social awareness


“… a great nation is a compassionate nation. … America has not met its obligations and its responsibilities to the poor. … One day we will have to stand before the God of history, and we will talk in terms of things we’ve done. Yes, we will be able to say we’ve built gargantuan bridges to span the seas. We built gigantic buildings to kiss the skies. Yes, we made our submarines to penetrate oceanic depths. We brought into being many other things with our scientific and technological power. It seems that I can hear the God of history saying, ‘That was not enough! But I was hungry and ye fed me not. I was naked, and ye clothed me not. I was devoid of a decent sanitary house to live in, and ye provided no shelter for me.’” Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday, March 31, 1968 at the National Cathedral, Washington D.C.

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I am currently reading American Gospel by Jon Meacham. The following excerpt grabbed me, speaking to me very loudly. I am sharing it with you because I am hoping that it speaks to some of you as well. Here it is:

“What is essential–and what has long been part of religious intellectual traditions–is to draw not only on scripture but on reason and experience when contemplating the nature and problems of the world. In the seventeenth-century battle between the Catholic hierarchy and Galileo over whether the earth revolved around the sun or vice versa, it was Galileo–a Christian–who understood better than his persecutors how to reconcile apparent contradictions between faith and science. ‘If Scripture cannot err,’ he said, ‘certain of its interpreters and commentators can and do so in many ways.’ In other words, if reason leads humankind to discover a truth that seems to be incompatible with the Bible, then the interpretation of scripture should give way to the rational conclusion. In this Galileo was echoing Augustine, who wrote, ‘If it happens that the authority of Sacred Scripture is set in opposition to clear and certain reasoning, this must mean that the person who interprets scripture does not understand it correctly.’ … Augustine’s work enables thinking Christians to take advantage of scientific and social advances without surrendering the authority of revelation. Guided by these lights, believers have (however slowly) removed the biblical support for the ideas that the earth, not the sun, is the physical center of the universe, that women are property–and that slavery is divinely sanctioned. The lesson is that purely religious arguments may not be sufficient to get us to the right result. The faithful should see that God meant for them to use reason as well as revelation as they make their way through the world.”

As I was doing research for the manuscript I am currently working on, I came across an excerpt from one of President Obama’s speeches in Diana Butler Bass’s book Christianity After Religion. I decided to post it as it really resonates with me. Here it is:

“In May 2011, President Obama began a speech by telling a story about Miami Dade Community College, a school where immigrants from 181 different nations had earned degrees. ‘At the commencement ceremony,’ he said, ‘181 flags–one for every nation that was represented–were marched across the stage, and each one was applauded by the graduates and the relatives of the graduates with ties to those countries.’ He explained. ‘When the Haitian flag went by, all the Haitian American kids shouted out; when the Guatemalan flag went by, all the kids of Guatemalan heritage shouted out.’ So it went with 181 different nations, 181 different flags, and 181 different ethnic groups cheering their native places. ‘But then,’ the president continued: ‘The last flag–the American flag–came into view and everyone in the room erupted in applause; everyone cheered. It was a reminder of a simple idea as old as America itself: E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one. We define ourselves as a nation of immigrants, a nation that welcomes those willing to embrace America’s ideals and America’s precepts. That’s why millions of people, ancestors to most of us, braved hardship and great risk to come here so they could be free to work and worship and start a business and live their lives in peace and prosperity.’ This, President Obama concluded, was the American future: out of many, one.”

My ancestors came to the United States from Ireland during the potato famine, the Great Hunger. They came because their survival depended on it. I hope that we continue to be a nation of immigrants, offering hope and safety and a second chance to those who need it.

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.

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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