argument, goes in circles. It tears us apart, eats us up, spits us out, and leaves us for dead. The conversation even hurts souls.

How, then, to mend ourselves? Ah, yes. Remember what I said? I'm a sinner. A perpetual sinner. One who (at least) weekly comes before God to confess my own sins before I partake of the grace that Jesus conveys. Sometimes I know my own sins. I'm aware of what I've done wrong. Many times (in fact, probably more times than not) I'm unaware of all of my sins. And yet, not even knowing all that I've done wrong, I come before God routinely to confess and pray for forgiveness. I pray that I may be joyfully obedient. The best part? It's not just me. It's the whole church coming before God for such a task. The whole church coming to confess our sins and pray for forgiveness.

It seems to me that the conversation over homosexuality is not one of just individualism. It's not one of just sin. It seems to me that the conversation in the Christian church over homosexuality is both. It's a conversation over a dinner table of bread and wine, where all at the table confess their sinful nature and are gravely aware of the significance of the meal. They're aware of themselves. They're aware of their brokenness. They're aware of the grace offered to them and the call on their lives to be better.

"I can't change" the song says. "Even if I try. Even if I wanted to."

Well, then, thank God for grace. A trust in that grace might result in a holier community: a community that can understand sin in light of the individual and the individual in light of the sin.

Macklemore is speaking the language of the individual standard. The church is speaking the language of the biblical standard. If we are going to keep this issue from tearing our churches apart, we're going to have to learn the language the other is speaking and figure out a way to understand each other. I bet if we tried it, God's grace would step in and help us out. Then, and likely only then, could rappers stop rapping about how awful the church is and the church could stop condemning people with a speck of dust in their eye.

Grace has got to be the key.

-B

If you're lost, you ought to watch this video. It's touching: http://youtu.be/hlVBg7_08n0

Just Because We Can Doesn't Mean That We Always Should

Mayor Bloomberg wants to outlaw large containers for soda and sugary drinks.

The Libertarians come crying out, "The government shouldn't be able to tell us what we can and can't have! This is America!" When I tell people that I think this is a good idea, they cry to me about how crazy I am. "You're going to let the government tell me what I can and can't do? Because of your lack of self control?"

Yes. Because drinking large quantities of soda is bad for you and I learned the bad habit because it was available to me, anywhere and everywhere, and I took advantage of it. And I've fought my body ever since.

Just because we can (either in our minds or legally) drink 40 oz. sodas, doesn't mean that it's a good idea. Nothing good comes from that.

James Holmes was arraigned today on multiple counts of murder.

He shot 70 people with a high powered assault rifle that costs a little over $1,000 and can be bought, legally, in a store and picked up with a short background check within the hour. He bought 6,000 rounds of ammo on Amazon. It was legal for him to own the gun and to buyt that ammo. He could do that.

We, as Americans, can own weapons that allow us to defend against ourselves. We can do this, legally. But, does that mean that we should?

Today, the NCAA handed down unprecedented sanctions upon the Penn State football program.

Sandusky was accused, JoePa was fired and then died, Sandusky was convicted, anyone else powerful at Penn State University who had any connection was also fired, the Freeh report came out and made the situation appear even worse than we all feared, they removed the JoePa statue, and the program's reputation that had once been legendary was ruined, not simply tarnished. Joe made a huge mistake that cost him everything. Jerry made several huge mistakes that cost him everything. Spanier made a huge mistake that cost him everything. And together, with a few others, they cost the university's football program everything.

Today it got worse. The NCAA had the power, because of their system, setup, power, influence, and total control over anything college sports related to do what they did. They had the complete ability to flex their muscles. They had the ability to make an example out of a once untouchable football program. And they did.

But just because you can, should you?

(I'll forego the argument for the sake of this post that the NCAA completely stepped out of the way of due process, allowing the almighty Emmert to personally intervene, unlike anything he has done with programs that violated specific NCAA regulations...**grunt grunt** UNC **grunt grunt**. I'll also forego the argument that this is a criminal act and therefore is left for the legal system, not the silly constantly over reaching NCAA)

Did the NCAA need to come down this harsh, effectively killing this program for an entire generation? Was this necessary?

