Tag Archives: politics

H Words

On Thursday, I sat in the presence of an apparent hate-monger. Worse, I listened to her advice on illustrating, collaborating with writers, and marketing.

I might never have known, without the intervention of the Huffington Post on my google search. The day has been saved, if “saved” is not a word too charged with religious meaning.

The local Christian writers’ group I joined two years ago, the Omaha WordSowers meet on the 2nd Thursday of each month. They have a guest speaker who provides information or personal experience about some aspect of the writer’s journey from creative idea to published work.

Yesterday’s guest speakers were Lori Schulz and Hannah Segura, who talked about the process of publishing Papa’s Plan for Buddy Bee, which Lori wrote and Hannah illustrated.

Papa's Plan for Buddy Bee
A 100% Hate-Free Children’s Book

Lori gave her blog site link, but Hannah only mentioned an online following where she posts some of her art. I searched in hopes of finding her blog or site, since I hope to stay connected with the friends and fellow writers I’ve made here.

Hannah is one of many home-schooled young people I’ve met that challenge old stereotypes of that method of education. She is (like they are) full of vigor and joy, polite, socially at ease, well-spoken, and most of all just plain nice to everyone.

So the first few sites I found surprised me, because Hannah was equated with hate. Some time ago, she illustrated another book written by a different Christian author, on the subject of God’s design for families. A Bible-believing author wrote a kids’ book about marriage being one man and one woman for life, and a Bible-believing illustrator drew pictures to match the story. This came as no surprise to me. It should come as no surprise to anyone else.

That word choice, hate, really bothers me.

Maybe it’s because I am a linguist by profession and a writer by passion, so words and their definitions matter.

Maybe it’s because I know Hannah as an acquaintance, and as trite as it may sound, she doesn’t appear to have a hate-filled cell in her body.

Maybe it’s because I’ve heard the same term used to accuse me of feeling a way I’ve never felt about someone else.

And maybe it’s because I’m sick of rhetorical guerilla tactics, using evocative words to provoke a reaction and “win” a cultural battle without any reasonable discussion.

People throw hate and homophobe (among other terms) around at anyone who bucks current public opinion, regardless of motivation, regardless of personality. It’s equivalent to creating a minefield around the discussion table. Anyone who tries to say something gets blown up before they can speak their mind. Nobody wants to be affiliated with hate. No one wants to be associated with a homophobe.

The target changes from discussing a cultural, political, or religious position to attacking an individual person.

Worse yet, if one’s intended purpose is to convince the opposition to reconsider their view, attacking them as individuals shuts them down.

“You’re full of hate.” If I don’t feel hatred toward anyone, this makes me defensive, eager to absolve myself of crimes I don’t think I’ve committed. It doesn’t help me hear opposing views.

“You’re a homophobe.” If I am not afraid of homosexuals, if I’m not one of those who says, “Eww they’re icky” and acts all disgusted, then once again I will feel the need to object instead of open up to a different point of view.

“You’re too close-minded,” I’ve heard people say when confronting so-called “hate.” Yes, I think, because you’re closing them down by attacking instead of opening them up by connecting.

That sword definitely cuts both sides of this cultural debate. I hope we all want to be above that sort of thing, whichever side we’re on.

Nobody gains anything from a discussion that never happens.

I’m a fan of understanding, of seeing from the perspective of the other. I have said and done many things out of ignorance, and my responses over the years on the subject of homosexuality are no exception. Thankfully, I’ve had the benefit of friends and even rational opponents who take the time to open my eyes to their point of view while demonstrating willingness to listen to mine.

So what helps that take place?

First, avoid assumptions.

Some hate and fear is obvious, but not all. Jumping to conclusions about what motivates an individual gets us nowhere but angry at each other. If I can’t know that someone hates another person, then ‘hate’ isn’t the right word. If I don’t know that someone actually fears another, then ‘homophobe’ is a poor choice. Build bridges, not walls.

Second, use accurate terms.

