Hypocrites and the Law of Love

Hypocrites and the Law of Love

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:5

A lot of self-righteous people are going around these days telling others what they should or shouldn’t be doing. In some cases, these hypocrites have legislative power which can be a very dangerous thing.

Moreover, the hypocritical legislators can be swayed by other hypocrites too. Watch out when that happens because, as much as I hate this type reasoning, it happens from both sides. I feel this keenly as a disabled person.

We witness this in many ways.

Reproductive rights, exclusion from full participation whether in church or society, healthcare, straw bans, the list seems endless. I am going to explore each of these areas in my next several posts.

(Shameless Plug: I write every Monday and Thursday.)

But, rather than dwell on any one of these topics today, I want to offer for consideration what I believe is the best way forward no matter the subject at hand. My hope is that this will provide our basis for deeper discussion in these sensitive areas.

Note: Please chime in. I already know what I think. Be open. Be respectful. Listen and I will too.

Anyway, here it is, though, if you’ve read any of my other posts this won’t come as a great shock.

(If you haven’t that’s ok. I still love you. Shameless plug #2, please start reading, comment, and share. See: I already know what I think.)

Love always expands the circle. Love is inclusive. Love seeks justice and equality. Most of all, Love meets you where you are, knows one size doesn’t fit all, and Love love’s you just as you are even when you fall short.

I think of my experience with my daughter, Hope, and each of us are far from perfect. From the moment I held her, I knew nothing could ever stop me from loving her no matter what. She could kill me and, even though whatever pain she projected onto me would bring me great sadness, I would still love her.

Love just is. Love lives beyond what can be easily understood in our humanity. When I, as a Jesus follower ask, “What would Jesus do?” I’m really trying to discern, “What would Love do?”

Love is true, no matter what you believe or don’t believe as a matter of faith, even when the answers aren’t so easy. Perhaps that’s why we’re told Jesus said, “Love is greater than any of the other rules.” (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28)

Love is a good starting point even for old hypocrites like me. Let’s try it.

Tell me, what do you think?

Let me know if you have other discussion topics too. As long as you’re willing to respectfully participate, I’m willing to discuss. There is no shortage of questions. Who knows? Call me an optimist but maybe the answers can be found in our sharing together.

Wherever you are this day, thanks for joining me in reflection on these words of love as we share this part of our journey together and remember, wherever you find yourself, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance

Inclusive: Another Word for Love

Inclusive: Another Word for Love

Inclusive: Another Word for Love

Inclusive matters, it matters a lot

It’s another word for Love

To be included just as I am

Instead of left for who I’m not

To claim our space, yet, one for all

To be inclusive, great and small

Diversity, Respect, One Love

This is how God’s work is done

Building bridges, leaving none

So, Live Inclusive, don’t delay

It’s something you can start today

Because Inclusive matters, it matters a lot

It’s another word for Love.

Heart with People

This weekend I had a powerfully moving experience with some new friends from Inclusive Theater of Western New York (ITOWNY) which you can learn more about at Inclusivetheaterofwny.com.

My wife, Jennelle, and I joined in performance of their Festival of Shorts which, for those of you new to theater language like me, is a series of short plays. As a moment of embarrassing honesty, I actually misunderstood this idea prior to auditions mistaking “shorts” for the summertime clothing variety!

Anyway, as you recover from the humor of my naivety, here is the most important thing I noticed in my weekend experience. There is a contrast between what I experienced with Inclusive Theater and what I often see in the world around me.

Inclusive Theater’s mission is simply: Diversity, Inclusion, Respect.

What do I see missing most often in our world today? Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect. What I found in building and bonding amongst my new friends is what is often missing as I look around me.

We’ve moved from being a society where the value of others is lifted up; especially for those who find themselves on the margins.

Those seeking power and control would rather break down instead of lift up. And, why not? If they keep the fight between us below them, we who have little and we who have less, the select few maintain their status on top. As I noted in my last post, Thirty Pieces of Silver: It’s Up to You, if you want to identify the real problem, follow the money.

As I also noted in my last post and elsewhere on my blog, however, Love doesn’t do that. Love is always seeking to expand its circle so everyone is included no matter the bodies in which we live.

It’s not easy, unfortunately. Most things worth having are rarely easy. We have to claim our space. We must lift up and be advocates and allies for ourselves and each other. This matters. No one else is going to do it for us.

