Posted tagged ‘election’

Wanting the In-Between

November 21, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            November 21, 2016

 

I went to Walgreen’s a few days ago to buy a bag of cough drops. I located the aisle they were displayed in and scanned the selections. The Walgreen’s brand had a couple of flavors to offer, but the first bag I found only had thirty cough drops in it. Knowing that I was going through about six a day I thought the next size up would be a better choice. At the other end of the shelf was a bag of two hundred.

“There must be a size in-between”, I thought to myself. I searched back and forth, and I slowed down my gaze trying to locate the in-between. To my amazement there was no in-between. It was either 30 or 200. It was either five days of relief or five years of taking up cabinet space.

Where was the in-between? And another question, where is the in-between?

Even Starbucks calls their in-between size drink “Grande!”

But the in-between is about more than just food and drink. It’s also about position and value. The American middle class has shrunk in the last few decades. During the last decade of the 20th Century it shrank because more people were moving upwards in economic class, but in the  first two decades of this century it has shrunk because more people are moving down to being lower in economic status. The importance of that can be seen in nations where there is a very small middle class. Also, without exception those countries are impoverished and unstable. People recognize that there are the “haves” and the “have-nots”, and there is a ripple effect of unrest, hopelessness, and social anger. The in-between holds the extremes together. When there is no in-between division and dissension define the culture.

I’m an in-betweener politically. I’m not sure when I settled in that position. Perhaps it is simply a part of who I am. Back in the 1990’s when I won an election for a seat on the Board of Education for the Mason, Michigan school system I ran as an in-betweener. The community was divided between those who did not want to pass the school bond issue and those who saw the increasing need for it. I ran as one who could help bring the community together, won the election, and helped in the effort to pass the school bond issue the next fall. Sometimes it takes an in-betweener to help end the tug-of-war in a community.

Even in this past presidential election I was an in-betweener! But the in-between has not been a popular place to be. It’s too rational in a time of sniping polarization. I feel like the marriage counselor in the midst of two adults screaming at each other and telling them that I’m not on the side of either one of them.

People think the in-between doesn’t stand for anything, that it’s fickle and uncommitted! Contrary to what liberals and conservatives think, the in-between is a place that looks at the long-term possibilities and direction. To use a word picture, it looks out from the top of Pike’s Peak through the clouds and haze and sees Kansas. The in-betweener is the optimist in a scuffle where everyone else is determined to be the winner.

The other night Carol and I were babysitting for our three grandkids. Reagan, our five year old granddaughter, likes to have me tell her stories. She has gotten into the habit of draping her feet across my lap and asking me to tell her a story that includes the participation of her feet. So I told her about a worm named “Squiggly” who was looking for a nice warm place to sleep that night, a place of protection and coziness. Squiggly found that place in-between her toes, and I tickled the inside spot to pinpoint where this story was going. Reagan squealed with delight and laughter, and quickly removed her feet from my lap. Fifteen seconds later she placed them back across my legs and said, “Tell me the rest of the story!” That finding of the in-between spot and laughter continued for several minutes. It humored each of its participants.

The in-between is a place of delight, a giggling warm spot that is delightfully good. It’s the place of peace in the troubling spirit of population. It’s the disappearing place where harmony can be seeded and flourish.

A Culture of Making Threats

November 13, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                     November 12, 2016

                                     

I remember my sister, Rena, getting upset with our parents when she was about ten years old over some important issue…like the shoes she had to wear, or not being able to go roller skating on a Friday night at two o’clock in the morning. She threatened to run away from home. One time she actually did, walking heavily across the kitchen floor and out the side door of our house. She proceeded to stand on the carport for a good five minutes before “coming back to family.” As an eight year old at the time I was a little bummed. I had figured out that either my brother or I would get her bedroom. Charlie and I had to share a bedroom.

A neighbor kid about my age would frequently threaten to leave the game we were playing, take his ball, and go home if things didn’t go his way. He was annoying, and after a few threats such as that, the rest of us would let him go. We would just figure out something else to play that didn’t involve his ball.

During my 36 years as a church pastor I encountered numerous people who would make threats. It was often clothed in a statement that began with these words: “If this doesn’t happen I’m going to…” The completed statement would come from a menu of possibilities such as “leave the church”, “stop giving money”, “resign my position”, or “make things unpleasant!” Sometimes we stood firm on our position or direction and other times, unfortunately, we caved in! One thing I learned over the years: A church never goes forward as a result of giving in to internal threats!

