Alexander Hamilton

 

hamilton 

“If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” Psalm 130:3,4

My daughter and I went to the play Hamilton last year. It is a cultural success and garnered many awards. It is fast paced. I regret that I didn’t do any homework beforehand to enjoy it even more.

Lin-Manuel Miranda created the musical based on the biography of Hamilton by Ron Chernow.  The entire cast, save the villain King George III, are minorities – either African American, Black, Asian American or Latino – which made it a centerpiece for cultural conversation. It is now on Disney+ so it’s not necessary to mortgage your house to see it.

My daughter recently gave me Kevin Cloud’s book,  God and Hamilton.  It came at just the right time. I have pondered the latest push by progressives to revise American history into a single narrative of racism and slavery by things like The 1619 Project. Despite being widely rejected by historians as inaccurate, it is being taught in public schools.

This revisionist push puts the racial narrative over everything else. Yet the founding of our country faced many issues besides slavery in the formation of our country. It also ignores the disparate treatment of women’s rights. Some of those inequalities exist today.

Which brings me back to Hamilton, the man.  He may have been the most important person in the founding of our country to never become President. The fact that he accomplished anything is miraculous.

An illegitimate child, Hamilton was born in the West Indies. Chernow notes Hamilton’s early life was filled with tragedies: “[His] father vanished, their mother had died, their cousin and supposed protector had committed bloody suicide, and their aunt, uncle and grandmother had all died.”

Not an auspicious beginning. Hamilton’s early writings caught the attention of local businessmen who sponsored him to go to America to be educated when he was seventeen.  As Cloud notes, that was a picture of grace.  Where would we be without the grace of God?

Throughout his life, Hamilton was ashamed of his illegitimate beginning.  He felt like a leper from biblical times, an outsider. “Unworthy. Unaccepted. Unloved.” These are biblical themes:  Grace and shame.

Hamilton’s faith started early, and he composed hymns while young.  Chernow writes that “the faith of his youth returned to Hamilton in his final years.”

Hamilton’s life was a study of contrast, or as Cloud notes, he was both sinner and saint. Cloud says that he was a “brilliant, passionate and driven man”.

He served in the Army under George Washington during the American Revolution and then transitioned from the violence of a revolution to creating a peaceful and democratic form of government. No easy task.

The Founders drafted the Constitution which created the first federalist system. Several Founders wrote what is known as the Federalist Papers, 85 in all.  Hamilton authored or co-authored most of them, a prodigious feat. They provide a detailed narrative into the considerations of why and how the Constitution is to work.

According to Cloud, all Founding Fathers “possessed significant flaws…in their lives and leadership”.  For Hamilton, that included having an affair with Maria Reynolds. He was blackmailed by Maria’s husband. When found out, he did the unthinkable by writing “The Reynolds Pamphlet” about his failure, which inspired a song in the play.

Most Founding Fathers owned slaves. The statement that “All men are created equal”  in the Declaration of Independence seems contradictory, but it is clearly aspirational.

Slavery was an embarrassment that seemed to violate the founding principles of our nation. Hamilton opposed slavery but realized that the founding of the nation required a compromise that could be fixed later.

But life is like that. Not everything is perfect out of the box.  Our lives are like that. One historian said that we need to acknowledge both sides of these men’s lives.  Even Washington, in his farewell address, painted himself as “human” and “capable of mistakes.”

What the Founders did was to produce “a more perfect union.”  Not a perfect union, but one that could be made better in time. They created a system of government that could correct past failures in the future.

When the Civil War broke out, President Lincoln in his 1854 Peoria speech said that, while the Founding Fathers originally left the slavery question alone, they left the door open for its “ultimate extinction.”

That extinction came with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation which set the stage to eliminate slavery in America in 1863 before the Civil War was complete. Our country has struggled with continuing racism, so the battle is not over.

Hamilton and the Founders set the stage for equality – for both women and minorities. There is still ground to gain, but we cannot be silent about a revisionist history that ignores how our country was started.

As Lynde Langdon writes, the play Hamilton “stays unashamedly patriotic, celebrating the U.S. political system despite the flaws of the people who built it.”

Our challenge is that the revisionist history is being taught in our school systems, and the next generation is being fed a false narrative. We need to counter that with historical truth.  The story of Alexander Hamilton is a good example of historical accuracy.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The next generation would do well to watch Hamilton now that it is available on-line. Encourage your mentee to watch it or give them a copy of God and Hamilton to read.

FURTHER READINGHow Lincoln and the Founders Viewed Slavery and the Constitution – NR

God and Hamilton – Kevin Cloud

The Federalist Papers

Alexander Hamilton  Ron Chernow

How Women’s Suffrage Changed America – WSJ

MUSIC: The Reynolds Pamphlet – From the musical, Hamilton.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Offensive

offense

You may think everything you do is right, but the Lord judges your motives. Proverbs 16:2 (GNT)

Offensive is used in a lot of contexts. In sports, being on offense is the description of having the ball and trying to score, as opposed to being on defense which is to prevent scoring. So, you have your offensive players (and schemes), and defensive players. Pretty simple.

In a cultural context, it is used to describe something one doesn’t like, as in “that’s offensive”.  No teams are involved. It’s an individual sport. Our culture has taken it to a new level, and things on campus that someone deems “offensive” are often labeled “hate speech”.  People with alternative views are not permitted to speak, either by students or the faculty.

An example was the one I cited in my post Culture Wars, where the liberal arts faculty at Penn State University were forced to retract a tweet which was intended to be inclusive by listing a broad variety of groups as all being significant and welcome. The list included blacks, Latinos, Asians, LBGTQ+ groups, …….and conservatives.

