Can We Talk About Guns For A Moment?

rationaldiscourse

Credit: Ryan Sommen, ideonexus.com

Can we talk about guns for a moment?

And by that I mean, can we talk about guns without being unreasonable? Without calling each other names? Without making stuff up? Without distorting the opposing arguments?

If you scroll through your social media feed you may doubt this is possible, but I assure you it is. During the March for Our Lives a woman who lost her son in the Parkland shooting and describes herself as a liberal shared about having a 45 minute, healthy conversation with Senator Marco Rubio. If they can do it, we can do it.

So come, let us reason together. Turn down the volume and shut off the memes for just a moment and let’s chat. Not only will we find we can do this, but that we have more in common than we think.

Let’s start with the fact that no sane person wants children to die in school. We are looking for ways to help prevent these tragedies from happening. Prevent being the operative word. Nothing we do will guarantee our children’s safety, but we can work to make our schools and the world a safer place.

Now how do we get there? Arm the teachers? Ban guns? Body scanners at the door? Clear backpacks? Police presence? Like you, I favor some of these and others I don’t. But let’s figure out where we agree.

We probably agree that there are limits to the types of weapons that a person should possess. I don’t know of anyone who claims that a private citizen should own a nuclear bomb. I also don’t know anyone who claims that a person shouldn’t be allowed to own a knife, a potentially lethal weapon.

We are okay with owning knives and we are not okay with owning nukes, which means somewhere there is a line. Somewhere we say, “this type of weapon is acceptable for personal use and this other type of weapon is not.” If we can agree there is a line, we can move toward figuring out where that line lies.

I personally do not know where the line is. I have opinions. You have opinions. But we have agreed there is a line. So perhaps we can work our way in from there. Bazookas okay? How about hunting rifles? Can folks own a slingshot? A grenade launcher?

Even if we can’t agree on everything we can move closer together.

Another step toward reasonableness is putting aside unreasonable arguments. A popular meme I see frequently says, “Cain killed Abel with a rock. It’s a heart problem not a gun problem.” While I’m happy that folks want to look to Scripture for their direction, this is a bad argument. There is not one of us who would rather a person intent on murdering students be armed with a gun over a rock. We would take the rock every single time and the loss of life would be severely mitigated.

Yes, murdering people is a heart issue. And a mental health issue. And it has reaches to pretty much every area of a person. But we address heart issues with legislation intended to help prevent the heart issue from spilling onto innocent lives. Alcohol limits for driving and public intoxication do exactly this.

Those making claims from the opposite position have faulty arguments as well. One of the common ones is to inflate statistics to support the cause. For example, the number of gun incidents at schools so far this year (which has been shared far and wide) almost always includes a suicide in the parking lot of a school that had been closed seven months prior and a few other incidents that are a stretch. Suicide is tragic and should be grieved and addressed, but it was not a “school shooting,” as popularly understood, and claiming it as such is unfair.

There are reasons to support stricter gun control and there are reasons to oppose it. When we resort to these less than thoughtful methods of persuasion we actually weaken our position and give others just cause to dismiss us.

We can’t share something simply because we agree with the intent behind it. We need to put in the time (usually about 45 seconds on Google.com) and effort to figure out a fuller picture. The world is full of trolls who don’t think twice about making up lies to create chaos or gather more people to their side. If you have to lie or skew information your position is weak to begin with. And those of us who click like and share without first thinking it through, are just as guilty.

So, we agree there is a line. And we should agree that a lot of us use some bad arguments to try and convince others. What else can we agree on?

How about this: laws are not the solution and yet are still tools that help us. Can we land there, together? We’ve already mentioned we are working to prevent and limit tragedy, not guarantee its eradication. Can a law help? We mentioned our current laws that do just that in other areas. Why couldn’t they apply to guns as well?

