Archive for the 'forgiveness' Category

21
May
11

Time to Unpack

I’ve called it History’s Quandary. The Middle East, where enemies and allies change by the day and the best we can ever hope for is choosing the least unfortunate. Right now, our president is standing in fallout that is too deep to sort through, and for that he deserves our sympathy. Presidents before him have acted on the best knowledge to make the best decisions only to be judged by generations of history.

Right now, though, the President is not only drowning in the fallout from the troubled Middle East, but also at home. His Israeli peace plan has brought nothing but controversy over a steadfast ally. I have a knee-jerk opinion on what he said, but I like to do a little research before I speak out on the Middle East, so I’ve spent two days reading the blog circuit regarding this speech, Hamas, Abbas, Netanyahu, the Muslim Brotherhood…Finally I came to a conclusion.

It’s time to unpack, America, or our baggage is going to drown us.

Every comment stream I read turned into a circular argument of name-calling, blaming, excuses, and hate. Is this what our great nation has become? Golda Maier said that there will be war until Palestinians can learn to love their children as much as they hate the Jews. What about us? After reading all I have, it occurs to me that Americans are so caught up in rhetoric, we cannot reach a viable solution on any issue. In the name of being right, we have forgotten that love fosters growth, but hate destroys everything in its path. The Israeli conflict is an appropriate backdrop for such a realization. Israel, though a small and young nation, has grown more than many of its peers in the area. The nation is democratic, based on a general concept of freedom. It’s peers are bent on destruction. Nothing can destroy and intimidate its way to prosperity – not governments, ideas, egos, or armies.

We Americans inherited a legacy of peace and prosperity that we have squandered. Now that it is threatened, we are up to our ears in blame and hate that jeopardizes our future. We cannot even agree on good an evil. When we reached out to the Katrina victims, there were criticisms. The Gulf oil spill? Not an environmental tragedy, but a political blame-fest. We fight about gunmen in our schools and killings on the border. Obama compared children being blown up on school buses with the humiliation of occupation and NOBODY SAID A THING. Children are being killed, people, and we have turned it into a political debate without spending a moment to grieve for humanity.

America has always stood for what is right and good. She has been a bastion of freedom and solace. Right now, though, America doesn’t know what is right and therefore cannot stand. Instead, we have replaced good vs. evil with red vs. blue and are battering both to the ground. I promise that our skirmishes over things like abortion and clean water will look luxurious when we are fighting for existence. If we cannot come together and remember that a dead child is a tragedy no matter who her parents were and that injustice is a scourge, we will fall from within.

Right now, we are carrying our own versions of history in heavy backpacks that weigh us down, hindering our movement and keeping us out of the fight. We have got to unpack those so that we can step up and remember that good is worth fighting for. The enemy is powerful, but he should be easy for us to recognize – he’s the one threatening our future and that of the world. Usually, he has less problem saying he is bent on murder than we have believing him.

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17
Oct
09

Furthermore…

I can’t let it go. In my previous post, “Use Your Words,” I veered from the point I wanted to make. Thankfully, this can be said quickly, in 300 words or less.

The name calling and general disregard has escalated over the past year. I really think it has a lot to do with social media. We can post any vitriol we want, forgetting the implication when a loved one reads it later. I certainly am guilty of this. Frankly, though, I hate the names, particularly “breeder.” Well, I really hate being called a racist because I don’t agree with Obama’s policies. From the bottom of my soul I can say that I am completely unfazed by his skin color. It is offensive to me that people I have known for many years would take such distaste down to something so shallow and disregard anything I have to say about the actual policies in question.

Regarding the namecalling, though. We have hate crime legislation on the books and anti-discrimination policies. In the workplace we all sit through diversity training. To me, all of this points to one conclusion. If we could simply behave ourselves, would any of this be necessary? Do we really have to be visited by a consultant in the work-place to ensure we don’t use offensive references? The lack of civility in our culture is distressing. The citizenry cannot be counted on to behave in public and we continue to defend such behavior. When Kanye or Letterman commit a gaffe, people are rushing to their defense, justifying it for whatever reason. Whether or not we agree on the issues, it would be helpful if we could agree on conduct. Playground rules reign supreme – share, don’t call each other names, no hitting, and take turns. If we could just abide each other the way we did when we were five, the government may be able to step back into its appropriate place.

17
Oct
09

Use Your Words!

Birther, Becker, Rushian, Becker-Head, Breeder, Bigot, Racist, Closed-minded, Hater, Greedy, Uncompassionate, Hypocrite, Deluded, Homophobe…Just a few names being tossed around the blogosphere lately in reference to the conservative movement. I have seen some of these in actual news articles, and I have even seen some arise in a judge’s decision (see Judge Land’s verbal levelling of Orly Taitz. Professional?). Yep. There are some naughty conservatives, too. I heard from a dear friend of mine that his sweet mother was SPIT on while campaigning for Obama. It was a shocking revelation to me as I have never been mistreated by a fellow conservative. I truly believed that we were above such mean and unproductive tactics but I’m guessing those on the other side would say the same thing.

So, we all have to accept some responsibility, but personally I try to abstain from name-calling. Many liberals are my friends, family, and even their mothers – real people I don’t want to hurt. Still, I slip from time to time. Judging from the vast world of social media, we are all slipping. When we were little, our parents told us to use our words and we have practiced ever since, sharpening these verbal skills into a weapon that would divide a nation. The rhetoric and sound bites divide us, fostering distrust and even hatred that sometimes threatens to turn violent. And yet, we continue to use our words. Words are thrown around in our culture without too much thought to their impact. The impact is that we cannot have an honest debate about important issues because both sides are shielded by rhetoric.