Maybe “ignorant” or “unfamiliar” is more appropriate. It’s hard to walk in the shoes of another, and we all pretty much suck at it. So instead of declaring “I know what your kind is like,” how about “Can I tell you what it’s like from my point of view?” Speak to flesh-and-blood people, not emotionless positions.

Let’s trade some hate for harmony.

Die a Log

There’s a tactic of discussion that drives me nuts. Take any social topic, and start out with name-calling against your opposition.

“So and so is a bigot.”

“She’s a racist.”

“He’s a misogynist.”

Because clearly any difference of opinion is exactly the same thing as hatred (animosity, hostility) and intolerance (an unwillingness to endure without repugnance the existence of something).

It’s an incredibly lazy way to approach social issues. It’s judgmental, it’s making assumptions about the motivations and the thoughts of another person – something we cannot accurately and objectively determine – and treating those assumptions as fact. It’s the pot calling the kettle black.

When you call folks out on this disparity, they love to declare “I won’t be tolerant of intolerance.” It’s ok to judge the judgmental. Disregard the fact that almost all virtues are revealed when we demonstrate them toward others, and especially regardless of how the other party behaves. Compassion is no virtue if I’m only concerned about those who are concerned about me. Integrity is useless if I’m only honest with those who have been faithfully honest. If you love only those who love you, what’s special about that?

Call these folks out (or just wait a minute while they sputter in self-righteous rage) and then you’ll hear “I don’t want to debate beliefs. Everyone can feel the way they feel. I just wish people wouldn’t shove their beliefs in other people’s faces.”  (Right, like when you claimed anyone who disagrees with you is a bigot/racist/misogynist/ignoramus.)

So in other words, don’t discuss ideas. Even though these differences of opinion form the foundation of multiple debates on social and political policy in our country, let’s not “shove our beliefs in anyone’s face” or discuss our differing perspectives.

Just close off in your little bubble, surrounded by the comfort of assenting voices, hearing only the praises of those who would have you conform to their view. Never let an outside opinion challenge your ideal world, and advocate the value of standing up for nothing, since apparently there’s no topic worth discussing, no argument worth making or defending, no person worth persuading to your cause.

People today — not all, but far too many — are content to live in a cozy little isolated fortress of solitude. Let not some strange concept or disagreeable thought intrude upon this idyllic fantasy! There is no need for dialogue! It would be a shame to have to think.

The Needs of the You

I had the privilege of watching Star Trek Into Darkness last weekend. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, the opening scene puts Zachary Quinto’s fantastic Spock into a deadly situation, freezing a volcano in order to save a planet from certain doom. Things go wrong, as they always must, and Spock is trapped. He chooses to stay and do the job, but he cannot be rescued.

He calls back to the Enterprise and explains his logic. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Chris Pine’s Kirk has a differing view about that.

But in that moment, we see the heroism of Spock’s selfless and practical decision. One man can die to save a population from destruction. If you’ve got to go, that’s not a bad achievement to take from your death.

Now imagine the scene from another angle. Kirk lines up a few “red shirts” and says, “I am going to choose one of you for a suicide mission. You’ll save the planet, but you’ll die in the process.” And then he covers his eyes and points, or plays eenie-meenie-miney-moe, or whatever Kirkly method he chooses, and he selects his crewman. “Lieutenant Jones, it’s you.”

Jones goes to the transporter crying, screaming, fighting until he is restrained. And then he gets beamed down to the planet, ordered to ensure the detonation of a device that will kill him in the process of saving many others. Instead, he scrambles to deactivate the device, like a time bomb. Spock’s voice echoes in Jones’ ears. “It is the logical decision, Lieutenant. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of you.” And Jones fails to stop the device, it goes off, and the day is saved at the cost of Lieutenant Jones’ unwilling sacrifice.

That doesn’t play so well, does it?

Sacrifice is heroic when individuals are free to take that burden upon themselves. The man who jumps on a grenade to save his friends, the medic who pulls his comrades to safety at great risk under heavy fire, the fireman who races into the burning building to save the missing child knowing the structure may collapse at any moment… we see these as heroes and rightly so.