The uproar from the students over including conservatives caused a retraction. They considered it offensive. That’s the thought police at work. It is a danger to our culture and to our freedoms of expression.

Jean Twenge addressed this as being the “dark side of tolerance.” What began with a good intention of being inclusive by not offending anyone leads (“at best”) to an unwillingness to explore deep issues. “At worst”, it results in having careers destroyed by a comment found offensive and the silencing of alternative viewpoints.

What has caused this?  I’ve studied this phenomenon a lot, and while I don’t have all the answers, I have some ideas.  Part of it is the educational system that for years has emphasized self-esteem to the exclusion of real-world competitiveness. Everyone gets a participation trophy, from the best to the worst.   There are no winners or losers.

Out of nowhere, the term “trigger warnings” and safe spaces were created on college campuses across the country to protect students from “offensive” speech.

We have also coddled a generation of kids with well-intentioned parenting styles such as the helicopter parent, or even the lawn mower parent. The latter is a parenting style that consists of the parent attempting to mow down every bump in the road to protect their children. The children have been brought up in bubble wrap to protect them from any bump or bruise.

The result is a high level of arrogance that is counterproductive. We end up with damaged kids who are not ready for a competitive world that rewards based on merit.

The result is that one can become offended about anything. That means that things that really aren’t innately offensive are deemed offensive. Our discourse suffers because opposing ideas aren’t heard.  Now, for example, some colleges have deemed the English language to be racist and therefore offensive. Really?

What would happen if we started a trend in the other direction?  Where you choose to be “unoffendable”.  It would be a choice of action – to intentionally say that we choose not to be offended.  Think about that – you wouldn’t get angry at any small slight.  You would embrace it with a response like “I never thought about that before.”

Instead of taking offense at things we don’t like, we welcome them, even if they are edgy. We forfeit a “right” to be right.  It is a picture of God’s grace at work. If God was offended at everything we did or say, we would stand no chance to be part of His Kingdom. We’d get thrown out on our ear.

Being offended is really an emotion – it is a form of anger.  Emotions are part of being human. We don’t give up those emotions when becoming Christians, but we are told to control them.  God questioned Cain in Genesis 4 and asked: “Why are you angry?” He then said, “sin is crouching at your door…but you must rule over it.”

In other words, you can control emotions. So, you have a choice to become angry. Or not.

We have become experts at being the victim, which causes rewriting narratives that puts us in the center of the narrative. That’s what is happening with the Black Lives Matter movement – it is a victim-centric narrative. It is causing a revision of American history with things like the 1619 Project which is factually deficient and distorted.

Being a victim permits one to paint themselves “into a righteous-looking work of art” according to Bran Hanson. It’s the sense that I’m right and they’re wrong. It justifies itself.

But anger is not critical thinking. We need to pause and question it.

Think about what the world would look like if people parked their anger at the door and were able to have real discourse without anger. It would be nirvana compared to today’s culture where families are broken because of ideology and insistence on being right.

The challenge is to embrace grace in a new way.  It means surrendering your claim to anger and resentment and letting go. We can be an example to the next generation who haven’t learned enough about God’s grace. We need to be more unoffendable, not less.

MENTORING TAKEAWAY:  In a culture that is quick to be offended, we can exhibit God’s grace by taking on the mindset of being unoffendable.

FURTHER READING: Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life BetterHanson

WORSHIP:  Yes I Will  Vertical Worship

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cancel Culture

marx

Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7

One of the more recent developments, starting on campuses and now spreading into the rest of the culture, is something called Cancel Culture. Taken broadly, it means that a minority of activists can “shout” down anyone through social media that contains a viewpoint they deem not to their liking. It’s a form of mob rule.

In a country where we take freedoms for granted – freedom of speech and religion among them – the latest manifestation of the Marxist agenda is to take those freedoms away in a very subversive manner.

Recent episodes – toppling statues around the country – is a physical way of cancelling history. We can point to the Politically Correct (“PC”) movement as a way of stifling speech.  It seemed innocuous at first as though it was an attempt to be sensitive to others’ feelings. Not anymore.

Cancel culture uses a mob mentality to accomplish its goal of silencing those they don’t like.  Bob Unanue, the president of Goya Foods the largest Hispanic food company in America, was targeted for a boycott  of Goya foods because he happened to say something nice about a sitting President. He also said nice things about Obama when he was president.

I’m amused, because most of those who advocate a boycott never buy Goya products anyway. The “boycott” was met with a “buy-cott” of his products as a push back which encouraged people to buy Goya products and donate them to food banks.

And then there is Penn State University where a tweet from the liberal arts department expressed inclusion for all students to let them know they were all important. It mentioned “conservative students”, along with Black, Latino, female, Muslim, LGBTQ+, and Jewish students.

Bad move, apparently.  Diversity is not welcome at Penn State. The tweet was deleted after students were dismayed at including conservative viewpoints alongside other groups.  

How did we get here?   After WWII, many Universities hired German philosophers from the Frankfurt School , who were trained to “translate the ideology of Marxism from economic terms into practical cultural terms.”

“This new revolution would not promote bullets, bombs, and bloodshed in the beginning but seek to smash religion (Christianity in particular), morals, authority, and American patriotism”, according to Ron Hale.

Antonio Gramsci, a  Marxist theorist, wrote that the path to cultural change was to de-Christianize society. It meant overturning family, religion, media, and education which was the product of 2000 years of Judeo-Christian values. To do this, new meanings and definitions would be given to language.

