"For now we see as if through a flawed pane of glass..." (I Corinthians 13:12)

Friday, September 2, 2016

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing


I’m going “off track” today; although, I believe my thoughts written here represent a faithful effort to follow Jesus.

First of all, a few disclaimers; in fact, the disclaimers will make up the majority of my blog today, because (1) the general response to a controversial comment seems to be to find ways to discredit it by making it say something other than what it really says, and I want to do everything in my power to ensure that my statement cannot be twisted and misrepresented. And, (2) my actual statement is relatively short.

The issue is the fiasco surrounding San Francisco Quarterback’s chosen way to protest police brutality against people of color. At the very least, he raises an important issue that needs to be discussed. Unfortunately, his chosen way of expressing his protest has proven counterproductive because virtually 100% of the attention has focused on his method, rather than the content of his concern. The tail is wagging the dog.

So, on to my disclaimers:

·         I sincerely believe that the vast majority of police officers in America are good, well-meaning public servants. The issue being protested relates to a tiny minority within the constabulary. Still, one incident is too many.

·         I do believe racism remains a major concern for the American culture; but, I don’t believe everyone in America is a racist. Most racism is sub-conscious, because virtually everyone agrees that it is evil. So, most racism is suppressed and denied, but is a subtle shaper of interracial interaction.

·         And, yes, I believe that racism is not exclusive; that is, there are racists in every ethnic population.

·         I affirm the statement by D. A. Krôlak, posted in his blog August 25, 2015:

ü  If I say, “Black lives matter,” and you think I mean, “Black lives matter more than others,” we’re having a misunderstanding.

ü  If I say, “White privilege is real and it means White people have some unearned social advantages just because they’re white,” and you think I mean, “White privilege is real and it means White people should be ashamed of themselves just because they’re white,” we’re having a misunderstanding.

ü  If I say, “We have a problem with institutionalized racism in our legal system,” and you think I mean, “We have a problem with everyone being racist in our legal system,” we’re having a misunderstanding.

ü  If we’re having these misunderstandings, where are they coming from, and what can we do about them?

·         The misunderstandings to which Krôlak refers originate in the defensive, self-justifying rationalizations I mention above, viz., the effort to discredit a statement by twisting and misrepresenting it to make it say something other than what it really says.

While that last bullet point represents exactly what I hope to avoid with all my disclaimers, the effort, I suspect, will be futile in many cases. So, I’ll just move on to what I have to say:

Colin Kaepernick’s “peaceful protest” is valid, and he is within his constitutional rights to do it exactly as he did. That being said, aside from raising awareness of his concern, his protest does not seem to have advanced his cause in the least; in fact, his method has become a major distraction from his intention. As for awareness, that’s been done. What we need is not more awareness, but a shift in our mutual understanding of that concern. Too many Americans don’t want to be a united culture. They want to be a uniform culture, with their own perspective being the standard for that uniformity.

Until we come to terms with that need to be the standard for everyone else, it matters not what method we use to protest—or affirm—anything. And even if, for argument’s sake, we affirm the validity of a uniform culture, before we can agree on anything, we must understand each other’s perspective.

That’s the way I see it through the flawed glass that is my world view.

Together in the Walk,

Jim

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Stumbling



September 1, 2016
My 2016 Ongoing Journey: Exploring Matthew to discover what following Jesus and becoming more like him would look like.
Matthew 8:6-15 ~ The disciples expect Jesus to lead a military coup to overthrow the Romans and establish a new political kingdom of Israel. They have just asked Jesus about their positions of political power in that kingdom, and Jesus has replied by calling a child and saying, “Unless you become as this child you will not see the kingdom.” So much for political ambition.
Jesus continues now, speaking of influencing “these little ones” and causing them to stumble. As I was reading it this time, I wondered what Jesus meant by stumbling. The fact is, I’ve stumbled along, writing and re-writing this blog for more than a week, now.
The obvious—at least to those who think like Pharisees—is that stumbling means violating some moral absolute. But, I don’t recall Jesus championing moral absolutes. He was much more likely to forgive those who had violated absolute standards.
And I guess I’ve always “assumed” (you know what that means) that “little ones” meant the children. After all, in the narrative immediately prior to this discourse, he had referred to a child as the standard for kingdom citizenship.
But Jesus frequently used the term, “little ones” or “children” to refer to his disciples; and that’s a reasonable conclusion here.
If, then, “little ones” refers to Jesus’ followers, “stumbling” likely means interfering with their walk with him—a walk that clearly went in a direction far different from the moral absolutism of the Pharisees.
So, was Jesus anomic? Hardly! Indeed, Jesus raised the bar compared to the values and norms of the religious establishment of his day. Jesus moved the bar from the pharisaic dictum, “obey the letter of the law and don’t hurt anybody.”
In previous blogs I've made reference to the ancient Egyptian "Book of the Dead," with its three ethical stances: I have harmed the widow; I have not harmed the widow; I have helped the widow. Virtually every religion in human history has had a golden rule. All of them, including Pharisaic Judaism, adopted the middle ethical stance: I have not harmed the widow.
In his inauguration speech (what we call the “Sermon on the Mount”), and throughout his ministry, , Jesus raised the bar and asked, "But have you helped the widow?" Only Jesus’ “golden rule" is proactive; and is augmented with his continual call to love.
Is it a stretch to apply that perspective here?
I wear the label, “Christian,” and thus claim to be a follower of Jesus. Do I relate to others on the basis of the high bar of Jesus’ way, or the more comfortable, self-justifying way of the Pharisees?
That's the way it looks through the flawed glass that is my world view.
Together in the Walk,
Jim