It’s not so moving when someone chooses to sacrifice others against their will. The leader who sends his soldiers into pointless battle for an impossible objective, the criminal who makes his fortune by deception, the deadbeat who takes care of himself while neglecting the basic needs of his children… no one views the sacrifice imposed on the victims as a heroic or praiseworthy situation.

This is what comes to mind for me when I think about “reproductive rights” and abortion in the West.

I thought of this as I was attending a Chinese class. In China, the population lives under the “One Child Policy,” the rule that only the first child receives benefits from the Communist government. I discussed this with my Chinese teacher, along with Spock’s logic. And she confirmed that Chinese society has pretty much accepted this population control as a sacrifice made for the good of the nation. The nation trumps the individual, hands down.

Not so much here. We’re very much about the individual, and their freedom and right to self-determination. Don’t impose your beliefs or values on someone else, and don’t act like there’s some universal values all should esteem. We each have the right to choose!

Yet in the case of abortion, we praise “freedom of choice” when the human beings who make the greatest sacrifice have this burden thrust upon them unwillingly. The fetus does not choose, it is chosen–or rather, unchosen. We are Kirk, sending a red shirt to their death.

I know, I’m a man, so there’s a sense that I’m automatically disqualified from speaking about a woman’s right. But I’m also a human being (as are the victims of abortion). I am also aware of the basic fundamentals of biology which reaffirm that we’re talking about ending the development of human beings during these protected procedures. We may claim that a fetus is not a “person” yet, but it is a human being at a particular stage in development.

I won’t go into the graphic details of how that development is terminated, because it is disturbing. If you so desire, google Gosnell or read about the other similar cases coming to light. Then google or wiki up some abortion procedures. Then ask yourself how it is that what Gosnell did is illegal, but when he did it to a fetus inside a womb, it’s all good.

This is a complex issue, no doubt. I don’t want women in alleys with coat-hangers, to borrow from the Planned Paranoia debate playbook. I’m not keen on abstinence-only education because it seems to me like having information is a general plus. An informed decision about contraceptives might very well prevent an informed (or uninformed) decision about abortion, so I don’t know why many of us aren’t all for that.

I also don’t much like how the Pro-Life movement comes across. Opponents rightly ask, “If you’re all for saving these unborn children and bringing them into the world, who is going to take care of them?” The implication, borne out in reality, is that as much as Pro-Lifers love charity and adoption, there’s not enough of either going on to cover the needs of all the unborn children we might have saved if Roe v. Wade was overturned. Government may be the worst at welfare programs, but if they’re the only player in the game, people take what they can get.

And there are more nuances to consider, no doubt.

I simply want to express how tiresome it is to hear the praises of “choice” in this debate. It’s like generals and politicians exercising choice to send waves of young men and women into combat.

Not quite, though.

The soldier got to raise his or her right hand and volunteer.

The fetus, not so much.

Conditional Virtues

whatthePatience is a virtue.

And so are a lot of other things, it turns out.

Ancient Greece had four cardinal virtues: temperance, prudence, courage, and justice.

The Church has three: faith, hope, and love. Alternatively, some look at “the fruit of the Spirit” Paul put down in his epistles: love, joy, peace, patience, kindess, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Buddhism has its Noble Eightfold Path, Hinduism its Dharma or moral duty, Islam has a long list derived from the Quran, and so on.

Even Ben Franklin, no particular bastion of religious devotion, had his own list of moral virtues.

The key to virtues is that, without fail, they are meant to be practiced regardless of how someone else behaves.

We treat others with love even if they are hateful. We respond with kindness when someone snaps at us. When others would be arrogant, we strive to be humble; when others prove unreliable, we demonstrate diligence and faithfulness. Self-control and temperance do not depend on how wild or disciplined someone else may be.

We practice these virtues because they help us be our best selves. They give us the tools to respond to life’s struggles and difficulties with grace, maintaining dignity in spite of opposition.

Now our society is dealing with the debate over same-sex marriage and whether to recognize it as a right in America. Pitting long-standing religious traditions against the ability to openly express love and fidelity – that’s not just a spark near the fireworks. That’s a nuclear meltdown in progress. The trouble is there’s also a lot of prejudice and ignorance on the religious side, and there’s a lot of defensive lashing out due to past hurt on the same-sex marriage side – understandably so. On top of all that, there seems to be enough hate on both sides to go around.

