It’s Too Late.

In church on Sunday the pastor asked us to consider what our Christianity looks like when we face diversity. I’m pretty sure he meant to ask what our Christianity looks like when we face “adversity.” These days “What does your Christianity look like when you face diversity?” is maybe the better question.

I’m not gonna lie. I like to remain in my liberal bubble where people are comfortable talking about racism and privilege and white supremacy like they are bad things. After a couple of years of this Trump nonsense I’d been trying to gather reconciliatory thoughts thinking that it was time to restore my social circles a little bit. I used to see the differences of liberal and conservatives as largely being fiscal priorities. I used to think we all basically wanted the same thing but just didn’t agree on the best way to get there. We all wanted to feel safe in our homes, safe to express ourselves and free to seek opportunities commensurate with our abilities.

The leaders of the personal accountability party, confronting the reality that their 1344A90D-9A17-4ED3-BFCA-95D1C18DF9FDpolicies didn’t resonate with working class Americans, discovered the message “it isn’t your fault if “others” take your jobs and eat up your taxes” and a pervasive us vs them came to dominate our politics. Liberals were incredulous that low information voters would vote against their own economic interests. In rural areas homogeneity exacerbated the divide where examples that refute the alienness of others is underrepresented. Now as our divisions seem to be on some dangerous precipice it is possible to see how the vitriol of a despot like Donald Trump could take hold. It isn’t forgivable but it is understandable.

Over the last few weeks I’ve spent more time than usual surrounded by people who support things most of us who voted, and most of those who didn’t, find deplorable. We’ve drawn the lines so brightly that the very essence of the grand American experiment is at risk. It doesn’t help that we are so easily compartmentalized in our ideological bubbles. My home state is 90% white, 3% Black, 6% Hispanic and about 1% Asian or other. Think about that. The United States is 60% white, 13% Black, 18% Hispanic, and 9% Asian or other. I come from a land missing 3 out of 10 people of color from what should be represented a nearly 50/50, 4 in 10. When you live in a cultural desert is hard to imagine the glorious bouquets and fruits of a diverse environment.

Some of the recent performances by the president have caused a shift. Where at first liberals claimed we had to reach out and have conversations with Trump voters we found no traction. Many of us have given up. The right was emboldened by their control of all branches of government. Now as Trump continuously exposes vulnerabilities I’ve overheard Trump voters admonishing us all to not disregard others because we have different values. It’s too late for that. People have shown their true colors. I would like just one Trump supporter to speak for all of them and admit, “yes, my support of Donald Trump was racist.” When this presidency crashes down we better all hope a leader emerges who can heal our divide. Mike pence ain’t it. We’re going to all need a long hot bath to wash the stench of this time in our history.

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Civility Is Not A Sign Of Weakness.

Provocateurs seem to be in vogue and there are few signs things will get better anytime soon. Civility is taking a beating. I suppose the problem stems from the E65DF156-9B94-4CCD-858C-F3B50CEBF442misconception that bullying to get ones way is some validation of power. Who knows how it all got started? Somewhere along the line someone figured out it was unlikely that belligerence would be challenged. Most people are too polite to engage such bad behavior. To some, getting their way matters more than how they got there. Bullying may seem quicker and easier than engaging in dialogue to achieve a mutually satisfactory solution. In fact, getting their way over someone who didn’t initially share their point of view may be added incentive to someone lacking the ability or confidence to articulate their view.

Political correctness has become an anathema outside of our identified tribes. The impact of that all depends a whole lot on where you’re from and where you live. This whole idea that white men and especially white Christian men are under attack would be laughable were it not a growing phenomenon. Some people don’t care, it has little to do with their daily lives. They choose to ignore it and I assume imagine that one day it will go away. Many people like me, have comfortably spoke of our outage amoung like minded friends. How courageous. Some subscribe to “When they go low we go high.” I saw a response to that the other day that was interesting, “Forget that! When they go low, we go bottom of the ocean low. Like Mariana Trench bottom of the ocean low.” None of any of that seems to be rejoining our polarized state.

It’s time we stood up outside our inner circles. We can no longer afford to ignore the dismantling of our communities and institutions. Going high when they go low is pointless because they don’t care and just laugh. Shouting matches and escalation are doomed to fail. Getting a response like that is what the bully most cherishes. They get the added benefit, in their way of thinking, that they caused you pain. We must speak o ut calmly and confidently that we will not engage belligerence. We need to point out that we will not succumb to heavy handed tactics. It will never be ok for anyone to force racist, xenophobic, misogynist or homophobic practices or policies upon us. We must express clearly that we will not give in to such behavior. Our example will give strength to others who desire a more peaceful existence.

