Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Weaponization of Teen Angst

How has teen angst become weaponized? Modern American history has been deeply marred by weaponized teen angst. I fear that this is what the history books will memorialize of this era in American history. First let me say that this post will not even pretend to have the answers. I'm simply trying to process this ongoing situation in our world in the best way I can. Also, let me say that I know that teens (or young people) are not the only people who shoot, stab, or otherwise kill. The shootings in Las Vegas and Orlando come immediately to mind. Guns are also not the only weapons used for mass killings and maiming. Think of recent mass stabbings and of the man who ran through a crowd in a van. That said, it seems like we have a very disproportionate amount of mass injuries or killings being perpetrated by young males with guns in hand.

The three most obvious elements of this tragic era have always been present in American (and all) cultures: weapons, teen angst, and bullying. Until the recent past, all cultures have had weapons. In many cases, particularly a hundred or more years ago, those weapons were accessible to everyone in the home as tools needed for daily living. Part of being a teen is being in flux and trying to find a way to deal with it. Unfortunately another aspect of this, bullying has also been present throughout history. Teens killing large groups in schools was not common throughout history. What has changed?

Let's look at some of the things that get thrown around by the media and by the rest of us every time something tragic like this occurs (and yes, it saddens me greatly that I had to say EVERY TIME, and that this isn't a one-time shock). The following are what some groups call the "ultimate causes" of these events:

  1. The family has been torn apart by divorce and single-parent families. Broken families are the reason this keeps happening.
  2. God and/or religion has been removed from our schools/culture. God is peace and provides us with knowledge that we are not the greatest being in the universe. God not being allowed to be a part of our culture is the reason this keeps happening.
  3. God and/or religion have been a part of our schools/culture and have caused bias, prejudice and hate. Religion is the opiate of the weak mind and has destroyed lives and community, and this is the reason this keeps happening.
  4. We must have gun control. Access to guns allows us to take our worst instincts and act upon them with deadly effect. Guns, and access to guns are the reason this is happening.
  5. We have demonized guns so much that we don't teach proper respect for them. We don't teach gun safety and that using guns has real life consequences. This is the reason this keeps happening.
  6. Parents (either single or married) don't spend enough time pouring life, love and respect into their children. Children feel like they are not valued enough. This is the reason this keeps happening.
  7. Parents and our culture have told children that they are the most important creatures in their world. Parents spend all of their time taking kids to the kids' events and programs and spoil their kids. This is the reason this keeps happening.
  8. Kids are not taught proper respect of others and tease/bully one another. Kids are not taught proper conflict resolution. Bullying is the reason this keeps happening.
  9. Video games/movies/TV are the problem. Video games/movies/TV teach violence and immerse people in situations showing that violence is acceptable and necessary, and that there are no real consequences. This is the reason this keeps happening. 
  10. Male dominated culture and machismo are the reason this keeps happening. Masculinity is toxic and leads to outbreaks of violence. This is the reason this keeps happening.
  11. The destruction of, and belittling of, masculinity is the ultimate cause of this. Boys and men are told that they are worthless and the ultimate cause of everything that has ever gone wrong in the world. This leads to anger and despair and this is the reason this keeps happening.
I know the preceding list doesn't cover all of the reasons that get thrown out. These are just the ones that come to mind as I write this. I also know that many of these have at least some bearing on the situation, even the ones that seemingly contradict one another. I think we are in a "straw that broke the camel's back" situation. I know that no single cause (listed above or others) has caused us to be where we are. Many of these things have piled up into a festering national and cultural wound that will take much care and effort to hopefully recover from.

As I said previously, I don't pretend to have THE answer, or ANY answer. I just want to ask you all to consider and pray (if praying is something you do) about this. I want us all to look into our hearts and consider with our minds how we as individuals can impact our world in positive ways. Peeling back the individual issues (much like a doctor must do with an infected wound) may be painful, but may ultimately be the only thing that ultimately saves us. 