Many say, "Yes! Child molestation and the covering of it up is atrocius and unacceptable!" Those people are right. Child rape and molestation is unacceptable. Those who cover it up for the sake of a program are in some ways just as guilty as those who committed the atrocities, too. This is unacceptable.

But, should the NCAA destroy the future of the program, making it effectively impossible to recruit for, simply because it can? No. Should it make an example out of a group that has already through the court system and the media been made an example out of? Again, I don't think so.

When we drink 40 oz sodas, we must ask ourselves, what good does it do?

When we buy assault rifles, we must ask ourselves, what good does it do?

When we enforce unbelieveable penalites on people who had nothing to do with an atrocity, we must ask ourselves, what good does it do?

What's hoped to be accomplished? Show the world child rape is wrong? We're already there, guys. We get that. Show the world how powerful you are? The good in that is questionable. Make a change so that this doesn't happen again? Maybe, but in order to make that believable you're going to need to articulate your process for how in a very convincing way.

If the NCAA hadn't done anything, they'd been looked at as weaklings. But they needed to flex their muscles...to show the world that they're actually paying attention and that they are the almighty voice to which programs must listen or else all the benefits from having an athletic program might be lost.

What's the good in that? Little. What do I think they should have done? They should have invested in figuring out ways from preventing this from happening again (the $60M fine is the one sanction I can understand). They should have done investigations into all programs. They should have helped Penn State football recover from such a devastation. They should have sent the message in another, healthier, better way. In a way that brings good, rather than stabbing in the dark hoping that good would be found somewhere.

They could flex their muscles. But should they? Not unless they can clearly articulate the good that will come from this.

I shouldn't drink 40 oz. sodas, even though I can. I shouldn't buy an assault rifle, even though I can. I shouldn't flex my muscles even though I can either.

Because, in all things, I must ask myself, "Can I clearly articulate the good that will come from this? Can I point directly to the good that the world will see from this?"

Otherwise, it's useless punishment and an example. And that's not good enough.

-B

True Freedom and Its Costs

Early yesterday morning, shortly after midnight, the freedom that a young man (younger than I am) named James Holmes had to own an assault rifle, legally, cost 12 people (maybe more) their lives. It cost 12 families their loved ones and it cost the world 12 individuals who could have made it a better place.

James Holmes was free to own the weapons that he used to shoot those 71 people yesterday. He legally purchased those guns, all that ammunition, and likely anything that he used to booby trap his apartment which he knew he would never return to.

James was free, like you and I. He had a right, a freedom, to own those guns.

Interestingly enough, that freedom that James enjoyed was paid for by the lives of soldiers who fought courageously both here in the States and abroad so that no one would take away that freedom. People lost loved ones in war, terrorist attacks, and random acts of violence, all because we were fighting to maintain our freedom. Simply put: we must defend ourselves in order to keep our freedom.

This concept isn't new. We know this. In order for us to have freedom, we must defend our freedom. But it does get more complicated.

Last night I asked a still-unanswered question via the wonderful world of social media and it went something like this: Is there any reason that non-military or non-police citizens should be allowed to own a semi-automatic rifle? I didn't phrase the question well, and I was unsure of what verbs to use, but I think the message was semi-clear: what good, honorable reason would there be for someone to own a weapon like James used in Aurora? Should it be legal to own a weapon that can do that much damage?

Of course, as many of my posts do, it sparked controversy. Americans are only as free as they can defend themselves to be! People attack us? We must fight back! We are only as free as we can assure ourselves that we are. Otherwise, those attacking us impending on our freedom have every opportunity to take away our freedom, which makes it so that we aren't truly free.

I should be clear: I think this is a giant load of crap.

If we define freedom in this way then we are saying that freedom only comes from the way in which we defend ourselves.

Friends, this isn't freedom. This is fear.

I'd invite you to take a step back and look at what this freedom has brought us: countless wars ending with much of the world hating our arrogance, machines in airports that send radiation into our bodies, racism, patent wars, and undying greed.

I have family members that carry a pistol wherever they go. The idea is that if anyone were to attack our family, they'd have a way to defend themselves. Again, I ask, is this freedom? Can we truly enjoy such a "freedom" if we are always concerned with who might be following us, ready to attack us? What is it that this freedom truly gives us?