Is it possible that there is some type of law we could all agree on that will help us? Absolutely possible. Here is an example: When a school bus stops and lets a child off the red lights flash on top. In order to protect children the law says you cannot pass the bus. Reasonable. Efficient. Useful. Doesn’t mean someone won’t break the law and endanger children, but here regulation is helpful.

Certainly not every law is fair or useful. Laws can be too restrictive or selectively enforced. Laws can be deemed unconstitutional. But they can be good with the right amount of thought and purpose. If we are being reasonable, we can agree on this.

To help us agree that laws are not the solution but can be helpful, let’s also agree that enforcement of the laws already on the books is necessary. If we don’t follow through on what we already say is a risk, more laws won’t do us any good. A law is only useful when it is used the right way.

Now if you are tracking with me so far we have agreed that children shouldn’t be murdered in school, that there is a line somewhere for weapon ownership, that we shouldn’t make ridiculous arguments, and that laws are not the solution but can be helpful.

We can work from here. From here we can begin to look up and out at the proposed solutions and the challenges we face in this nation. This is a complex problem therefore the solution is likely complex too.

We’ve not touched on theological reasons for or against owning weapons (if you want to have that conversation, I’ll buy the coffee). We’ve not yet addressed whether more guns in public is safer than less guns. We’ve not talked about the role of parenting or discipline or extremism or video games or the news media or any of that.

If we are going to have these conversations (and we must) the best way forward is to find where we agree on something. Common ground is where we can make the most difference. Where we can sit eye to eye and talk. Where we can listen and hear from each other as humans, not angry anonymous people from the internet.

When we can find common ground there is less to fear. There is less to threaten. There is less to hate.

We are in this together. So let’s be reasonable. Let’s talk. Let’s listen. Let’s learn. Let’s think. Let’s be honest. Let’s do better. Our kids are depending on us. We can do it. Let’s agree on that.

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We Have No King But Caesar

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Credit: Scarlet Ellis, unsplash.com

We have no king but Caesar.

I know it is 2017 and Caesar and his ilk have been dead for a while. I know we are no longer under a monarchy, but still we have no king but Caesar.

I know we gather in sanctuaries and sing about our devotion to Jesus. I know we declare our hope in Christ alone, but if we are honest, we have no king but Caesar.

Despite our modern sensibilities and our religious persuasions, we have given ourselves over to the ways and priorities of Caesar. Our loyalty, our allegiance, our worldview largely belong to him. Our hearts, our eyes, our minds belong to Caesar and his earthly kingdoms.

I am convinced that we have discarded the Kingdom of God for the kingdoms of this world, and all the baggage that comes with them.

The ways of Caesar or Pharaoh or Babylon operate in a distinctly different manner then the ways of Jesus and his Kingdom. As we’ve blurred the lines between these kingdoms and tried to force a shotgun wedding, we’ve ended up embracing one and neglecting the other.

We are left with no king but Caesar.

We have lost our holy imagination. We no longer dream God dreams of peace and justice and wholeness. We dream Caesar dreams of power and wealth and security.

We say we believe God will give us the desires of our heart and then we waste our desire on what corrupts and rots and rusts away. And what leaves us estranged from God and neighbor.

We have no king but Caesar.

We’ve lost our taste for a kingdom that is upside down. We’ve lost our stomach for the way of the cross. Those things are just not practical enough for us.

We have no time to wait for the last to be first.

Like the clumsy disciples we still argue over who will be great while unable to imagine that greatness comes through serving, not economies or privileges.

We have no king but Caesar.

We have been convinced that the only way we can impact the world is through the power of law and might. We have been sidelined from our mission while we campaign for Caesar and all of his friends.

We swallow party platforms and turn them into religious convictions.

We have no king but Caesar.

We make enemies out of people who vote differently than us. And justify it. All while ignoring Jesus’ command to love even our enemies.

We excuse our support of terrible candidates by pointing to their worse candidates. We are certain this is the only way to win.

We have no king but Caesar.