In terms of physical access, for me as a wheelchair user, just look around. Consider whether or not I could go with you every time you step up to go into a building. Mostly, this isn’t even an option for me when it comes to stages and other platforms wherein I might seek participation opportunities like I had this weekend.

Inclusive Theater, my newfound friends, said otherwise. They cared enough to create a space to include me.

Inclusion, Diversity, Respect: This is a life motto. You are loved and, moreover, you are worthy of love. I basked in this life-affirming goodness this weekend.

But, as wonderful and affirming as it is, this can’t be simply the responsibility of others. Your participation in ensuring inclusive love matters because you matter. That’s how it works.

So, ask yourself,

1. What’s one thing I can do this week to expand the circle of inclusive love?

2. How can I practice acceptance and inclusion for myself and others?

Many small steps can take you around the world if you put them together but it’s still just one step at a time.

Please join me as we begin this part of our journey together and remember, in the realm of justice and love, “Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

If You See Me: A Poem and Reflection

In my previous blog post, Bob and the Pharisees, I reimaged the biblical narrative in John 9 so we might focus on a better, more inclusive story for all of us. This post was inspired by my own disabilities and the voices of my sisters and brothers, especially those in the LGBTQIA community, since the exclusionary decisions of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church in February 2019.

Below is a poem and a few questions to ask yourself based on these same events and experiences.

This week, as you reflect, please join me in asking,

  1. Who am I overlooking?

  2. What’s one measure I can take this week in working toward a better, more inclusive world for all people including those who find themselves on the margins of society?

Think of the power of doing just one thing brought about by these two simple questions. Powerful enough on its own. But, all our actions, joined together, could start a love revolution.

This is life as Jesus intended! So, spread the word and remember, “No matter what, when it comes to justice oriented inclusion, love accepts, no exceptions.”

This love includes you!

Pharisees

Poem: If You See Me.

It’s not my eyes but it is my legs.

If you see me

Think the one who begs

But not in the most biblical way

More like a prophet

With something to say

To be let in

One and all

That you include

The great and small

Just be the church

Who knowing the least

Remembers and shares with those like me

But more than me

Know everyone

And in this way

Reflect God’s Love

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

 

 

Bob and the Pharisees

This story is a reimaging of the biblical narrative in John 9 inspired by my own disabilities and the voices of my sisters and brothers, especially those in the LGBTQIA community, since the exclusionary decisions of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church in February 2019.

Today, I want to tell you about a man I know named, Bob.

Bob was born blind. Yet, for years, Bob struggled for others to see him. Wherever Bob went, some people insisted on restricting poor Bob.

His sight wasn’t a problem for him. Bob could do everything he needed or at least Bob could do as much as those who placed themselves in charge of deciding who’s allowed to participate in community thought he should do.

You see, Bob’s problem wasn’t Bob’s problem at all. Bob being a problem to those in charge was Bob’s problem.

Funny how that works, isn’t it? Sometimes, people with truly limited vision, and even more limited hearts, want to exclude others. I’m sure you know the type. Religious leaders, politicians, and their cronies come to mind here.

I’d urge them to be careful though. Exclusion is tricky business. One day, you use it to exclude someone else. The next day someone else uses it to exclude you.

These religious exclusionists don’t want to hear from me or Bob of course, thinking they have it all figured out, but I wish they’d trust me. I’ve seen a thing or two. However, for now, let’s get back to my friend, Bob.

Bob was lucky. Bob met Jesus one day in his travels.

I know, I know, those exclusionist religious types claim to know Jesus too. Maybe it’s a different Jesus, I don’t know? Besides. I’m not here to debate that today. I’m here to tell you about Bob.

Yes, Bob knew Jesus. He walked right up to him. The story seems almost unbelievable but it’s true.

Bob encountered Jesus when his disciples, which is fancy talk for following students, wanted to know why Bob was blind and, even worse, they wanted to know who was at fault for Bob’s blindness.

Poor Bob couldn’t catch a break it seemed but Jesus was about to change that.

After Jesus explained Bob’s blindness was nobody’s fault and that God could use Bob exactly as he is, Jesus went the extra mile to help others include Bob as well. He’s known to do this. Only, this part seems a little strange to me too. Strange or not, though, it worked.

Jesus took some dirt and made it into mud by spitting in it. (I know, right? Wait, it gets better!)  Next, he took the mud and rubbed it on Bob’s eyes. (Imagine this scene. Was he kidding?)