I don't mean that you should pick your favorite issue on the list and flog it on Facebook or elsewhere as your personal soapbox. I mean that you and I need to do something meaningful to pour into people. Find the issue (or issues) which tug at your heart, and try to help someone. Do you know kids who are being bullied? Talk with them and, more importantly, listen to them. Do you fear that video games are warping kids: find one or two kids and take them to the park. Do you know of a family in crisis? Talk lovingly (not judging) with the parents. Offer to spend time with the kids. Whatever it is, make it be about people and not about causes. Causes don't heal people, positive interactions with other people do.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Independence Day Ponderings

I want to wish everyone a happy Independence Day. I encourage all of my friends to think about what this holiday means. It is not (just) the day we eat BBQ and watch/pop fireworks. This is a day when we remember and celebrate the people that fought to be free from a government that sought to control them without asking for their input or thinking of their needs. This is a day we celebrate a journey that began over 200 years ago, but will never reach its end until we quit striving to continue that journey. The journey these freedom fighters began was one of national improvement.
The freedom fighters were not perfect, either in their actions or their morals. Many of them were slave-owners who had not made the moral connection that they had done worse to their slaves than their government had done to them, but they were at the beginning of this national journey. I encourage us not to look at history just with our practiced (and hopefully more enlightened) modern eyes, but to look at our forebears in the light of the world in which they lived. These men (and unsung women) were not perfect, but they were advancing towards improvement. Note that shortly after the establishment of the American nation, people began streaming here to improve their status. People would not have made the huge sacrifices it took to get here if it wasn't perceived as better than what they left behind.
Racism, sexism, and greed marred our history, but it marred the history of every other nation in the world. The United States was not the only nation beginning to make changes, but it was certainly the most spectacular early modern example. The imperfect men and women who founded our country began a journey towards betterment that they would not live to see the end of. We will not see the end of it either. Hopefully, history will see that we were imperfect but striving to improve ourselves individually and as a nation.
Our nation has fought in some wars where national or worldwide interests were at risk from outside forces. Some of these are where some of our greatest national honor was obtained, and some were where we lost national honor. That said, I don't find those to be the most important to our collective soul. The wars/battles fought within have gone the furthest in helping us along our national journey. The Whiskey Rebellion, the Civil War, the Sherman anti-trust act, the fight for women's suffrage, the Temperance movement resulting in Prohibition, the repeal of Prohibition, the civil rights movement, the war on drugs and so many other struggles represented forward and backward stuttering steps towards national betterment.
I encourage us to look at our history and see the generally forward movement that has been accomplished. I encourage us to never lose the urge to continue moving forward. I encourage us to continue to seek national improvement and continue to strive toward national unity. Look at your neighbor and try to see past the differences. Gender, race, religion, political leanings, job, economic status, etc. should only be parts of who we are. They should not be hard dividing lines destined to keep us forever distant from one another. They should be perspectives that help us look for different ways to come together.

Friday, August 22, 2014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Ethical Concerns Discussed

To my friends who have mentioned their qualms with participating in the ice bucket challenge and donating to the ALS Association due to ethical concerns: I sympathize with your concerns. I can not ethically get behind the use of embryonic stem cells due to my belief that life begins at conception. On the flip side, I know of the long-term pain and the ultimate loss caused by ALS.
To that end, I decided to contact the Association directly to ask about their research. I spoke with a nice woman named Regina who works for their New York office. I asked her specifically about the use of research funding for embryonic stem cell research. She answered me verbally and then offered to email me some text I could quote. A portion of that text follows:
"The ALS Association primarily funds adult stem cell research. Currently, The Association is funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC), and the stem cell line was established many years ago under ethical guidelines set by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS); this research is funded by one specific donor, who is committed to this area of research. In fact, donors may stipulate that their funds not be invested in this study or any stem cell project.
Many labs have replaced ESCs with induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). These iPS cells begin as adult human skin cells but are then reprogrammed to become stem cells, which are then ready to become other cells types."
In short, the money you may contribute today will not go toward embryonic stem cell research. You may even specifically stipulate that with your donation. The iPS research sounds promising and is created using adult skin cells. I encourage you to participate in the challenge and donate to ALS. Though they state that only one donor is funding embryonic stem cell research, I would specifically stipulate where you do not want your funds utilized.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Nothing has changed?

My previous post sparked a bit of a Facebook conversation with a high school friend.  He had some good things to say.  He is an insightful man.  He said something that I think bears further discussion, but I didn’t want to potshot back and forth via Facebook.  I do better when I collect my thoughts and put them in writing. 

He said, “We want to believe that things are different, and that things are better, but at the end of the day, they aren’t.”  I know that he is far from alone in his opinion.  I will agree with him that things are not as they should be.  There are people of all races who judge others by the color of their skin. 