We will trade any and all values for the promise of accommodation and favorable votes. We will look the other way at evil and deception as long as we get what we want. We will make back room deals with the devil as long as he promises us political freedom.

We will sell out the way of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver or better unemployment rates.

We have no king but Caesar.

We’ll take racists and sexual predators and murderers and cheats as long as they promise to vote like we do and kiss our babies.

We have no king but Caesar.

We’ve been deceived and it is time to wake up, Church.

I am not suggesting that we never vote or run for office. I’m suggesting that we take a long, hard look at how we have been doing those things and then repent, turn from anything that doesn’t look like Jesus.

I’m suggesting we say no to a lot of the things we have been saying yes to. Even if it costs us a vote or the Senate or the approval of our neighbors or a manger scene at city hall.

The way of Caesar may look appealing and make sense and offer tangible goods, but it leads to death. It leads to tramping over our neighbors. It leads to pride and idolatry and emptiness.

It destroys our witness to the world.

There is a better way. His name is Jesus.

He tells us that we could gain all the world and it wouldn’t be worth our soul.

He invites us to imagine the world as it could be, to not conclude that Caesar’s is the only way we can operate. He shows us that through love and mercy, truth and grace, service and humility that we can bring about all the change the world might need.

His way tells us that in losing our life we will find it.

This way is harder, but this way is worth it. This way is dangerous, but this way is holy.

May we be found faithful to this way, to this Kingdom, to this King… for we have no King but Christ!

There Is Another Kingdom

I’ve heard about a kingdom where justice rolls like a mighty river. Where enemies become friends and captives are released from their chains. It’s a place where the stranger is welcome and the wayward is pursued. Where the hurting find comfort and the broken find healing.

It is a kingdom full of peculiar people. They listen before they speak and do all they can to live at peace with everyone. They are quick to confess and always seek to be humble. They are known by their love. They keep no record of wrongs.

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In this kingdom weapons of war are transformed into tools for farming. Here debts are forgiven and resources are given away freely. In this kingdom the last go first and the first go last. It is like a feast where all the people we wouldn’t think to invite are the guests of honor.

This kingdom is upside down.

It is not a kingdom for the self-sufficient or the capable or the best of the best. It is given to the poor in spirit, those who find themselves at the end of their rope. It is kingdom that belongs to children. A kingdom where prostitutes and tax frauds often find their way before the pious do.

It is a kingdom of people tasked with the ministry of reconciliation. Where folks move to the margins to be with the looked over and left behind. It is a place where worship looks like meeting the needs of the least and lowest and setting the oppressed free.

Here the people seek to change the world with towels and basins rather than horses and chariots. In this kingdom people hunger not for power or privilege but for righteousness and justice. Here doing right and loving mercy are inseparable.

Here the works of darkness are exposed in the light. This kingdom has no room for selfishness or hate, greed or lust. It is a place where all people are cherished and equal. Here love purifies from all -isms and phobias and pride.

This borderless kingdom shares no common language or dress or flag. Their people are united by faith, hope, and love. Their anthem is, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain” and their pledge is, “Jesus is Lord.”

Their most sacred site is an empty graveyard. They model the belief that laying down their lives is the only way to truly live. And they wouldn’t trade the whole world for a single, solitary soul.

This kingdom, they believe, never ends.

It is not fully realized but it is not some far off fantasy. It’s breaking in, here and now. It is at hand. Close enough to touch. Among us.

If we are not careful, we will be so consumed with other, earthly kingdoms, that we will forget our roles as the citizens of this one. We will lose our imaginations. We will give into despair. We will look for salvation in all the wrong places. We will begin to look and think and act just like any old kingdom in history.

We can’t do that because there is another way.

There is another kingdom. We’ve been invited to be participants and ambassadors. To take it to our neighbors and to the ends of the earth.

This is what we belong to. This is who we are.

God help us to remember. God help us to be faithful.

