Civility

You Are Not Alone

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new human logo button blackYou are not alone.

To every one of my Muslim friends and neighbors, you are not alone. The demonizing of your religion will not go unchallenged. Threats to discriminate against you because of your faith will not go unchallenged. You are our neighbors, friends and family. There are so many Americans, so many Christians, who will defend you.

To every immigrant, even those who came to us undocumented, you are not alone. We will still speak of your dignity and worth and celebrate our connection as human beings. You are our neighbors, our fellow humans, and you matter to us. Your children matter, and we will not leave them forsaken.

To every woman who feels that deep pain in their soul when men use and excuse demeaning language like “grab them by the pussy,” you are not alone. We will continue to hold people accountable for their words and actions. We will always speak of your value and we will defend your bodies and rights.

To every LGBTQ friend and neighbor, you are not alone. We have seen important civil liberties achieved in the last decade for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer minorities, and we will not sit idly by when those are threatened. You matter to us, and we will continue to safeguard your life and liberty.

To the millions who have healthcare for the first time, and those who finally have coverage even in the face of preexisting conditions, you are not alone. We will not sit idly by while your health is threatened by political games and rhetoric. We will fight for you and with you to keep the healthcare you so desperately need.

To our non-white friends and neighbors who have been vilified, faced condescension, and suffered demeaning, racist abuses, you are not alone. We will continue to stand with you for equality and truth. We will continue to work for a day when no one’s race or ethnicity is used as a weapon to disenfranchise, demean or discredit them.

To refugees around the world and those who have made it to US soil, you are not alone. We will not allow you to be further victimized by fear and suspicion, but will loudly proclaim your dignity, value and humanity. You are our sisters and brothers.

Those holding public offices change, but some things will never change. We will always stand together to create a better world, a safer world and a more beautiful world where our diverse gifts and shared dignity brighten every dark time. We will work harder each day to embrace love and accept our differences, and we will safeguard one another against all threats. We will stumble and we will misstep, but we will always rise and be better for our shared efforts.

You are not alone.

Finishing a Month on Civility

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Weekly Grace Jan 31 2016I realized today that with the drama of Snowzilla last Sunday, I forgot to make a Weekly Grace! I mean, wow. I haven’t missed one in a few years. So, I wanted to make sure we finished and finished well this month of intention based around civility.

It’s an election cycle year, and it’s a pretty heated race for all concerned. That’s one reason I wanted to start the year on civility. Another reason is that sometimes it’s so hard to keep my words flowing from love. It’s so easy to let something else step in and drive my speech.

In our focal passage written to the church in Corinth, Paul says that nothing is as important as love. Nothing should be allowed to take it’s place. There’s no miraculous spiritual gift, no self-denial, not even any great knowledge or correctness that surpasses love. This is not a message that religious people like to hear. We are very enamored of our personal gifts and, oh my… our correctness? We often like to stake our very salvation on it or deny another person theirs.

1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 
2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 
If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 
5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 
6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 
7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 
9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 
10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 
11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 
12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 
13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Paul says that his ability to understand every question and mystery is nothing if he does not have love for others. The capacity to love matters more than the capacity to be right. I won’t belabor this point too long, but come on! I think it’s one of the clearest passages that teach us that we should let our love help us understand more often than letting our understanding teach us to love.

Our civility will grow as we move more fully toward letting love take it’s place of preeminence in our lives. Our words will grow to reflect that we have matured past the idea that our own perceived correctness gives us license to fight, humiliate, defame or condemn. We will listen better, with more desire to understand one another. We’ll ask good questions, meant to free and not to trap. We’ll grow together as we share and understand one another better. This could be a good year, even with a presidential election.

AMDG, Todd

I Feel No Need to Destroy You

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oct 2 2012 civilityI don’t like what you said. I think your ideas and conclusions are flawed. But, I don’t need to hate you. I don’t need to silence you or destroy you. My ideas are not right by how wrong I make you sound, or by how much I manage to embarrass you. I will simply state with conviction my ideas and beliefs, and I’ll let you do the same.

I’m going to pull up a little reminder from my Civility exercise circa late 2012… for us to think differently, believe differently, and even fundamentally be different people, does not necessitate that you be “destroyed.” You don’t need to be labeled stupid, less, evil or a hypocrite, just because we are dissimilar.