Bullies need to be told directly that their tactics will have no effect. The conversation needs to be calmly focused on the unacceptability of their behavior before we would ever consider their point of view. Strictly focusing on the behavior without attributing personal judgement will force the attacker to recognize what they are doing. They may not stop. At first. Eventually, however, if they continually fail to get any traction while being loud and brash they may let their voices enough to hear us. If not, let them walk away with no personal acknowledgement or victories. Sooner or later they will tire of the solitude.

Civility Is Not A Sign Of Weakness.

Provocateurs seem to be in vogue and there are few signs things will get better anytime soon. Civility is taking a beating. I suppose the problem stems from the E65DF156-9B94-4CCD-858C-F3B50CEBF442misconception that bullying to get ones way is some validation of power. Who knows how it all got started? Somewhere along the line someone figured out it was unlikely that belligerence would be challenged. Most people are too polite to engage such bad behavior. To some, getting their way matters more than how they got there. Bullying may seem quicker and easier than engaging in dialogue to achieve a mutually satisfactory solution. In fact, getting their way over someone who didn’t initially share their point of view may be added incentive to someone lacking the ability or confidence to articulate their view.

Political correctness has become an anathema outside of our identified tribes. The impact of that all depends a whole lot on where you’re from and where you live. This whole idea that white men and especially white Christian men are under attack would be laughable were it not a growing phenomenon. Some people don’t care, it has little to do with their daily lives. They choose to ignore it and I assume imagine that one day it will go away. Many people like me, have comfortably spoke of our outage amoung like minded friends. How courageous. Some subscribe to “When they go low we go high.” I saw a response to that the other day that was interesting, “Forget that! When they go low, we go bottom of the ocean low. Like Mariana Trench bottom of the ocean low.” None of any of that seems to be rejoining our polarized state.

It’s time we stood up outside our inner circles. We can no longer afford to ignore the dismantling of our communities and institutions. Going high when they go low is pointless because they don’t care and just laugh. Shouting matches and escalation are doomed to fail. Getting a response like that is what the bully most cherishes. They get the added benefit, in their way of thinking, that they caused you pain. We must speak o ut calmly and confidently that we will not engage belligerence. We need to point out that we will not succumb to heavy handed tactics. It will never be ok for anyone to force racist, xenophobic, misogynist or homophobic practices or policies upon us. We must express clearly that we will not give in to such behavior. Our example will give strength to others who desire a more peaceful existence.

Bullies need to be told directly that their tactics will have no effect. The conversation needs to be calmly focused on the unacceptability of their behavior before we would ever consider their point of view. Strictly focusing on the behavior without attributing personal judgement will force the attacker to recognize what they are doing. They may not stop. At first. Eventually, however, if they continually fail to get any traction while being loud and brash they may let their voices enough to hear us. If not, let them walk away with no personal acknowledgement or victories. Sooner or later they will tire of the solitude.

Ayn Rand Hypoceites

I love America and the abundant Life it has afforded me. I appreciate men and women in uniform so much that I 631C9DA1-8658-4C23-A4B3-6319794B7D0Fgenuinely get emotional when I thank them for their service. I’m active at church and rarely miss. I talk with God. A lot. I work hard every day to provide for my family. Most days I eat my lunch at my desk. It always gets cold before I finish because I get wrapped up in my work. I paid my own way through college by first working three jobs and later by being blessed to marry a woman who helped me make ends meet. Her help made it possible for me to work one part time job and accelerate my studies. I like baseball. The Cubs. Always have. I take responsibility for my actions and ensure my kids always did as they grew up. I tell the truth. Always. I expect anyone who wants my respect to do the same.

I am a confirmed liberal and I always have been. My parents raised me that way. They weren’t politically active. I don’t recall any political conversations at our dinner table ever. My parents raised me to be a liberal by setting the example of always treating others the way they would want to be treated.

Suddenly I find myself justifying my faith when the topic of church ever comes up. Flag waving and the chant U.S.A, U.S.A makes me feel uncomfortable. I look at police officers with suspicion although I still respect their role and whenever presented the opportunity, thank them for their service too.

