All posts by Dr. Charlie Self

Celebrating the With-Us-God: Divine Humility and Human Hope

Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, who is proclaimed by the faithful as the Prince of Peace and Savior of the World. The hopes of Israel are embodied in an heir of David who will be King and bring deliverance, healing, and restoration (See Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2). We are familiar with the humility of Mary and Joseph, the humble setting of the birth, shepherds receiving angelic visitations, and, eventually, Magi coming to worship a toddler Jesus in his home. May we nourish these thoughts forever.

But there is something even deeper about Christmas that can be lost in the familiar festivities. Christmas is the great moment of divine humility: The eternal Son, “God of very God, Light from Light, begotten, not made…” (from the 4th century Nicene Creed) assumes human nature and enters our history. Michael Card expressed this profound truth so well: “Behold the mystery fantastic and wild; a Mother made by her own Child.” The Eternal steps into time. The Infinite assumes finitude. The Holy One becomes forever human. This is why Matthew 1:22-23 declares that Jesus is Immanuel, which translated literally, means, the “With-Us-God.”

Jewish scholars were stunned by Jesus. On one hand, he was hailed as the Son of David, the Messiah coming to liberate God’s people. Yet Jesus chose a path of healing over violence, deliverance over despotism, inclusion of outsiders over catering to the elites. Jesus’ humility, powerful teaching, and miracles won him many followers. But Jesus was more than an expected King: he declared himself one with the Father and assumed divine attributes reserved only for the One True God: forgiving sin, receiving worship, and declaring his understanding of Scripture the final and full word. For the Jews, this was blasphemy and the unity of the Father and Son was impossible, for God is One. And this oneness is absolute, with no room for rivals.

As Christianity spreads beyond Judaism and welcomes converts from Greek and Roman philosophies and religions, the idea that Ultimate Truth could assume human nature was deemed illogical and impossible. After all, the soul was trapped in the material body and that which is perfect could never be contained in flesh. This dualism would later infect Christian thinking, with unfortunate consequences. Popular religion in Rome had a place for many gods, but Christians refused to bow to any other lords or gods other than the Eternal God revealed in Jesus, who is Lord and the Christ. So Greek dualism and Roman polytheism were rejected in favor of the adoration of the Father, the Son (Jesus of Nazareth) and Holy Spirit.

Let’s come back to divine humility. In Jesus, God is forever one of us! What an affirmation of being human! Jesus’ experience was just as ours, though without the sin that ruined our first parents and continues subverting our lives. Jesus developed from a child to an adult, faced all our temptations, experienced our emotions, knew physical fatigue and limitations, and enjoyed life with friends and family. His crucifixion was excruciating. On the Cross he carried our sins and sorrows, sufferings and unanswered questions. His bodily resurrection on Easter offers a preview of the eternity for all believers: our future includes embodied work and play, community and worship. Jesus is forever one of us. If we could somehow have Scotty (of Star Trek fame) beam us to heaven, we would be able to touch Jesus, for even as the glorified Lord, he is one of us.

This Christmas, let’s allow divine humility to heal us from inferiority or inadequacy arising from our past and the abuses and rejections we remember so well. We are worth God forever becoming human. We are worth the painful and unjust death of the Cross. We have a vision of our future on Easter. With God’s help and the support of many around us, we can walk in confidence and hope, for we have welcomed Immanuel into our lives. 

Real Questions, Thoughtful Answers, Part 5: The Jews and Israel as Gifts to our World

Several friends and colleagues have asked me to comment on the upsurge of anti-Israel protests throughout the USA and the West, especially the work of the BDS (Boycott-Divest-Sanction) and SJS (Students for Justice in Palestine), and continual United Nations condemnations. Anti-Israel groups claim they are not anti-Jewish – they are just against the injustices perpetrated by the modern State of Israel. They see Israel as an “apartheid state” that denies basic rights to Palestinian Arabs in the “occupied territories.” Some reveal their agenda and question the legitimacy of the nation of Israel, calling it “colonialism” or “a colonial-settler project” or a “Western imposition born of Holocaust guilt.” And these are the mild critiques. Jihadist Islamic groups and leaders call for overt elimination of Israel and the extermination of the Jews as a religious obligation. In the past decade, diverse voices have expressed the wish that Hitler has “finished the job.” How do we respond to these comments?