I’ll ashamedly state that while color is not my trip-hazard, I have tended to judge people of a different economic status differently.  I have done this with people both substantially more wealthy than me as well as people with substantially less than me.  When people have considerably more than I do, I have had thoughts that they are spoiled and haven’t worked for what they’ve been given.  When someone is deep in poverty, I’ve been prone to thinking that they just need to work harder to get out of poverty.  This is a personal shortcoming that I am striving to work through. 

My problem here is with the statement that nothing has changed with regard to race relations.  I’ve read quotes in the news where people state that nothing has changed since the murder of Emmett Till.  If you don’t know, Emmett Till was a young black man who was killed in 1955 for flirting with a white woman in Mississippi.  Emmitt was killed by two white men.  These white men were acquitted.  The righteous outrage over this event helped spark the Civil Rights Movement. 

In the ensuing 58 years, things HAVE changed.  There have been vast improvements.  I honestly can’t tell you how many interracial couples I know.  There is one in my family and several in my church.  Of the couples I know personally, they appear to be very happy.  There are no longer “separate but equal” laws on the books.  When I looked at locations to build a house, I didn’t go around checking to make sure there were only white people living in the neighborhood.  The number of educational and employment opportunities available to people of all non-Caucasian backgrounds has grown tremendously.  Boys and girls, we have a black president.  Politically I am not a fan of the man, but I was still proud that our country has grown up enough that a black man could be elected to the highest office in the land.

I don’t know what it’s like to be a black man in America.  I can’t.  I never will.  But, I do know what it is like to be judged improperly.  I know what it is to have opportunity taken away because of external factors.  As a Christian, I’m constantly judged by the worst examples of those who call themselves by the same name.  I know what it is like to be judged to be less intelligent strictly because of where I grew up and went to college.  Though I managed to keep scholarships all through college, I was floored by how few scholarships were available to white males.  The preponderance of scholarships in the catalog were out of my reach due to race or gender.  I won’t try to make anyone believe that it is the same.  It isn’t, but it’s still wrong.  We collectively need to try to get past all of this.

I don’t know enough about the Trayvon situation (and neither do you) to state that he was either pure as the driven snow or a thug.  Truthfully, most of us (at least the guys) were somewhere in between as teenagers.  We were cocky, even combative.  Young Mr. Martin was likely the same.  Does that mean he deserved to die?  No.  Did Zimmerman make a huge mistake in following the kid on foot, especially when the cops told him to back off?  Yes! I won’t defend Zimmerman’s actions.  It’s entirely possible that he is every bit the racist pig that he’s been portrayed as.  A system of law that works well in most cases was unable to prove that he intentionally went in to kill a young black kid.

In my Facebook discussion, I was told that, “people are asking us not to be so quick to anger because the perpetrator had the right to shoot him.”  There are two parts to this statement that I think need to be dissected.  The first is the portion about being quick to anger.  Anger is natural. My Savior, Jesus, became angry.  Anger in and of itself is not a problem.  The key is what you do with your anger.  Do you go onto a public forum and put racially divisive elements out there?  Do you broadly state that all of Group A thinks poorly of everyone in Group B?  Do you state (and my high school friend did not) that “we need to riot in white neighborhoods?”  My friend has not made that statement, but others have, and rioting has occurred.  If this case were the other way around, and a young white (or Hispanic, or Asian, or whatever) man were killed in questionable circumstances, it would not be considered acceptable for white (or Hispanic, or Asian, or whatever) folks to start making broad public statements about black folks.  It certainly wouldn’t fly for big groups of white folks to walk through the city tearing stuff up.  The explosive anger from that would quickly become the focal point instead of the death itself.  Though I disagree with the situation, I would not have any real problem with a demonstration.  My problem is with the call for violence and destruction.  Again, my friend hasn’t done this.

The second part I want to address about my friend’s statement is about the perpetrator having a right to shoot Trayvon.  Broadly speaking, none of us has a right to shoot one another (or use any other means of deadly force) unless we honestly believe our life is in imminent danger.  If I see someone walking down the street, I don’t have a right to shoot him.  If he punches me in the face, I don’t have a right to shoot him.  I can punch back, but killing him is not legally defensible.  Running away is the best option.  However, if he is slamming my head into the pavement hard enough to crack my skull, it is conceivable that I fear for my life.  At that point, the color of the people involved becomes irrelevant.  If a big red-headed dude is trying to kill me, I’m gonna do my best to stop it.  I have the legal right to use whatever force is necessary.  If Zimmerman had been slamming Trayvon’s head into the ground, Trayvon would have been within his legal rights to take deadly measures.  Had that been the case, this would never have made it beyond the local evening news.