Perhaps the question really is: what is the point of such a freedom? What is this freedom all about anyway? Is freedom the right to bear arms? Is freedom the right to say whatever we want, even if it is harmful? Is freedom the right to put up a fence so that the neighbor can't see me mowing the lawn? Is freedom the chance to eat BBQ, drink beer, and party with fireworks?

This, to me, doesn't sound like real freedom. It doesnt sound like a culture ready and willing to make this world a better place. It doesn't sound like a culture who cares about one another. No, this freedom sounds like a culture in which online bullying meets crazy heights and encourages suicide. This freedom sounds like a culture that encourages the defense of religion rather than the religion itself. This freedom sounds like a culture that has at least one mass shooting a year. This freedom sounds like a culture that is so obsessed with the work of the individual that it encourages such an individual to refuse to recognize the assistance they've received that led to their success.

In short: this freedom sounds like it delivers a worse product and costs more. It costs us the lives of soldiers overseas. It costs us the lives of moviegoers in a theater. It costs us a dying reputation. And what do we get? A degraded culture who cares nothing about what we should care about.

I sense a very different freedom in Christ. Christ assures us, because of his death and resurrection that the chains that once bound us through sin are broken forever. This freedom, true freedom, allows us to live into the people we have been made to be. This freedom, true freedom, allows us to recognize the gifts and graces of one another. This freedom, true freedom, inspires us to live as one with the peace that only Christ can give us. This freedom, true freedom, gives us life and life abundantly. The other freedom results in death; this freedom, true freedom, results in resurrection.

And the best part: the price for this freedom has been paid. The sacrifice has been given, by the very one who gives us life! It costs us nothing but the willingness to follow in the steps of the one who said "Come, follow me."

Many may say, "Wrong! This freedom costs us everyday. It costs us because the life of discipleship is one of martyrdom. It costs us because of the persecution of the world." AHA! The world wants us to buy into its version of freedom. But we must not. It wants us to pay the cost (and many many before us have). But we must not. Even if we are persecuted on this earth, we know that true freedom of being forgiven for our brokenness is still had. That price has been paid.

This freedom is not concerned with our rights as individuals, it is concerned with our holiness. It is concerned with who God wants us to be. It has nothing to do with our individualistic rights, it has to do with our calling.

In America, for some silly reason, we have been defining freedom in terms of the right to defend ourselves and right to do what we want. That freedom has a poor outcome and costs a lot. And that doesn't end well. It ends with dead bodies on the floor. It ends up with bloodied theater seats.

If only we would desire true freedom.

-B

 

We remember the lives of those who were shot in Aurora yesterday morning. May God's hand of comfort be on their souls and their family members. May God's comforting and guiding hand help this nation to recover from such a tragedy, and guide the world toward true freedom, for which the price has already been paid. We are a broken people. Let us remember that we are also a forgiven people.

 

Ann Curry Leaves TODAY, With Nothing But Grace

Im not sure if I can explain it, or should, but I love the Today Show. Ever since I went to New York for the first time in 1998(1997?...can't remember exactly) and stood outside Rockefeller center, The Today Show has been my go-to morning show. In fact, I can't even stand the other morning shows.

Part of my fandom with TODAY is that I think Matt Lauer is easily one of the best reporters in the business. He can be hard on top celebrities, he can be funny, and he seems to have the best personality for a person in that seat. He's an anchor with a soul who talks to you and reports like there are no cameras. He's smooth, he's clear, he's jovial, and he's practiced. That's a perfect anchor.

Another part of my fandom with the show has to do with the second time (out of 2) that I was in the Today Show audience. It was June 26th, 2009. How do I remember? Because as we stood outside Studio 1A, the producers told us that there would be a very different broadcast that day. Michael Jackson had died. I only saw Matt that day, and that was through panes of glass. Al did his segments inside (as did Ann) and Meredith was live in Los Angeles.

