Philippians 4:8

Wondering what the title of this post is referring to? Here’s two versions (the more traditional one from the NRSV and a contemporary rephrasing from The Message):

NRSV: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

The Message: Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

That particular scripture has been pushing itself to the forefront of my mind as I’ve been reading Facebook recently. It seems like there are so many of us who are willing to believe the worst about anything/anyone we don’t agree with. I see posts accusing our president of undermining the Constitution…conspiracy theories…name calling… At times it really makes me sad!

That doesn’t mean that I think we all have to put on masks of agreement and say “Everything’s okay” even when we believe otherwise. I believe that disagreement has a legitimate place in our dialogue with each other. But there’s an important word in that last sentence–dialogue.

Dialogue means talking with each other, not past each other. It means being willing to listen…willing to acknowledge that we may not know everything we think we know. It means holding the possibility of changing one’s mind.

I know that not everyone who posts or reads is a Christian–and I’m okay with that. But I think that every major religion has something in their philosophy similar to this statement in Christianity. Maybe a simpler form of saying the same thing is simply the Golden Rule…a version of which is found in all the major religions.

Can you imagine what a better world this would be if we were all willing to live what we say we believe?


Where did civility go?

As I look back over this last election cycle…and really, some before that…I wonder. When did we reach the point of thinking that we could say anything to anybody any way we liked?

We haven’t always agreed with each other, and that’s okay. It would be an incredibly boring world if we did! But we used to be able to disagree civilly…without attacking each other.

But all one has to do is to listen (as we all unfortunately had to) during this last election cycle to the candidate ads. I’m not sure I heard any that didn’t attack an individual or imply an attack on their integrity.

Yes, I know that we’ve had horrible–and vicious–attacks in the past. I remember some of the ads when Kennedy was running for office. But after the election, people seemed willing to work together for the good of all–and I sure am not hearing that now. Instead, what I’m hearing is negative agendas. “I’m not for anything…but my agenda is to undo everything that’s been done in the past two years”…or “My agenda is to make sure that Obama doesn’t get anything passed.”

We can’t accomplish anything for the good of the community if our focus is only on what we’re against…

Disagreement is fine with me. That’s how we find out where potential problems are. But incivility is not. It stagnates us…builds barriers and walls instead of bridges…divides us into “us” and “them”…

Are there not things we can agree on? Places we can find common ground? Willingness to find ways to work together?

If not, I fear for what our future holds.

Inauguration thoughts

As I watched the inauguration today–courtesy of my workplace, which encouraged us to take advantage of the opportunity to watch it on a large-screen TV provided there–a number of thoughts went through my mind. 

  • What an incredible experience! How many countries would love to experience the kind of peaceful government transitions we take for granted? especially when the transition is as historic as this one.
  • I remember living through the times of unrest and upheaval as we as a nation were struggling with issues of civil rights. While I hoped that the time would come when we would be color-blind–and would judge people by the content of their minds, not the color of their skin–I didn’t dream that we would be living this kind of experience today.
  • Watching Obama’s oldest daughter as she was taking pictures of the crowd was a delight. Yes, this was something special for her–and something she will probably remember more than her younger sister–but she seemed more interested in making a record for herself than in realizing that she was an important part of the record for millions of others.
  • As CNN followed past presidents and their families through the hall and out onto the inaugural platform, I was struck by the sense of aloneness when it was Obama’s turn. Yes, he was surrounded by a number of escorts, but in many significant ways, he was alone–carrying a burden of responsibility and expectations that only a few others can really understand. Watching the expression on his face, I sensed a recognition that his life will be forever changed.
  • Looking down from the White House to the Lincoln Memorial and seeing the thousands and thousands of people who wanted to be a physical part of this experience was mind-boggling. 
  • Reverend Lowery’s prayer brought together so many elements–poetry, light humor, historical perspective, acknowledgment of the difficulties before President Obama, and recognition of our need to support him and to pull together…
  • President Obama’s speech…it touched the right chord for me. He didn’t sugar-coat the difficulties ahead of us, but he spoke to the best that is in us. We are a diverse country, but that has a strength that can allow us to change our world. There will be significant changes–in moral leadership, in how we meet needs, in challenging us to make difficult decisions…

What an incredible day!

McCain and Obama Speeches

Election night I stayed up to watch the returns…haven’t been as involved and interested in that since the Kennedy election! But I wanted to know how the election was going to turn out–and then I wanted to hear the speeches.

I felt that John McCain returned to his true self in his speech–this was the man that I had respected when the campaign began. If only he had stayed true to himself…and not let the party “handlers” morph him into something else… I appreciated his support for the man who had been his opponent and who now is going to be–as he put it–“my president”. I think this was his last shot at running for the Presidency–and while I felt his legacy was going to be tarnished by the personal sniping and negative attacks, I felt he moved toward redeeming himself in his concession speech.