The new narrative was that the white Christian was the ruling majority and oppressor, and every other group is a minority.  This is the thesis of the 1619 Project promoted by the NY Times and which is now appearing in public schools. Even to secular historians, the 1619 account is flawed.

Even the National Museum of American History and Culture has bought into the oppressor/victim mantra with its release of a Web Portal, which among other things, discusses “how societies use race to establish and justify systems of power, privilege, disenfranchisement and oppression.”

This is from a museum that is part of the Smithsonian which is funded by U.S. taxpayers.

The attack on free speech has occurred regularly on college campuses around the U.S.  Protests, sometimes violent, have kept conservative voices from being heard.

Just ask Bari Weiss, who resigned from the NY Times and sent a scathing resignation letter.  She was subjected to a social media attack because she was a self-described “centrist liberal”, which was not woke enough. She didn’t submit to the “orthodoxy” of the mob.

She was twittered out of her job by people who called her a “Nazi” and racist. She’s Jewish, so the Nazi label is hard to believe.  Truth doesn’t matter, and there is no grace extended in this cancel culture.

As one journalist noted, one wrong “like” will get you fired by the thought police.  Saying “All Lives Matter” is just as bad. Sadly, there is no push back because of fear that the mob will descend on your doorstep. This is anarchy and dangerous.

According to the author of the book White Fragility, you are racist by just saying that you are not racist.  There is no ground for discussion.

Now we are seeing attacks on Christianity – physical attacks occurred in four states last week. Just another form of cancel culture which is indiscriminate, and eventually will turn on itself and start cancelling their own.

The important point of this post is that the Cancel Culture is a direct attack on our culture, our religion, freedoms and history. The next generation has been fed this indoctrination in the school systems for decades. They are an easy target for the narrative. The challenge is to tell them the truth with a biblical perspective.

I believe that history repeats itself, and that the pendulum will swing back into sanity. We need to pray and be vocal in our opposition to those who would undermine our freedoms. I recognize that speaking out today risks being targeted, usually for the wrong reasons, but we cannot remain silent or passive.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer made that decision – he realized that, as a Christian, opposing the Nazis was required. It cost him his life.  We need to be pro-active, too. Our culture is at stake if we sit by passively.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Your next generation mentee may have a distorted sense of history due to their education. They need to know Biblical truth which is color blind. We should be judged by our character, not our skin color.

 

FURTHER READING: University Marxists Have Been Lying in Wait for Young Americans Since WWII.

The Anti-American Anti-Christian 1619 Project Wins a Pulitzer Prize

The 1619 Project Tells a False Story About Capitalism, Too  WSJ

Defund the Thought Police

Penn State Deletes Tweet Acknowledging Conservative Viewpoints are Important

One Wrong “Like” will get you Fired by Cancel Culture Chicago Tribune

Cancel Culture: Views from the Campus  WSJ

WORSHIP: I Am Free.  Ross Parsley

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Months

blm-5267765_1920

For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 2 Thessalonians 2:7

In my long lifetime, I don’t think I have ever witnessed a series of events so earth shattering as have occurred since the beginning of the year.  2020 started in a most normal way, and in America, the economy was chugging along with the lowest unemployment in decades.

That all changed when the coronavirus arrived.  Experts think that it landed in America in December, long before alarm bells went off in February. If so, it was undetected because no one had ever seen this variety before.

The states hit the hardest were ones that received travelers from China and Europe. Little was known about this virus at the time – how it spread, who was most at risk, and how contagious it was.   Because of the unknowns, governments including the U.S. established health protocols which included social distancing and businesses being closed.

Schools were closed, and colleges sent all students home. Many finished their curriculum on-line, including my grandchildren.

Countries were locked down; only “essential” commerce was left open. Policy decisions were being made on the fly based on data that predicted a pandemic which would have mirrored the Spanish flu a century ago which killed 50 million overall and 675,000 in the US alone.

What was deemed “essential” by policy makers was partisan.  Abortion clinics were deemed “essential” in liberal states, but hospitals were closed to “non-essential” operations such as providing cancer treatments and elective surgery.  It’s estimated that some 60,000 people in the U.S. who had cancer went undetected during the shutdown.

People were fearful. Being isolated takes its toll emotionally and mentally. Interaction with others went from in person contact to Zoom overnight. No one had ever heard of Zoom until March of this year, yet it now a platform for connectivity.

And then, a terrible episode of police brutality occurred when George Floyd, a black man, was choked to death by a white police officer in Minneapolis.  Outrage at a level unseen in years was unleashed.

Peaceful protests turned violent; riots, looting took over sparked by groups that were less interested in the death of a black man than in using the event as a rallying cry to overturn our country as we know it.

Black Lives Matter became the slogan.  And then a movement.  It was a rallying cry for the victims.  But as the peaceful protests turned violent, the same influencers took over the movement so that it is really a Marxist front to destroy America from the inside.

This has an eerie familiarity to the Weather Underground. It was the violent side of Students for Democratic Society (a campus movement) in riots around the country in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Federal buildings were bombed, and many people died.

It was designated a domestic terrorist organization by the FBI, which infiltrated it resulting in the arrest and convictions of many of its leaders. The members disappeared into society by 1980, but their influence stayed on campuses.

We are paying the price for their existence to this day. The movement left behind a 186-page manifesto called Prairie Fire which details their strategy to overthrow the government through popular protest. It listed 6 guiding strategies:

  • Destroy Capitalism (Occupy Wall Street).
  • The weapon of choice: systemic racism and reform police (defund police)
  • Identify a victim class (blacks).
  • Organize the victims the victim class (BLM).
  • Coordinate with the international movement (i.e. socialism and communism).
  • Attack and Dethrone God (socialism).