History helps here.

“Palestine” is a term coined by the Roman Empire in the wake of the Jewish revolts of 66-70 AD and 132-135 AD. Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea were exiled and the entire region was renamed, “Palestine” as an insult to the Jews. The term Palestine arises from Philistine, a group from Crete who settled in Gaza and constantly opposed the people of Israel (See the early chapters of I Samuel for more here, including David’s defeat of the Philistine giant Goliath). Jewish presence in Jerusalem and surrounding regions has been continual for over 3000 years.

Today’s Palestinians have coalesced into a community and they deserve a better government that the current groups that are actually oppressing them, namely the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. This sense of national identity is a creation of the KGB-PLO in the 1960s, uniting disparate Arab groups under a mission to destroy Israel.

Jews have been subject to horrific persecution for most of their history after being exiled from their land. Antisemitism comes in three basic forms: political, religious, and racial. Politically, a variety of empires and nations have distrusted the separateness of the Jews, even if they pose no military or political threat. Religious antisemitism is found in Church history (though NOT in the Christian Scriptures), with far too many leaders of every tradition forgetting the Jewish roots of the faith and misinterpreting the paid mob’s shouts of, “Crucify him!” and “His (Jesus’) blood be on us and our children” as theological license to marginalize and oppress. Both the Qur’an and the Hadith (accepted Islamic interpretations and teachings) often declare the Jews the enemies of Islam and call for their oppression and sometimes death.

All of this terrible history metastasized in the late 19th and early 20th century into biological or racial anti-Semitism, rooted in facile Social Darwinism (Darwin would have utterly rejected these ideas). Historical alienation, exile, pogroms, second-class status, and persecution were minor compared to the eliminationist ideology gradually developed by ethnocentric nationalists and industrialized by the Nazis. The Holocaust was an unspeakable and unprecedented evil that far too many people chose to ignore and still try to either minimalize of normalize.

Concomitant with the rise of this mutation of antisemitism were a variety of Zionist movements calling for a restored Jewish homeland. From the 1860s to the 1930s, thousands made their way to their ancient land, much to the chagrin of some Arab leaders and later the British colonial rulers. Here are some facts about this period, for the current revisionist propaganda wants the world to think that Jews returning to their homeland was some kind of imperialist plot to destroy or displace the local Arab populations:

  • With few exceptions, all lands occupied by Jewish families and settlements were legally purchased from the local Arab populations under the Ottoman Empire. Much of it was desert and swampland, requiring huge amounts of work for it to flourish. Cities like Haifa and Tel Aviv were transformed as international culture flourished.
  • The British Government approved a Jewish homeland in principle with its Balfour Declaration of 1917. A crumbling Ottoman Empire in 1918 left a vacuum filled by European “mandates” and renewed Arab nationalism, including radical jihadist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • The League if Nations approved a homeland for the Jewish people during meetings in 1919-1920. In 1922, a plan was approved for a Jewish homeland within the Kingdom of Transjordan, but radicals undermined this.
  • In the 1920s and 1930s, multiple plans for modest Jewish settlements were offered and always rejected – often with violence – by radical Arab leaders, especially the Mufti of Jerusalem (the mentor of Yasser Arafat, supporter of Hitler, with plans to bring the Auschwitz gas chambers to the Middle East).
  • After 1939 the British halted any Jewish emigration, and even at the height of the Holocaust in 1942-1944, they refused to ease their restrictions.
  • In 1947, the United Nations approved a new Jewish state in a tiny section of the Palestinian territories – the boundaries were drawn to limit displacements. May 1948: The Jewish State is formally declared…and immediately Arab armies from six nations mobilize to destroy Israel. This call for destruction is the origin of today’s phrase, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.” In other words, death to Israel and exile or death to the Jews therein.

Since her birth, Israel has offered peace on generous terms, but these offers are always rejected. Several Arab states have normalized relations and received the economic and security benefits of an alliance with the only democracy in the region. A few more facts about Israel will help us see through the anger and hatred spewed by anti-Semites:

  • Israel is not perfect, but she is the only pluralistic democracy in the Middle East, with rights of conscience, active political parties, almost two million Arab citizens, and equal rights for women and minorities.
  • Israel is a global leader in humanitarian compassion, medical research, technology, ecological innovation, business development, and cultural creativity.
  • Israel is not an apartheid state, mistreating Arab populations in various territories. She has the challenging task of providing security for her citizens, and finding ways to cooperate with Palestinian leaders desiring her destruction.