I'll also never forget being in 2nd period band in 9th grade, and an administrator coming into the classroom to tell us that the country was in a state of emergency and that 2 planes had hit the Twin Towers in New York. We put our instruments away and turned on the classroom TV...to TODAY. I remember Matt and Katie's voices on that day and I've even been known to replay that broadcast via YouTube from time to time. How does a news anchor cover a story like that? The way they did.

When I was in the crowd at the Today Show in the late 90s, my aunt and uncle made up signs to hold, like many do. One of the signs said something along the lines of, "I eat breakfast with Katie, Matt, Al, and Ann." Ann was so thrilled that her name had made the sign that she kissed it and signed it. It was amazing. I remember her being so, so very kind.

I guess I didn't follow it enough to know the drama that occured when Ann was passed up for the anchor position after Katie left. But it was clear when Meredith left that this was something Ann had always wanted to do.

Ann is phenomenal human. She goes overseas as a reporter when others won't. She cries on camera and is even unafraid to make ghastly, embarassing mistakes. She asks pointed questions at times when it's needed. She flubs over and over again.

She's very real.

And I think that makes her a phenomenal reporter. She somehow manages to break all the rules of journalism while still drawing you in with her deep smile and heart for the individual. She worked brilliantly as the news reporter in studio for so many years and every assignment went on left the world in tears.

About 8 months or so ago (a few months after she got the job), I started to notice her flubs more often. And these were little. Before, whe was known to walk into a camera shot not paying attention. She was known to share too much to the viewing audience. But I started to notice that she was having problems reading the teleprompter. She had never been real great at it, but the way she covered before had worked at the news desk, and it didn't seem to feel right at the anchor desk.

Something just didn't fit. She didn't have the smoothness of Lauer. It started to bug me. I liked Meredith, but I like Katie better. I liked Ann a lot, but not at the anchor desk. Sigh.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one. Today, on TODAY, Ann Curry left her position as co-anchor. It was an odd departure but had been rumored for some time as Good Morning America had rivaled the Today Show's ratings. Ratings, in TV, seem to be the end all be all and one can only imagine that Ann's tenure at the anchor desk wasn't helping TODAY garner any more interest. When people are defecting to a competitor, you have to do all that's in your power to regain control. Over the past week, that's what NBC News has done.

The good news is that Ann has a new job. Sort of. It seems unclear exactly what that job will entail and look like on a day to day basis, but I hope we see more of the reporting that we were used to from Ann Curry. I appreciate her humanitarian work, reporting on those who have no voices, calling all viewers to see the worlds of other people and to offer their hearts to them much like Ann has given her heart to them.

In the end, Ann wasn't the right choice for the anchor position. It was her dream job and for that she was able to hold it for just over a year. Sometimes, though, we aren't fit to do what we do and we must nuance our dreams to work in the best way possible. Hopefully Ann will see this new position as a way to live out her dream.

Personally, I wish Ann the best of luck. I can't wait to see her on camera again. She's been a bit frustrating over the past year, but now that she's gone, I'm truly going to miss her.

When Conan left NBC, he drug their name, reputation, and money through the mud. He was so angry over the way that he was treated that he used his last month at the show to show NBC just how much power he had. When Ann left the Today Show, it what seemed to be a very similar situation, she was as kind as he has ever been. Her grace, in the midst of what must be a gut wrenching time, is remarkable.

She is a role model among role models and I hope we continue to have more of her influence in our lives. As Matt said this morning, "She has the best heart in the business."

So very, very true.

-B

We Ought To Have Compassion For Jerry Sandusky

I watched the news yesterday, like most of America: 45 out of 48 counts...guilty.

He was held for sexual misconduct with minors, child rape, and several other counts that make us turn our heads and cry. As the trial began, I wanted to give him the most hope I could, but after some time it became more and more evident: Jerry was guilty. The defense attorney said it was an 'uphill battle.' I've never heard such an understatement.

I wrote on twitter (and therefore Facebook) yesterday that I have a problem when I hear people say "he got what he deserved." I excepted, though, child molestation. Something seems so graphic, perverse, and utterly wrong about it. When it comes to child molestation, I tend to think that those criminals should get all that they deserve.