It comes as no surprise that one of the fund raisers for BLM is Susan Rosenberg, a member of the Weather Underground who was sentenced to 58 years in prison for terrorist acts. Her sentence was commuted by President Clinton on the last day of his presidency.

We stand at the precipice of history. Covid-19 has had a chill in the marketplace for normal interaction, and the voices of the BLM movement are shrill in the streets. But make no mistake about it, the BLM movement is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Many of the activists are millennials, but Gen Z is a generation of activists who have been unified by social media. They are, in the words of one member, ready for a revolution – “in the streets, online and in the polls”.

I have written numerous times of the impact of the digital world in making sound bites a substitute for critical thinking. Gen Z is woefully deficient in history, and many have gotten a distorted education due a rewrite of history like the 1619 Project.  The latter is an attempt to characterize our country’s beginnings as flawed and without redemption.

As Christians, we understand that the world is sinful due to the events in the Garden. Man is capable of doing unspeakable acts. Fortunately, Christ came to redeem all of us from sin. He offered grace which is unmerited favor. It’s a message of freedom and redemption that needs to be retold.

The challenge is clear: We need to interact more with the next generation, not less. If they don’t hear truth from their parents and mentors, they are certainly not going to get it on social media.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: As mentors, you have a prime opportunity to bring truth into the lives of your mentees.

FURTHER READING:  A Deeper Look at Black Lives Matter and Its Impact

‘We’re tired of waiting’: Gen Z is Ready for a Revolution”. CNN

Prairie Fire:  The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism

Black Lives Matter in Public Schools; They are making MarxistsFederalist

WORSHIP: One Thing Remains  Jesus Culture

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Third Way

Three

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:19

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.  I am not a historian when it comes to Christianity (other than what is in the bible). But there is something about this phrase that has great significance today.

It was a phrase used by the early Christian church. It is unfamiliar to most of us today.  It was first used by a Roman official in a letter from Diognetus in the second century.  For context, there were two other streams of Christianity – one stream basically bought into culture and embraced it and reflected it.

The second stream went in the opposite direction and insisted on isolation from culture. You had two choices:  either embrace and reflect culture in your practice and mirroring its values, or you isolated yourself from it.

The first option “undermined the uniqueness of the belief system” according to Gerald Sittser in Christianity Today.  The latter movement became culturally irrelevant because of their isolation.

The Third Way was a short-hand describing that you can do both – you can both be in the world but not of the world. How does that work?  Well, it means engaging in the world but not changing the belief system based on a culture around you.

The Third Way created something new and different in its theology, community, worship and behavior. It developed in the Roman culture – a very secular culture, and it is instructive for us today. Christians had to move new converts from their secular culture to discipleship.

It required taking an outsider and making them an insider. From a casual observer to a full-fledged disciple. It worked, creating generations of believers who were firmly established in their faith and able to expand Christianity over time.

The result was that a believer had an identity in Christ that changed all other identities – marital, ethnic and marital. It broke down walls. It succeeded and grew steadily in difficult circumstances. It was a minority movement that influenced the larger culture, not the other way around.

Christians figured out how to engage culture without excessive compromise yet remain distinct without isolation which would have made them irrelevant. They figured out how to be faithful and winsome at the same time. At the heart of the movement was the identity and mission of Jesus, who summonsed them to a new way of life following Him.

If you look over the last century of church history, you see where mainline denominations have gone down the path of the leaving the third way behind to their detriment. Most large denominations are disappearing at a rapid pace because the truly have lost their way.

Fundamentalism caused isolation. Most Protestant denominations attached themselves to the world. Even the Southern Baptist church is suffering decline, recently reporting the biggest drop in membership in a decade.

Evangelicalism was an attempt to become the third way path. In the 60’s and 70’s, there was a broad attempt to engage cultural institutions. But even it may have lost its way in trying to “hip”(or “woke” in today’s jargon) and mimicking culture to be attractive.

Even Rick Warren used blatantly modern marketing to establish Saddleback Church – everything was designed to appeal to the culture around it. He created a cultural composite who was nicknamed “Saddleback Sam” based on demographics. The service was designed to appeal to “Sam”. It worked, but that approach can go too far.

In many ways, the current church is a consumer-oriented church. It means all to0 often of being passive: going to listen to a good sermon, listen to some good songs and interact with friends. Congregations come to congregate and little more. The pastor did the active part in delivering a message. The congregation’s job has become a passive role.

Discipleship requires more.  While churches today focus more on the number of “members” on its rolls, very few track the number of disciples created.

The Third Way saw worship as a bridge between divine and human life. It was the method of preparing one to be able to return home to their ordinary lives in the market, home and neighborhood as disciples.

We have lost our way in some ways. We may need to look at a change in church culture which has defaulted into a culture of entertainment, politics and personality. We need to return to a culture of discipleship.

In my leadership training with pastors, I often emphasize that most ministry takes place outside the four walls of the church. They often don’t want to hear that. But we stand today in an environment where many church doors are closed due to a pandemic.

Maybe it’s a way of God tossing us out to rethink how we are to be strategic in creating a culture of disciples. One modest suggestion: a return to mentoring the next generation through life on life contact. It worked for Jesus and the disciples, and it can work now.

MENTOR TAKEWAY:  You, as a mentor, are a tool of discipleship into the lives of your mentor. It is an invaluable investment.