 

 

 

 

 

Church, We Don’t Need Religious Liberty

I hear regularly on the news and online that the Church is under attack.

I think those who say so are right, but I think they have gotten confused about where the battle is coming from. The attacks are not from the people we are often told to fear.

The greatest threat to the Church is not godless liberals or a politically correct government that wants to do away with the 10 Commandments in public places. No, the greatest threat to the Church comes from within our own ranks. It is sitting in our pews and writing our books and blogs and standing behind our pulpits.

The threat is us.

The people who say they have faith in God but who put their faith in other things. The people who will trade most any value for the chance at political power. The people who love to be comfortable and in charge. The people who are infatuated with the concept of religious liberty.

We are a threat because we have let these things distract us from the things Jesus called us to. We are a threat because we sing “the world behind me, the cross before me” and then act as if we are doomed should an election not go our way. We are a threat because we bear false witness by pointing people to a hope that is built on politics and circumstances rather than faith.

Now before you start your rebuttal, know I sincerely believe in religious liberty.  I believe in liberty for people of all faiths and creeds and will work for and defend everyone’s right to be here and have the same freedoms I enjoy.

I am thankful for my freedom. I use and probably exploit it. I stand multiple times a week in front of people and proclaim the Good News of Jesus. And if it were outlawed tomorrow, I’d show up on Sunday and do it anyway.

I’m guessing there are many Christians in many churches who would say the same thing.

What then are we after when we say we want religious liberty? What are we chasing? What is our end game? We say we want religious freedom but religious freedom does not make our faith stronger, it does not make our churches come alive, it does not claim that people will come to faith in Jesus.

What we are after is what that freedom brings us: We want comfort. We want control. We want political power.

Take a stroll through the Gospels and show me a place where Jesus is after those things. He lived in an occupied land. He had no votes. He had limited freedom. He couldn’t pass religiously based laws. He had none of the things I see Christians saying were their top priorities this last election cycle.

Never once was he worried about the threat of Caesar showing up and telling him to stop. He never once said the way to be faithful is to hang the Scriptures in City Hall or stamp In God We Trust on our money. He didn’t say, as the people wanted him to, that we need to overthrow the haters and install God’s government.

He didn’t say those things because they simply did not matter to his ministry and work. Not ultimately.

He wasn’t chasing after an earthly kingdom because his Kingdom was not of this world.

Jesus didn’t get his power from government. He didn’t need Rome to give him permission to speak. His freedom was not wrapped up in the laws of the land.

And neither is ours.

The faithful Christian life is lived out regardless of where we find ourselves or what government we happen to be ruled by. This doesn’t mean we don’t work to make our culture and government better, but we certainly don’t put our hope there or take our marching orders from them.

The faithful Christian life has nothing to do with who has political power and instead has everything to do with who has our heart.

I’m telling you right now that religious freedom is one of the biggest idols in the Church today. And idolatry will kill us far sooner than persecution or making room for people of different faiths and practices will.

I’m convinced we are being led away from Jesus. We are giving our heart to things that will not bring us abundant life. Religious liberty has absolutely nothing to offer the Church.

Just like Jesus we do not need political power, comfort, or control. Not only do we not need them, they will ruin us.

Power corrupts. Comfort lulls us to sleep. Control is the antithesis of a love.

We are killing ourselves and the faiths of our children and our witness to the world as we chase after these things. Things that don’t look like Jesus.

I can’t imagine Jesus saying, “What the North American Church really needs is pastors telling people who to vote for.” I can’t imagine him saying, “Christians need special laws and protections so they don’t have to bake cupcakes for so and so” or “Blessed are those who wield the power.”

Jesus invites us to serve, to become uncomfortable, to give up so much control that we’d risk everything to love people unlike us. He invites us to lay down our lives. He invites us to trust him on this journey of faith.