Back in 2012 I said it this way, “An opportunity of civility: One who disagrees with you is not necessarily evil or an enemy.”

Here are a few screenshots of what I’m talking about…
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Dang, everyone is being destroyed. Can you guess what verses from scripture this makes me want to quote? Yep…

“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 

If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.”

Galatians 5:13-15, NRSV

It’s a thing these days in social media for someone to be destroying someone else, but doesn’t mean we have to participate. I see it online everyday, and I see the term “destroy” used in religious debates, social debates and political debates. It doesn’t seem to be enough for a person to hold an opinion or a conviction, but there must also be some destruction going on.

When we do away with the need to be destroying someone, we open that door of opportunity. Stop and spend a few moments of time imagining ways to be a person of conviction without needing to be a person of competitiveness. Imagine conviction without condemnation (Need an image of conviction without condemnation? Try the story in John 8:1-11.) Imagine your cherished ideas being valuable in their own right, without needing to demean another person’s thoughts or ideas.

The fact is, if I destroy everyone who thinks differently than I do, I become less wise for the effort. I will grow less. I will face fewer challenges, which means I will spend less time reflecting and deepening my cherished ideas. I am simply lessened by destroying (I suppose this really means silencing) people who think differently than I do.

Now, I’m not trying to destroy people who have shared an article lately in which someone was destroyed. I’m asking if we can stop a minute and distance ourselves a bit from the sensationalist wording and headlines? May we also stop and reflect on the need to be so competitive and demeaning in our disagreements? State your convictions. Elaborate on them. Support them. But if you can’t do that without attacking someone else and demeaning them, please consider your ideas and how you formed them. Are they factually based and relevant, or are they simply more of the divisive fighting between “us and them” that we get so much of every day? Are we simply playing a game of who insults and demeans the other the best? I’ll leave that discernment to you.

AMDG, Todd

 

Lift Them Up!

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Weekly Grace Jan 17 to 23 2016One of the uses or blessings of civility is it’s ability too turn things around, to take a bad situation and make it better, to help a person having a bad day begin to have a better day. An important part of civility is acting out of that civil impulse to positively engage and support one’s community.

Do you see someone around you struggling? Do you see someone who needs encouragement? Lift them up! Be a person who spreads joy and increases peace in the world with kind words, encouraging and positive contributions.

The proverb in our Weekly Grace is at once obvious and such a needed reminder. Our words have an effect, so let’s plan for the best effect possible. As children in Sunday School classes we often put our fingers over lips and sang “O be careful little lips what you say!” and I hope we never grow too old for that lesson.

AMDG, Todd

Our Prayer Intention of Civility

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Weekly Grace jan 10 to 16 2016Civility begins within and then manifests in speech and action. This is true of everything, good and bad, better and worse. Out of our hearts we incubate ideas and expressions that take form in our words and responses. For this reason our God is not just standing around waiting to slap our wrist and cluck at us, but God is working to rehabilitate our heart and inmost being!

Are we open to this? It’s one thing to capitulate and obey a greater power or a higher influence, but are we ready to allow ourselves to be fundamentally changed from the inside out? This is the difference between obeying the great sermon points in Matthew 5, 6 and 7 out of legal and religious obligation or allowing the Beatitude Statements in Matthew 5 to frame a change of our hearts and minds as we navigate the reorienting of life that Jesus presents for us to follow.

This is not Christianity 2.0 or any new innovation or deeper level… this is actually the beginning of religion and faith. Jesus often gave this invitation to people, “Follow me.” This is the invitation of a teacher, mentor and life-changer. This is an invitation to reflect on who we are and how we are, with Jesus’ help. And it’s an invitation to change. 

Want to change the urges and reflexes of destructive negativity in your life? Begin by reflecting on your heart and cultivating a change there… work with energy and consistency to remove the negative things and plant beautiful things in their place. Where their is hurt and injury, sow some forgiveness. Where there is anger, sow some quiet and prayer. Where there is hatred, sow some empathy and hope. Christian saints and mystics often rooted this in their prayers: St. Catherine of SienaSt. Ignatius of Loyola & St. Francis of Assisi.

Even as I begin a new year no longer serving a congregation as pastor and shepherd, I want to renew my commitment to being a spiritual friend and brother to you. And I have to remind you that I need you. Jesus didn’t invite one person or single individuals to follow this path of change, he called us into community, together. Let’s do this together. Let’s chat.