Which is especially sad since we’re all supposedly talking about expressions of love.

There will always be political disputes and debates, but there doesn’t have to be so much vitriol in our rhetoric.

That brings me to this popular virtue I keep hearing about, called Tolerance.

Tolerance has come to mean that we must not only accept differences in others but also approve of them. When we speak of tolerating a thing, we simply mean acknowledging it, accepting the fact of its existence. I have pain in my foot following surgery. I can tolerate the pain. That doesn’t mean I approve of it. Even the term “acceptance” gets used as if to say “endorsement.” I accept marijuana is used throughout the United States and is even legal in some states. I do not endorse its use.

Equality means treating everyone with respect.
Equality means treating everyone with respect.

Treating each other as equals means tolerance is not a one way street.

If tolerance is indeed a virtue to which we should aspire, then it cannot be limited to those with whom we agree. We cannot demonize the other side as if everyone is either Westboro Baptist Church or NAMBLA. We cannot jump to conclusions and rush to judgment about what motivates supporters or opponents of same-sex marriage.

No, I don’t believe the activists are out to destroy the families. Most of them are just trying to have a family of their own. And no, I don’t believe most of the opponents think anyone is less than human or not worthy of dignity and respect, contrary to popular belief. Yes, there are too many bad apples. We tolerate their right to speech, even ignorant speech. And we counter their ignorance with prudence, temperance, and respectful disagreement.

We cannot justify intolerance and hatred toward others because “they were intolerant first.”

That’s not how virtues work.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” 

Likewise, if we only tolerate the tolerant, then what sort of virtue is it?

We’re always going to have important discussions in America, on subjects where both sides are very passionate. We owe it to ourselves to focus our energy on the viewpoints, not the participants… on virtue, not venom.

Simply Reasonable

Still useful
Remember me?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That’s the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. It’s kind of a big deal around here.

The trouble is, sometimes we forget the value and the importance of those core principles and ideas that allowed this nation to prosper for the last 200 years. And sometimes we forget that we don’t have these rights because a piece of paper in Washington D.C. says so. These rights are written down on that piece of paper because our nation is founded on the idea that people inherently deserve and possess these rights.

These memory lapses seem to come around every four years or so, like Leap Year’s Day. Strange, isn’t it?

Some atheists decided that they had a message for the two main political parties during all this buildup to the elections. These atheists want to make their case that religion doesn’t belong in politics and that the political parties should pursue ideas, not ideologies. You may agree or disagree, and you can be vocal about it. You have that right. It’s written down on that piece of paper.

The atheists used their money and resources to create billboards, and then sought advertising agencies willing to put up the images near the national conventions of both parties. There was no such agency in Florida. For whatever reason, none of them wanted to carry a controversial message about religion. They have that right. It’s also written down.

An agency in North Carolina was willing to put up the atheist organization’s message.

So these billboards were spotted in the last two weeks:

The offending billboards

You might strongly disagree with the messages. (I do.) We have that right.

However, the billboards are now being pulled down, as a response to a reported flood of “vitriol, threats, and hate speech against our staff, volunteers, and Adams Outdoor Advertising,” according to Amanda Knief, managing director of American Atheists, quoted in a Fox News article.

And that’s where our rights cross the line.

When my free exercise of religion or speech threatens the safety of another person, then maybe I’ve missed the point of both my religion and my freedom. 

I’ve said before, as a religious person, it’s reasonable to support everyone else’s right to express their religious views, even if–or especially if–those views differ from my own. As soon as we permit the government or the public to decide what is an acceptable religious view and what is not, then we are giving up the principle behind those rights written down in Washington.

It’s not my job just to make a case for my own faith and for my own freedom. It’s my job to make the case that everyone else should have the same freedom as me to express their point of view without fear of violent retribution from government or from their fellow citizens.