Jesus invites us into a Kingdom. A Kingdom far more beautiful and powerful and life giving than anything democracies or monarchies have to offer. A Kingdom that is not run by coercion or violence or deal making but by sacrificial, extravagant love. A Kingdom where laws give way to grace. A Kingdom that changes hearts and minds. A Kingdom that never ends.

So while I hope our nation will live out its identity as a land of freedom for people of all faiths or no faith, I will not be chasing after or applauding things marketed as Christian religious liberty. I will not be schmoozed by politicians who hope to gain my vote by promising me something that isn’t theirs to give.

Church, the government does not give you your voice. The government does not give you your power. The government does not give you your freedom. It does not give or transform life.

Stop putting your hope there. We must stop clamoring after religious liberty as if only then will we experience the life God wants for us. As if only then will God show up.

God will show up when we assume the posture of Jesus. When we love our neighbors as ourselves. When we live a life of faith. When we eschew power and comfort and control in order to look more like the God we claim.

We are better than this. And our Kingdom is better is than this.

May we never bow down at the feet of religious liberty. May we stop chasing after worldly things only to find that we’ve left Jesus and our neighbors in the dust. May our allegiance be to an eternal Kingdom. And may our free or persecuted lives look just like Jesus.

Don’t be a Lemming (or Lessons From a 1991 Video Game)

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Lemmings came out in 1991 and in 1996 was rated the 8th greatest video game of all time. 

There is a fantastic old video game called Lemmings. In Lemmings a stream of little creatures constantly walk forward with no regard for what they are walking toward.

A wall in the way? Keep it moving. A lake of fire just ahead? Walk on. Imminent death? Move it along.

Your job is to equip some as builders, blockers, or miners to navigate the obstacles and dangers these poor, mindless lemmings encounter. (I just found out you can still play this game online, so I’ll be back to finish this post in an hour or two.)

We’ve probably all heard that real life lemmings will follow other lemmings right over a cliff with no regard for their own welfare. It turns out that this is a misconception originating when Disney drowned a bunch of rodents for a fake documentary. So when I call us lemmings it isn’t all that accurate to nature, but I think the word picture works.

When I call us lemmings I don’t mean you are a lemming and I am not. I mean I do the same things. Even when I don’t want to. I’m not talking down to you, I’m trying to keep myself accountable.

When I call us lemmings what I am saying is that we blindly follow along without much regard to the dangers, pitfalls, and destruction that lies ahead.

We do this in many arenas including sports and religion, but it seems our political ideologies have increasingly become something we thoughtlessly follow without stopping to ask if they are good, beneficial, or even true.

This is not a left or right issue. It impacts both extremes and many in the middle.

My left leaning friends recently circulated a New York Times story about Department of Energy nominee Rick Perry not knowing that his new job included overseeing the nuclear arsenal, even though his acceptance of the nomination included his willingness to oversee our nuclear arsenal.

My right leaning friends are posting about how Trump had the largest in-person inauguration crowd of all time because his press secretary said so, despite the facts making it demonstrably untrue.

We want to be right more than we want the truth.

President Trump said during the primary season that he could walk out onto the street and shoot someone and not lose a single vote. His ability to say that (and I believe he was mostly right) shows how strongly we are devoted to our political preferences. And I think much of the same could be said for the other side.

We are so entrenched in our opinions and worldviews that we cannot allow ourselves free thought. We are so wrapped up in a quest for political power and outcomes that we have lost our intellectual integrity. We have allowed ourselves to become lemmings. Or at least what lemmings are commonly believed to be.

Here are some lemminglike behaviors we are guilty of far too often:

– We applaud everything our side does. It doesn’t matter if we opposed the same behavior two days ago, today we applaud it today because it’s our team/party/candidate of choice.

– We condemn everything the other side does. It doesn’t matter if they have a point or they did some good or if we previously supported such efforts. Now it’s bad because “they” did it.

