Why I Won’t Agree to Disagree But I Will Try to Listen

Why I Won’t Agree to Disagree But I Will Try to Listen

I hear a lot today about agreeing to disagree.

You know, “I see it this way. You see it that way. We’ll just agree to disagree.”

Sorry, I can’t do that. 

As my friend and great social-minded theologian, Samuel Mudge said recently,

“Agreeing to disagree doesn’t work for a whole lot of people because sometimes, two people are discussing something that is an abstract idea to one, and life-and-death to the other.”

Think about that for a second. I’ll use my most personal examples for clarity.

Not having access to plastic straws might kill me.

Doing away with healthcare protections might kill me.

Using mental health or other disabilities as your excuse because you don’t want to talk about guns or other issues might kill me.

That’s how it works.

The same is true when you endorse leaders who overtly or covertly use their power and systems as a means of oppression, exclusion, and hate.

They aren’t all created equal. People are dying! 

I will say this. We do need to listen to each other more.

I do believe most of us are not as far apart as it seems. Outside the top few, the people from the middle down are all being squeezed economically and otherwise.

Let’s work together to answer these more difficult questions. Maybe life isn’t supposed to be completely found in easy answers.

agree agreement ankreuzen arrangement
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We’ve lost our ability to sit across from each other; to hear each other, and to listen to our individual and collective pain. 

This isn’t a suggestion of mere tolerance. I’ll fight as long as I can against racism, ableism, and any other form of oppression, exclusion, and hate.

Inclusion is a table of equity and justice especially for people on the margins. 

That’s what Jesus’ ministry is all about. He restored people to equitable, just community.

This isn’t an over-simplified version of love the sinner, hate the sin. 

That’s just a slight modification of agreeing to disagree with a dash of power mixed in. That’s what got us here.

It’s just a reminder to listen because the cycle will never stop if we don’t do better. 

I hope you’ll join me.

Wherever you are this day: Love Accepts You, No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

 

Give Me Liberty, Immigrants, Cripples, and Jesus!

Give Me Liberty, Immigrants, Cripples, and Jesus!

What you believe about the Statue of Liberty, immigration, disability, and our current US administration tells me everything I need to know about how you feel about Jesus and how you feel about me.

There has been a recent change to the immigration policy in the United States. It states that whether a person is admissible to the United States or not will be based on his or her likelihood of becoming a public charge at any time in the future, as set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The expressed goal is “to ensure that aliens seeking to enter and remain in the United States — either temporarily or permanently — are self-sufficient and rely on their own capabilities and the resources of family members, sponsors, and private organizations rather than on public resources.” 

Great, right?! Except how can you know? Beyond the obvious discrimination of people with disabilities like me, many of whom are fleeing violence, etc., it could be YOU at any time. Becoming disabled can and does happen at ANYONE. Further, if you live long enough you will almost certainly become disabled. Bodies don’t last forever without breaking down.

So, what does this mean? Unless you are super rich and elite, keep out? That’s sure what it seems like. What about Medicare? If you enter the country at a younger age and never need any public assistance, something you cannot know unless you are super rich, will you be eligible later in life? Does this exclude someone from coming to this country too? It’s a moving target.

Quite simply, we are moving toward eugenics. This should scare you into action! 

I know it won’t. I’ve been around nondisabled people long enough to know how little they think beyond their immediate concerns. You just don’t see yourself as me.

This is why we have a long history of locking away our disabled and elderly people. If you don’t see them, you don’t have to believe you will be them. You are wrong!

Speaking of long history, our current US administration recently stated that the words on the Statue of Liberty were for immigrants coming from Europe too.

I know, racism, shocking… Except, you should be shocked! You should be shocked into action against this administration and its policies. You have a voice. Use it!

worms eye view photography of statue of liberty
Photo by Jamie McInall on Pexels.com

Read more on both these things here or just look at the news or use a search engine. If you are uniformed or unshocked, you may be the problem.

Furthermore, any notion that you can support this administration while calling yourself Christian or pro-life is a farce.

(Admittedly, I’m afraid to make this connection not because it is untrue, but because some have used this as justification to say the Church should be charged with charity, healthcare, and supports instead of the government.)

Frankly, you are not just wrong, the Church is pretty bad at these things. Feel free to ask me about accessibility.

That’s just it. These people claim to be Christians yet the sit in direct opposition to Jesus.

In case you haven’t looked in a while, he takes the powerful in this world and turns them, and their systems, upside down. I mean, Jesus literally tells the rich guy to sell all his stuff and give it to the poor. (Matthew 19:21-22)

Look at the Beattitudes (Matthew 5:1-11)

For Christ’s Sake (Literally) The first Christians lived as a commune. (Acts 2:44-47)

Maybe that’s why the Church is dying.