Today’s hatreds are really a mishmash of old antisemitic themes joined with agitation propaganda for consumers who are ignorant of history. It is time for thoughtful people to reject the eliminationist slogans and recognize the gift Israel is to our world. Years ago, Israel handed Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority, removing the Jewish settlements and leaving 800 thriving businesses intact to help the new regime. The results? Destruction of businesses and the establishment of a terrorist state under Hamas that constantly proliferates violence against Israel. A few resorts exist and about a thousand jihadist leaders are millionaires while the populace lives in squalor. Meanwhile Israel is blamed for every problem that is the result of a refusal to make peace.

There is no moral equivalence of Israel and the Palestinian Authority government. The former desires peace and democracy, the latter jihad and oppression. Israel is ready for peace, and the PA is led by a Holocaust denier and one of the financiers of the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games of 1972. Yes, there are many narratives of Arabs displaced by war and suffering because of these conflicts. All that can end if moderate voices are heard and peacemaking wins over violence. Let’s pray for the peace of Jerusalem and refuse to listen to shrill voices.

Real Questions, Thoughtful Answers, Part 4: The Church as a Welcoming and Holy Community

A friend asked recently, “How does the church love everyone and maintain the holy standards of Jesus for believers in the church? We say, “Welcome!” and sincerely desire that everyone feel the warmth of Christ’s love through us. At the same time, when we call people to believe the gospel and follow Christ wholeheartedly, there are moral absolutes that many unbelievers think make us intolerant. What is a way forward?”

A great question, and even the most thoughtful answer will still upset some! We live in a world where meaning is malleable and morality is relative.  We live with competing world views and many looking at Christianity with hostility or indifference, seeing it in the rearview mirror of history.

It is essential that we define and integrate two key concepts so that we are loyal to the timeless faith once entrusted to the saints (I Corinthians 15:1-6; Jude 3) and timely in our presentation of truth with love, knowing that it is God’s will that the church reflect God’s glory, with women and men from all backgrounds, classes, cultures, and ethnicities (Galatians 3:28-4:7; Ephesians 2:11-21; 3:3-10; Revelation 7:9).

Hospitality to All

The first concept is the biblical call to hospitality: we welcome all seekers from any and every background to experience the love of Christ in community and discover, in the words of Augustine, “You have made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.” Both Old and New Testaments call upon God’s people to love and serve the “outsiders” in their midst. Moses’ marriage, the stories of Naaman the Syrian healed by the Prophet Elijah and Ruth the Moabite convert, and the Book of Jonah were provocative reminders to God’s elect that they were chosen as a light to all nations (Isaiah 42-43, 49; 60-61). F.F. Bruce said it well a generation ago: God did not choose Israel to be an exclusive community, but that through them all nations would be blessed. The journeys of Jesus and the Apostles in Luke-Acts reinforce this embracing of all people. Luke 4, 7 and 19 find Jesus commending the faith of outsiders, welcoming the outcast, and challenging his fellow Jews to learn from them. The progress of mission in Acts moves from a Jewish prayer meeting to a universal faith. For almost 2000 years the church has failed deeply and at times succeeded miraculously in experiencing the new sociology where former enemies are friends and diverse classes and cultures find community in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thoughtful believers affirm the wonder of the beautiful community the Holy Spirit creates when all are welcome and we dedicate ourselves to removing all human barriers to inclusion and empowerment (Ephesians 2:11-21; 3:3-10). Even more, we aim that diversity is not symbolic but substantive, not window dressing to assuage majority guilt, but in the water of the community as faith and baptism unite believers.

Practically, this means we welcome spiritual seekers and are unafraid to answer tough questions. We see every person we encounter as both beautiful and broken: a divine image-bearer and in need of the saving grace of Christ (Genesis 1-2; Psalm 8; Romans 3:21-31). We aspire to see all gospel churches filled with all kinds of people experiencing reconciliation, redemption, and restoration through the gospel and being included in the community (II Corinthians 5:11-6:2).

