civil rights


I just finished reading Michelle Obama’s book Becoming. I highly recommend it. Gave me a real sense of who both she and her husband are as people, not political figures.

The following statement of hers resonated deeply with me: “Meeting Nelson Mandela gave me the perspective I needed…that real change happens slowly, not just over months and years but over decades and lifetimes.”

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I keep hearing on the news about how polarized and divided our country is and how bad it is that this is the current state of affairs. If you are distressed about this I encourage you to look at it from a broader perspective, i.e. –

1. Our country was so polarized over slavery in the 1800s that we actually divided into two nations and went to war with each other.

2. Our country was so polarized in the 1930s about participating in the war in Europe that Roosevelt delayed entering the war even though he knew it was the right thing to do. Perhaps if the United States had stepped in sooner, the war would have ended sooner and fewer people would have died.

3. We were also very polarized in the 1950s, ‘60s and 70s over civil rights and the Vietnam War. These divisions led to numerous acts of civil disobedience, demonstrations and riots in which countless individuals were injured and/or killed.

Our country survived all of these very trying times, and we will survive this one.

Christians for Biblical Equality, an organization based in Minneapolis, posted an awesome review of my book When Going with the Flow Isn’t Enough, on their website. For those who are interested, here is the link to the review: https://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/review/book-review-when-going-flow-isnt-enough

What’s more, they are now stocking that book in their online bookstore! PRAISE GOD!

ATTN: HISTORY BUFFS

I just finished reading Clint Hill’s book Five Presidents. Two years ago I read his book Mrs. Kennedy and Me. I loved both books, didn’t want to put either one down as I was reading it, and was sad when each ended.

Clint Hill (a Secret Service agent from 1958 to 1975) and his coauthor Lisa McCubbin are gifted writers who do an excellent job conveying the humanity of five of our presidents and their families. Due to having occupied such a front row seat during some of the most tumultuous years in our history, Mr. Hill opened a window for his readers to peek behind the scenes during the Cuban Missile Crisis; the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy; the race riots; the anti-war demonstrations; Watergate; and the resignations of Spiro Agnew and Richard Nixon.

If you want to be transported in time to these years in the United States, I highly recommend reading one or both of these books. I am fairly certain you will get so immersed in the words that you will feel like you are actually present during these events alongside Clint Hill.

I am getting really fed up with all the controversy surrounding whether NFL players stand or sit or kneel for the national anthem. I believe that one of the wonderful things about this country is that individuals can refuse to stand for the national anthem or can burn or stomp on the American flag without fear that they will be shot or imprisoned. As far as I’m concerned that is freedom worth celebrating!

I further believe that this in no way minimizes what the flag stands for or insults those who have served in the armed forces. As a matter of fact, I think that it honors those who have served and sacrificed much, if not all, for our freedoms. Fighting for the freedom of ALL Americans, not just the Americans one happens to agree with, is indeed something to be honored.

Throughout my sixty years on the planet, I have met very few people who have a healthy attitude toward conflict. Rather, I have come across individuals who are either conflict creators or conflict avoiders. Conflict creators thrive on conflict and crave it. They therefore go out of their way to create it. Conflict avoiders are uncomfortable with conflict and run from it as if running for their life.

Needless to say, neither of these approaches grows out of a healthy attitude toward conflict. As far as I’m concerned, a healthy attitude toward conflict means you don’t create conflict for the sake of creating conflict, nor do you shy away from conflict when someone else initiates it.

As a former approval seeker and people pleaser par excellence, I fell into the category of conflict avoider. I gradually came to see though, that conflict is not inherently good or bad. It can be either productive or destructive depending on how it’s handled. It also seems to be an inevitable and unavoidable ingredient for change, whether on a relational level or on a social and/or political level. It’s too bad it has to be this way, as I’m sure civil rights workers and women suffragists would attest to. However, it is what it is.

