The Fine Art of Fact Checking

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batmanYou’ve maybe seen the story and the headlines floating around which declare that the NRA banned guns during the Vice President’s appearance at their convention. And many of us shared it right along to lay a zap on those bad NRA peoples… and even fewer thought to check it out. A few moments searching would reveal that those tantalizing headlines weren’t entirely accurate. And yes, I’m going to chide you for sharing them.

If you know me, then you know I’m no fan of the NRA’s leadership and agenda. I don’t believe they support the 2nd Amendment, but a dangerous and dishonest interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. I also find misinformation equally distasteful. In this day and age of so much information being shared, posted and promulgated, we must learn to fact check things and dig deeper! Or we look silly, dishonest and gullible. We like to make our opponents look bad, to score easy points, to zap’em and to “win.” Please. There’s more at stake than points in a political game of words and insults!

The truth of the story is that the NRA did not ban guns during Pence’s speech, but the Secret Service did. Why? To protect Pence, of course. The moral of the story is still the same… more guns in public do not make people safer, but in fact no guns make them safest. The government knows this. The Secret Service knows this… and safety is their job. But if we rush to make this a story about the NRA’s hypocrisy, then the really valuable and true lesson is lost, along with our credibility. We need a safer future, one with fewer guns in our public lives, one with sane and common sense gun legislation, and one with less misinformation banging around in our Facebook echo chambers.

Let’s do all we can to keep it real. Yes, those inaccurate headlines appealed to me, and yes they fit so nicely with my own worldview and assumptions. Too well, in fact, and that’s exactly why I didn’t share them. Instead, I checked the facts. Be blessed all, and be careful what you share!

AMDG, Todd

Yesterday I Prayed

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i prayedMost of us rolled out of bed yesterday morning and reached for the nearest device that would link us to Tuesday’s election results. We saw the list of winners and losers. We felt like winners and losers.

And I prayed. I was both a winner and loser yesterday, my vote at times landed on a candidate who prevailed and at other times upon a candidate who will not lead us in the coming years. I would imagine that we all faced some wins and some losses as the ballots were tallied. We each will have issues and interests at stake in who leads us forward. We’ll all have hopes and we’ll all have fears.

Today, I’m still praying. Tomorrow, I’ll pray some more. Prayer is not a consolation prize or an escape from the realities of life. Prayer is the ever-present expression of what is timeless, what is transcendent, what is hopeful. Beyond the arguments, the political parties and caucuses, and all the maneuvering of the powers that be, there must exist a truth and a reality undiminished by our collective failure to express God’s love, justice, grace and charity to one another. It must.

When I pray I beg for wisdom and for graciousness to inhabit the winners and losers of Tuesday’s contests. I beg for wisdom to overwhelm them all. I pray for the Spirit of the Divine to overlay them, even if they do not recognize the source of their growing empathy, mercy, grace and courage.

We keep moving, praying and hoping. I know what issues and values I have at stake in these many new leaders, and in the old leaders who will continue in their positions of power and influence. I know what many of you, a diverse group of people I dearly love, have at stake in these leaders. But we cannot let our fear ever extinguish our hope. We cannot allow our disappointments or even our victories to erode our commitment to justice, mercy and equity for all people.

I hope we’re surprised and not surprised. I hope that in the coming months and years we realize more justice, more equality, more joy, more freedom, and more of the rich life that we have to share. I hope that we see less poverty, less disease, less violence and less hatred, beginning in the halls, offices and rooms of our own Capitol. I pray that the good stuff God brings us is surprisingly beyond what we can today articulate or hope. And I hope we’re faithful enough in our anticipation to not be too surprised.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. To the greater glory of God. This is my daily prayer, inscribed upon my flesh with ink, that God’s glory grows and abounds in this world. This is my prayer because I am convinced that God’s glory is found in our love, grace, mercy and service to one another. Now and always, world without end. Amen.

AMDG, Todd

The Politics of Punishment

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I’ve had a thought steeping in my head for a while, and I need to serve it up. I’m not sure if you’ve followed the fate of the “DREAM Act” or not, but it’s an attempt to assimilate and welcome minors who were brought to our country illegally by their parents.