The call to follow

The second concept is a companion to the first: following Jesus requires the believer to die to their sovereignty – letting go of self-will, sinful actions and attitudes – and live under God’s loving and holy rule as a new creation in Christ, a member of the Body of Christ, and one liberated from darkness and called in to the light of faith and truth (II Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 1:15-23; Ephesians 4:1-12; 22-24). Put simply, being a Christ-follower includes obedience to God’s Word and a love for the ways of God – principles and practices that are much different that the unbelieving world.

We confess that too often the church has imposed religious traditions that are not rooted in the grace and truth of the Scriptures. With humility, we must repent of sometimes either being more religious than Jesus or making excuses for our proclivities toward idolatry, immorality, and injustice (Isaiah 44; Amos 2, 4: I John 5).

With love and grace, the church does promote the clear moral absolutes of Scripture. The Bible is replete with even the heroes of faith failing miserably. This does not however, change the divine standard or allow for excuses. When we fail, we are called to repent and allow the community to restore us (Galatians 6). If someone confesses Christ as Lord, they are incorporated into the Body of Christ and called to accountability in the local church (I Corinthians). Old beliefs and habits, attitudes and actions now yield to King Jesus, who calls us to a much better way – the way of humility and joy (Mark 10:45). 

Women and men who come to our churches carry burdens and scars, histories of hurt, the strongholds of false ideologies and religions, as well as amazing potential as those for whom Christ died. We welcome all – and we call ALL to repentance and renewal, unselfish love and holiness born of gratitude for God’s grace (Deuteronomy 10:12-13; Ephesians 4:1-6). Here are some examples of what changes when Jesus is Lord:

  • Gospel grace means sexual ethics are now celibacy for singles and fidelity in biblical marriages…and the community will walk with people from all arenas of gender identity as they learn conformity to Christ (not fallen subcultural norms).
  • Business ethics change completely as all work is now for God’s glory and the good of others.
  • Relationships of all kinds change for the better as unselfish love and wisdom guide deeds and words instead of selfish advancement.
  • Political service is now for the common good, not personal power.
  • The creative arts are unleashed, exposing our deep wounds and offering hope and healing.

Compassion without compromise and patient pilgrimage are the order of the day, in a world where inversion and perversion are celebrated (Romans 1:18-32). The early church faced similar challenges and rose to the occasion well. The Acts 15 council united Jew and Gentile around a common faith and morality. Gentiles did not need to become Jews to be included in the community and Jews did not need to reject their heritage. All followers of Christ were expected to say no to any other gods, reject sexual immorality, and live at peace with each other (I Corinthians 8-10).

Historians say that the reason Christianity grew in influence in the Roman Empire was the love and morality of the believers. Julian the Apostate, a pagan Emperor in the 360s AD, lamented that he could not rally people around the old Roman gods and virtues the way Christians could mobilize their communities for good. A century earlier, Roman governors in a variety of provinces asked that they be allowed to delay persecution of Christians because the Christians were helping serve the victims of the plague. The incarnational apologetic of a changed life and virtues born of gratitude are powerful demonstrations to God’s grace.

In sum, we are called to joyful hospitality, opening our communities to people of every background. We are also called to articulate clearly the holy love expected of followers of Jesus and aspire to the obedience of faith. We will be met with opposition, declared intolerant, and often marginalized for our “backward views.” In the words of N.T. Wright, we must remind ourselves and the world around us that the ethics of Scripture are the “radical” ones and represent a departure from the norms of pagan (and 21st C. neo-pagan) culture.

May we discern well how to welcome all around us and embrace the cross in our discipleship.

Real Questions, Thoughtful Answers, Part 3: Our Immigration Mess: A Hospitable and Secure Way Forward

I was in an airport restaurant recently and my server told me her family’s story of emigrating to the USA from Albania. After a decade of paperwork and hearings, and lots of hard work, most of the family members are now legal residents, and some are citizens. She asked me, “Why does the government tolerate the mess at the border with Mexico or let any Afghan into the country? We worked so hard to come legally, and they are giving more benefits to the people coming in illegally. Why?”

