Posted tagged ‘differences’

Cheek Turning and Face Slapping

June 24, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           June 24, 2018


Okay! I get it! People don’t agree with one another! I get that! Our country is polarized in about a thousand different ways. Having a difference of opinion is part of our history. Just go back and read about our founding fathers and the forming of the Constitution. I wouldn’t exactly characterize its writing as “synchronized wordsmithing.” By the grace of God they didn’t splinter into a dozen different directions and shout “Forget this!”

Good Lord! Baptists can’t agree on much! You know what they say about us Baptists (I’m an ordained American Baptist minister!)? Where there’s two Baptists there’s at least three denominations!

So…I get it! My own group of Christian journeyers are as different as each hair on my head. 

Jesus said something about turning the other cheek. His words were:

      “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”  (Matthew 5:39)

If someone does something unkind to you, or says something that is insulting, we refer to it as “a slap in the face.” Jesus answer was not to get even, not to seek revenge, but rather turn your cheek and let the insulter smack the other cheek. 

Not a widely practiced life principle!!!

Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, and her family were asked to leave a Virginia restaurant by the owner because the owner does not agree with the president’s policies and actions. 

I get that…the disagreement part, that is! Sanders left without incident. She took the slap in the face, BUT she had to go to Twitter and post about the incident, with a little jab at the owner in the midst of it. 

I don’t agree with either the owner’s initial slap or Sanders’ jab back. But both are representative of our cultural, political, and confused slants on life. We have become a retaliatory people, not just in our political venom, but in most areas of life. Jesus’ message focused on reconciliation. His keys words were grace, forgiveness, love, hope, peace, and justice. His message sought to heal brokenness, draw in the outcasts, give a voice to the powerless.

Respecting one another’s differences is a lost art. Instead of joining hands the overwhelming response is to punch the other person/side in the face.

I get it! Conservatives treat liberals with disdain, and liberals think conservatives are thugs. Others get pulled into the crossfire. 

There’s two enduring signs of hope in all of this. One is this! If the founding fathers could get it figured out so can we!

And second, if Jesus could turn the other cheek…the very God Incarnate!…I have hope that each one of us can too!

When Friends Become Enemies

January 8, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                   December 31, 2014


I recently read The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It’s an excellent historical work dealing with the presidencies of Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft, as well as the rise of the importance of journalism.

Taft was Roosevelt’s choice to follow him as President. He had served as Governor General of the Philippines as it was being freed from Spanish rule as a result of the Spanish-American War. Taft loved the Philippines, as did his family, but Roosevelt kept wanting him to come back and be a part of his cabinet as Secretary of War. The correspondence between the two men shows how close they were as friends. Finally Taft agreed to come back to the States and be a part of Roosevelt’s cabinet.

William Taft was always loyal to his president, even when he might not totally agree with him. As the 1908 Presidential election was gearing up Roosevelt, who had earlier said he would not run for a third term, put his support behind Taft. Upon Taft’s election Teddy left the country for a year to enjoy traveling and an extended African safari.

It is at this point in their friendship that the seams start coming apart. Taft wrote a very affirming letter to Roosevelt that was never delivered to him. Taft was taken back by the Roosevelt never responded, and Roosevelt was a little perturbed that Taft had not corresponded with him.

Gifford Pinchot, the head of the Forest Service under Roosevelt and Taft, was then relieved of his position. Pinchot was a close friend of Roosevelt’s, who was still in the midst of his African adventures. When Pinchot shared the news with Roosevelt with his personal biases inserted in the story, Roosevelt was angry at what Taft had done. He began to doubt the man he had picked to be his successor. Once again, however, he had not gotten the whole story. The firing of Pinchot was Taft’s only option after some of the actions that Pinchot has taken.

Distance played a significant role in the parting of the former president’s and current president’s close relationship. Roosevelt was stubborn enough to keep his distance even after he returned from his travels. Taft was gracious enough to think only the best.

The story proceeds with the unfortunate stroke of Nellie Taft that effected her speech. It was evident that Nellie was a valuable help mate of her husband throughout his career in Ohio, the Philippines, and Washington. To have her require rest and therapy for months was an ongoing grief that Taft had to bear. It could be said that the President didn’t sense a great deal of compassion from Roosevelt during this time. He had been there for Teddy in his deepest difficulties, but Roosevelt was not very empathetic in return.