When Obama came out, I was a little surprised. Most other times, the victor has come bouncing onto the stage–but Obama came out more somber than I had expected. Some of that may have had to do with the recent loss of his grandmother–but I think some of it was an awareness of the gravity of the situation he now faces.

I appreciated the fact that he did not gloat over the extent of his victory–and that he acknowledged that there are many whose support he has yet to win…but asked for their help and called us to unite. Looking at the election maps at CNN and NPR makes it clear that we are still in many ways divided along Civil War lines–that we are still struggling with that legacy.

I believe that we have a new opportunity before us–a chance to change the politics of division and begin to pull together as the United States of America. May we all be willing to give it a chance.


NPR was talking about something yesterday that got me thinking…

There has been a lot of talk during this campaign suggesting/implying that Obama is a Muslim, despite his strong attestations of his Christianity. Much of that response to those messages has been that folks are attempting to “smear” Obama by saying that he is a Muslim.

Something I hadn’t thought of until it came up on NPR is the subtext to these statements back and forth–that somehow being a Muslim is a bad thing.

The parallel they were raising was of an election in Poland a number of years ago where a Catholic was running for office–and a whisper campaign was started…”He’s really a secret Jew.” The media at the time were pretty proud of themselves–saying, “Well, that’s just Poland. We’re not like that.”

But we’re more like that than we might like to think.

We are a country that is hugely diverse–in ethnicities, religion, economics…just about any category you can think of. Singling out one of those diversities–in this case, religion–to suggest that somehow belonging to that religion can be seen as a potential “smear” is dangerous to us all.

There are significant problems that we need to deal with–and to deal with them, we are going to need to work together.

Are there problems with some folks who claim the Muslim religion? Sure…just like there are with some who claim Christianity or Hinduism or any other religion you want to name. But is suggesting that somehow it’s a bad thing to be a Muslim the way to deal with those problems? Not to my mind.

We can easily get into a tit-for-tat mode by doing that. And if we do, then a quote by Gandhi comes to mind: “”An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ leaves the world blind and toothless.”

I may not agree with those who are of a different faith tradition than I am. But to claim that those who do belong to those traditions are somehow “less than” me suggests that anything I do to them is correct because I am “better” or “more right”…rather than learning from them and finding ways to work together to deal with the significant problems that affect all of us–regardless of our faith traditions.

Double Standard?

Just some musings that have been fermenting for quite a while…

I was truly sorry to hear about the pregnancy of Governor Palin’s oldest daughter. I think that–even with family support–she and the baby’s father, assuming they stay together, will have some difficult times ahead of them…and I hope they can make it work to the benefit of all.

However, it does raise some questions for me… Governor Palin supports abstinence-only sex education. If she–as a strong advocate–cannot get her own child to live that practice, how can she be so convinced that it is the only appropriate form of sex education for all children?

But the bigger issue for me is how the pregnancy has been treated. James Dobson of Focus on the Family has issued a statement of support that in part says:

“Being a Christian does not mean you’re perfect. Nor does it mean your children are perfect. But it does mean there is forgiveness and restoration when we confess our imperfections to the Lord. I’ve been the beneficiary of that forgiveness and restoration in my own life countless times, as I’m sure the Palins have.”

I believe that. And I am glad that the family is receiving a lot of support.

But I also wonder…what would the reaction have been if we had been talking about one of the Obama daughters? Would there have been the same kind of statements of forgiveness and support? Or would the color of their skin have elicited comments more along the lines of “Well, what can you expect from one of them?”

I’d like to think otherwise…but I have my doubts…

Sarah Palin…

I think McCain’s choice of a running mate makes absolutely no sense in light of the pounding he was giving Obama regarding Obama’s age and the perceived need for experience. To turn around and pick someone four years younger and with what appears to be very limited experience to be literally a heartbeat away from the Presidency–especially in light of McCain’s own health issues–raises serious questions for me about the Republican ticket (although I was not leaning that direction prior to the pick anyway).

If she was picked in an attempt to reach out to women voters–if that is the primary reason, and that I don’t know–I would find that an insult. Yes, I would love to see the time when gender doesn’t make a difference. But I am not someone who would vote for a candidate merely because she happens to be female.

I am much happier with the fact that Obama seems to recognize that one of his strengths is not necessarily foreign policy experience–and selected a VP candidate to complement that area.

And I think there are serious questions and issues around Sarah Palin that need to be responded to.

However, I am hoping that her children will not become an issue. Yes, because of the GOP’s emphasis on family values, I suppose her daughter’s pregnancy will. But how many of us have struggled with decisions our children have made that we know will bring heartache and challenges to them? Our children all need support in dealing with life decisions they have made so that they can be strong enough to deal with the results.

I do not think Sarah Palin is the best choice for VP…but I do wish their family all the best in dealing with their own family issues.