Posts Tagged ‘decisions’

Preserving the Union

October 31, 2018
ehrenamt-fachdozent-pixabay Pixabay, Fachtdozent

There are conversations that are not happening. So many of them that I don’t know where to start. These need to be long and thoughtful conversations where there is goal of understanding one another. These cannot social media bytes or monologues aimed at criticizing, but they should be conversations that are intended to preserve a union. In fact, in regards to preserving our Union, there are strategies for dealing with our current conflicts (ex: https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/implement/provide-information-enhance-skills/conflict-resolution/main or https://medium.com/@dbhurley/conflict-resolution-in-a-community-1fc1f1150296 ) it would also be appropriate to use fair-fighting rules already established for married couples (http://www.foryourmarriage.org/25-ways-to-fight-fair/ ). These kind of conversations are particularly important at a time when we have conflicts even on what it truth.

In our national conversations, we all see some things that we think need changing. In our impulse to make those changes we currently are gravitating towards legal solutions. The reason we are inclined to reach for legal solutions is that there has been a loss of trust. The problem with trying to mandate change with legal solutions is that mandates by themselves do not change culture as seen in the past by alcohol prohibition or in current times by forced desegregation. Laws by themselves do not change hearts or create new cultures. Change comes by the long hard work of changing community values. It has taken decades of challenging the value of smoking tobacco, replacing the value of smoking with the value of health, to reduce the popularity of smoking.

The situation we face is that within our country, we have multiple communities with different cultural values. Over time we have seen the isolation of those communities from one another which has brought us to this moment of conflict. Because the isolation has bred lack of trust, the impetus has been to enforce values through legislation rather than by building community. The problem is, if we simply try to force everyone to conform to our values by legislation without having the right conversations beforehand, we end up losing more trust and only build resentment, making any further changes even more difficult.

There is a place for laws as they can create a minimal framework for society to exist and, within some limits, to flourish. However, laws do not make a caring, committed community, laws do not encourage kindness and thoughtfulness, laws cannot create love. That said, our constitution helps create the framework for our society, but it does not create the values held by the members of our Union. The constitution can create the context for our conversations. but it cannot create those conversations. The constitution can provide the basis for our communities, but it cannot build those communities.

Our technologies provide a similar conundrum. Our technological developments have exponentially provided means for communicating with each other anywhere in the world, allowing us the opportunity to build community by communicating with many different people and learning many different things. But the same technology has also allowed us to isolate ourselves: 1) We can isolate ourselves into affinity groups, hearing only what we want to hear, not dealing with what makes us uncomfortable, self-limiting our ability to gain wisdom by only listening to only people who think like we do. 2) We can isolate ourselves from face-to-face contact, losing our sensitivity to a more robust human contact which makes us susceptible to violating others by disregarding their humanity and anonymously attacking them.

I think we can all agree that the state of our Union is broken. Our divisive politics reflects our divisive culture and our political and technological tools can amplify that divisiveness by playing on our fears. Our house may be on fire, but we can find a solution if can replace the calls for alarm and panic with a countervailing voice of unity and reason. We need to be smart about using the tools we have to counteract the panicked voices, to amplify the good and not just the bad. We need to become aware of the good that exists not just in our own communities but in the communities that we don’t know and don’t understand.

We also need to be willing to acknowledge our own weaknesses, to admit that we are broken just like everyone else. That will allow us to look beyond the brokenness that we are more prone to look for in other communities and also look for the good in those communities as well.  This is not easy work. We cannot do this work in sound bites and tweets nor by pontificating on the faults of others. We need to admit that we have faults as much as others find faults. We don’t need to find faults, we need to find solutions.

To find those solutions we need to look beyond ourselves and our own communities where we are prone to think we know all we need to know. We also must engender a sense of humility and be willing to admit that neither we nor our isolated communities have the solution to our conflict, that the solutions to end divisiveness in our Union will require the wisdom of the entire Union. We will need to be intentional: allow ourselves to be inconvenienced and made uncomfortable, be willing to go out of our way to listen to people who are not like us, listen to points of view we disagree with, spend enough time and thought trying to understand other viewpoints. All this so that common ground can be found, that the values of this greater community we call our Union, our country, can be defined and shared.