What does Jerry deserve? As at 68 year old man, he's going to get the rest of his life in prison. He was taken into custody following yesterday's proceedings. He will never spend another night in bed with his wife. He will never see the life of a free man again. The world is over for Jerry Sandusky. He won't even have much of an opportunity to right his wrongs.

I could tell that this news was well received because as the final decision by the jury became public, the crowd outside the courthouse steps screamed and cheered. They were ecstatic that this serial molester/rapist was finally going to 'get what he deserved.' They cheered the prosecuting attorney as she spoke to the crowd and booed the defense attorney when he even hinted at the idea of an appeal.

Jerry is going to, according to the world, 'get what he deserves.'

Unfortunately today I spent the greater part of the afternoon watching YouTube clips of Westboro Baptist Church. As many of you know, WBC uses their voice to scream fire and damnation to all 'fags' and 'fag-enablers.' Mostly, if you don't go to their church, you fall into one of those two camps for them. Within every clip they said, 'fags are gonna get what they deserve...because they don't listen to the Lord their God.' For WBC, being gay deserves damnation in hell forever. If you are gay, you will get what you deserve when you spend eternity in hell, according to Westboro Baptist Church.

Of course, the thing Westboro Baptist is missing is compassion. They have none. They will explain to you (I've asked them) that what they're doing is 'love.' They love gay people more than anyone else, according to them, because they want gays to turn from their 'evil' ways. Their love, though, is for some sort of works-righteousness where one could earn eternity in heaven simply by not being gay. That's how they define 'love'...like, hey, if I didn't love you, I wouldn't tell you about how bad it is to be gay. Therefore, I love you. That's not really love.

This seems a worldly, and not Christlike, response. You do something that is 'despicable' (in the case of homosexuality, we are remarkably disagreed...with child rape, we are not) in our eyes. Therefore, you shall be punished. According to WBC, for the gay it is hell. According the world, for Jerry it's prison for life...and a shamed life.

How shall the Church separate itself from the world?

The world says to Jerry, a sick sick man, "You are going to get what you deserve." The Church, though, needs to say to him, "What you did is wrong, but we love you. And yes, that means more than telling you that you get what you deserve...it means seeing the part of you that God is within. it means having compassion for the part of you that is broken, like we all are."

Jerry will spend the rest of his life in prison. And, according to this world, he should.

But the Church will have to take the step beyond that. A step to see Jerry as a person, a human. Perhaps a very sick man, but a man just the same. That compassion for those who have wronged us, those who do despicable things, those that are misfits in society is the type of compassion I see Jesus preaching and practicing within the Scriptures. We are to follow what Jesus did. That's who we are. That's our calling.

We ought to have compassion for Jerry Sandusky. That's how we, the Church, stand apart from the world.

-B

One Thing My Wife Has Taught Me, So Far.

Three years ago today, I said "I will" instead of "I do."

Since then, Allison and I have lived in residence housing, changed career paths, moved states, found new jobs, gone from a 900 sq ft apartment to a 200 sq foot apartment, both enrolled in graduate school in two different cities on two different campuses, one of us lived on a dairy free and gluten free diet, bought three iPads and five iPhones, had money and not had money, one of us has graduated from graduate school, and we've made the difficult decision to live 9 hours by car and 2 hours by plane away from each other in the coming year. Exciting opportunities, difficult decision.

Because we begin this next year, and because today happened to be our anniversary, I asked Allison if I could blog about what this marriage has meant to me recently. She said as long as I didn't say bad stuff (are there bad things to say?) it was okay.

Marriage has been one of the greatest things one could ask for. It has been everything I thought it would be and much that I wasn't expecting. We've learned how to make decisions together, be completely and utterly honest with each other, discuss fairness, and truly understand how one is the extension of the other. This is why I write today. Allison has taught me many things throughout our marriage, I thought it'd be nice to reflect on just one of them.

As we have been married, Allison has made a career change. She's now committed herself to working in the life of college students on college campuses, trying to make a difference in both organizations and individuals, Throughout my time observing her intern at Florida Southern and then work and be a student here at NC State, I've been able to observe the difference she makes in the lives of her students. She understands something that is crucial for someone in the life of student affairs at the collegiate level: the college experience is about relationships.