I don’t pretend that everything is absolutely right in this country.  It isn’t and probably never will be.  There will always be people who erroneously judge other people.  The judgment may be due to race, gender, political affiliation, economic status, education, religion, or sexual orientation.  Sadly, we can’t legislate people’s right to be an idiot.  What we must do is not fall into the trap of joining in the judgment.  Our job as neighbors is to remember to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Can we talk for a moment about race, love and respect?

If you are reading this, you are a friend of mine.  We either went to school together, worked together, have gone to church together, are family, or have had our lives cross in some other manner.  I have friends who are white, Asian, Hispanic, black, and mixtures of all of the above.  I have family who fall into all of those categories.  I have two beautiful nieces who, had they been male, “would look like Trayvon.”

I spent my formative years in West Texas in the 70’s and 80’s.  My first true exposure to something other than Caucasian and Hispanic culture came in the second grade.  Lubbock was kinda late to the school integration thing.  They began enforcing a policy of cross-town bussing.  The idea was to take kids from different parts of town, put them in school together, and let them grow up not knowing they were different.  This was a laudable goal.  However, cultural bias had set in even by the second grade.  You might be surprised though.  It wasn’t the white kids picking the fights. 

Every morning, I boarded a bus at Haynes Elementary which was three or four blocks from my house.  We then made a very slow 30 minute drive to Wheatley Elementary.  On the first day of school, kids piled off the bus and wandered into class.  On the first day of class, we were told to find a seat and that would be our spot for the rest of the semester.  I plopped down in a seat, only to be told by a young black kid (possibly the first black kid I’d ever met) that I was in his seat.  Being a quiet, non-confrontational kid, I moved.  He then told me that was his seat too.  When I wouldn’t move a second time, he told me he was going to beat me up at recess.  That was the start of a several week series of recess fights.  I never initiated them.  Those of you who know me well know that I don’t start fights.  However, I did stick up for myself.  Was this all race-based?  No, I don’t think so.  Some of it was that this kid was just a mean kid.  However, some of it was because I was a white kid in his territory. 

Towards the middle of that year, my folks moved us to the little town of Wolfforth, Texas: essentially a bedroom community right outside of Lubbock.  Our school district, Frenship ISD, was a bit unusual for that area in that time.  We had fairly well-to-do kids whose parents owned local businesses, farm kids, kids of plain old workaday folks, kids of migrant laborers, and kids whose parents were stationed at Reese Air Force Base.  While leaning heavily to WASP-ish demographics, there were a pretty good mix of races and economic backgrounds.  I never even thought twice about my friends with different skin colors and last names of different backgrounds.  This had to have been a huge leap from the Texas of the pre-1970’s. 

Between then and now, my extended family has grown to include a black brother-in-law, a Hispanic brother-in-law, and a Vietnamese sister-in-law.  I have beautiful nieces and nephews who are mixes from the marriages of those family members and other members of my family.  I love them all.  I also have friends from my church, good friends, from various races and nationalities.  We are there for each other, give each other good natured ribbing and are family to each other because most of our genetic families are far way.

Now, I see people who normally seem to get along quite well just spouting hate because of the stupid act of one young man.  The young man (with Hispanic heritage and a Caucasian surname) followed another young man ( a young black man) and now one of them is dead.  The other’s life is forever altered, arguably ruined.  Did Zimmerman racially profile Trayvon?  Possibly, even probably.  Did he exercise extremely bad judgment in getting out of his car when the cops told him to stay in the car?  Unquestionably.  Did he commit second degree murder or manslaughter?  The honest answer is we don’t know.  We can’t, don’t and will never know.  Therefore, the jury did what the law requires them to do.  It found him not guilty.  This doesn’t mean they like what he did (or might have done).  This doesn’t mean that those six white women on the jury hate young black men.  This means that the State of Florida did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Zimmerman committed the crime for which he was charged.  Reasonable doubt, while not always equitably applied, is the thing that makes our justice system so much better than most.  It keeps the court of public opinion from condemning people who may not have necessarily committed a crime.