No one person or one community owns the Union. We all need to share in its definition.

 

The Problem Isn’t Politics

October 12, 2018

boy-prince-pixabay-victoria_borodinova

Photo: Pixabay, Victoria Borodinova

1 Samuel 8:4-7 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.

 John 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

In the times of the prophet Samuel, the nation of Israel looked at the problems they saw and they thought the problem was political – they thought that the answer was to get a king, like everyone else. In the times of Jesus of Nazareth, the Jews looked at the problems they saw and they thought that the problem was political – they thought that the answer was a king, a Messiah, to overthrow the Roman government. In both cases, the real solution was much more personal. The enemy is not “the other” – the enemy as so pithily stated by Pogo is “us.”

Our national political scene is fraught with fear of “the other.” Our major political parties have deep concerns about what will happen if the other side gets their way and both sides have engaged in the politics of fear of what will happen if the other side gets more power. Again, the problem is not “the other,” the problem is us.

For several decades, the combination of politics and technology have combined to increasingly polarize our national and personal discussions. Our increasingly precision political gerrymandering has combined with our social media technology to create a toxic mix. Physically we can isolate our political communities with precision gerrymandering. Electronically we can both isolate ourselves in like-minded online communities while at the same time hide ourselves in online personas where it is safer to criticize “the other” because we don’t have to meet “the other” face-to-face in community and spend the time getting to know “the other” as a neighbor long enough to understand and appreciate “the other” as a person.

As with the problems stated in the first paragraph, we are seeking a solution in the wrong place. Our problem has more to do with our increasingly isolated lives in combination with our human preference to find fault in someone else other than ourselves. If we try to solve the problem through political power, we will find ourselves constantly battling to force our way of thinking onto others who will respond in kind. There will be no peace.

The soluton to our current turmoil is not to be found in politics or power.  The solution is goodness … To Make America Good … without quibbling over whether it has ever been or not. We each must seek the common good, the good of all people, to treat each other, even those with whom we disagree, with respect and dignity.  We must learn to listen respectfully, to seek out the common interest, to make sure that we hear each other and build trust. Once we build trust than we can take actions that transcend politics and power and instead build trust and community. Societies built on community, trust, respect and goodness will not need as many laws.

Politics and power by themselves, not built on a foundation of goodness, decency, respect, and trust is building a house on a sand foundation that will not withstand a storm. If we do not stand together, if we do not mutually support one another, if we do not trust one another, if we cannot be decent with one another, if we do not seek each other’s good then we will ensure the continued destruction of community, creating problems that no government, no laws can fix. If we build walls within our country it matters not what walls are on the border. But a country united by the common good and willing to regard the common good of other nations will be stronger than a divided country with the strongest border walls because we will destroy each other first. Politics and power cannot build community, cannot build trust, cannot build respect, cannot build goodness.

A president once said that we should ask “not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country.” If t’s time to revisit that idea. It may be foolish of me, but I would rather be known to be good if not great, than to be great and not good.

 

 

There are no obstacles to God’s plans

February 7, 2016

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11Acts 27-28)

the-storm-4
Photo credit: gulfman1 via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
 

Back when Paul was in Ephesus, he knew that he must go to Jerusalem and then to Rome, no matter the obstacles. When in Ptolemais, despite receiving ominous news that he would be imprisoned in Jerusalem, he would not be dissuaded from going. In Jerusalem, when he was taken into custody by the Romans, he used the opportunity to appeal his case to Caesar – and get to Rome that way. Then, when being transported to Rome by sea, in circumstances he could not control himself and was subject to the decisions made by the Roman soldiers, God would not be deterred by the decisions that were made and allowed the Romans and all their passengers to survive a storm and shipwreck. On top of that, Paul would even survive being bitten by a viper.

God plans for you – and the world – will not be deterred. We should not get discouraged when circumstances seem against us; not by the stop lights we encounter, not by accidents, not by people opposed to us. We need to understand that our plans might not be His plans – but would we not rather be subject to His plans than ours. If we find ourselves getting  frustrated for any reason, we should keep in mind, that His plans for us will happen anyway – but if our plans are not His plans then we should question our plans.

 

 

 

 


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