Except, he wasn’t kidding. Jesus then sent Bob to a pool called Sent for him to wash off this muddy eye paste. Perhaps Jesus did this to demonstrate that both he, Bob, and each of us are sent by God to bring our fullest possible stories for our collective benefit. Whatever the case, Bob could see!

Again, unbelievable! Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that his neighbors couldn’t believe it either then. Whispers began, “Is that Bob?”

Well, word got around as it does. Now, the religious follower types who would side with those in charge wanted to know what was going on. Surely, they couldn’t let just anyone join their grand temples. They had to protect the institution. Anyone with authority would understand. So, they hauled Bob off to the super religious leaders, the tops of the tops, for further interrogation.

Bob recounted his story. Except Jesus, and thusly Bob, were religious rule breakers. Jesus healed Bob on a day when no healing was to take place. Bob still could not fully participate in religious life as such. It would never happen this way!

Things got worse for poor Bob after that. Can you imagine? Jesus says, “You have gifts. I’m going to make sure you can use them to their maximum.” Alas, religious leaders, always getting in the way.

They didn’t even believe poor Bob was poor Bob. “Surely, he must be some kind of imposter Bob just as he is impostering his gifts,” they thought. What’s next if we allow this? Others blind imposters may want to use their gifts too! This ends now!

Pharisees

An idea sprang up. As smart as they are, religious types are never lacking for ideas. They sent for his parents. They would know their son was unqualified just as they would know this man was an imposter, wannabe faker. They asked the blind man’s parents, “Is this your son?”

“Yes,” their answer came. Shocking, I know, both the question and the answer!

“How is it that now he can see?” the leaders asked. “Who know?” came the answer from Bob’s parents. “We only know he is our son, ask him if you want more information.

Bob trudged forward as these gatekeepers tell him, no longer asking questions, “Give glory to God by telling us the truth! We know he’s a sinner.” (As is Bob and sinners have no place here is the understood implication.)

Now, Bob, getting a little steamed says, “Look, I don’t have an answer to all of your questions. All I know is he recognized my full personhood and my gifts which is something you didn’t do then or now. Do you want to be a follower of Jesus too? You must want to follow Jesus since you’re asking all these questions. Well, if you do, that’s cool, things are better when we are all included.”

The ultra-religious still didn’t get this inclusive notion of course. Bob’s thinking is far too outrageous. To preserve the institution and rules they created, Bob was thrown out rather than included.  Better to be safe than sorry.

But, what a guy, my friend Bob, even at his most frustrated, he wants to include others.

Just imagine a world where we let everybody live freely without exclusion or restriction? Bob knew the power of this all along. The problem never was Bob at all. He never missed a chance to recognize the value of others in front of him.

Fortunately for the rest of us we still have the opportunity to join forces with this bigger, inclusive love that accepts even those overlooked without restriction. It does what love does.

No matter what, when it comes to justice oriented inclusion, love accepts, no exceptions.

Do You Even Care?

Hey Insider Churchy Type, Guess what?

The people outside your walls, the ones you show through your actions and inactions you don’t care about them, they don’t care about you either.

I know because I’m a churchy type too though I might think a little differently from some of you seemingly in control in this moment.

I’m a bit of an outside insider and every time you show your true colors by making sure someone else is left outside your version of love, I hear non-churchy types asking, “Why?” or “What?” or just rolling their eyes as they tell me, “This is why I gave up on church long ago.”

They wonder why I don’t leave your church along with them but, sincerely, I stay because I want to help. Despite everything I see, I still want to believe you’ve got a loving heart in there. It’s just buried under all the garbage that isn’t.

I know what you’re thinking, “The world has always rejected us.” Your smug elitist attitude shouts it out loudly, but have you ever considered you left the world, and the people in it, long before they left you?

You were so focused on heaven, you forgot that part Jesus tells you about loving your neighbor who is right in front of you.

Yes, your neighbor. Your neighbor not necessarily like you. Your brown neighbor, your LGBTQIA neighbor, your crippled neighbor like me, the outsiders, you left us behind. Were your raptured away? Did I miss something?

No, unfortunately for both of us, that’s not the case. You left us behind but we can still hear you. You know that, right?

We hear your cries of, “We love you but please stop sinning because it upsets our fragile sensitivities” Can you hear us telling you to “look in the mirror or at least look for the log in your own eye? What part of love your neighbor don’t you get?” (Paraphrase, that Jesus guy.)

By the way, love always seeks justice for those left out its circle. Jesus often cautioned the alpha religious in his day of this too.

