Category Archives: Political

Understanding (DOP #2 2016)

25 Days of Peace is back for another year of compelling posts from nearly 10 contributors.  This year you can check out the action on Facebook, or at!  I can’t wait to hear from some of my favorite voices as they wrestle with peace, and what it means in their life during this Christmas season.  As always, subscribe to get my latest posts delivered directly, and head over to the Facebook page to connect with the rest of the contributors.  

I’ve (very) recently started trying to learn Spanish.  I’ve been to a Spanish speaking country several times in my life, and I currently live in an area with a reasonable number of Spanish speakers, a coworker who can speak Spanish, and I’ve recently met someone who has inspired me to finally make an effort to learn.  I’ve learned just a few words over the past few years, mostly just enough to apologize, or ask to be excused.  I might be able to ask how old you are, and if you are less than 10 years old, I might even understand your answer!  (Thanks to Seasame Street!)

I’ve often marveled at the ability of others to speak another language.  As someone who struggles to communicate in English, to me it is a miracle to be able to communicate with people from another culture.  Even though I can’t speak Spanish, when a situation would arise requiring me to communicate with a Spanish speaker, I would just make gestures and repeat the English words until I made myself understood.  It is a crude method, fraught with frustration, but it is usually worth the effort in the end.

When I have to gesture and point my way to communication, it reminds me that we as people often don’t put in enough effort to really understand the people around us.  When you speak my language, I automatically assume that you use words in the same way that I do, that my thoughts must be your thoughts as well.  Obviously, this is not true, and misunderstandings happen regularly in my life from a lack of effort on the part of both parties to really communicate.

When I take the time and effort to try to communicate outside of my own language, I find there is a connection that happens when meaning is finally communicated from one person to another.  The struggle and confusion can absolutely be worth it.

So why do I want to learn to speak Spanish if I can usually make myself understood when necessary?

I want to fully understand.

As our nation becomes increasingly polarized along nationalistic lines, l want to be available to be a bridge between two cultures that are not at peace.  I want to use my ability to communicate in English to tell the stories of those around me who can’t make themselves understood by those who won’t put in the effort to listen.  When a whole people group is maligned, made out to be the enemy of our success as a nation, I know that unless people are willing to stand up on their behalf, there is a genocide of sorts, lurking around the corner.

In every culture here in the United States, you can find good and bad.  In the same way that not every immigrant comes here illegally, I understand that not every immigrant obeys the laws.  I hope to celebrate the good, and expose the bad.  Dividing rightly the truth of the matters at hand from the false and terrible rhetoric.

In the pursuit of peace, sometimes we all need a little help understanding.  I hope to one day learn enough to be the beginnings of that bridge of understanding.  No lasting peace has been found without dialogue between the parties at war.
No lasting peace has been found without reaching understanding.

Feliz Navidad!

Two for One. (A Response to the RFRA)

I work, play, and worship in North Eastern Indiana.  While I officially live just over the border in Ohio, I think it is fair to say that the majority of my time awake is spent in Indiana.  I am familiar with the twists and turns of many Indiana backroads and I have marveled at the beauty of Hoosier lakes and forests.  I feel a connection with the state, and while my Buckeye pride celebrates when Ohio is successful, I wish Indiana and all of its inhabitants well.

I listen to the news constantly when driving.  So I have heard all about the bill recently passed in Indiana that is causing such an uproar.  The ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ (RFRA) has brought the humble state of Indiana to the world stage.  Hearing about the bill on national and international news is surreal and hearing the tumultuous reaction to the new law is discouraging.  It seems that RFRA is so controversial that it has brought a D.C. sized firestorm to the very doorstep of a state I love.  Companies and organizations are running to both sides of a line drawn in the sand, willing and eager to do economic battle in the interest of winning the fight.

I don’t call the reaction to the RFRA discouraging because I support its intent and want to see our religious freedoms protected, but rather I am disappointed that we would find the need for such a law.  The Constitution of the United States already protects the free practice of any religion in its first amendment.  Do we really need to re-legislate to protect something we are already guaranteed?  Have we lost faith in the protections afforded to us by the Constitution?  Does the Constitution need to be renewed every so often like the batteries in our smoke detectors?  If we can not look to the public servants tasked with upholding the Constitution with an expectation that the clauses outlined within will be carried out, it is time to elect new public servants.

I find the intense reaction to RFRA discouraging in another way as well.

Whether appropriate or not, much of the blame for this whole debacle is falling on the plates of conservative politicians, who were elected by a conservative electorate.

Let me speak more clearly.

Much of the blame for this law is being placed on the shoulders of those who claim to follow the teachings of Jesus.  Much of the blame is being placed on my shoulders, and on the shoulders of those I live and work with.  While I do not live in Indiana, I am part of a church there, a collection of people who seek to follow the teachings of Jesus.  I have influenced those who live in Indiana and feel like I bear some of the responsibility assigned to us.

Frankly, I do not think we are unfairly burdened with the responsibility.

Each of us who follow Christ has likely heard a story of persecution brought against “our people” by “the enemy”.  Perhaps the most popular example is of a baker who was approached by a gay couple and asked to bake a cake for their wedding or commitment ceremony.  The baker refuses, citing religious beliefs, and is then sued for a civil rights violation.  The story usually concludes with the bakery closing as a result of the suit.  Afraid that this story was only a story, I searched for and found several different versions of this story reported by various media outlets across the United States.  Based on the evidence I have found, I can not deny that this has happened more than once to more than one Christian bakery.  It is a true story.