When we first moved to Raleigh, I was working at a church outside of Raleigh, leading the music for worship at a new church plant. It was an enriching experience with both highs and lows. I got to know a lot of people and I grew both as a musician and music director. I was new to the game and young and had some incredible mentors along the way. But, I still thought of the experience as a strategic one. What were we going to do to grow this church? What did we have to do to attract people to this church?

Then, this year, I began work as an intern for the Duke Wesley Fellowship. One of the first things I noticed about this group was the fact that they loved each other. They loved being around each other. They were active on campus and loved the true sense of fellowship. It struck me: this ministry wasn't about strategic moves...this ministry was about relationships.

I think that it was about this time that I began to notice this in Allison's work. She talked on the phone with students. She went to lunch with them. She helped them through their struggles, encouraged them, and as necessary, held them accountable to the work they promised they'd accomplish and yet failed to accomplish. She was not only an advisor to them, she was a mentor. This struck me, and it began to be the way that I saw my work with Duke Wesley. Those men's small group times when only two people showed up? They were worth the time. That time when I happened upon a student struggling with the workload? Worth the time I took and the assignment I put on the back burner.

Over the past year I haven't been able to observe Allison work as much as I'd hoped to. But, the short times that I did, the impression that she made on her students astonished me. She truly cares for her students. She makes their college experience about them, and how best they can experience it. She encourages them to put into college what they want to get out. She puts a deep amount of energy into getting to know her students and it shows.

Next year, she'll be continuing her work in another state, back at our alma mater. We will talk over FaceTime, Skype, text, phone, and hopefully a little face to face. As little as I was able to observe her work these past few years, it will be even less in this coming year. But, I've already learned a huge lesson from her that I'm sure to carry with me as I finish up my last year in Seminary, with my RAs, and with Duke Wesley: the college experience is about the formation of the college student. This time in the life of the student is one of the most formative times the student will ever have. As someone employed by the university working one on one with students, your job is to make that as smooth and effective as possible.

I only hope I can hold a candle to the work Allison has done. I always want to see her as an extension of me and me as an extension of her throughout the rest of our lives. I hope that I can be that extension of her in the Triangle when she heads back to Florida. I hope I can care for my students as much as she cares for hers.

Allison, I love you. It's been a great three years together and I can't wait for the rest of our lives.

 

-B

Little Eddie Munster Was Quite The Bully

By now you've heard the story about the guy who accused Romney of bullying him in high school. Some people even used that clever little picture of Eddie Munster which they *swore* was Mitt as a child. I still don't believe that it was. Anyway, Mitt was accused of some pretty bad stuff...for a high schooler. Yes, friends, Mitt was not the rich, holy Mormon man that he now is. Well, he was rich. In any case, color us all shocked.

You see, this is well placed for the accuser. It's got the gay political momentum at a time when Obama came out supporting gay marriage and Romney spoke at Liberty University (a school that teaches that Mormonism is a cult) and got a standing ovation for ’defending’ the ’sanctity’ of heterosexual marriage. Washington Post, we salute you for your impeccable timing.

Like any good politician though, Mitt came out and ’apologized’ last week. He said,

I don’t remember that incident and I’ll tell you I certainly don’t believe that I--I can’t speak for other people of course--thought the fellow was homosexual," Romney said. "That was the furthest thing from my mind back in the 1960s, so that was not the case. But as to pranks that were played back then, I don’t remember them all, but again, high school days, if I did stupid things, why I’m afraid I got to say sorry for it.

Romney didn't really apologize. Like any good politician, his ’apology’ was little more than a political move to remove the media's attention toward him.

Here's the thing. I think he made the wrong move. The issues that will occur this political season are: the economy, gay marriage, jobs, gay marriage, the economy, gay marriage, and maybe a little medical marijuana. And oh yeah, there might be some attention given to bullying.

But bullying, as we understand it, characterizes us. No one is surprised that rich 17-year-old Eddie Munster, err...Romney was a privileged child. No one is surprised that Eddie, err...Mitt led a group at beating him up. Mitt as a bully is, well, a bully.

Surely Mitt has to realize that bullying is a problem. Surely Mitt has to realize that his involvement in this incident paints a picture, a very certain kind of picture. Surely Mitt understands this.