Here was a single mom, working 60 hours a week and grateful for her hard-earned citizenship upset about the chaos with “asylum seekers” and the “undocumented.” She also commented that she and her family had never taken a dime in welfare. How do we answer her honest query?

We start solving the current mess four ways: 1) learning from our history; 2) cultivating hope that solutions are possible; 3) finding courage to enforce current laws and reform broken systems; and 4) expose the nefarious motives of those who prefer anarchy over substantive solutions.

First, reckoning with our history helps us avoid arrogance as we see a rather challenging set of narratives. All nations and empires are founded with primary “tribes” and then learn to integrate others. In this essay, I am not focusing on the African slaves or treatment of Native American populations – those narratives are exceptional and warrant separate essays (coming soon in 2022!).

In the mid-19th century, the Irish potato famine sent many to our shores and they were often met with hostility by the WASP majorities. They, along with other Roman Catholic populations, were subject to marginalization and persecution. Over time, they found ways to assimilate and maintain their cultures, but as late as 1960 millions of American feared a Roman Catholic President for fear that JFK would be more loyal to the Pope that the USA.

The famous Ellis Island surge of the late 19th and early 20th century was a commendable moment in our history, yet there was extensive screening involved and not everyone was admitted. Many of these immigrants faced tremendous hardships, but America was the promised land for people fleeing poverty and persecution.

While Ellis Island welcomed millions, on the West Coast, The Chinese and Japanese immigrants were treated abysmally, especially the Chinese. The very people who labored on the transcontinental railway were subject to internment, severe economic restrictions and significant harassment. The scandal of the Japanese internment camps of World War II is well-documented, with justice too late in coming for many. A century later, both populations have flourished and consider themselves fully American while celebrating their cultures.

From the 1920s to the end of WWII, the USA closed her doors to most immigration and xenophobia was the order of the day. Even full knowledge of the Holocaust could not sway the State Department. When I share about the Middle East, this narrative will be prominent. We utterly failed as the land of liberty.

Since the 1960s, immigration policies have varied greatly and many more have found homes in our land. It is important to note that many Democrats, who today want unfettered immigration, opposed welcoming the Vietnamese refugees fleeing communism after the 1976 takeover of Saigon. It is stunning reading the words of apparently inclusive politicians. Of course, having thousands of hardworking immigrants that are living witnesses to the terrors of Marxism is quite uncomfortable for some. We do welcome legitimate groups fleeing violence, though the selectivity has varied with the administration in power. For example, it is currently much harder for Christians to flee persecution in Muslim nations than for Muslims emigrating from many nations.

Our border with Mexico has its own complex history, with alternating moments of hospitality and xenophobia. People of all political persuasions have avoided comprehensive reform out of economic (cheap labor) and political (assuming voter loyalty to one party) motivations. Those who desire more selective immigration policies are branded racist and those wanting easy pathways to entry are also offering more help to the undocumented than some of their own citizens.

Concerning points 2 and 3: We must cultivate hopeful realism that solutions are possible while being honest about the mess created since the 1960s. Enforcing current laws and screening immigrants for criminal backgrounds and COVID are reasonable steps.  Walls define borders – they can still have many hospitable gates. The massive amount of drug and sex trafficking, potential terrorist infiltrations, and disrespect for the rule of law and nature of a nation must be confronted.

Finally, comprehensive change will require courage to confront the cartels on the border, and the corrupt regimes allowing massive groups to march toward the USA. Courage is also needed to reaffirm the goodness of borders, national identity, and the privileges of citizenship, while offering reasonable pathways for millions of undocumented neighbors. There is no place for racism and xenophobia; likewise, voting must be only for citizens. The undocumented, while treated with compassion, should not receive more government help than US citizens. Illegal felons in prisons should be deported and enforcement increased. Dreamers should be placed on an expedited pathway to citizenship.

Avoiding globalism and xenophobia, securing borders, welcoming those who will contribute – all are possible if we have courage, humility, and wisdom. I welcome the faith and family-oriented friends that want the USA to be home…and I think we can screen out many threats to our civil life. May we find the way forward that is inclusive and wise.

Real Questions, Thoughtful Answers, Part 2: Parental Engagement in Education

A thoughtful friend who is a keen observer of public issues, wrote to me the other day and asked, “Charlie, what just happened in Virginia? Many of my friends are calling it a racist backlash. Other are saying the parents are finally being heard. What do you think?”