My problem is not about what Zimmerman did or didn’t do.  I don’t even want to get into why he went after Trayvon or whether Trayvon was a good kid or not.  My problem is that people are talking about the “United States of AmeriKKKa.”  My problem is that people are quoting Ice Cube in saying that this is what “they” think of you.  That is the basest racism.  Anyone who is behind riots and violence because they dislike the outcome of this trial is fomenting racial hatred.  Letting this drive a wedge between people (not black/white/Asian/Hispanic, but neighbors and friends) is the most ridiculous thing imaginable.  Whether you are right or left, democrat or republican, black or white, letting yourself be played by the media and anyone with an ax to grind is insane.

I further take issue with the fact that huge numbers of young black men have been killed by other young black men and nobody seems to cry much about it.  According to stats from the Philadelphia Police Department, 75% of the 324 murder victims in their city in the year of the study were young black men.  Of that group of murder victims, 80% were killed by other young black men.  That means about 194 young black men were killed by other young black men in one city in one year.  That is appalling.  Why isn’t there more outrage?  Why is there no call for this heinous genocide to stop?  I’m actually asking because I don’t know.  I suspect a large part is because it doesn’t play well in the press.  I also suspect it is because no political hay can be made.  You can’t very well set up an “us” against “them” divide when everyone is “us.”

I want my children, nieces and nephews to grow up in a country where they don’t hear hate-mongers (black, white or otherwise) and racists (black, white or otherwise) saying it’s all some other groups’ fault.  I don’t want my mixed race (black father and white mother) niece to look at my white niece and think “that’s the enemy.”   As of right now, when family gets together, those precious little ones love on us and each other and have a ball like the family they are.  My fear is that they will grow up seeing the hate-mongering on the news and begin to see one another as the enemy.

Friends and family, it all starts with each of us.  Your neighbor (black, white, or otherwise) is a person in their own right.  They are God’s child.  If you don’t believe in God, you’ll at least agree that they are a homo sapiens before they are anything else.  They all are worthy and worthwhile.  So why, please, why do folks immediately start seeing “other” when something like this comes up in the news.  Good grief, “we” are letting “them” play us like fiddles.  OJ, Rodney King, and now Trayvon and Zimmerman.  Every time something like this happens, people shut down.  They, or we, quit seeing each other as worthy people and go straight to exterior appearances.  They, or we, turn off our brains and start feeding from the intellectual trough of CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, or whatever our favorite news outlet is.  We let professional rabble rousers, entertainers and politicians lead us like sheep and tell us who we should love or hate.

Since you’ve read this far, I’ll bore you a bit further.  Yesterday, I saw at least a small hint of what I hope to see for our country in the future.  Our church offers a program to help the community in which it resides.  This program, Neighborhood Needs, offers food, clothing and other items to underprivileged and down on their luck folks in Southwest Fort Worth.  I have seen the program serve white, black, Asian, Hispanic, Bhutanese, Middle Eastern and other folks for years.  Recently, we have teamed up with the Tarrant County Food Bank to offer a once-a-month program called Mobile Pantry.  The food bank brings one or two trucks of food to our parking lot.  We help unload, set up tables, arrange a sign-in station, give out food and help folks get the food to their cars or to the bus.  People of multiple races from several denominations of Christianity and other religions show up to volunteer.  Yesterday, I had the privilege to serve with black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Indian and other folks.  We had volunteers ranging in age from my 11-year old son up to some ladies whose age I won’t guess because I don’t want to take a beating.  We served several hundred folks of at least as varied a background as those serving.  In that group, I can tell you that we had conservatives and liberals.  We had people who are for and people who are against gun ownership.  We had people who are for a greater government influence in our lives and people who want as little government as humanly possible.  We had some rather rich individuals and some startlingly poor individuals.  All that, and we were able to look right past our differences and see each other as neighbors.  I didn’t see any major arguments.  I saw humor, and love and honor.  I saw Christians helping Muslims and Muslims being gracious in accepting the help.  I saw a young Hispanic male helping an older black lady carry her food.