– We dismiss any information we don’t like as biased or fake. We have reached the point where we only listen to the voices we already agree with. This allows us to never be challenged, never think for ourselves, and able to assume that anyone who disagrees is an idiot.

We’ve got to do better. It doesn’t matter who you voted for, no candidate or party will always do what is good or right or best. No candidate or party will perfectly represent your views. Not if we are willing to think independently and constructively.

We’ve become so partisan that we are afraid to show any agreement across the aisle. We see compromise and working together for the common good as a negative thing instead of a necessary thing. We value people based on their political opinions more than our shared humanity.

And in the process, we just keep walking despite the upcoming cliffs and pitfalls and destruction. We don’t want to hear otherwise, we don’t have time for facts, we don’t need various opinions and voices. We have somewhere to go and we will get there without ever stopping to ask if where we are heading is even worth heading toward.

I’m afraid we are more loyal to the direction we are walking than to common sense, the truth, and, at times, our faith.

If we keep going the way we’ve been going, we will be meet with an unfortunate end. Loss of friends, loss of respect, loss of influence, loss of decency, loss of integrity.

I suggest we take some measures to prevent ourselves from blindly running over a cliff:

1) Disagree with our own people. It’s okay, I promise. What if it was not uncommon to say, “I generally support what they are trying to do, but I cannot get on board with this issue.” The sky wouldn’t fall and we’d push our culture toward a more reasonable future. Or is toeing the party line more important than being true to our values?

2) Agree with people coming from other perspectives. Again, this is okay. Not everything the other side (and I hate even using the term “sides”) does is wicked or corrupt or out to ruin our country. They get one right at least every once in a while. Applaud them for it. Or are we so afraid of recognizing the worth of “those people” that we can’t even admit when something positive has taken place?

3) Educate ourselves. Please. Learn why people believe differently than you. Most people who support stricter gun control do not want to round up all the weapons in the country. And most people who support free market capitalism do not want to see poor people taken advantage of. Most issues we debate are complicated. There are no easy answers or we would have solved all our problems by now. Find out what people think and why.

4) We must want truth more than we want to be right. I might think the Philadelphia Eagles are the best team in the NFL but when I am presented with some recent, observable facts I need to change my mind. We can’t allow our opinion to be more valuable than reality. Sometimes we need to shift what we want to believe based on what is actually happening. Truth is worth embracing, even if it means I have to admit I was previously wr-wr-wrong.

I’m going to try my best to live these things out. I won’t be perfect at it, but I hope you’ll consider joining me. I don’t want to mindlessly walk towards our demise. I want to think and learn and grow and discover. I want truth. I want integrity.

It turns out that the lemmings aren’t as mindless as we once thought. They don’t just blindly follow with no regard for what is good and right and true. Hopefully we can soon say the same thing about ourselves.

A Way Forward

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Michael Browning, unsplash.com

We are a divided United States. The tone and rhetoric of the presidential campaigns was as divisive as I can personally remember. The hyperbole and fear-mongering turned all the way up to 11. It felt as if we were becoming more polarized with each passing day.

And then the election happened. The person who was elected president was not the person with the most votes. That is our system and, like it or not, that is where we are today. Over half of those who voted are angry and/or disappointed. While a large percentage of us celebrate, another large percentage of us grieve. People are protesting, friendships and families are being pulled apart, and the ugliness continues.

Our exit polls tell us that our country continues to be divided by race. We are split on what issues matter most to us and the best ways to handle them. We are divided on our outlook and by our religions. We are divided by urban and rural population groups.

To be clear, we have been divided in the past. We once enslaved people. We once had a sitting vice president kill a political enemy in duel. We once fought a war between states. We once had separate drinking fountains for people based on skin color. Division isn’t new to the US of A, but it’s not good for her either.

Will we ever unite again? Are we doomed to polarize until something breaks? Is this the new normal? I believe there is a way forward.

