grace

Nov. 10, 2013 Civility in Xian Scripture

Posted on

mary and christNovember 10: Civility can bring us the greatest win of all.

Proverbs 11:16,  “A gracious woman gains honor; violent men gain only wealth.”

I absolutely love this comparison: the gracious woman and the violent man. Is there a stream in the ancient wisdom that recognized what we often make mention of today, that men too quickly turn to violence, either verbal or physical? It was just a few weeks ago that we saw many news stories about the women of the Congress stepping in and helping bring about an end to our Federal shutdown and impasse.

A grace filled person can achieve a much greater “win” than the violent person who takes out of turn, out of season and out of anger. This is one of those truths of what Jesus taught about forgiveness, loving enemies and keeping the heart pure. This truth wars against the apparent domination of the violent, that the violent can seem to seize riches and success at a dizzyingly rapid rate. There’s a better win out there to have.

I feel like making a new saint, a patroness of the gracious. She is Our Woman of Grace. She’s not a saint to pray to, or event to pray with… but a saint to become. She is the leaving of my violence. She is the hope of a better thing to come than my anger and greed can produce. She is me, when I’m at my best, and you at yours.

AMDG, Todd

Chick-fil-A vs. Muppets… What A Bummer

Posted on Updated on

I have avoided writing or saying much on the Chick-fil-A vs. Muppets squabble. I like Chick-fil-A’s sandwiches and their slaw is awesome. And I like the Muppets, a lot. But since I didn’t even realize they were doing business together, it’s no heartache for me that they broke up. I suppose that I have been most afraid that saying something lends validity to the squabble, but it’s grown big enough to captivate a nation without any input from me (said tongue in cheek, since probably twelve people will read this blog), so here goes…

It’s been common knowledge my whole life that the Chick-fil-A tries to mix it’s owner’s values with the way they do business. They’ve always been closed on Sundays. I’m pretty sure they used to have Veggie Tales toys and prizes, and I am quite sure they have had other kids toys of that tied into Bible stories and characters. That’s who and what Chick-Fil-A has always been. I have to wonder what the Henson folks were thinking when they entered into a business relationship with the group if they weren’t aware of this.

Chick-Fil-A has given money to organizations that promote heterosexual marriage and oppose same-sex marriage. However, I’ve not found any articles or accusations that they have discriminated against people in their hiring/firing policies or broken the laws of our country. I’d be curious to know if they have had such accusations or problems.

Then, there’s the actual quote that this whole broo-ha-ha has grown out of… did you read it yet? Before presenting the quote, I’d like you to do something: Stop thinking about gay marriage! Gay marriage doesn’t seem to have been mentioned in the article, and Mr. Cathy wasn’t asked about it. Try for a moment to step back and let the quote be itself: “‘We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that,’ Cathy is quoted as saying.”

Ok, so this guy is all about the “family.” And he invokes the idea of a “biblical definition” of the family. We can all read different things into that depending on our theology and cultural experience/tradition. We can even safely assume he would include defining family as based on the marriage of a man and a woman. But he didn’t decide to go there. When he expanded on things he said this… “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives.” What? What?!

I understand that someone reporting on this story may not be up on all the conservative Christian vocabulary that gets thrown around, but I’ve not heard a single friend or Christian writer respond to “first wives.” Now, if Mr. Cathy were Mormon, then maybe he would mean that those men in his family aren’t polygamists. But he’s Baptist, and “first wives” means that they don’t practice the ultimate evil (at least it was before gay marriage supplanted it) of divorce. That quote is a direct slap at divorced people, not gay people, by it’s own explicit content. 

Of course, we can assume he would exclude gay marriage from his “biblical definition,” but he chooses to hang his hat on the absence of any “second wives” in his family. I know a lot of Christian friends who have been like “Whoo Hooo, let’s go support Chick-Fil-A!” who are also divorced, the spouses of second wives and even, dare I say it, “second husbands.” Why aren’t they aggravated at the lack of grace Mr. Cathy showed for divorced people? I think it’s because of the great law of media that once a story has been framed one way, it doesn’t get a second framing. A wise friend who spent years in news broadcast around the DC area let me in on that media law, and it’s so true. The story was framed around gay marriage, and there it has remained.

Plenty of people have written on the absurdity of this public debate over eating at Chick-Fil-A or not. I haven’t seen anyone actually pointing out that Mr. Cathy was blithely devaluing divorced people, not gay people. Why not? Because the story was framed about gay marriage, and that framework holds, it sells, it galvanizes, it’s fires people up on both sides of a silly culture war that no one will win. And that framework has no place to process the “first wives” vocabulary.

So, what do I do with the “first wives” thing? I would say to the divorced people out there, the second wives and second husbands, “You’re welcome in my church family!” I say that because my biblical definition of family is inclusive of biblical things like grace, love and humility. We don’t distribute labels in our church family like “divorced,” “first” or “second.” I personally thank God for my wife, not because she’s my first wife, but because I get to share life with an amazing woman. I’ve known many people who felt the same about their second spouses. I’ve spoken with and read things by gay friends who felt that way about their partners and spouses.

What do I do with the whole “gay” thing? I would say to gay people out there, married or not, divorced or not, “You’re welcome in my church family!” I say that because my biblical definition of family, whether we’re talking about my biological family or my faith family, is based on biblical things like grace, love and humility. We don’t distribute labels in our church family like “straight” or “gay.”