So, why not just admit it? Why not say "You know, I did a lot of stupid things and this was one of them. I remember this incident and for it I am deeply, deeply sorry. Bullying (no matter the reason) is a troublesome thing and is tearing our youth apart. If one cannot trust their classmates, who can they trust? I was part of the problem. Now I want to be a part of the solution. Bullying is wrong and it was wrong for me to do what I did. I am deeply sorry for contributing to the immense problem bullying is having on this world. I want the world to know that as President of the United States, I'll do anything I can to fix it."

Does this mean that Mitt doesn't understand the issue? Does this mean that Mitt doesn't understand the critical nature of the issue? Does this mean that Mitt heard ’gay’ before he heard ’bully’?

In fact this story DOES say something of Mitt's character. Or, at the very least, his attention. I want to like Mitt, but I think he's going to have to do something to step down to our level if he's to be a good President.

Not just in money, not just in justice. He's going to have to realize...in all fullness...what it is like to be a normal American.

Obama preaches to the normal Americans. Mitt doesn't. That's deeply problematic for the Republican party this election period.

-B

Thoughts on Bullying

The fearful always preyed upon your confidence.
Did they see the consequence? They pushed you around.
The arrogant build kingdoms made of the different ones,
Breaking them til they've become just another crown.
-Lifehouse

You may have caught the recent news about the death of Tori Swoape, yet another teenager who committed suicide because of school and online bullying. It's sad, sad news.

Bullying is a difficult problem in today's world. We hear the arguments left and right that because of the advent of social media, we are empowering each other to say things one might not have said face to face. Aspects of a changing cultural scene play into another one, making the issue of self esteem and bullying a more complex one that ever before.

My heart is saddened by these stories of bullying. My heart aches for the children who literally think there is no other way out of their difficult situations. I struggle a lot with the concept of bullying, mostly though because I'm convinced its been around for ages. Bullying, as I see it, is not a new thing.

Bullying, as I see it, is no more than a power play. Bullying is not about being cool or lame, smart or dumb, black or white, gay or straight, fat or skinny, or any other way that we distinguish ourselves from some other person. Bullying is simply a play of power in an effort to attain more. It is an attempt to use whatever assets I have to make you feel worse about yours.

It is an effort to draw upon the emotions of others using the skills, talents, and resources at your disposal in order for yourself to be made higher. Bullying is simply power at work.

Isn't our entire society shaped around bullying? Isn't the goal of American society to win over someone else? Isn't the goal to be the most powerful? Isn't that the reason that we continue to have one of the strongest militaries in the world? Hasn't the history of the world involved strong senses of nationalism and power?

The opportunity to surrender before entire annihilation in war is an example of this. The reason one might wave their flag of surrender is because they've been intimidated enough to the point that they can now acknowledge that they cannot win. They cannot go on. The other military has then used their resources to convince you and your military that it is weaker, insufficient, and likely to lose. Resources used to intimidate so that surrender happens and the fight for power is over.

It's no different on the schoolyard. A girl can call another girl a 'slut' because she knows it is a degrading word that others will associate with her enemy. If the term catches on, the girl will no longer be the cool girl anymore, she'll be the 'slut.' When the population turns against you, your own acknowledgment of who you are changes. Your confidence is lost. The power is removed from you.

The same is true of the current rush of gay children committing suicide because of bullying. They're just a normal kid until those who are against them use some sort resource (language, popularity, Scripture) against them so that they draw upon an emotional reaction.

Once someone has lost confidence in who they are, they've forfeited all power. And that power is left for the taking.

I see the attention that the media, social media, and school systems are giving to bullying as more than just an acknowledgment that bullying is wrong and must be stopped. In a very real and tangible way it is an acknowledgment that something is wrong with how we live together. Something always has been wrong with the way we have been.

Nevertheless, bullying is our history. If we believe in a cause, we march for it. We stop traffic. We boycott. We sing hymns to stop meetings. We use our resources to beat down those with power to get our side heard. We can and do (both rightly and not rightly) paint it with the brush of 'justice' but we bully...back and forth, left and right. When we use our resources to force even something as worthy inclusiveness and fairness, we are simply using the same tactics on others that were used against us.