FURTHER READINGThe Early Church Thrived Amid Secularism and Shows How We Can, Too. Gerald Sittser

WORSHIP:  Build My Life – Passion

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address

 

 

Fatherlessness

father-daughter-1476167_1920Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. Hebrews 12:9

This Sunday is Father’s Day where fathers are celebrated. But there is the elephant in the room.  There is an epidemic of an absence of fathers in the nuclear family.  The consequences are devastating.  This is what happens in a fatherless home:

  • 85% of minorities in prison had no father.
  • 72% of minorities who committed murder had no father.
  • 85% of minority rapists in prison had no father.
  • 71% of minorities who drop out of school had no father.
  • 47.6% of all children who have no father live in poverty.
  • Fatherless adolescents are 3.5 times more likely to get pregnant.
  • Fatherless children are 279% more likely to carry guns and deal drugs than those with a father
  • Women without fathers have a lower educational attainment.
  • Fatherless children are twice as likely to commit suicide.
  • Adolescents living in a neighborhood with higher levels of fatherless families are more likely to be involved in violence.

There are more statistics like these, but I will stop here.   Studies show that a child who is brought up in a nuclear family of a mother and a father achieve much better outcomes in all aspects of life. That’s why we celebrate Fathers’ Day every year.

It is a problem that is not being addressed, particularly in today’s charged debate over racism and how to fix it. An approach since the 1960’s is to throw money at the problem. I guess that makes people feel good, but overall, the minorities in America are worse off today than they were 50 years ago.

Why?  Well for one thing, no social program addresses the issue of how to create a nuclear family with a mother and a father. Since the 1960’s, an estimated $6 trillion has been spent on various social programs, so it’s not a lack of money.  Welfare often creates a reliance on the government for support with no aspirational emphasis on self-reliance.

In John F. Kennedy’s 1960 inaugural address, he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you;  ask what you can do for your country.”  Sadly, the social programs of the 60’s – many of which still exist in one form or another – have subverted that idea and, instead, have created an entitlement mentality.

President Barack Obama grew up without a father but succeeded where others failed. He was outspoken about the issue. In an article in the New York Times when running for President in 2008, he said “one of the most sensitive topics in the African-American community [is] whether absent fathers bore responsibility for some of the intractable problems afflicting black Americans.”

On Fathers’ Day in 2008, Obama said: “Too many fathers [are] missing from too many lives and too many homes,” he said. “They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”

He implored young men without a father to break the cycle and not repeat their father’s mistakes. Note the emphasis on personal responsibility, something that is missing from most social programs.

Obama’s example is a testament that one can succeed without a father and achieve remarkable success, even to the pinnacle of power. But there are those who downplay the role of a father with the success of their children.

All I can say is that they are wrong.  Statistics have shown them wrong. It is more of a political statement than a factual one.  But it is the narrative today: that institutions block the ability of a minority to rise above the fray.

The issues are often tied to economics. An emphasis needs to be on better education. Sadly, in the urban areas, even though the amount spent per pupil is very high, public schools are failing.

New York City leads the pack at over $22,000 per pupil, yet their schools rank low. Only 45.4% of students in New York schools were graded as “proficient”.

The best schools in NYC are charter schools, yet the current Mayor opposes them because of opposition by the public teacher’s union. Charter schools provide a choice out of failing public schools.

Schools like Sugar Creek Charter School in Charlotte which has aspirational goals of 90/90/90.  That is 90% minority, 90% scholarship and 90% achievement by students. They have the first two and are working to improve the 60% on the last goal.

Education is not the only answer;  the Christian community should look at ways to help. Ministries like Step Up Ministry in Raleigh.  Another is Neighbor to Neighbor.  The latter provides mentors for after-school programs for the kids in a South Raleigh neighborhood.

Another ministry is Jobs for Life (JFL) which gives students training and skills to hold a job.  Once training is completed, the program each student with a work experience internship. It’s programs are run through local non-profits and churches around the world.

JFL is committed to changing the world one job at a time. Their motto is: “Uplifting humanity through the dignity of work – one city, one community, one life at a time.” They discuss what they call “Flip the List”.

What that means is to change the emphasis of churches from providing food and clothing (those are the top two on the list), and emphasize employment instead.  If you solve employment, you will have less need to provide food and clothing.

The challenge is to creatively come up with ways to overcome the lack of fathers in families by providing mentoring, tutoring and male models who have been missing in many inner- city children’s lives.   These small steps will have a more profound impact than throwing more money at ineffective social programs.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Be bold in reaching across racial barriers and working with minorities in a mentoring capacity.

FURTHER RESEARCHFatherless Statistics – Fatherhood Factor

More Father Statistics – Fathers.com

Coming Apart – Charles Murray

The Battle over Charter Schools – Harvard Ed.

WORSHIPGood, Good Father  – Tomlin

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address

 

Listening

stoplooklisten

And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your GodMicah 6:8

When I learned to drive, I remember reading the driver’s manual of what to do when you approached a railroad crossing.  It said “Stop, Look and Listen.”

The events in America after the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer has created a lot of reflection in the Christian community.  There are lots of issues out there – police brutality, racism, injustice, etc.

The Floyd death is a railroad crossing kind of event.  For me, and a lot of my friends, it has caused us to Stop, Look and Listen, possibly for the first time.

Larry Fitzgerald,  a star wide receiver for the Phoenix Cardinals, wrote an essay in the New York Times which resonated with me.  In his essay, he said “We are not listening to one another.”

I agree.

I have been going to a Friday morning bible study for close to 38 years. It is around 25% minority, and every Friday, the group meets faithfully.  We call it the BOB, which stands for Band Of Brothers. There is a lot of love and hugs exchanged and color has nothing to do with it.

