Yearly Archives: 2020

Inconvenient Insights, part 2

The American and European public squares are replete with extremism, polarizing language, and moral cowardice. Yes, that is correct: moral cowardice. Political correctness and an unwillingness to confront facts are deceiving millions into buying into false historical narratives and feeling paralyzed about making any absolute statements. Here are some paradoxical realities that deserve critical thinking and deep reflection, not platitudes and soundbites.

Islamic jihadists do not believe in fostering a pluralistic society, with liberty of conscience/religion, free speech and diverse worldviews learning civility and common good unity. While the vast majority of Muslims live peaceably with neighbors of all faiths or none, the agitators are proposing either a gradual or abrupt takeover of the West (and the rest) in the name of their faith. Extremists defend the subjugation and even extermination of all opponents of Islam and in chilling Orwellian fashion, declare that true “freedom” is only found in submission to their version of Islam.

What makes the above particularly nefarious is the cozy relationship between the pagan-secular Left and radical Islam. The political Left will persecute artists and bakers for refusing to endorse same sex weddings but turn a blind eye to the jihadist’s oppression of women, anti-Semitism, and blatant denunciations of gender and sexual liberty! This is moral cowardice where hatred of Jewish and Christian morality triumphs over history and reason.

Abortion kills babies. While a tragic necessity in rare cases of the mother’s survival or baby’s unviability, “pro-choice” advocates are now celebrating the termination of life at all stages, from early gestation to infanticide. And anyone who disagrees is depriving women of reproductive rights. The missing part of this “pro-choice” extremism is the choices men and women make that lead to conception and the irresponsibility of fathers in particular to care for the fruit of their intimacy. While incest and rape may be presented as exceptions, the vast majority (97%+) of abortions are elective due to economic or emotional issues. This is moral cowardice.

The refusal of many conservative Christians to face the realities of emotional and sexual abuse, racism, and sexism within their histories and current structures is also moral cowardice. In a convoluted desire not to bring shame to the church or the gospel, leaders that cover serious transgressions or make excuses for a lack of justice actually do greater harm to Christian witness. Regardless of ecclesial traditions, no person should feel disempowered or marginalized by any church. Becoming intentional about lamenting our tragic history of racism and sexism can lead to new friendships and true reconciliation. Victims of abuse must be heard and helped, and perpetrators brought to justice.

Moral cowardice can be overcome with humility and love, intentional repentance and resolution, and fostering new friendships across the barriers we create, and Jesus died to destroy and transform.

Inconvenient Insights for a Polarized World

This week after Groundhog’s Day and in remembrance of the Bill Murray comedy of reliving the same day over and over again, it is right to reflect on some enduring challenges:

We have miles to go in our pursuit of justice for women and men of all classes and cultures.
We can celebrate Christian contributions to social progress, and we must deeply lament historic ecclesial complicity with oppression.

We can criticize Israeli policies, but most of the responsibility for lasting peace rests with Arab leaders acknowledging Israel’s right to exist as the national home of the Jewish people. Israel is not a western colonial imposition, but the historic home of an ancient people. The new plan presented by President Trump (and quietly endorsed by some Sunni Arab states in the region) is an opportunity that the current Palestinian Leadership is willfully ignoring.

Billions have been lifted out of poverty in my lifetime due to global trade, with access to new markets. We still have too many food, banking, and job deserts in our own American cities.

Our national debt and deficit spending reveal cowardice and a lack of concern for generations yet unborn. Both parties are guilty, and it will take both parties cooperation to find solutions.

UN officials admit that their proposals for climate change amelioration are of little practical use, except for the transfer of trillions in wealth. Unless China, India, and Russia sign on, little progress can be made. Every proponent of free trade and/or climate change skeptic must also care more deeply for the ecological life of our planet. Good environmental stewardship means a good economy for our grandchildren.

Let’s find a new way to fund education of all kinds without a lifetime of debt on graduates and ever-increasing tuition prices.

A rebirth of civility begins with an affirmation of the dignity and worth of each person we meet. We must end caricature, insults, and stereotyping of those different from us.

The Hinge of Humility: Opening Doors to Wisdom

In our contentious world, persons and parties are competing for attention, which often leads to dueling over which individual or group can be the most outrageous in their assertions. Accusations are followed by belated retractions and oral and written communication is littered with terms like, “alleged” and “some people are saying” and “unnamed sources assert.” One post is picked up by many and soon millions are arguing over dubious data.

What is sorely lacking in most public discourse is the virtue of humility. Humility is not the absence of confidence or fear of others. Humility is a disposition of openness and a willingness to be corrected and refined in our thinking. Humility also looks for the good in others and waters the soil of principled peacemaking and proximate justice.

There are five dimensions of humility that will transform our personal lives and improve our public conversations. The first is humility before the Almighty. Even deeply religious people are prone to pride in their moral virtue or personal accomplishments, acting as if they are doing a favor for God, rather than realizing God’s unmerited favor in underneath any good brought to the world.

The second dimension is humility about ourselves. We are all beautiful and broken, bearing the divine image and ravaged by a fallen world, which includes both our own choices and unwanted traumas. Humility allows us to receive God’s embrace and accelerate our healing and maturity from the inside out. And this growth usually involves the care and love of others.

Third, we need humility for healthy relationships. We need to call for help when things are toxic. And we also need patience as others are learning life lessons. Married couples should aim for the good of their partners. Colleagues and friends can celebrate the success of others without envy. And humility is the foundation of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The fourth dimension is humility about our personal calling or purpose. We can walk with confidence and be well-focused without arrogance or pride. Our destiny in woven together with the good of others – we never succeed alone. Discovering and developing our gifts and skills serve God and others.

Finally, humility informs our daily life of work and engagement on the economy. Every day is an occasion to see our work – paid or unpaid, labor or leadership – as service to God and others. Humility will open doors for advancement as others see our disposition and discipline in deed and word.

Humility is cultivated over time and it leads to inner tranquility and healthier relationships. Above all, the Scriptures remind us that God honors the humble with his grace and presence (Isaiah 55, James 4 and I Peter 5).  That is enough.