This all makes sense from the civic political perspective. I can’t go around threatening the free speech or free religion of others without expecting the same treatment. I can’t push for government to make laws that limit free speech or free religion (or lack of religion) for others without expecting that some day the same government might limit my freedoms.

It’s also sensible from the perspective of Jesus’ teachings. Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you, right? I’m not sure what my fellow believers are asking for “them” to do unto us, if we’re engaging in threats and vitriol just because some atheists don’t believe what we believe.

Newsflash: That’s kind of the point of atheism.

Of course, this is North Carolina, where religion and politics have clashed quite often in the past few months. North Carolina recently voted on an amendment to their state constitution prohibiting gay marriage, or defining marriage as one man and one woman, or however you want to put that.

North Carolina was also in the spotlight thanks to Pastor Charles Worley of “electric fence” fame, who suggested maybe we could lock “all the gays” behind an electric fence and let them die off. (To be fair, he did suggest dropping food and supplies into the fenced area so they could not starve to death… so, I mean, there’s the Christian compassion we were all hoping for, I guess.)

I think the latter is worse, to be honest.

To be fair, everyone can say what they want about other religions, about atheism, about Democrats, about Republicans, about anyone who is “not like me.” As much as I may disagree with their speech, I defend the right of Americans to say what we want. We can shout down voices of ignorance and hate.

Threats of violence are not the way to do it.

To my fellow believers who have raged against those billboards: You want to do something useful with your anger?

Go prove them wrong. 

Not Welcome

“Your values aren’t our values. We know about your plans to open doors in our city, and we want you to know you’re not welcome here.”

Sound familiar?

Maybe… but I’m not talking about Chick-Fil-A and Boston (or Chicago… or probably a list of cities that will want to jump on this bandwagon to show how progressive and tolerant they are…)

The “threat” to America

I’m talking about Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and the unremarkable but apparently controversial mosque being built there.

Based on the estimate in the July 19th news story in the link, the worshipers might have already had their grand opening. I sure hope so. I hope they’re having the best Ramadan ever.

And I hope their opponents are choking on bile as they see it happening.

There’s a thing called the First Amendment in the Constitution. It goes something like this:

These apply to everyone,
Not just people we like.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In this case, no one’s worried about Congress. The Federal government is (to my knowledge) not involved at all. But what the folks in Tennessee seem to be forgetting is that the amendment that lets us freely step into our churches on Sunday wherever we’d like is the same amendment that permits Muslims to build a place for worship wherever they’d like.

Intolerance and fear are clearly a part of the issue. One resident talked about the Buddhist place of worship in town and how no one seems to pay those guys any mind.

“Well, with 9/11 and the whole terrorism thing, people are just a bit nervous about having a mosque in town.”

That’s a paraphrase, but you can read the sentiment in the article for yourself.

To that I’d say,

“With the vandalism and arson on private property, and the open hostility, maybe the Muslims are a bit more frightened of you than you are of them.”

I’d say that, but I’m afraid that (were they ever to read my pointless rant in this corner of the Web) the perpetrators of this fear-mongering would feel proud at the thought. “Look at how we stood up to those Muslims! We sure let them know they’re not wanted here.”

Yeah, good job. Way to go against one of the key reasons America was founded. Way to stand up against one of the freedoms men and women have fought and died to protect for the last 226 years. Take that, religious expression!

Regrettably, our freedom of speech (see First Amendment quote above) doesn’t create any hindrance or safeguard concerning spewing ignorance. Anyone can say pretty much whatever they want.

I approve that. I applaud that. I don’t want the government telling us what is approved speech and what is not. And I know the vast majority of Americans feel the same.

But that allows for voices of thinly-veiled hatred to speak terribly insensitive and frightening thoughts.

Horrible thoughts like the North Carolina preacher a few months back with his “I got an idea… we build an electric fence, and we take all the gays an’ put ’em behind it.”

Horrible thoughts like the mindless venom pouring out of the mouths of Westboro Baptist Church members. I won’t even quote their signs. You’ve seen them on the news, or you can google them and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Horrible thoughts like that of one of the leading opponents of the Murfreesboro mosque. “I know we weren’t going to win the legal battle… I just wanted to show ’em they’re not welcome here. And I plan to keep up the fight.”