Last Friday, our leader decided that we wanted to hear only from our black brothers. The bible study always ends on time. Not last Friday.   We listened to their personal stories of how they had received slights, injustices, profiling, and otherwise treated differently just because of their skin color.

It was raw honesty. Most of them never talked about all the injustices they had suffered. They were either too polite or thought it would be taken the wrong way. This wasn’t a grievance list by people who felt victimized.  These were men sharing their heart in ways the rest of us hadn’t heard.  We listened and we collectively lamented for them.

I am in a small group that met on Zoom during the pandemic. One white mother has adopted two black kids, to go along with her 4 children. As she had done with her other children, graduation from high school is rewarded with a car.

She bought her black son a used white SUV when he graduated from high school.  Her son is one of the nicest young men I know.  He was stopped by police in our county.  There had been a report of a stolen white Toyota.

What happened next is hard to imagine.  The officers called for backup and several other police cars arrived and the officers had their guns out aimed at him.  He was handcuffed and told his mother later that he was scared to death. Fortunately, one policeman realized it was the wrong model car and they released him.

Normally, I might give the police the benefit of the doubt, but the car he was driving was registered in his name. I guess I don’t need to say that you can’t steal a car that belongs to you.

My friend, Steve Noble, has a syndicated Christian radio show.  He dedicated one show so that all the callers were black. He wanted to hear their story. He wanted to listen. It’s worth listening to.

James Emory White, interviewed six black members of his church in Charlotte so that he could listen and learn from them. It was video-taped. It is also worth a watch. Kleenex recommended.

They were all looking for understanding and relationship. “They were sad, angry, struggling, hurt, in pain, numb, scared… but more than anything, they were eager for a conversation like the one we were having”.  One of the men said that “before you can reconcile, there has to be a relationship to reconcile.”

In a call with one of my close friends, we chatted about what should the response be by the Christian community and each of us individually.  I even asked him the question: “What can I, an old white guy in Pinehurst, do because of racism?”

Too often, our churches have passively ignored the racism issue. James Emory White calls it “Shadow Racism.”  Many would say, as I have, that they don’t have a racial bone in their body, yet his essay hit home. He highlights the subtlety of how it happens, even unwittingly.

A starting place would be to download the Barna Research called Where Do We Go From Here?  It is instructive on how different whites and minorities view this issue. It is a free download.

To answer my own question, I am using my blogs to encourage others to not be passive. This is a tipping point. Being passive is an action, but it can lead to unintended consequences.  The German populace sat by passively while their neighbors were arrested and were never to be seen again in the Holocaust.

Think about how you can build a relationship with someone who is not your color, even if it might be uncomfortable at first.  I have now taken my second minority to mentor. I am excited to invest in his life.

The challenge is that we should each be asking the question of what we should do at this time and this place.   Not just ourselves, but of our churches. We need to be agents of change, not secret agents.

As I said at the beginning, we need to Stop, Look and Listen.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:   Consider mentoring someone who is not your race.  That’s how deep relationships are built.

FURTHER READING:   Shadow Racism  – Church and Culture Blog

Larry Fitzgerald’s Essay – New York Times

Interview with 6 Black Members of Mecklenburg Community Church – White

Where Do We Go from Here – Barna

Steve Noble Podcast – Black Callers Only -Podcast

WORSHIP: Build My Life – Housefires

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address

The Perfect Storm

storm

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:4

The events in the US for the past couple of months were catastrophic by any measure. First, Covid-19 triggered a lockdown, which, in turn, caused businesses to close and widespread unemployment.

Then, you have a senseless killing of George Floyd, a black man, in Minnesota by a white policeman, causing peaceful protests which led to riots and violence in cities in the US and protests in Europe.  The murder was caught on video and went viral.

I think of responding to these events in “R” words :

  • Reopening (businesses, schools, etc.);
  • Recovery (of jobs from economic recession), and
  • Riots (caused by protests gone awry).

That’s a trifecta of “R” s.  A perfect storm, if you will.

America was already dealing with the first two – trying to reopen after Covid -19 and trying to recover from the fallout of high unemployment caused by lockdowns.

Protests from the Floyd murder started immediately, first in Minneapolis, and then in Louisville over the death of a Breonna Taylor, an aspiring black nurse.  The protests were largely peaceful during the day, but were hijacked at night, causing widespread damage, mayhem and looting.

I was dismayed and sent friends of mine an email that these events had the chance of blowing up like the riots during the 1960’s in Newark, NJ, Harlem, NY and Watts in Los Angeles. I was in college at the time.

Sadly, I was right, and riots, chaos and looting occurred in many cities in America. The protests were led by Black Lives Matter, an activist organization opposed to police brutality and racism. The movement seized the Floyd murder as a rallying cry.

Protests are legal and appropriate.  What is not appropriate is what happened after dark by criminals and anarchists who took advantage of the situation through looting, violence and mayhem.  People are unanimous to the idea that police brutality is abhorrent, but not to the breathtaking violence and riots that ensued.

I will leave the issue racism and what to do about it for a later post. It is too complex to try and cover here. “Where Do We Go From Here?”  is a free book from Barna which is insightful.

Instead, I want to introduce a concept for the next generation which is what they will need to power through these times.  It’s another “R” word. It is Resilience. The next generation is looking for hope in dark times. Even if they are Christian, their faith may not be mature enough to be of help.

Life can be cruel sometimes and, to the next generation,  these are unprecedented and difficult times. But so was the polio epidemic in the early 1950’s.

Polio kills by suffocation – not by damaging the lungs, as Covid-19 does.  It attacks motor neurons in the spinal cord, destroying communication between the nervous system and muscles. The resulting paralysis meant that the breathing muscles no longer work.