God and country are foundational to who I am and yet I find that recently they have become a source of embarrassment. That pisses me off. Ayn Rand hypocrites have hijacked sacred virtue and turned it into a lie. An Ayn Rand hypocrite is one who would abandon personal accountability and undermine our most sacred institutions because they fear the diminishing grip on their power. The only thing I have to say about that is, if they have a history of treating others fairly and with respect, they have nothing to worry about. If they are not confident they have a history of treating others fairly and with respect it would be just that they reap what they’ve sown. In the mean time they need to keep their hands off my flag and stop polluting my place of worship.

We’re Moving. Heaven Help Us!

We’re moving! There are few things in life that are at once so exciting and so foreboding. Every time we move I’m amazed at how much”stuff” we accumulate. The are few tests of value as effective as deciding if something is worth packing, moving, unloading and imagining its new place. It gets interesting when you have multiple people making those decisions. I recommend doing as much as you can when nobody is looking. (wink) The literal dozen trips to drop off donations at Goodwill and the public library has left me scratching my head. When clothes no longer fit and the replacements no longer fit why do we hold onto the original clothes thinking we will be back in them in no time? And more importantly, where did we get all those books?
It’s exciting to imagine creating a new space, meeting new people, and exploring the merchants, services and public spaces. All of my dad-isms will have a fresh audience. I have a wide assortment of phrases and questions for waiters, cashier’s and barbers. The intent is to create a smile on the face of a worker while simultaneously getting my family to collectively roll their eyes. Originally the only intent was the former but a certain satisfaction has become associated with the latter.
We need to find a new church. We love our current E9D098FD-B373-4DCC-8602-6EFB65E428D0church but a sixty minute commute would most likely prove detrimental to my eternal soul. Truth. There are maybe few things in life that I loathe as much as church shopping. I’ve only had to find a new church a few times in life. For me, changing churches would only be because I moved to a new city or if my church went out of business. That was sad. Still, I’ve done enough church shopping in my life that I’ve learned a few things:

Rule number one – Never park in the visitors parking section. They have lookouts for that! As soon as someone parks in the visitors lot they are instantly targeted.
Rule number two – Read their website. If they put examples of crazy on the web they are way more crazy than you could ever imagine.
Rule number three –  More web stuff, if they only post pictures of young, happy and pretty people they aren’t likely honest about anything else.
Final and most important rule – If you hear white nationalist, homophobic or misogynist dog whistles feel free to walk out. You can also leave mid service if they dedicate the first half hour of service to money. It happens.
I think what makes church shopping such a challenge is that you only get one look per weekend. When you juxtapose the longing to find a home and knowing you’ll need to wait seven more days for another look you can get anxious. And then there are the “maybe” churches. Those are the hard ones. Churches you can see making your new home but something doesn’t feel quite right. I’m not looking to be entertained. I’m looking to be challenged. I’m not seeking confirmation of my world view but rather to expand it. Flashy light shows and worship bands, coffee bars and prosperity sermons aren’t my thing. Learning to better love my neighbor is.
It’s funny. Every time I write about church I get a little defensive. I suppose that’s because so much of what churches do and stand for these days has little to do with my understanding of what being a Christian means. That’s sad. I want to attend a church that is diverse in every way, that engages in interfaith dialogs, that is centered on being Christlike and doesn’t focus on borders and barriers so much as humanity. We believe we’ve found a place. We are having lunch with the pastor after church tomorrow. Prayers and good vibes would be appreciated.

 

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Are The Children Our Future?

I read on Facebook about an incident at a football game in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system. The incident was serious enough that it was poised to be a catalyst for racial division even among the staff in the schools. That’s when a hero emerged. A school administrator decided it was time to abandon debate and create the change they wanted to see. Students from the two schools on opposite sides of town were brought together to “demystify identity, break down stereotypes, and build relationships with one another.” They talked about what each school had heard about the other and then they began a dialogue about divisions, educational experiences and the similarities and differences each side saw.

The result has been that the students involved are investing in building a more equitable community and the teachers see this flowing out into their city. Two sides of an adversarial img_0145relationship got together and discussed what they thought and why they felt that way. They then talked about how they could bridge their differences. They didn’t argue about who was right and wrong. They found common ground, acknowledged their differences and tried to understand each other’s perspectives. I think they may be on to something here.