Distance, life circumstances, and difficulties sometimes bring that separation between friends. For these two great men it brought them to a point where they were more resembling of being enemies, to the point that Roosevelt split off of the Republican party, forming a third party and running against Taft and Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 election. In fact, Roosevelt’s differences with Taft split the Republicans and resulted in victory for Wilson.

Misunderstandings, poor communication, false rumors, and assumptions can sometimes undermine what was a strong kinship.

At the end of the book, however, Taft has a chance meeting with Roosevelt at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago six years after the failed election. Roosevelt in taking to someone about the encounter said, “By Godfrey, I never was so surprised in my life. I no more thought of him being in Chicago than in Timbuctoo. But wasn’t it a gracious thing for him to do?” (The Bully Pulpit, Kearns, page 745)

That started a new friendship between the two former presidents that became increasingly stronger in the last months of Roosevelt’s life. He passed away seven months later.

How often we fail to draw close to those we’ve drifted apart from. Stubbornness isolates. The refusal to admit wrong keeps us in our separate corners. At the end of our time we realize the tragedy of opportunities lost and friends sent away.

It happens to so many of us…even presidents!

Incivility In the Church

February 22, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                February 22, 2013


My good friend, Tom Bayes, responded to my blog posting about having a passion for good sportsmanship by pointing me to an article written by Dr. Charles Chandler about the rise in “incivility.” His article points at an epidemic of incivility towards ministers. At first glance I was wondering about the connections between good sportsmanship and the treatment of pastors, and then I got it!

You see, a lack of sportsmanship, especially among adults, is linked to this idea of entitlement. A grown man in the bleachers believes he is entitled to say anything and act any way he wants because he has bought a ticket. He blurs “freedom of speech” with the verbal abuse of others.

In Chandler’s article he refers to Dr. G. Lloyd Rediger, author of Clergy Killers, who gives four reasons for the epidemic of incivility in the church. They are very revealing.

First of all, Rediger says that the church now mirrors society rather than leading it. A society  that has become increasingly polarized and unwilling to respect the opinions on each side is spilling over into the church. Now a congregation that includes people with differing music tastes more often than not has heated differences over such things as organs, drums, hymnals, projected words on a screen, and volume level. Incivility filters into a congregation as comfort zones are squeezed, no matter whether it is about such things as “is it okay to bring coffee into the sanctuary” to “what to do about a crying infant in worship” to “a change in the time of the worship service.” My comfort zone is different than the next person’s, and the next person’s different from the person behind him…which leads to the second reason for incivility.

Rediger says that America was once viewed as a “land of opportunity.” Now it tends to be a land filled with people who feel entitled. Comfort levels are viewed as sacred, and thus demanded. Rediger says that some people who aren’t as comfortable as they have been in the church become even vengeful. As entitlement becomes part of the environment, grace gets shoved out the door. Forgiveness goes shortly after since it is linked with grace. Entitled congregants often begin staking out their areas, or programs, or hot button issues and construct “invisible fences” with “No Trespassing” indicators.

The church, which has its roots in personal transformation and discipleship, instead becomes more like a Walmart at 5 a.m. on Black Friday!

The third reason mentioned is that the church too often has adopted the business model for operating instead of a mission model. A sense of mission gets replaced with an atmosphere of management. The pastor presides over the weekly schedule of meetings instead of leading the congregation in the celebration of communion. “Administrate” becomes the buzz word instead of “sacred”. Operations becomes more of the focus instead of mission.

And finally, the fourth reason for the rise in incivility is the loss of respect for the role of the minister. The expectation of pleasing people becomes more important then being their spiritual leader and mentor. I wrestle with this one. Whereas the congregation I pastor treats me with respect, I sometimes wonder if the length of my pastorate has a tendency, so to speak, to make me part of the furniture. Coming up on 14 years this summer I have that uneasiness within me that I am sometimes more honored and respected than heard. Such inner feelings are linked to something written a number of years ago by Loren Mead about the most effective years of a pastorate being between years five and nine. After that, he wrote, the pastor’s ability to lead significant change diminishes. He wrote that about twenty-five years ago. In our culture I’m not sure if it is still true. Because of rapid change it could be that the most effective years are now between three and five.

Bottom line, the Body of Christ, that has its roots in hope, peace, faith, forgiveness, and love, must take a look in the mirror and wash the anger, selfishness, and apathy off.