Simply put, we need each other. We need our varying opinions; we need our vast array of experiences. Our differences do not have to separate us. They don’t have to alienate us. We do not want uniformity, but we do need harmony.

Harmony allows us to sing distinct notes or play unique parts while working toward the same goals. Harmony allows our differences to combine for something bigger and more beautiful. Harmony will lead to us unity.

This was the vision of our founding fathers. They set up our nation so that we could find room to disagree while still having protections and a say in the process. They wanted everyone to have freedom and a voice. John Adams said, “When all men of all religions shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power, we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.” Actual American patriotism is rooted in diversity.

Unifying despite our diversity will be neither quick nor easy. If we are to harmonize it will take hard work, patient determination, and calm resilience. It may eventually take acts of Congress or grassroots organization, but we can start today with the small things.

The way forward I would like to propose is the way of the kitchen and dining room table. If our country is ever going to be big enough for all of us, a good first step will be to make sure our tables are big enough for all of us as well.

When we pull up a chair at our table we communicate that a person has value. When our lives intersect with one another, we find that along with our differences we carry things in common. When we share the same experiences, we see our shared humanity. When we sit and talk with people who are not exactly like us, we learn and we grow and we are better for it.

If you don’t know why a person could possibly support Donald Trump, have dinner with someone who did. If you can’t fathom why a person might vote for Hillary Clinton, ask someone who did to go for coffee with you. Don’t try and change their mind or show them how wrong they were. Listen to them. Right or wrong their opinion is just as valuable as yours.

Invite a person of a different race into your home. Ask them their story. Ask them what they feel is unique to their experience.

Instead of mocking people for wanting a safe space, create one for them in your home or office and hear them out. Maybe you’ll both be better for it.

Instead of characterizing anyone who doesn’t agree with you with the worst labels you can come up with, ask them how they came to their conclusions. Maybe you have the wrong idea about them. Maybe they have the wrong idea about you. Maybe you are both partially wrong.

Find someone who has immigrated to our country. Talk to them about why they came and what the American dream means to them. Ask them what things they like or don’t like about our immigration policies.

If a person is responding to this election by saying they are afraid, ask them to help you understand where their fear comes from. To dismiss pain and fear is to dismiss people. That is not the way forward.

Instead of sharing sound bites and memes, share apple pies and book recommendations.

If you don’t understand the things that concern a 20 year old, get to know a 20 year old. If you can’t comprehend how a 64 year old might feel about the direction of our country, go talk with them.

Find people who disagree with you on something divisive, then find what you have most in common and celebrate it. We might disagree on the best way to do healthcare but maybe we can agree to love our local sports team. Let’s make finger foods and paint our faces and unite around that.

When is the last time you sat and talked with a person who practiced a different religion or no religion? Are you even sure what other faiths believe or don’t believe? Spend time together.

If you can’t think of anyone you know or anyone you love who believes differently than you do, that is a major part of our problem. We’ve isolated ourselves from our neighbors and fellow citizens which makes it easy to assume we are always right and demonize anyone who thinks otherwise.

Some say fences make great neighbors. I say fences make poor tables. Let’s tear down what separates us and use the wood to build a bigger table with room for everyone, even those we do not yet understand or appreciate or agree with. This is a first step toward a united nation. This is a first step in overcoming the worst parts of us. 

Unity won’t mean that we all agree. It won’t mean that suddenly my convictions will change. Realistically it won’t solve all our issues. It will, however, mean that I can’t dismiss you immediately. It will mean I am more likely to hear what you have say. It will mean that I can’t label you my enemy because you believe differently.

It is a lot harder to hate a person for their beliefs when you love them for who they are. If we value each other as part of a common community we will work to find a way to bridge the divides between us. We will compromise where we can, agree to disagree when we must, and be united by our shared care and concern for one another.

Let’s start here. Let’s learn from each other. Let’s sit and talk. Let’s listen.