What if we sought to promote more equitable communities? Instead of ranting and pontificating when we come across points of view that are different from our own; what if we tried to find out what is behind other points of view. When did our adversaries begin thinking the way they do and why do they believe that? How do they think people who disagree with them feel? Are we prepared to discuss why we feel the way we do?

Going off on social media or having conversations with like minded friends is beneficial maybe only to blow off a little steam. It does nothing to bring about the better world all of us hope for. Call me an idiot, stupid, or brainwashed and I will likely tune you out. Call me Chris and I’ll try to hear what you have to say. From whichever side you want to say you’re from, we can no longer wait until the other side takes the first step. One thing everyone agreed upon during the recent Alabama Senate race was that our divisions are unbearable.

One side of the country complains about Soros owned politicians and feels like the opportunity to raise their financial status is being taken away. They seem to blame immigrants and minorities, gays and Muslims, anybody different, for their lot in life. The other half of the country believes corporations and billionaires are crushing the poor and middle class and the Koch brother owned politicians are to blame. They feel like the opportunity to raise their financial status is being taken away. They blame corporate greed and institutionalized oppression for their lot in life.

The fact is most Americans feel like the opportunity to raise their financial status is being taken away. Our discontent is the same. Only where we find fault is different. Is finding fault going to fix our problems? Can we all agree most Americans are facing the same challenges? We talk about doubting that things will ever get better. They won’t. Things won’t get better unless we follow the example of those kids from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and start talking about how we can bridge our differences and start acting like the change we want to see.

Christmas Traditions

My mom grew up in a family with three brothers and three sisters. My brother, sister and I were among the 18 cousins who all converged at Grandpa and Grandma’s house each and every year at Christmas time. Or should I say, Tamale Time? Oh my God! It was such a big deal for us that our family even had a song we would sing in the car on our way to the Caballero Christmas festivities. My grandparents lived in Oelwein, Iowa. We took some liberty with the pronunciation of “Oelwein” to sing, “It’s tamale time… in Ol-le-wein…” Ok… we weren’t real musical and that was the entire song but we would sing it over and over, louder and louder and mile after mile. Parenting was hard before the advent of smart phones and earbuds I’m sure.

We never dreamed of a white Christmas. It always snowed for Christmas in Iowa. I have fond memories pulling into my grandparent’s driveway on Christmas morning. The snow had a way of crunching under the tires as we came to a stop. It seemed to always take about half of the time spent traveling over the river and img_5787through the woods for our car to warm up. Maybe that’s why we sang so much, to distract ourselves from the fact that we were freezing until we had crossed the river and entered the proverbial woods. Upon arrival the frigid Iowa air always bit hard as we stepped from the comfort of the built-up heat in our old family car. We would run for the back stoop always to be rewarded with magical kitchen aromas as soon as we opened the door. Is there anything better than the memories of stepping into your grandma’s home when she was preparing a special meal?

Instantly the fragrant smell of the cooking pork and the moist redolence from various boiling pots would fill our senses. The harsh glare from the blinding snow never slowed us from finding our way into the softly lit comfort of Grandma’s kitchen. We would simply follow our nose. You’d think with 18 cousins, 7 brothers and sisters and their spouses that the little house would be chaotic. It never was. I wonder if that’s because everyone there felt like they were grandpa and grandma’s favorite.  Or maybe it was because, to make 30 dozen tamales like we did at Christmas time, all hands on deck was the rule of the day. The younger cousins would spread masa on the corn husks. The older cousins would repair the work of the young ones. The husbands and wives would stuff and fold the tamales and tend to their steaming and stand guard from my sampling. They had to be on their A game.

It’s funny. I don’t remember a single gift I ever received at one of those Oelwein Christmas’s. I do recall the laughter, the hugs and the group hikes to Zulu Land which was really just a 10 acre wood at the end of the block. Back in those days I couldn’t imagine that Christmas would be any other way. Now, some 25 years after my grandparents have passed away I know we could never repeat that. The aunts and uncles became the grandparents and in many cases the cousins are now the grandparents. Each generation is making their own memories of traditions that they hope will never end. But those traditions will end. Even if you aren’t ready. Who are we kidding? You’ll never be ready. Perhaps if you have a Christmas invitation that you haven’t responded to yet and you haven’t committed to be somewhere else; you should just go. Go and be a part of whatever tradition you can and hope, while you are there, that it will never end.

 

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