It’s dangerous ground. Each day, our way of life is threatened and we citizens are powerless against the tide of politicians. We are fed questionable facts but debate is stifled by fears of being called bigoted, hateful, or worse. Take, for example, the emergence of HIV in the early ’80’s. It didn’t take too long to determine that the disease was sexually transmitted and was spreading most rapidly among homosexual men. The transmission among this demographic was not specifically due to homosexuality, but to promiscuity. The cases were first isolated to San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. Officials like Harvey Milk and his supporters tried to warn the gay communities about this rising epidemic and were silenced by Gay activist groups like the Stonewall Gay Democratic Club. These groups stated that any admonition against promiscuous gay sex was a statement against the gay lifestyle and they threw such epithets as homophobe, Nazi, and sexual fascist their way. At that time, one in 333 homosexual men in San Francisco had the disease. They were concentrated in the Castro district and promiscuous men in the area could potentially come into into contact with up to ten partners a night, making their odds of contracting the disease 1 in 33. Harvey Milk, Bill Kraus, and Catherine Cusic, all homosexual community leaders tried to get the word out to protect their own, but they were continually brought down. It was political suicide to warn the homosexual community specifically of this potential danger. Unfortunately, Milk gave into political pressure and dropped the issue. Of course, it is difficult to blame him.

At that time, in 1983, there were about 5,000 HIV diagnoses in the US. It was a rare and preventable disease, had anyone heeded the warnings. Today, over 500,000 Americans are living with the disease and another half million have died from it.

Being homosexual himself, I hardly believe that Harvey Milk was trying to be hateful. I don’t really think the man was homophobic, either. And I know he wasn’t calling anyone names. The price our country has paid for his inability to speak out is dear. Now, we have more and more issues of similar import. Unfortunately, the discussion is the same. We have hurled insults across party lines so long that the line between right and wrong, good and bad, is completely blurred and nobody is willing to uncover it for fear of what will be said. The fastest way to stifle a debate is to call someone a racist or hater. But while we throw these ugly words around, lives are being lost. Money is being lost. Our national identity is being lost. We stand to lose an entire generation. Are we really going to let name-calling stand in the way of greatness we were meant for?

27
Jun
09

Forgiveness, Evil’s Parasite

The University of Miami recently released a study comparing the hunting habits of the Great White shark to those of serial killers. This is not a surprise. In fact, I believe that this proves a long-standing hypothesis: sharks are pure evil. They are behemoth killing machines, not evolved or adapted since their beginning, meaning that they were perfectly created for their grisly existence. I contend that serial killers may share basal instincts with the shark, not the other way around.

I briefly stated my position on FaceBook and I was told “Ponder this…If you believe in true evil, you have no room for forgiveness.” I pondered this. I have spent a lot of time pondering forgiveness. I am forgiven. I have forgiven some dreadful things. I live with a man who is bi-polar. Forgiveness is a big part of my life and it is a big word. We throw it around fairly easily, but how often do we mean it? More importantly, how often do we genuinely seek it? When we throw out a hapless “I’m sorry,” do we really hope for forgiveness or are we sorry we are in the situation and we want it to stop?

As a Christian, I have to take a very honest look at what forgiveness means because my entire faith hinges on it. There is not a person on the planet God would not forgive, but we have to ask for it. It has to be different from saying “sorry” as though we bumped into God with a shopping cart at Target. When we seek forgiveness from God, it has be sincere, heartfelt, and indicative of a major willingness to change.

The same is true for seeking forgiveness from each other. We are not charged to forgive someone who is not asking us to. But when we are asked, that is the test. That is when we have to turn our backs on the past and step ahead, leaving the hurt somewhere on the road. There has been a misconception among us Christians, though, as we assume a need to forgive everyone who has wronged us. This dangerous misconception fills the Christian walk with potholes.

I turned an ankle in one of these potholes about a year ago. I had just begun to really grasp unconditional love as a matter of faith and I made this assumption that forgiveness is inherent in that. Enter the Bad Relative. This man exhibits deplorable behavior that only gets worse as he nears 70. He has done irreparable harm to our family and continues to do so. I was struggling with this, wondering how to forgive when I know that it only required my own heart to change. After careful study and a lot of prayer, I found an answer. If he is not recognizing a need for forgiveness and therefore does not seek it, I am under no obligation to forgive. I have to love him and have to treat him with the gentleness that comes with that, but to forgive implies a rebuilding of trust. It suggests a commitment to carry on a relationship despite the rifts of the past. It is impossible to forgive someone who does not understand he has behaved badly, or who will not admit responsibility for his actions. If this person feels no need to adjust his behavior going forward, it is not possible to carry on a relationship washed in forgiveness.

Contrary to my Facebook challenger’s contention, I do believe in evil just as much as I believe in forgiveness. Evil is evident throughout history and the world. I witnessed evil at the mall today (nobody should wear shorts and high-heeled boots, please stop so I can forgive you). Evil is the feeding tube keeping forgiveness alive. Without it, forgiveness would be obsolete. We may live in a shallow existence where shopping cart bumps are quickly brushed aside, but without evil, we could not appreciate the sacrifice involved in overcoming it. And sacrifice is the greatest expression of unconditional love.




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