Now, I’m one of those political cats who can’t always decide which view to hate more, so I’m usually a little more conservative than my neighbors in DC, but am usually way more liberal than my neighbors in Alabama and Texas. I rarely have big political statements to make. A lot of people think that’s the problem with “moderates,” but at least you can’t blame us for clogging the blog-o-sphere with our rants.

Today is different for me. I have a statement to make. Opposition to the DREAM Act is not “conservative” politics, it’s the politics of punishment. I grew up in conservative geography in which I was taught a love of one’s neighbor, compassion and empathy. I grew up in conservative geography where I was taught that we are a country of many kinds of people, and that’s alright. I was raised in a conservative geography where I was taught that I am in fact “my brother’s keeper.”

So what happened to all those ideas? When did “conservative” come to mean conserving an ideological viewpoint at the price of people’s futures? When did the politics of punishment take over?

The answer is partly found in the polarizing nature of Conservative and Liberal points of view, and the necessary vilification of “the other” to win in an arena of competitive viewpoints. We simply cannot share an issue, and that’s just sad… it may be the great American weakness.

But something like the DREAM Act rolls along and suddenly we have a moment of sublime clarity… a lot of us are just pissed off, and we want to punish someone because we’re pissed. Kids? Sure, we can punish them too. And we’re blinded enough by a politics of punishment to think it’s OK to refuse a simple gesture of welcome to someone who is already our neighbor. The sadness deepens.

Go ahead and quote the reasons for wanting to punish minors who were brought to a country by decisions not their own… really, this is your time. Right here. Spill it. Say how the influx of undocumented illegal immigrants is destroying our health care system. Say that it’s overwhelming our social services. Say that it’s depleting our job pool. Say that it’s unfair to those who came here documented. I’m pausing now for you to do that.

Now, tell me that those reasons are good enough for you to reject a neighbor who was brought to our great country as a minor and knows this as their home. Tell me that even with the included requirements of education and proof of moral character in the DREAM Act, that we can’t open a door for them. Tell me that it is for all those reasons just stated that we faced our recent economic depression, collapse of banks, sky-rocketing unemployment and record setting home foreclosures. Hmmmm, you can’t. I can’t. We “legals” made that mess. Our banks made that mess. Our home lending policies and practices made that mess. We have a fine enough time designing our own demise without ferreting out the least among us to scapegoat.

Did you read up on the DREAM Act? If these kids manage to get citizenship, according to the terms of the DREAM Act, some of them will have done a whole lot more with intentionality for their citizenship than I’ve ever done for mine. (I’m whispering this part, “Or the vast majority of you.”) I was just along for the ride… oh, wait! So were they! Truth is, as minors go, they are in about the same position I was in as far as choosing where we’d call home. My neighbor is me.

We all honor those who come to our country in an open and legal process. But that’s just lip service. Have I ever found a way to help tutor someone in process for citizenship? Have I ever written a “thank you” note or a given a congratulatory gift to someone who was naturalized as a citizen in our country? Of course I haven’t. And though someone out there surely has, I’m betting the vast majority of us haven’t unless we by chance had a family member or close friend go through the process. No, we’re not galvanized into action by that to which we give lip service. We are moved by indignation.

The politics of punishment offends my ingrained Texan neighborliness. I was taught that being a neighbor meant better than that. The politics of punishment offends my sensibilities as a Christian. As one who has been shown the grace of God and heard the stories of Jesus, I am offended. I think of the servant who choses to punish another servant after witnessing the grace of One greater than he; Matthew 18:21-35. I think of the servants who have come late to the fields and are just as welcomed and paid by the owner of the fields as those who came earlier; Matthew 20:1-16. These are the stories of Jesus Christ. This is the legacy I was raised to carry forward.

So, I support the DREAM Act. Because my unintentional arrival on this continent makes me no more important than these other children who arrived here by no choice of their own. I need to work hard to love my neighbor, every neighbor. There are in fact people in this life deserving of some of the punishments that come their way, but let’s not ever let our political needs lead us deny a neighbor. That would be a fundamental mistake.

My neighbor is me. That’s how I was taught.