Grace, love and humility. God forbid I ever make a move or say a word to win an argument or achieve dominance in any cultural arena of thought, if I have to trade one single opportunity to show grace, love or humility to claim that win. So where’s the grace, love and humility in this whole Chick-Fil-A vs. Muppets carnival? I’ve not seen much on either side of the argument. So, it’s not my argument. I’ll let Chick-Fil-A and the Muppets handle their own fight, after all they’re the squabbling couple. I’ll just keep trying to find those moments when I get to live the grace, love and humility the Bible has taught me. And I’ll pray I’m better at it today than I was yesterday.

Reflecting on Osama bin Laden’s Death

Posted on Updated on

Writing about the death of Osama bin Laden is a complex and frightening thing. I was up late Sunday night and caught the earliest rumbles of his demise and then saw President Obama’s comments and official announcement of the operation which found and eliminated bin Laden at his palatial hideaway in Pakistan.

And then I thought about it. I heard of people in the streets just a few miles away at the White House having an impromptu party. Come Monday morning I had heard of the same kind of celebration at Ground Zero. And of course, Monday was a day of Facebook and Twitter soundbites back and forth between many varied and nuanced responses to his death.

I posted the first confirmed report of the death I could find late on Sunday night with only one word to accompany it: “Wow.” I’ve not said anything else online about it. And really that was my first and has been my most poignant feeling since I heard the news. I was stunned. It was long coming and overdue. It was world-changing. I can almost trust myself now, after a day and two nights of thought and listening and reflection, to say a few things.

I still have had no desire or impulse to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden with song and laughter and light heartedness. But I can honestly say that I am glad we now have a world that can spin on without his distorted views and his ability and willingness to impose death sentences upon the innocent and the defenseless. Osama bin Laden was a part of the evil from which so many of us daily ask deliverance, “…but deliver us from evil.” His willingness to kill and to send others to kill necessitated his own death. But I do not want war and death to cross the line from necessity to celebration in my own heart.

It was past time for Osama bin Laden to be gone. I am glad that he has lost the power to kill. I am glad that our world is now without him. I am glad that he is dead. I do not wish he had been arrested. I do not want him to have had a voice any longer than he did. I do not want his stain on our planet to have grown any darker or to have sunk in any deeper. I am glad he is over.

Almost ten years later it is too easy to see Osama bin Laden in a war of ideologies and caught in a contest of competing worldviews. It’s very easy, after ten years of being hunted, to see him in the context of his philosophical arguments. But for those of us who are old enough to have watched the towers fall in 2001, the necessity of bin Laden’s death is not ideological, it is visceral and quite real. From watching the towers fall on live TV, to those earliest tapes of Al Qaeda beheadings of innocent people, we have seen the face of evil in this world. Of course, for the families of those who died his evil is even more real and present.

While I am glad Osama bin Laden is dead, I cannot find it in me to celebrate death, even his. I won’t sing in the streets. That just doesn’t feel right to me. But the women and men of the United States Intelligence Services and Armed Forces have my gratitude and respect. I thank them and I am proud that we have rid the world of that evil. I am glad we persevered in the face of such heavy necessity. Our people who have sacrificed and given so such much in the face of what needed to be done are our heroes and I celebrate them, their courage, their service to our nation and world, and their sacrifice to confront such evil.

I don’t condemn or mean any slight at all to those who are joyfully celebrating in the streets the death of such an evil. I’ve watched threads on Facebook in which people have “unfriended” those who will not celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death with patriotic chants, capital letters and lots of exclamation points. I’ve watched the vilification of many who simply asked something along the lines of, “Wait… am I really supposed to be a happy that death is still the best or necessary option to any problem?” We should not use this as yet another opportunity to divide and feed any hostilities. Whether you or I celebrate the man’s death, or don’t, our need for civility in discourse and conversation is as real as ever.

Here’s maybe the bottom line for many people of faith… we recognize the justice in Osama bin Laden’s death, the justness of it. We recognize the necessity of his death, we feel the relief that he is gone, and we are glad that his hatred and evil have been removed from our world. He earned that death over and over, more than 3,000 times in one day back in 1991, and many times since. But even as we recognize justice, we have been taught to hope for something greater, and that is grace. Our gladness that justice has been served is tempered by regret that grace was missed. Grace was missed so many times in the life of Osama bin Laden. He did not know grace, show grace nor bring any grace to our world.

Our faith has informed us that a better world is possible, and we still wait for it. That better world is forestalled by the evil of creatures like Osama bin Laden and the necessary sacrifice of good people to hunt and kill him.

I pray, from deep down inside, that with the passing of that evil another death dealing prophet will not stand to carry the banner forward. I pray that the great day of peace will come sooner than later for our globe. I pray that we might no longer be a species which produces such a monster and then has to wage ten years of war to find and stop him.

Resolving Deadly Viper…

Posted on

I just perused a very welcome update on the Viper interplay between the authors and the voices of protest. I’m glad to see the prayers of many answered in this obviously relational move to resolve the hurt and to move the whole kingdom forward. Amen!

Let’s be honest… like never before our predominantly Anglo majority in our country is having to come to grips with our heterogeneous society on levels and in arenas unimagined. We have to face the shallowness of the much lauded, historic “welcome” that we presented to other peoples who came to our country to share our space and raise their families with us. We also face this within the kingdom of God. The “Viper” parable can be an anchor as we move forward. White folks don’t just write and speak for white folks, and Asian folks don’t just speak and write for Asian folks, and so on… we share the movements of God in this world, and that means we share a heavy responsibility of love, grace and adaptation.

I think that this coming Sunday we will all lift the cup and bless the bread a little more one, and a little more in sync. That’s a good thing.