Threats and ultimatums are immature ways for society to react to a direction that not everyone agrees with. They are like a stubborn Beaver Cleaver refusing to eat the Brussels sprouts on his plate because he doesn’t like them. (Yes! I just saw that episode on DVD!)

     This week’s election result was going to cause unrest and anger no matter which candidate won. Let’s be honest! Even though Donald Trump won there were an abundance of people who voted for him simply because they did not want Hillary Clinton; and, on the other hand, there were an abundance of people who voted for Clinton because they did not want Trump. If a third option had been on the ballot that said, “Neither One!”, it may have been the victor!

So now we enter post-election emotions and unrest around the country. Neither candidate endeared themselves to people with all the negative ads they pumped millions of dollars into!

So now what? In my years as pastor I’ve told people that two events in the life of a family necessitate change. That is, when one of these events happens things will not stay the same as they were. The events are a birth and a death! When a new baby comes along things, by necessity, change! When someone passes away, by necessity, things change! This past election was a birth event for some and a death for many. In my saying that it also needs to be said that it would have been a birth and death event if Hillary Clinton had also been elected.

In either case, by necessity, things will change. Our country will draw closer together or it will become more fractured. There will either be a reaching to find common ground or there will be a continuation of threats. Washington, which hasn’t really been a very good role model in recent years, will strive to either row together or do a tug of war of wills.

In a culture of instant gratification and self-centeredness this optimist is not very optimistic!

Slow to Listen…Really Slow!

November 9, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 November 9, 2016

                                    

Frank Luntz is a CBS new correspondent who has covered elections and done group interviews for two and a half decades. Last Sunday night 60 Minutes aired parts of an interview that he had with a mixed group of voters. Luntz left that interview a bit downcast because of the outrage of the group that communicated several things.

One of those key learnings he pointed to was that people don’t listen. That might sound simple and uncomplicated, and yet there’s a lot more behind it. He made the point that he lost control of the group five minutes in. People wanted to talk, but people didn’t want to listen. The presidential election simply mirrors that fact in our nation. People are slow to listen…really, really slow!

Another way of stating it is “I’m going to say something and you’re going to listen, but you, on the other hand, have nothing of value that I will listen to.

Luntz made this revealing statement: “People listen to anything that affirms themselves instead of informing themselves.” We’ve taken the Book of James statement to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19) and reversed it. Now we are deafly slow to listen, NASCAR quick to speak, and unstably quick to become angry!

Social media has unknowingly encouraged this. Someone can spout off venom and not hang around to hear the reactions. It is easy and, in some ways, relationally shallow to speak on Facebook, and exit out before hearing the thoughts of others.

This slowness in listening runs through a variety of systems in our world. Parents don’t want to hear the concerns of their child’s teachers concerning his behavior. Students don’t want to listen to their teachers, who they have often written off as irrelevant. And sometimes teachers don’t want to listen to students who disagree with an idea or are slow in understanding what is being taught.

In the youth sports world there is a decreasing number of officials. One main reason is the verbal abuse that is heaped upon them by parents, coaches, and players. And think about it! A sports official is simply someone who is making judgment calls…rulings…on situations that occur in the midst of a game. A number of officials have been physically attacked in the midst of athletic contests in recent years.

We don’t want to listen to anything that we have decided we disagree with! We have become very skilled in not listening!

Yesterday my 8th Grade boy’s basketball team got waxed. We went into the game 4-0 and left 4-1. But, and here’s what I told them after the game, hopefully we learned from the experience. We didn’t leave the game talking about how bad the officiating was or what poor sports the other team’s players were. On the contrary, the game was well officiated and the players on the other team acted just as well as my players did. We just got beat…and we listened with our minds to what was being taught to us.

In the coming days may each of us strive to be quick to listen and a lot slower in speaking. We need that. Our country needs that. I’m hoping that when Frank Luntz does another group interview before the 2020 election he will be able to hear what is being said, not just a room full of disgruntled folk who have a lot to say and nothing to hear!

If you want to respond…I promise I’ll listen!

So Many Presidential Choices!