Polio has all but been erased from our memory due to the polio vaccine. But it was a real threat and affected thousands, mostly children, globally. Seven people died in my wife’s small community in a rural part of North Carolina.

There were lockdowns then, too. Schools and church services were suspended. In summer, swimming pools, movies, bars and bowling alleys were closed. Still, the numbers of children affected climbed because no one knew how to contain it. Does this sound familiar?

Paul Alexander contracted polio in a small Texas town in 1952.  He was paralyzed from the neck down and wasn’t expected to live. He was placed in a ward with other children who were all in iron lungs to help them breathe.

He said it was a boring existence in his ward but,  “Every time I tried to make a friend; they’d die.” It made him furious when he overheard doctors saying, “He’s going to die today.”

He decided they were wrong and taught himself how to breath by what he called “frog breathing” which is swallowing air. The technical name is “glossopharyngeal breathing”.

He was able to get out of the iron lung during the day. He graduated from high school at age 21, without having attended class. He graduated from college and then got a law degree from the University of Texas. He practiced law for decades propped up in a wheelchair.

He is now 74 and confined to the iron lung. He is one of only 2 survivors in the US. Even today, he is held in awe by those around him and is a celebrity of sorts because of his uniqueness. He answers all questions with humor.  After all, he says, “I’m a lawyer, I get paid to talk.”

He likes talking about his life and the lung, because he wants to world to know what polio is like and “what he achieved in spite of it.”   That’s what I call Resilience, with a capital “R”.

It is what the next generation needs to hear and see today.  They, too, can achieve many things despite the Perfect Storm.

They meed to have hope, not despair. They need to hear stories of people who have overcome insurmountable circumstances and made the best of it. They need to know that obstacles of life are just a challenge, and perseverance and resilience will conquer almost anything.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can inspire your mentee to be an overcomer through the perfect storm of life right now.  They need encouragement to persevere at a time when they are anxious about the future.

FURTHER READING: The Man in the Iron Lung – Guardian

Where Do We Go From HereA free Barna book on dealing with racial divides for church leaders.

WORSHIP: Better than a Hallelujah – Amy Grant

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The P Generation

graduation

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2

They are in their senior year. They looked forward to graduation ceremonies, parties, or even a senior prom.  Then the world hit P(ause) and no one got to celebrate.

They are Gen Z, and they are missing out on their rite of passage for their achievement. That would have been normal, until the Pandemic.   One of my grandkids, Allie, is in this group, missing all the things her sister enjoyed just two years earlier for her senior year.

Every one of them, when asked, call it “sad”. They have all experienced being:

  • Postponed
  • Panicked
  • Pushed Aside
  • Penalized
  • Put on Hold
  • Put on the back burner
  • Paused
  • Put in Parenthesis

Those all start with a “P” and in a way, it is a description of the P(aused) Generation. That’s what they are feeling.

They face the worst job market since the Great Depression in the 1930’s. Those that are going to college are rethinking their choices and considering a gap year.  Many colleges are considering virtual classes as a component to teaching on campus. They face conflicting views on whether they should even go back to campus, or if they do go, what campus life will be like.

Tim Elmore quotes one senior (among others):  “People say you never realized the value of something until it’s gone.  That’s how I feel [missing my senior year]….It’s also sad that we might not see a lot of people ever again.”

They have lost a life experience that won’t return.  How should leaders, parents and mentors respond?  Tim Elmore suggests several steps which I believe are practical and beneficial:

  1. Empathize with them in their loss. Don’t let it be an elephant in the room that goes undiscussed or acknowledged. Telling them it’s “no big deal” is not a good idea and may make it worse.
  2. Come up with a Plan B for their rite of passage. Do a safe graduation party, even if it is on Zoom or other media. This affirms the student and what they have been preparing for the past 12 years. Their education accomplishment needs recognition in some tangible way.
  3. Get them to think outward (a frequent theme of mine). Get them to think about supporting others who need help in Community. Self-focus gets to a “woe is me” attitude. Thinking on how to help others, on the other hand, provides them with a healthy outlook on life.
  4. Become a story-teller of family or friends who went through difficult times. My own father suffered through the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Food lines were commonplace and unemployment rampant. In World War II, he survived a Kamikaze plane that took out his battle station on a destroyer in the Pacific. He had been called to another station on the ship, so he survived. He was part of the Silent Generation. As an example, my father never told me of his war experiences, I learned them from my son who interviewed him for a school project.  Storytelling reinforces the idea that they are not the only ones who have faced difficult times.
  5. Help them with their own “story” so that they can see their life in a greater context. I touched on this in my post titled Henry. My story is mostly written, but theirs is just beginning. It will help with their internal narrative and can have a significant influence on how they face reality.

The same can be said of the millennials who were already in the workforce.  Most were just getting on their feet after the 2008 recession. Jobs have been terminated, and many employers who have closed may not open again.  Some estimate that 40% of the jobs may never return post Covid-19.

They are facing a job market that has a lot of competition from the recently unemployed. They are, in a word, facing a lot of anxiety, when they were already highly anxious. A recent headline described millennials the “Unluckiest Generation in U.S. history” although I would submit that millennials around world are in the same boat.

The challenge is that they need a steady hand to help guide them through these difficult times. It’s time for parents, leaders and mentors to step up and help them by coming alongside. Be that person in their life that encourages them when the world seems hopeless.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Your mentee may be one whose life was Paused. You can be a valuable influence on how well they navigate through this time. Your story of tough times may be just what they need to hear.