Please take a moment to reflect.  Please let God lead your heart and ask Him to slow your rush to judgment of anyone.  Please look to build bonds with your neighbors.  Please look to make this nation what our Founding Fathers wished for it to be while being able to have an even greater understanding of what a neighbor is than they did.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Broken World

In my last post, I wrote about broken people.  I specifically discussed the young men behind the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut and the stabbings in Cypress, Texas.  In the time since that post, we have seen more evidence of broken people.  We've seen the two misguided brothers who set off bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon and another fellow decided to send letters laced with Ricin to our president and a couple of senators.  None of these crimes have any commonality of motivation (at least none put forth in the media) or method (gun, knife, bomb and poison).  All have been perpetrated by broken people upon their “neighbors.”  Again, these are broken people committing these acts.

However, in the same time frame, we've seen occurrences that have had much greater human tolls in terms of death and devastation.  There was an earthquake on the Iran/Pakistan border where at least 30 were killed and more were wounded.  A fire led to an explosion at a fertilizer plant in the small town of West, Texas.  There are 14 confirmed dead, as many as 60 missing and possibly dead, and more than 150 wounded.  An earthquake in the Sichuan province of China has just occurred.  They are estimating more than 100 dead and more than 2,000 injured.  These events are happening at nearly all points of the globe.  These are events not caused by malicious acts, though they are investigation the fertilizer plant explosion.  These are events that happen in a broken, fallen world.

In so many ways, our world is beautiful and awe inspiring.  Look at the sunset over the ocean.  Go see the Grand Canyon.  Watch a deer timidly come out of the protection of the woods to look for its breakfast in a field.  See the wonder of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).  All can be beautiful, heart warming and amazing.  However, someone may be drowning in the ocean over which the beautiful sunset is occurring.  A flood from a river carving a beautiful canyon can destroy lives and property.  That deer may be attacked at any moment by a mountain lion.  The Aurora Borealis is just a symptom of the radioactive attack of the sun on the earth.  There truly are two sides to every coin. 

I do not believe that this is what God truly wanted for us.  In the beginning, He made a beautiful place for His children.  He made it as lovingly and as caringly as he made them.  He wanted to be able to spend time with them in a place of beauty and majesty, and He wanted them to be able to feel safe with them.  However, God wanted us to freely make the choice to love Him and be with Him there.  He gave us the option.  When we (and I refuse to throw Eve, or women in general, under the bus here: we all make the same choice in our lives) chose to look for our fulfillment outside of Him, he pushed us out of his “throne room” with regret.  The broken world we all suffer came about as a consequence of the choices we make.  Man’s rejection of the Father broke his heart and caused the breaking of man and the world.

At this point, it would be easy to blame God.  “He is so mean.”  “Why would a loving God allow these things to happen.”  “If God is all-knowing, he should have known we would break his heart and force his hand.”  “Why can’t God just forgive us and fix all of the wrongs in this world.”  But, you see, God still show us how much he loves us.  He lets us see the beautiful side of the coin.  We get the sunsets, and the beautiful scenery.  We get to have lifelong loves and friendships.  We get to know what a joy it is to hold our child close and hear them say, I love you.”  We have been given so many beautiful things in this broken world.  The brokenness of the world means that we may temporarily lose some or all of these things, but this is where God’s greatest grace comes in.  He gives us the chance to go back into his throne room when our time on this broken world is over.  He loved us so much that he came bodily to this broken and sullied world.  He spent time with us.  He lived for us and then died bodily for us.  He took our sins and burned them for us. 

He has left us with a choice again.  All we have to do is accept His grace.  This choice is so much easier than the last one.  The last choice was an all or nothing choice: perfection forever, or banishment to a broken world.  This choice is so much simpler.  All He wants us to do is accept him.  He will take us, warts and all.  His heart has been broken, but he still wants us.  He loves us so much that he gives us the chance to improve our broken world.  No, we won’t be able to stop the “natural” tragedies.  But we can have such an impact on the broken people.  He has given us the clarion call to be a light on the hill.  We can share Him with others.  We can bring others out of brokenness and into his forgiveness and redemption. 

We will still not be perfect, nor will the people we bring to Him, not while we are still on this broken world.  But we can truly know what it is to be neighbors.  God, in the person of His Son Jesus, was once asked what the greatest commands were.  He said that the first was to love God with all you are.  But He quickly said that the second command was very close in importance.  That command was to love your neighbor as yourself.  When you think about it, this can be an extension of the greatest commandment.  If we love our neighbor as much as we do ourselves, we will want to share God with them.  We will want them to be able to escape this broken world.  If we do that, we've helped someone else follow the greatest commandment.