What fight? Once the mosque is built, as is permitted by local, state, and federal government, and by our fundamental freedoms in America, what fight is there? 

I have several friends and coworkers who are gay. Some have made the point that they have come out in public because they don’t want to give anyone the impression that they will sit quietly while people malign or threaten them. They’re all sensible, thoughtful people who would love to leave that part of their lives off the radar. It’s such a minor thing to them, and it’s so not anyone else’s business. But oftentimes the terrible treatment they receive from others necessitates a harsh response, so they stand up and are counted. They stand up and say, “This mistreatment will not stand,” because they know there’s probably someone else sitting in quiet fear, too afraid to speak out in their own defense.

To my fellow Christians, I’ll say, how long are we going to sit in peace and quiet, shaking our heads, muttering a little tsk-tsk in shame, looking at stories like Murfreesboro or Westboro or the electric fence guy? I’ve often heard people ask, “Where are all the moderate Muslims to denounce what the radicals are doing?”

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Maybe we think it goes without saying. “Everybody knows” that Westboro Baptist Church is a bunch of nutjobs that have nothing to do with Christianity. “Everybody knows” that what that NC preacher is saying is horrific and wrong. “Everybody knows” that the First Amendment protects the rights of these Muslims in Tennessee.

Apparently everybody doesn’t know.

Welcome to America.
Check your hate at the door.

 

It’s time we stand up and be counted. Make sure that those who would wrap themselves in the American flag while clutching a Bible to their chest properly understand the significance of both of those symbols.

Make sure we speak out to those who would spread hate and fear in the name of Christ, and let them clearly understand:

“Your values aren’t our values. We want you to know you’re not welcome here.”

Taking Control

I had an interesting discussion on Facebook yesterday.

A page about “defending marriage” posted a link to a story saying the UN was working to legalize prostitution. The comment on the link being shared was:

“We need to take back control in the world…”

I assumed the “we” is Christians, given the audience of the page. This made me wonder.

When did we have control?

Were we supposed to have control?

How did religion having control go for the world?

What did Jesus suggest (err… command) that we do in the world?

Did He not know that one day we might have a chance at establishing a Christian nation? Did the possibility slip His mind?

Does He come across as someone who is not very careful with words?

So maybe He said what He meant and vice versa.

Religions holding political power have a history of working out poorly. That’s part of why the first colonists came to America.

There was every opportunity for the Founding Fathers to make America out to be an absolute Christian nation, but they chose not to.

There was every opportunity for Jesus to command His followers to establish a kingdom, but He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He could very well have explained theocracy and suggested it as a plan, but we don’t have any indication of that. Governance clearly wasn’t on his personal agenda.

The Bible – particularly the New Testament – portrays the world as fallen, corrupt, and under the spiritual authority of the Devil. For example, Jesus was tempted by the Devil, who offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if He would simply bow down and worship the Devil. Jesus didn’t dispute whether Satan had such power to make such an offer. Likewise, Paul wrote about the spiritual darkness in the world, saying it did not belong to God but to our adversary.

We’re living in occupied territory. We’re living behind enemy lines.

Jesus never told us to set up a nation here. We’re not establishing a base or negotiating a treaty. To be clear, our “enemy” is not those people who disagree. We’re not fighting against flesh and blood… or at least that’s what the Bible tells us. Fighting flesh and blood means collateral damage.

Maybe some of us forgot that.

I expressed my concerns about what the post implied. I was told something like, “Our representative government isn’t representing all of us, its people. We have to fight in the political arena to ensure that the representative government actually represents us.”

That sword cuts both ways. That argument can be made by either side.

It basically boils down to “majority rules,” since there are two groups with opposed goals that both seek representation. Majority rules is a system that hasn’t always done well for us either. In the Sixties, the local, vocal majority would have voted to keep segregation going in some parts. That doesn’t make it acceptable or right.

Likewise, from the biblical perspective, we were never told to follow the majority. In fact, Jesus said that’s the road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:14).