The way forward is around a table, sharing a meal and a laugh. The way forward is watching as our kids play together in the front yard. The way forward is working shoulder to shoulder to make our communities a better place. The way forward is in being teachable. The way forward is you and I and us and them, doing life together, loving each other from the start, and putting in the hard work to make sure we are doing right by each other.

From city to farm. From Christian to Muslim to Hindu to atheist. From white to brown to black. From rich to poor. From gay to straight. From Trump Train to those With Her. From sea to shining sea. You are welcome at my table. Let’s move forward, together.

To My Non-Christian Friends This Election Season

To My Non-Christian Friends, dearfriends_black

This election season has been something else, huh? (Here is a video of puppies if you need something to cheer you up.) Take heart, it is almost over. We have at least until February before people start openly campaigning for 2020.

In the meantime, I’d like to say something to you. Specifically, I’d like to say sorry. I think you have seen us Christians at our worst lately and for that I apologize.

I’m sorry that you’ve seen so much fighting between us. We can be brutal to each other and we call ourselves family. We fire missiles from all sides of the aisle and don’t worry too much about collateral damage. It probably isn’t very inviting when we behave this way. I’m sorry if you are less likely to want to be around us after all this.

I’m sorry that you’ve probably gotten into a debate or two with one of us. I’m sorry that we don’t often fight very graciously. I’m sorry that we stoop to things like name calling and rapid dismissal.

I regret that we often want to be heard, rather than hear. That isn’t very kind of us.

I’m sorry if you were unfriended because of your political views. I’m sorry we value our opinions more than your friendship. I’m sorry that we let partisanship get in the way of relationship. There are things we will all never agree on, but that shouldn’t stop us from sharing meals and photos of our kids and life in general.

I’m sorry that you see us defending things that are indefensible. Things Jesus would oppose. Things we have routinely and loudly condemned. I’m sorry that we hold a double standard so that we can excuse our candidates and condemn someone else’s. That’s not consistent and its certainly not Christlike.

I’m sorry for all the false memes and bunk articles we have posted. We don’t think very highly of lying, but we are at times in such a rush to be right we fail to check our information. That isn’t very good of us.

I’m sorry if we have led you to believe that a person’s eternal destiny hinges on how they vote. We don’t actually believe that, though we sometimes act and preach like it. Sometimes we (rightly or wrongly) put a lot of hope and energy into these things, but if you give us a time to catch our breath we will remember it is grace, not ballots, that save us.

We sing a song that says our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus. I’m sorry we haven’t acted that way lately. While we want to have a say in government, ultimately our hope is not in presidents and senators and legislation.

I’m sorry if you’ve been hurt by the way we talk about the candidates and their supporters. Regardless of politics you and they are loved and cherished by God. We’ve failed to reflect that too often. That grieves me.

I apologize that regardless of which side we are on, we are often unable to understand where you are coming from. I’m sorry if we talk down to you or figure you couldn’t possibly know or have hurt you with our assumptions.

I know it is probably hard to see through all the nonsense, but Jesus is better than we represent. I’m not sure of a lot of things, but I’m absolutely positive of that. I’m sorry if we have failed him and you this election season.

If we are honest we are just regular ole humans. We mess up, we don’t always do what we want. We can be too passionate, we can be misguided, we can be flat wrong. Please don’t hold that against Jesus.

I can’t speak for all of us, but I can speak for me. I would trade in all this election stuff if it meant people would be more likely to consider following Jesus. His ways are better. We have a saying that goes like this, “His grace is sufficient.” The grace of God is sufficient to cover our weakness and our mistakes. We greatly depend on that.

Now I’m asking for grace from you. Please forgive us for our actions and attitudes, our words and our compliance. Please forgive us for pointing you toward a political party more than Jesus. Please forgive us when we cross the line, wound others, or look no different than any other person you know.

We are supposed to do better than that. We have been wrong. Maybe not all of us, but some of us, including me. And I’m sorry.