As always, the issues of any election are complex and people do not fit into tidy cultural and/or ideological boxes assigned by the pundits. This election does demonstrate that a sentence or two can change history! If Governor McAuliffe had invited frustrated parents to a roundtable discussion and expressed empathy, he might have won the election. Instead, he casually opined that the parents should not tell the school board or teachers what to teach. This was not well-received by many in his own party (even if it was exploited by the other side beyond McAuliffe’s intent).

The conflicts of Virginia are found across the nation as parents are deeply agitated about the content and overall quality of the education their children are receiving. This was amplified by the effects of COVID and parental exposure to heretofore unknown topics. The school boards and administrators of many schools are proving themselves unwilling to listen deeply and engage in dialogue, resorting to narrow rules for feedback and even obscuring controversial content, as well as budget allocations. Parents feel condescended to, belittled, and libeled. Disagreeing with some facets of how racial issues are presented is not racism; however, that is the conclusion of some commentators and teachers’ union leaders. Concerns about sex education and the age-appropriate materials is met with derision by educators, some of whom see no problem with telling students to keep secrets from their families.

A bit of historical and social perspective helps as we aim for a better way forward. Three issues are converging in these conflicts: 1) The public schools are challenged with bringing education and support services to children coming from very difficult homes: 2) Professionals take offense at non-experts telling them what to do; 3) We have a deep cultural divide over the scope of education, from broad, ideological agendas to more narrow subject foci.

In defense of most schools and teachers, education can be challenging, especially in under-resourced communities. Kids come to school with emotional and physical needs that make learning hard on a good day. One kindergarten teacher I spoke with summarized her day this way: “I have 20 students. Only a few have two-parent households and come to school with clean bodies and clothes and ready to learn. I think I taught about 8-10 and kept the others from hurting themselves and others.” Social service case workers affirm this picture as they try to help families and manage the consequences of abuse, addiction, divorce and single-parent homes. Before we berate educators, it is right to pause and realize that we must renew the importance of parents serving their children and creating the conditions for flourishing.

Issues 2 and 3 are part of a century-long tension between parental authority and the responsibility and the influence of experts. While issue #1 unveils the brokenness of many families, educators have long been as the forefront of questioning family authority and influence and desiring that the state be the primary leader in nurturing children. A few years ago, a news commentator, responding to similar parental concerns, blurted out, “Your children do not belong to you…they belong to the collect…I mean the community!” She meant to say, “collective” in good Marxist fashion, but caught herself and said “community.” While we all affirm that community is vital, parents are the vital foundation and any diminishment of their influence (except for abuse) is overreach by the state.

What is the way forward? First, children must be welcome as gifts from God and parents must embrace the unselfishness and sacrifice of nurturing them to maturity. Parents are the first teachers. Issues of faith, morality, and key values rests primarily in the home, secondarily in the faith community, and only thirdly with public institutions. Parents must be heard and their children must not be subject to indoctrination or information beyond their years.

Second, the educational establishment must narrow its focus to education, especially the important knowledge and skills for functioning in a competitive world. Except for enforcing common values of civility, diligence, and mutual respect, teachers must teach their subjects well, properly exposing students to many historical narratives and cultural expressions, while ensuring that basic liberal arts and sciences are central. It is time for a school year to increase in days, not decrease. The USA is way behind much of the developed world in the amount and quality of schooling that our K-12 children receive.

Third, all curricular and co-curricular content must be public and subject to scrutiny. NO secrets, full transparency, and open debate must be the norm. Teachers are trained to help children that might be abusive victims, and we do need a safety net for these situations. It is time to end the secrecy, especially about religion, sexuality, and politics. These realms belong to the family first, then the local community agencies, and then, informationally, to the educational establishment.

Fourth, the educational landscape must be a free market, with public, charter, private, and homeschooling networks cooperating and competing. Right now, more than a million underserved families are waiting for places in charter and private schools because of the poor quality of their local schools. Yes, we need more resources for the poorer neighborhoods – and much more accountability for how they are managed! Costs per pupil are not the only indicator of success.

We can have civil debate and explore better ways for education. Courage, humility, and a willingness to share influence and power are the keys to a better future for our children.