We were meant to be the minority. We were meant to be different.

But we look just like everyone else.

The divorce rate in the church matches that of the world. Western Christianity looks just as self-centered and greedy as the culture it is supposedly working to save. Instead of going and making disciples, we’re going and making new recruits for our political parties. And our young people are leaving the church in droves.

Yeah, maybe we need to take back control…

We need to take back control of ourselves.

Insulation/Isolation

I realized today what my spiritual life has been missing.

No, no… my problem isn’t a lack of discipline or a hypocritical lifestyle.

Those are just the symptoms.

My problem is that I don’t have a Christian tablet. I have a heathen iPad.

I saw this article and wondered what in the world we Christians are doing sometimes.

Seriously. “In the world, what are we doing?”

We live such neat little Christian lives, where we only listen to Christian radio or read from Christian media sources. Our Christian leaders in church and on Christian websites tell us what to think about all the stuff going on in the world. We can get together at our Christian coffee shop in the Christian version of Borders and compare Christian notes about the best-selling Christian fiction or self-help books. We’ll have Christian sports nights where we get together with all our Christian buddies and throw a football around. Maybe we’ll have Christian movie night, while the kidlets are in the back room watching VeggieTales (the good Christian ones from the old days with the Bible verses).

On the weekend, we’ll have Christian services (the good folks go to morning and evening service if available). And there’s the Wednesday night groups with good Christian activities for the kids. Don’t forget the Women’s Bible Study on Thursday morning and the Men’s Prayer Breakfast on Saturdays. Oh, and I can’t hang out Thursday night… Christian band practice, so we can jam to Christian music at Sunday’s service. But don’t miss the Friday night meeting where we talk about Christian politics and saving America and how candidates measure up in their support of Christian policies. (We won’t tell you how to vote. We’ll just tell you how they voted, and you can decide for yourselves at that point.)

Ok, I honestly don’t think any of those things, taken by themselves, are bad… even the political aspect. I’m no fan of the “Christian nation” idea, but if people are actually learning some of what is going on in the political realm, I think there’s a net gain. If people are being mis-informed to support a particular agenda, then that gets back to my point with all this.

Someone will ask, with the best intentions, “What about holiness?”

We are absolutely called to be holy. We can’t ignore that. But we’re also told to be “in the world yet not of it.”

Too often we solve the “not of it” by being “not in it.”

The Christian brands of everything are not going to make us “in the world yet not of it.” Though they may even be good competitive products, buying them doesn’t do anything for my spirituality.

If we mirror the culture around us–if we do almost everything people outside the church do, except we call our activities “Christian,” then I think we’re missing something important.

We can build up a fort to keep out the world.

We can isolate ourselves from everyone not us and insulate ourselves with Christian everything. We can hunker down like a family in the basement during a storm, trying to hang on in a culture some feel is steering farther and farther from traditional values. “Don’t go outside… it’s dangerous out there. In here, it’s safe. It’s Christian.”

Or we can build a home that welcomes the weary and refreshes their souls.

We could open our doors and our hearts. We could make our churches, our homes, and our very lives into places of refuge, where people can unload their burdens and find compassionate support.

We could show people we care less about cultural or political or religious views that divide us, and more about the person who has the views.

Instead of judging the person in trouble, we could extend a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on. We could roll up our sleeves and get dirty while meeting practical needs… not as some outreach program where we wash your car or give you a meal after we preach the gospel to you,

We could give someone a meal because they’re hungry, they need it, and we care about them more than the number of converts or new visitors our church gets this month.

Are we going to find out some ugly things about the world and life? Yes.

Are we going to deal with difficult situations where there are no real easy answers, no clear-cut Scripture verses we can parrot at the person? Yes.

Are our beliefs and our views going to be challenged? Absolutely. We might see a whole new side of the people we thought were against us. We might learn a completely different side of a political or cultural issue. We could be exposed to new thoughts we haven’t had before.

Then again, maybe I’m wrong. Everyone knows how dangerous thoughts can be.

I need someone to tell me which are the Christian ones I’m allowed to have.

Maybe there’s an app on the Edifi for that.