Love Wins Wheelchair with Stole

I’m sorry if you need more time to comprehend. It’s only been 2,000 years, I know, but are you even trying? Seriously, read the words of that book you’ve fashioned into your own image, especially the red letters. They’re pretty important.

“Love us enough to accept us just as we are and not as you think we should be because none of us is as we should be.” (That’s a paraphrase from another ragamuffin type like me who considered the plight of the marginalized and its intersection with inclusive love during his earthy walk, Brennan Manning.)

I know, I know, “Love us too,” you say. …I think what you mean is, “Let us perpetuate our systemic exclusion.”

Sorry, I can’t do that. Again, love always seeks inclusion through justice. If you recall, Jesus turned your exclusionary world upside down. Besides, our demands are pretty simple. We set the bar low. Baby steps and all. I assure you, you’d still have most of the power and control.

Just love us enough to include sort of equally. Love us enough to speak out against the evils of racism, homophobia, gender bias, ableism, etc. We aren’t asking for much although I know this makes you a little uncomfortable. I can see you squirming in your seat. Again, baby steps.

Since I’m asking, however, from my perspective as a cripple, would it kill you to try and work a bit toward access too? I don’t mean to be pushy but the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law almost 30 years ago.

I know, you fought really hard to be excluded from that one also. Nobody will tell you who belongs inside! You won’t catch my crippleness, I promise.

It’s just that I think you missed something. The neighbor in the story Jesus told didn’t leave the other on the side of the road after he was beaten and left for dead.

Still, I get it. I know how you do things. All of us outsiders do.

We’ve watched for a while now so as we continue to turn away, don’t bother to wonder, “Why?”

Of course, it’s not too late. You could still repent and consider what the Kingdom of God is like. I think Jesus said something about that too…

I just have to ask, “Do you even care?”

 

Living Love’s Time

Today, I find myself thinking about time and love.

I think about the sadness of our times to which there seems no shortage. Walls, discrimination, killings, compassion buried in the name of tradition, and just plain hate. These things are so prevalent in our world today and yet I hold to the truth that love is bigger.

Love always wins given enough time. That’s the thing about time and love, neither can be stopped.

As Mahatma Gandhi said,

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always.”

Love always wins. Think of it—always.

This does not mean we just sit idly by waiting for love to happen, however.

Love is not passive. Love is participatory.

This is great news! We get to join forces with love.

Will we mess it up? – Sure. Will there be days when it seems like love will never win? – Absolutely. Gandhi knew this and so do we.

But, as I ponder this messy in between of time and love, I find myself thinking about someone else too. – Moses.

Psalm 90 - 12

Moses knew about time.

He knew the beginning of his life as a prince, he knew the end of his life wandering in the wilderness toward the Promised Land, and then he had forty years in the middle spent as a shepherd. Essentially, the life of Moses can be divided into forty year increments. 40-40-40.

That’s a lot of time!

Moses knew time much like our time today. The in between time. The time where the hope in love is not quite realized.

I bet the time in the middle of his life seemed especially draining. I’m sure forty years listening to people complain in the dessert is no picnic either but I imagine shepherding is slow time.

Take the sheep out. Watch the sheep graze. Fend off an occasional predator. Watch the sheep graze. Walk the sheep back to the pen. Lay down to protect the gate. Fend off an occasional predator. Try to get some sleep. Repeat.

I don’t know if this is the perfect picture of shepherding, not having firsthand experience, but still I bet those were LONG days and years.

Moses really knew the frustrations of in between time.

And, yet, these words to one of my favorite psalms are attributed to him. “Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12

Seriously, go back and read the psalm in its entirety. It’s quite moving in the power of its hope tinged with lament.

For Moses the true hope of love came out of those difficult in between times. This same hope is offered to us.

Likewise, this great hope rests in the opportunity to participate with love’s plan (Psalm 90:17) even while knowing it might not be fulfilled in our time.

Don’t forget, Moses didn’t get to go into the Promised Land and yet he persevered living his hope of love in the time he was given.

That’s just it. I believe the true power of love is that it might be fulfilled in us even as we work to improve the not yet world around us.

The only question is, “Am I willing to join forces with participatory, healing, restoring, redeeming love?”

Because I have the opportunity to bring love to whatever and whomever is before me today and so do you. What a glorious prospect!

This may not stop all the unloving in the world around me but what if, as I work to change it, I’m the one who’s changed?

That would be pretty cool. I’ll become in the becoming. You can too.