October 28, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         October 28, 2016

                          

I cracked open the piece of mail that has been sitting on my desk for a couple of weeks. It’s the election ballot with all kinds of goodies on it to vote up or down. What surprised me was the number of candidates for President! On the Colorado ballot there are twenty-two…count them, 22!…President/Vice-President tag teams. I was having a hard time choosing between four candidates for President…wishing for another choice, but not 18 other choices!

For instance, Rod Silva is the presidential candidate for the Nutrition Party. He is a restauranteur who owned fifty-five “Muscle Maker Grill” restaurants. He sold them to another company in 2015, and appeared on an episode of Undercover Boss in January of this year. His campaign platform is focused on the rising rates of obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol, all related to poor eating choices.

Who knew?

There’s also Evan McMullin, who is “trump-eted” (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) as being “the last best hope for the Never-Clinton and Never-Trump masses.” One of the news headlines says that “McMullin is surging in his home state of Utah where Mormons are repulsed by Trump!” He is running “unaffliated!” I bet he garners a few votes!

Then there’s James Hedges of the Prohibition Party! What? Yes, there still is a political party of teatotallers! Hedges graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in Music Performance, and also holds a Master’s degree in Geography from the University of Maryland.

Frank Atwood of Littleton, Colorado, carries the torch for the “Approval Voting Party.” Approval Voting believes you should be able to vote for as many candidates as you approve of, kind of like a Jimmy John’s sub sandwich…”I’ll take onions, tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, but hold the jalapeno’s!” Unfortunately for Frank there is another person also named Frank Atwood who is well-known. He has been on Death Row in Arizona since 1987!

Lawrence Kotlikoff is running as the candidate for…wait for it!…the “Kotlikoff for President Party!” He is an economics professor at Boston University and the author of the book The Coming Generational Storm, on sale at Amazon for $14.77 (paperback).

Need I go on? The ballot is a smorgasbord of choices! Wouldn’t it have been awesome to have had all 22 candidates invited to at least one of the debates? I would have watched that! I would have loved to have seen the two main stage candidates debate Bradford Little of the Nonviolent Resistance/Pacifist Party!

In contrast, there are only 7 candidates for Colorado U.S. Senator, and just 3 for the U.S. Representative for my District.

It’s like with my 7th Grade football team. Everybody wanted to be quarterback and no one wanted to play tackle! Okay…that’s not a great example but…it’s lunchtime and Muscle Maker Grill has made be crave some Kale Salad…and a Whopper!

“If Men Were Angels…”

October 27, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          October 27, 2016

                                         

The time in American History around and after the American Revolution fascinates me. The founding fathers, often portrayed in our time as a harmonious patriotic rowing team, synchronized in all of their thoughts and actions, were often at odds with one another. There was dislike and animosity that had to be contended with. Several of them had their quirks. Alexander Hamilton, a part of George Washington’s cabinet at the age of 25, was a genius and also hard to live with. John Adams was the first Vice-President, not because he was Washington’s running mate, but rather because he finished second on the electoral votes of the United States Senate. The assortment of personalities and backgrounds made this first group of leaders resemble the diversity amongst Jesus’ disciples.

And this group had the important and difficult task of devising the government that would bring unity and direction to the new nation! They came from British backgrounds. It was what they knew, and for some the first president was to be like the English monarch. For others there was great fear that the new president would simply be another king, just like the one they had just gotten unchained from! Every legislation, every proposal was scrutinized. Even the design of the presidential residence and the Congressional building were subjects of debate. There were fears that the size of the president’s residence would convey royalty. It was not to be to big or to small. Like the chairs of the three bears, it had to be just right! The same thought went into the size of the property around the Congressional building. It needed to be at a distance from the residence and an appropriate amount of land around it. In other words, our founding fathers were just as concerned about looks as they were about principles and structure. They believed that they had to get it right the first time!

James Madison made the comment repeated often, “If men were angels there would be no need for government!”  But, of course, men were not angels and therefore there was an urgency for a government of the people by the people for the people.

It is obviously no different today than it was 230 years ago. As time has gone on the Constitution and government system of checks and balances has often been blurred by political interests and power hungry politicians. Getting our government to put all the oars in the water at the same time, rowing in the same direction, is now more of a coincidence than it is a strategy.

“If men were angels…” Well, our cynicism scoffs at that statement as we enter the last week and a half of the present election. Some of us remember that there are the heavenly hosts and there are the fallen angels, and we’re leaning towards the second type becoming a little more visible these last few months.