As I developed a healthy attitude toward conflict I gradually came to see that there are actually some positive aspects of conflict. Some of these are: 1.They make us aware of problems in relationships that need to be resolved; 2.They facilitate change and personal growth; 3. They help you understand what you are like as a person; 4. They can deepen and enrich a relationship; and 5. They can stimulate creative thinking and problem-solving through exposure to different ways of viewing problems and situations.

In church circles, I have met many people who believe that conflict and controversy in the church is not okay, and that it is not okay to question or challenge church leaders. If you believe this, I encourage you to read the four gospels and the book of Acts. They are full of accounts of Jesus and his apostles and disciples confronting and challenging the religious leaders of their time. If they hadn’t, Christianity would never have been established and taken root.

Finally, if you are not sure how to go about resolving conflict in a relationship, here are some tips for constructive conflict resolution:

First – convince yourself that conflict is natural and is resolved through open and honest communication.

Second – Understand and accept the reality that this communication will not be tension-free.

Next – before discussing the conflict take whatever time you need to cool down and try to see the other person’s point of view as well as your own.

When discussing the conflict use “I” statements (I feel, I’m hurt, I’m angry NOT you are…); stick to one issue, do not bring other issues or problems into this discussion; focus on the issue, not the person: and listen for the feelings under the other person’s words.

Finally – know that it is okay to agree to disagree. Resolving the conflict does not mean you have to agree, it means you understand each other’s thoughts and feelings and have devised a solution that works for both of you.

Political and social movements which have changed the course of human history have always been orchestrated by individuals with a clear vision, a consuming passion, the courage to swim upstream against the status quo, the willingness to deal with the consequences of swimming upstream, and the perseverance to keep going no matter what.

Though tremendous legislative strides have been made regarding both racial and gender equality, it is sad but true to acknowledge that racism and sexism still exist. They exist because “isms” are not legal conditions, they are heart conditions and legislation does not change hearts. Civil rights legislation taught us that. I believe that if sexism and racism are to truly come to an end, hearts need to change in a way that leaves people color-blind and gender-blind, seeing each other as equal—different yet equal.

My newest book, When Going with the Flow Isn’t Enough, Swim Upstream, discusses how the Christian Church has contributed to maintaining gender inequality in the U.S. Throughout the book I encourage people to swim upstream against gender inequality wherever they see it. Excerpt from Introduction: “Helen Keller once said, ‘I cannot do everything, but I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.’” Final words of the book: “Because God planted a passion inside me for a very specific calling and wired me with the temperament to fulfill this calling, I will not refuse to do the something I can do. I hope you do too.” Because I wrote these words I feel compelled to live them, i.e. walk the talk.

When Bobby Kennedy campaigned for the democratic presidential nomination in 1968 he repeatedly stated “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”

My dream is that individuals will be able to make choices re: roles within families and relationships based on talents, abilities and spiritual gifts, rather than being assigned roles based on gender. Though I have this dream, I do not have any illusions that I will lead a political or social movement which will result in full gender equality. I also have no illusions that gender equality will become a reality in my lifetime. I wrote the book and try very hard to walk the talk in the hope that I will plant seeds for change in some hearts

Word of Caution: Those of us who are called to fight for gender equality in the church need to be careful about how we measure success. We need to remember that we can only control what we do, we cannot control what anyone else does in response to what we do. We also need to remember that this change in the church will only come when hearts change, and we cannot change hearts. Only God can change a heart. He may use us as instruments to change hearts, but he is the one who does the heart changing.

Another word of caution: As we swim upstream to advocate or fight for gender equality in the church, conflict and controversy will inevitably follow. We need to face it head on and deal with it in healthy ways. That’s what Jesus and the early apostles did when conflict and controversy erupted in response to their efforts to transition people from the old covenant to the new covenant. We cannot however, be conflict creators. We cannot create conflict for the sake of creating conflict. If we do that we are not operating out of pure motives. On the other hand, we cannot be conflict avoiders. If we are conflict avoiders we are operating out of fear, and “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

For the record, it is not easy to swim upstream and walk the talk. Please know that I understand that what I’m asking people to do is not easy, and that I am not asking anyone to do anything I am not willing to do myself.

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