I'd wager that some disagree, but I don't read Jesus as having used resources to draw emptional responses in order to win power. He took the authority that God gave him as his guiding light. With that, he was unwilling to submit to a power play. I'd encourage you to study his trial before his execution to see what I mean. It was (and is) I am very sure, a different way of looking at the world.

As we continue as a society, the trick is to remove the power. The trick is to remove ourselves from a world where power is at stake. We must remove ourselves, perhaps humbling ourselves to death...even death on a cross...because we are unwilling to give into the need for power in this world. If we could approach our disputes as people from an attitude of humility, surely some sort of attitude worthy of God would prevail.

If anything, the attention being given to bullying is bigger than it perhaps realizes it is: it's an acknowledgment that something has to change on a large scale or we are to suffer the devastation of centuries past. Worse, it's likely going against God's will.

We cannot continue fighting violence with violence. We cannot continue to fight bullying with bullying. We've got to change society's understanding of power. Hopefully, that will end the battle. Hopefully, that in turn, will end the suicides.

-B

 

North Carolina's Amendment One: What's God Got to Do With It?

I spent the last two weeks with WAAAAYYY too many United Methodists. Throughout the weeks, those who supported the church removing its statement, "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" wore colored stoles to show their support. The church attempted to reconcile the hurt it has caused to its gay and lesbian members but was unsuccessful at passing legislation that would help mend the wounds. The church then, in a vote of 61% - 39% voted to keep the language currently in its Book of Discipline. When the vote to remove the 'incompatible' language failed, many who support gay and lesbian full acceptance in the church marched onto the floor and refused to leave until the bishops negotiated with them.

Then I came back to North Carolina.

Amendment One has been all over the news here and throughout the country and those voting to defeat the amendment have been adamant about placing signage in their yards. Honestly, with all the promotion I've seen against the amendment, I didn't think it had a chance at passing.

News flash: Bryant underestimates the conservatism in North Carolina.

The best part of any breaking news story in 2012 is the mass amount of Facebook and Twitter trolling that occurs. When Bin Laden was killed, my news feed was split. When Obama cancelled NASA efforts, one would have thought they were calling for his resignation. The same was true today when I watched Amendment One pass with flying colors. Whoa.

My favorite argument: "This is God's plan. This is how God wants it to be."

GOD'S PLAN?!? WHAT DOES God HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS? Last time I checked, America was based on personal liberties, the right to not be under some sort of monarchical rule, and the right to not be told what religion to practice.

Friends, as I see it, America gave up on God A LONG TIME AGO. In America we care about free enterprise. We care about wealthy citizens. We care about the American Dream. We care little about the poor. And we, historically, have cared even less about the marginalized. Remember, we are a country that has based people's worth on the color of their skin. We have even based THEIR PRICE on the color of the skin and the calluses on their hands.

America doesn't care about what God wants. America only cares about what America wants.

Which leads me to a strange place with Amendment One. The majority ruled that they wanted marriage to be defined as between a man and a woman today in North Carolina. Fine. That's the way it goes. We live in a democracy where everyone has a right to their own opinion.

BUT PLEASE, OH PLEASE, DON'T BRING God INTO THIS! We gave up on the Almighty a long, long time ago. America was written under the paradigm of personal liberties and rights. And, somehow, we have been about taking away those rights and liberties ever since. It's a strange place to be in. Something tells me, too, that if those voting for Amendment One had taken God out of the picture completely, this vote would have been incredibly different.

See, the Church has a right to decide how it feels on the subject of Sin. It has a right to attempt to define it based on its own Biblical principles and historical teaching. It can do whatever it pleases and it's allowed to use God because she made it in the first place.

But, for America, no.

God's will has little to do with whether a gay man has a right to his partner's body and life insurance after his untimely death. God's will has little to do with whether a lesbian is allowed to know where in the military her partner is stationed. God's will has little to do with gay and lesbian rights in America.

Us Christians are living somewhat of a dual citizenship and our witness is being hurt by the way we throw one into the other so often.

-B

 

I use the term 'America' in substitution for the 'United States' simply because it seems to me to be a bit more pejorative. You're welcome.