The Dangers of Freely Thinking

October 12, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     October 12, 2016

                

With four weeks until the election it seems that more stuff is being thrown back and forth than a high school cafeteria food fight. Social media, such as I’m using, spreads the drama quickly. Every day we are bombarded by new revelations about the past. Accusations meant to discredit and humiliate are the norm. How candidates deal with health care, foreign policy, education, and all the other issues has been pushed back to the end of the program guide. I have a hard time remembering where each candidate stands on such issues in the midst of email scandals and locker room comments.

There are Trump supporters, Clinton supporters, Johnson supporters, Stein supporters, a growing number of people who keep hoping that a knight in shining armor will ride on to the scene in the nick of time, and still others who are praying that Jesus returns before November 8!

This may be an election where there are more people a little embarrassed about who they finally choose to vote for than those who proudly proclaim who it is they support.

What I’ve also noticed is the danger of freely thinking. In the past few days my college alma mater, a small Christian college in Elgin, Illinois called Judson University, has had people throwing Facebook comments back and forth about the fact that Dr, Ben Carson is scheduled to speak on campus in the spring. Some of the words written had the commentator reaching down into the gutter and getting a handful of that really disgusting and foul-smelling mud and flinging it towards the school’s administration. How could an educational institution allow someone to come and speak who has been supportive of Donald Trump?

I remember a number of years ago when colleges fought the fights of being places of free thinking. There is great danger that the winds have changed directions in regards to that. It seems our culture is enamored with hearing what we agree with more than different ideas, and throwing sharp verbal jabs at those who hold other viewpoints.

The election is just the latest of these contentious battlefields. I wish I could say that the followers of Jesus have been different, but alas…

Christians are often the worst! Many of us have mastered “sanctimonious spiritual language” to belittle those who we disagree with. “How can you call yourself a Christian and…” It used to be that you finished the phrase with things like “…drink a Budweiser?” or “…wear a skirt that short?”  Then things changed a little bit and we ended the sentence with issues or life situations like “…say that abortion is okay?” or “say that divorce people can get remarried?”

In recent years it has changed again. Now the accusing question gets completed with words like “…say that you are voting for ______?” or “be willing to even listen to what he/she is saying?”

In a time when the church could be a safe place to express different opinions it has taken on the appearance of political preferences. There’s more free thinking happening at Starbucks than the coffee fellowship time in most churches.

What would Jesus do? I’m not sure, but many of us are hoping that he will come back and tell us real, real, real soon!

Political Cynicism

November 5, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                        November 4, 2012

 

Election Day is day after tomorrow. Don’t answer the phone! My caller ID tells me that in the last two weeks I’ve gotten calls from Virginia, Washington, California, Florida, Maine, and Pennsylvania. Unless I have long lost relatives that live there, only Virginia is recognizable as a “Wolfe possibility; and that only because the Wolfe Family Reunion is held each year the first Sunday in August at Twin Valley High School in Nickelsville, Virginia.

Out of state callers this time of year are about as welcome as my cholesterol count.

In today’s newspaper in our city there was a front page article that shared the opinions of local voters about the election. What stood out was the cynicism of most of the ten people who were asked about their voting preferences. A couple of them said that they are voting for a certain candidate because “he is the lesser of two evils.” Another man called one of the candidates “…a kook. Just look at his eyes. He’s a liar.” Another man said that he wouldn’t vote for a certain candidate “if you put a gun to my head!”One person who is enrolled at a local Bible college said he doesn’t plan on vote, and is not even registered. He made the comment “God is going to take care of what he’ll take care of.”

Another man was more concerned about getting Amendment 64 (legalizing marijuana) passed than about who the next president will be.

What are we to do with this? It seems that a diminishing number of voters are voting according to their convictions. Cynicism may very well elect the next president, not what their campaign platform entails.

Please understand that I am not endorsing a certain candidate. What I am saying is that our political preferences should point us towards the betterment of the present and progress in the future. How each person understands that is different and just as diverse as our population.

Voting for someone because he is the lesser of two evils takes us backwards and results in more dysfunction.

It is evident that our country has become more and more polarized in our thinking. Even the newspaper article could have had a few words changed and ended up resembling the banter before a prize fight.

But cynicism about politics is just a smaller picture of a growing cynicism about life. Say the word “optimism” to a child and he very well think you have mispronounced the name of a Transformer.

People are cynical. The next stop after that is the station for bitterness.