I know it’s not easy. I know what it’s like to be knocked to the floor. I’ve often commented on this very thing. It’s awfully difficult to see God when you can’t get up.

For those who are victims of the hate in the world around us, including our LQBTQIA sisters and brothers in The United Methodist Church and many people around the world, victims of various acts of hate, these are falling to the floor times. I urge you, take hope.

Love is still there. Love mourns, sustains, and sees us through even while constantly working toward repair, renewal, and restoration, amidst the brokenness of our humanity. Love is that big.

Maybe that’s the gift of time. This is the prayerful plea of Moses.

If I knew the number of my days, I’d focus on what really matters today and the actions I need to take to be the most loving.

When we seek love’s wisdom, we can become in our becoming.

Knowing today is the best day to move forward, why wait?

Ask yourself, “What would I do if today is all I have?” Would that change how you’d spend your time?

Remember though, even as your time here will run out, Love will not.

Love is never in short supply.

Love will keep moving as love does either through me or in spite of me although I hope it’s through me, don’t you?

This is our time! 

Let’s Live Love’s Way Today.

 

Matters of Life and Death: Productivity Thinking, Bad Theology, and Exclusion

Important Content Warning: Talk of life, death, exclusion, Nazi propaganda (along with picture) and other acts of hate.

I have a confession to make. I’m feeling a bit lost.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately that my blog and other recent writing is too all over the place. I mean just consider these few examples below:

Yesterday, I had an article published in my local newspaper, The Buffalo News, about the importance of safe staffing levels in healthcare. You can read it here. [1]

I’ve written a lot about the results and fallout of the increased discriminatory proclamations from the United Methodist Church’s General Conference Special Session including in my last blog post where I ask the question, “Who do you believe is indispensable?” You can read that here.

In the past, I’ve also written a lot about the dangers of placing value on a person based solely on perceived productivity, (Because what is productivity really?) the exclusion of disabled people from society, and the importance of healthcare in living our fullest possible lives.

And, you can agree with me on these topics or not. That’s ok. I know straws, for one, is a touchy subject. I hope you’ll see my bigger point of listening, justice, and inclusion.

However, back to my identity crisis. I even asked the question, “Who am I?”

But, earlier today, as I sat in reflection brought on by a conversation with one of my pastors and friend, Tim Vermande, it hit me. These things are not in conflict at all.

Each one of these things is about justice, inclusion, full participation, and life informed by love. These things matter and not just on their own. Together they tell the importance of our shared human story because we are doomed if we forget them.

We need to honor each person’s identity to protect against erasure or risk forgetting their value. If we forget each person’s inherent value instead placing one over another we divide. If we divide, we exclude. If we exclude we lose life. It’s a dangerous, slippery slope. Look at the propaganda piece from Nazi Germany below. I realize it’s shocking. It’s also important. This is life or death.

Healthcare Poster 1930s

This poster is from the 1930’s, and promotes the Nazi monthly Neues Volk (New People}, published by the party’s racial office. The text reads: [2]

“This genetically ill person will cost our people’s community 60,000 marks over his lifetime. Citizens, that is your money. Read Neues Volk, the monthly of the racial policy office of the NSDAP.”

This is the problem with valuing one person over another. It’s not an opinion. This is a fact. This happened as did slavery, lynching, bombings, and many other terrible, horrible things. From my disabled perspective look up Willowbrook State School or simply look above at this picture.

It’s not just a distant memory of yesterday either. It’s happening today. Racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and more are happening in our society and in our churches right now.

You can use all kinds of excuses; money, the bible. (Those two things are used to justify a lot of things including the topics I write about most often.) None of these excuses make these things less true or less harmful. I can’t be part of it with either my silence or my complacency. Love doesn’t do that. Love calls me to inclusion through justice.

So, I guess my identity is consistent after all. I’m being consistent with justice, inclusion, full societal participation, and love. These are the offerings of the true life we all deserve. These are the things we must protect especially for the most marginalized.

So, I continue to fight as love for the least of these among us continues to shape, form, and inform me along the way.

I hope you’ll join me.

In Peace, Love, and Power,

Chris

 

Footnotes:

[1] The Buffalo News, Letter to the Editor, 3/13/2019

[2] Calvin College, German Propaganda Archive, https://research.calvin.edu/german-propaganda-archive/?fbclid=IwAR0vDGQQAT47BDd10rgtw5MDHncdKI_Erbl_GYw-sJCB8pUzVgQuBWAjtLs