Please pray for your neighbors.  Yes, I mean the people who live around you.  Get to know them.  Cheer them on in life and learn to love them.  I also mean for you to pray for your neighbors in the broader sense.  Pray for the guy in the cubicle next to you at work.  Pray for your mailman.  Pray for the checkout lady at Walmart.  Pray for the rude person on the customer service line when you call in.  Pray for them and love them.  Remember that they have God’s love and deserve it no more or less than you.  If God loves them, we shouldn't do any less.  Pray for people you disagree with religiously.  Pray for people you disagree with politically.  Pray for people you disagree with philosophically.  Pray for people who root for a different sports team than you do (yes, even the Aggies ;-) ).  I am slowly beginning to find that if I pray for them, I have a harder time being so harsh in my judgment of them.  I hope to find that it will make them easier to love.  It hope it makes me easier to love.  On that note, pray for me when I’m not all I should be.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Broken People

Broken people call His name
Helpless children praise the King
Nothing brings Him greater fame
When broken people call His name

Lift high, your chains undone
All rise, exalt the Son
Jesus Christ, the Holy One
We lift our eyes to You

Sinners all exalt the Son
Your ransom paid and freedom won
We will see His Kingdom Come
When sinners all exalt the Son

Lyrics to Lift High by Steve Fee

This song is really speaking to me today because we are truly a broken people.  Yesterday, a student at the Cypress, Texas campus of Lone Star College stabbed 14 people before he was taken down by other students.  He has now told police that he has fantasized about stabbing people since grade school. On December 14 of last year, a young man took the lives of so many children and faculty at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. This was a person with a history of just not fitting in.  Every day, people molest children.  People destroy each other's lives for no reason other than to prove themselves to a gang or a group of friends.

We, as Americans, have long been proud of our independent spirit.  In fact, our favorite national holiday is Independence Day.  Many things about having a spirit of independence are good.  It is great to be willing to roll up our sleeves and get to work.  It is great that we don't feel the need to do what others are doing, especially when they are doing something we see as wrong.  However, we've badly mutated the concept of independence.  We've taken away the positive attributes of independence and replaced them with self-absorption and complacency about the needs of others.  

We don't believe in any standards, except those we set for ourselves.  We don't see the need to help our neighbors.  That is the job of the government or "someone else."  We don't look out for the poor and downtrodden.  And as an "independent" person, I certainly can't take my problems to anyone else.

If we have no one greater than ourselves, we have no one to whom we can turn when we have struggles.  If we think there is no right and no wrong, we lack a standard against which we can all be measured.  We don't want others bothering us about our lives, and we don't want to pester other people about their lives.  We don't want our imperfect neighbors to tell us what to do and how to live our lives.  We certainly don't want a perfect God telling us what is best for us.

The following is from Proverbs 1:
24 “Because I called and you refused,
stretched out my hand and no one paid attention;
25 And you neglected all my counsel
And did not want my reproof;
26 I will also laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your dread comes,
27 When your dread comes like a storm
And your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.
28 “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently but they will not find me,
29 Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the Lord.
30 “They would not accept my counsel,
They spurned all my reproof.
31 “So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way
And be satiated with their own devices.
32 “For the waywardness of the naive will kill them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them.
33 “But he who listens to me shall live securely
And will be at ease from the dread of evil.”
I don't think we are beyond hope.  I don't yet think that God is ready to "laugh at your calamity."  But, I do know that repercussions are happening because we have turned away from God's authority.  We have turned away from loving our neighbors as ourselves.  We have turned away from doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.

The problem is not that we have guns, knives, cars or other possible objects of mayhem in the hands of the people.  The problem is that we are broken and refuse to admit it.  Until the collective "we" (not the government, but our communities) decide to be neighbors, we will never be healed of our brokenness.  Had the neighbors, family and friends of the young men in Cypress and Newtown been more involved in their lives, we might have avoided tragedy.  Had someone looked into their well-being (not as a duty, but out of love), those young men might have been made whole.

I am the chief of sinners in this regard.  It is no fun to ask someone how they're doing when you know the answer will be anything other than, "fine."  We need to get out of ourselves and love others.

Please join me in prayer for our collective brokenness.  Pray for individual and national healing.