Another true story can be found in Matthew 5.  During his sermon on the mount, Jesus laid at the feet of the masses a worldview that was completely foreign to their understanding of the Old Testament.  Before Jesus told us that we must be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect, he asked us to give to the one who begs from us.  Before he told us to walk two miles with someone who forces us to go one, Jesus told us to give our cloak to the person suing us for our tunic.  Our cheeks were to be turned and offered to the people who struck us, and the loss of our eyes was not to be avenged.  We were asked to hold ourselves to a higher standard than any religious leader of the day had so far put forth, and we were asked to love our neighbors and pray for those who persecute us.

In exchange for our obedience to the requests Jesus makes in Matthew 5, we are promised that our persecution would result in our blessing.  We are told that if we make peace, we would be called sons of God.  Jesus goes so far as to say that we should rejoice and be glad of our great reward in heaven, secured for us by the persecution directed against us.

A baker I am not...

A baker I am not…

I do not own a bakery (for readily apparent reasons), but if I did, I hope that I would find the strength to go willingly the extra and uncomfortable mile when it was asked of me.  Perhaps someday I will have an opportunity to serve someone who is seeking to do me harm.  I hope I do not mind a little pain today for the promise of a great reward in the future.  Until my opportunity to do so arises, I will continue to ask myself what it might look like to give to the person who is suing me more than they ask for.

Do not ask the government to legislate away our chance at a blessing promised by Jesus.

Go two miles when you are only asked to go one.

We Were Once People

Yesterday was a rough day for the world.  I’m pretty sure that by now you have heard about the Malaysian Airlines flight that was reportedly shot down in eastern Ukraine, and if you happened to catch any news that wasn’t about that specific situation, you probably heard about Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza.  People won’t necessarily remember the specifics of these events in a few years, but they will be in our minds for a while.  Immediate effects of these events are already apparent, as flights are being rerouted to avoid the area and the people of Gaza (and Israel) are living in fear of the unknown.  

Sometimes the events we hear about on the news grab our attention immediately and we know that the world will never be the same.  I think of 9/11 as an example of this in my own lifetime.  Other events however, seem to be incredibly important and are covered in the news for months and months but end up not meaning much to the world as a whole.  Y2K anyone?

Since the world is constantly in motion it can be hard to decide which news events are the ones that are going to matter down the road.  I find myself beginning to ignore certain stories, having made up my mind that surely this particular story doesn’t matter.  Do you realize it has been over a month since ISIS (or ISIL) has overrun significant portions of northern Iraq?  Are you aware that Syria has been embroiled in civil war for 3 years now?  Did you know that Egypt has experienced 2 coups in the last 2 years?  Turkey is seemingly simmering and erupted in massive protests last year, and Greece is still suffering chronic economic trouble?  I’ll mention Afghanistan and Yemen in passing as former/current hotbeds of terrorist activity, and wrap up with continued battles in Libya for control of the state.

A quickly highlighted map of regional tension and conflict. It SHOULD NOT be considered accurate for use in actually describing the conflicts or the placement of people. I literally made this in 5 minutes as a quick visual aid.

A quickly highlighted map of regional tension and conflict. It SHOULD NOT be considered accurate for use in actually describing the conflicts or the placement of people. I literally made this in 5 minutes as a quick visual aid.

Why mention all of this you ask?  Well…I think that the whole region is on edge and heading towards an even larger change than we have already seen.  100 years ago the world was seemingly plunged headfirst into the first World War by the simple assassination of one man.  As with many of the stories in our history books, my previous statement is a drastic oversimplification, but the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand seems to have been the trigger that set everything off.  Will the murder of 300 people on a civilian airplane have the same result 100 years later?  Or perhaps a strong leader who stands ineffectively opposed will rise from a country burdened with economic struggles and slowly begin taking small pieces of territory to see what he can get away with.  Hindsight is easy, foresight is never clear, and those who claim to have the gift are considered foolish until proven right.

As I drove to work yesterday listening to the news, I could look out my window and see only peace around me.  As I tried to imagine the people in Gaza who were using the short 5 hour window they had been given to go to the bank and buy enough food and water to last through the unknown end of the conflict around them, I couldn’t.  I couldn’t put myself in their situation because I have never known anything like it.  I could rant and rave against the people causing it, I could spend hours on the internet watching videos about the conflict, and who started it, and why it continues, but I could not imagine what it would be like to be there.  I could not see the faces of the people, or imagine the sounds and smells that would be around me.  The same is true for the people being starved out by their own government in Aleppo, and the people who died yesterday in that plane crash.

We forget that the stories on the news are about people.  Instead we focus on groups and nations, attributing the actions of the relatively few to the various groups as a whole.  The “pro-Russian separatists” didn’t shoot that plane down.  One small group of people who were associated with the separatists did, and while they certainly meant to shoot A plane down, they almost certainly didn’t intend to shoot THAT plane down.  One (relatively) small group of people continues to fire rockets from Gaza into Israel, and the unfortunate consequence is the punishment of the much larger group of people.

Identifying as nations and groups is benign in many circumstances, it gives you a sense of belonging and identity, and gives you opportunities to feel pride or joy when your group does something worthy of note.  However, we must not forget that before we belonged to any nation or group, we were first people.    Before we knew of such things as Ohio or Republicans, we were people.  Before we decided that each person had to fit into a certain specific segment of society, we were people, humans, homo viator.  We must not forget that we were created as homo imago dei, as men (and women) created in the image of God.  Each of us.  All of us.  Our segmentation into a specific group of people, nation, or religious sect does not change who we were first, and the specific segmentation we are oftentimes arbitrarily assigned should not change our value as a person to the other people around us.  We should not stop caring about something once it crosses some imaginary line drawn on a sheet of paper, because those made in the image of God are perishing around us.

So yesterday was a rough day for the world, and a tragedy for its people.

Fine Art America

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee. 

John Donne