AMDG, Todd

Three Reasons I LOVE This Video

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You’ve maybe seen this gem floating around Facebook…

I love this video. Really. I LOVE it, and I have three reasons why I think it’s great.

REASON NUMBER ONE…

I love this video because it truthfully expresses that a woman should not bear the burden of any man’s unwanted attention or sexual aggression. Period. A man at no time or in any place has the right to force his unwanted sexual attention upon a woman. Coercive and aggressive behavior that causes fear or anxiety is wrong and should be stopped. We need to be saying this loudly and often and in every way possible, and the video is a wonderful example of saying it loud and clear.

REASON NUMBER TWO…

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 9.41.12 AMI love this video because it correctly references and relates to all religions and their concern for women. All religions are found steeped in and in conflict with their host cultures. I love that the video appropriately makes room for all of us to engage this important topic. Too often we use important issues like this to score points for our own group and condemn another group. This issue of responding to sexual aggression belongs to all. And before anyone from my group gets too tweaked over the video’s tagline that “Every religion protects women, protecting women is religion” allow me me remind you that such sentiments come straight from our scriptures. James 1:27 in the NLT, Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. And Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Caring for one another and loving our neighbor means protecting women from sexual violence, fear and aggression. Such truly is religion.

REASON NUMBER THREE…

batmanI love this video because it doesn’t advocate violence. We are so addicted to violent responses. We all want to be Batman, kicking butts and taking names. It’s sad that so many of us grew up only seeing violent responses modeled in media and life. I love loVE LOVE that image of the nonviolent circle of protection created around the woman in this video. Powerful stuff! We don’t need to fight one another. We need to stand together.

AMDG, Todd

October 2015 and Diversity

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“Diversity is not a weakness for faith, but a strength.
Our diversity is not discouraged by scripture, but validated.
Diversity is not disunity, but should help us be a unified whole.”

me in ma beardIt’s October and I’ll be starting a couple of things this month: 1) I’ll start working on my winter beard… and I know it’s never much of a beard, maybe more of a beardlette, but I’ll see what difference another year on the march to manliness means for me, and 2) I’ll be investing the month in writing out my thoughts on diversity as a core element of Christian faith that is too often given short shrift or completely ignored.

Diversity of Faith Expression/Identify

I’m not choosing diversity because it’s a buzz word. I’d like to focus on what our scriptures, especially in the New Testament and the words of Jesus, have to teach us about being different. Too often I’ve heard much more about being the same. In my own lifetime I’ve heard sermon after sermon about conforming to a single ideal, a single belief and a singular expression of faith and church. The church of my youth was devoted to a single refined expression of doctrine and ecclesiology to the exclusion and utter rejection of all deviance from that expression. We fantasized about our ability to come to conclusions and decisions about theological and doctrinal matters outside of personal experience and enculturation, and therein find the single answer to all questions for all people in all times in all places. Today, I’d call that misguided and un-hopeful.

Our scriptures present a different picture of life and faith. The ministry of Jesus showed a diversity of disciples and gifts surrounding Jesus, and times of Jesus himself affirming the existence and authenticity of others. In fact, Jesus often did this over the protests of his disciples who desired exclusivity and personal greatness, uniqueness.

Diversity of Gifts

We have often spoken of diversity in the realm of giftedness and abilities. It’s appropriate when we speak of individual calling and giftedness to recognize our diversity, and we’ll chat about that in October. We just won’t leave our diversity solely to the realm of gifts and abilities.

Diversity of Calling & Being

More than ever we are being challenged to be open and welcoming to differences. We are being asked to be comfortable with our differences. So where and how do we plant our feet solidly in our understanding of faith and scripture and tradition to do that? We’ll be exploring that question through the coming month. My central hope in this month is to show that we are able to be both faithful to God and respectful of one another’s dignity by becoming more open and tuned into the value and strength of our differences.

I’m excited to push back against many misconceptions about people, scripture and faith. I’m hopeful that we can live and worship with a greater love and sincere appreciation for one another, even in our differences. I have come to hold diversity as one of our greatest strengths, one thetas validated by scripture and necessary for us to realize lasting wholeness as a community.

AMDG, Todd