FURTHER READING:   The Disruption of CollegesNY Mag

Jobs Have Dried Up  WSJ

Long Term Effects of Closing High SchoolsWired

Is it a Good Time to Take a Gap Year?  NBC News

A Silver Lining for New Graduates?  WSJ

How to Find and Practice Courage  – Harvard Business Review

Careers After Covid-19   Forbes

How to Help a Student Who Just Lost a Senior Year – Tim Elmore

Millennials are the Unluckiest Generation Washington Post

WORSHIP:  Beneath the Waters (I will Rise)  Hillsong

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address. Photo courtesy of Dan Rush.

 

 

 

 

Horizontal

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of Gods grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

An image of something horizontal is someone lying down. That’s not the picture God had in mind when He instructs us to live together in community. There is no “lying down” instruction in the Bible.

The first four books of the New Testament have a vertical emphasis – one that makes us spiritually aware of God through His Son.

The rest of the New Testament has a horizontal focus.  It is about how our faith plays out on earth with family, friends and community.  In other words, how we are to interact with each other.

The pandemic has caused our social interaction to be turned upside down due to social distancing, quarantines and lockdowns.  Many are searching for how they can continue to minister to others.

The next generation are frightened and fearful of their circumstances. Some are turning to spiritual things like prayer. In a WSJ article on prayer, a 26 year old woman said: “there is so much uncertainty right now and so little in my power.”

Dear Lord,” she began, “Help me to stay grounded and grateful in stressful times. Show me how I can be of most service to you and others.”

That’s a prayer every Christian should be praying right now.  It is powerful and humble.

There is a lot of biblical instruction on ways we can be of service to God and others.  The list below came from the margins of my bible where I wrote “o/a” (short for “One Another”) in the margin of a passage:

  • Love one another.  John 13:34-35, Galatians 5:14
  • Wash one another’s feet.  John 13:14
  • Encourage one another.  Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25, 1 Thess. 5:11 and 4:18
  • Pray for one another. James 5:16
  • Honor one another. Romans 12:10
  • Be devoted to one another.  Romans 12:10.
  • Build up one another.  Romans 14:19, 1 Thess. 5:11; Ephesians 4:29
  • Serve one another.  Galatians 5:13
  • Teach and admonish one another.  Colossians 3:16
  • Be concerned for one another.  1 Corinthians 12:25
  • Confess your sins to one another.  James 5:16
  • Don’t judge one another.  Romans 14:13
  • Carry one another’s burdens.  Galatians 5:13
  • Submit to one another.  Ephesians 5:21
  • Forgive one another.  Colossians 4:13
  • Comfort one another.  2 Corinthians 6:12
  • Do not provoke one another. Galatians 5:26
  • Be kind to one another.  1 Thessalonians 5:15; 2 Corinthians 6:12
  • Do not cause another to stumble. 1 Corinthians 10:32
  • Live in harmony with one another.  Romans 12:16
  • Accept one another. Romans 15:7
  • Be kind and compassionate with one another. Ephesians 4:32
  • Bear with and forgive one another. Colossians 3:13
  • Spur one another on to love and good deeds.  Hebrews 10:24
  • Do not slander one another. James 4:11
  • Do not grumble against one another. James 5:9
  • Offer hospitality to one another. 1 Peter 4:9
  • Clothe yourself with humility to one another. 1 Peter 5:5
  • Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and songs of the Spirit. Ephesians 5:16
  • Be generous to others. Luke 11:41

From the Old Testament:

  • Sharpen one another.  Proverbs 27:17
  • Do not deceive one another.  Leviticus 19:11
  • Do not envy one another.  Ecclesiastes 4:4
  • Show mercy and compassion to one another.  Zechariah 7:9
  • Be faithful to one another (marriage).  Malachi 2:10

These are timeless instructions that can be adapted to any new technology, even during a pandemic.  My friend, Ada Babajide, started a trauma ministry using WhatsApp because she felt there was a need to help those who have experienced trauma in their lives, marriages or from abuse.

She had to start a second session when 300 people signed up and she can only handle 125 at a time. Her trauma ministry “checks” many of the “One Another” boxes above. She authors a well written daily devotional as part of her ministry.

Another friend, Samsunder Singh, lives in Chennai, India. His Christian school has been closed. I recently sent him a small amount of money to support him during the lockdown.  He used the bulk of it to provide food for twelve pastors and their families as well as some of his students who didn’t have enough money to eat.

Sam is a prime example of generosity in a time of need, even though his own personal needs have gone unmet.  Thinking of others first is what Sam does every day.

Yesterday, I got a phone call from someone I know, but not very well. He said that he wanted to help others in need but couldn’t find a way to do that.

A friend told him to call me. He had no idea of who I was helping.  I met with him and he gave me a check, admitting that he really wasn’t sure why he was doing this. He just wanted to help others.

He did it anonymously, and didn’t want his name revealed. His gift will be well stewarded to those who need it. I was blown away.

Of course,  mentoring is a means of serving others, particularly the next generation who are struggling.  Tony Evans said it this way:  “Mentoring is not an option; it is a necessity.”

Serving others has a lot of variables.  The role of a mentor is to help a mentee find his purpose in life – what God intended for that individual.  It is truly iron sharpening iron.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Helping the next generation serve is a matter of matching them to what God intended for them. A mentor’s role is to encourage them to be the best they can be in service to others.

FURTHER READING:  The Science of Prayer – WSJ

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Lifeby Bob Goff

WORSHIP:  God, You’re So Good  – Passion

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner and entering your email address. Photo courtesy of Dan Rush.