As for the rest of it, what you believe about the Statue of Liberty, immigration, disability, and our current US administration tells me everything I need to know.

Wherever you are this day: Love Accepts You, No Exceptions.

It also seeks justice and inclusion for the people on the margins; even those least like you. Jesus talks about that too.

I’ll let you look it up if you don’t believe me because, “Carry your own weight,” right?

Peace Love and Acceptance

Notes: 1. Uscis.gov, 2. USA Today – 8/13/2019, 3. Biblegateway.com

 

 

 

Backlash!

Backlash!

“Fortune”
A Fortune of money is what you seek but a fortunate son is not someone like me.
A broken body, down on my luck, while you’re perched on top out of touch.
Running the business,
It’s always the same,
Making a fortune because you own the game

Heart with People

There’s always backlash.

Whenever an existing power structure feels threatened, you get backlash.

We see it in our world and, not surprisingly, we see it in the church.

It can be civil rights. It can be women. It can be the LGBTQIA+ community. Disability pride. It doesn’t matter.

In fact, it’s all of these things.

Wherever someone seeks equity and inclusion, you get backlash.

As we also often witness, you get cross sectional power players working together too. Think for a moment about how the powerful never seem to clamor for separation of church and state when they are colluding.

The power players all want to be in cahoots then.

It’s only when equity comes into play, such as when the church desired exclusion from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), do power players scream.

There are numerous examples here. Disability is my primary marginalizing experience but, it’s no different with regard to the other people mentioned initially.

You don’t have to go very far to notice the powerful orchestrating together.

I could name names, however, I suspect I don’t have to if you’ve read this far. They’ll even use us as tokens if we’re not careful.

Most of us won’t do this, of course, but it does happen and it only takes a couple for it to become some insulating justification for those in control. However, there is a better way forward.

When working within the existing power structure doesn’t work, and I believe that time is now, the rest of us need to build together too.

I’ve seen some of this, though, not nearly enough. In many cases, I’ve witnessed the opposite with divisions and factions.

The powerful know this and they’re happy to let it continue and even encourage it. If we minimize each other, they can continue their dominance over all of us.

We need to work across communities as allies for each other.

We need to lift up advocates in each their respective areas.

Whenever possible, we need to empower voices of those who are intersectionally marginalized. (Those who face more than one marginalizing identifier.)

I say this because I do believe you can be marginalized by one trait (as I am with my disability) while also being privileged in other ways (as I am as a white man.)

Yes, there will be times for me to speak. There will also be times for me to yield the floor.

There is time for both and too many times for all of us as it is today.

That’s the backlash to seeking equity. The truly powerful, the ones dominating our world today, will not go easily, quietly, or willingly. That’s where we are.

It’s also why it’s important for us to work together, building each other up. Because, they don’t have to tear us down if we do it for them.

Next time, I’ll look at how Jesus and his early disciples resisted the powerful in their time.

I hope you’ll check back because I believe this is an important lesson for us no matter if you believe exactly as I do or not. Solidarity.

Wherever you find yourself this day, thanks for journeying with me and remember in the world of Justice and Love, Love Accepts You No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

 

If Your Faith Excludes You’re Wrong

If Your Faith Excludes You’re Wrong

“Love: Our Universal Truth”
If Love is our universal truth, then why is it so hard?
We keep each other far away as if to stand on guard.
But Love calls us to open up if we long to be set free.
And, in this way we share a Love that connects eternally.

Love Wins Wheelchair with Stole

I wrote these above words a few days ago because I believe Love and kindness is the key to everything. Love saves whereas hate destroys.

Yet, we live in a word so often characterized by hate. Even worse, just as we sometimes see, hate can be a great unifier for people. It can be a unifier that is, until it destroys and, make no mistake, it does destroy. Hate always needs something to consume.

Sure, it will destroy your identified target at first. Only, it doesn’t stop there. Hate is a scourge. It destroys everything. Eventually, it will even destroy itself.

Those, united by hate, will hate each other when nobody else is left.

Love on the other hand is different. Love saves. Love provides life. As a Christian specifically, and as a person of faith more broadly, I believe in this message.

This is what I find so troubling about people who use religion as an instrument of hate.

Since I’m a Jesus follower, I will speak directly to those who claim my faith tradition. It may be a universal truth, but I have a special responsibility to speak to my people. It’s also what I see most often in the world directly outside my font door.

If your use faith as a tool for hate, you are doing it wrong.

Put another way, you can’t rightfully claim to be a Christian while also supporting people and systems of hate and exclusion without being wrong.

As I wrote on social media,

“It would be nice if power hungry, exclusionist, patriarchal, lock up children, people of color, the disabled, and others Christians gave more consideration to the upside down and interdependent nature of the biblical narrative instead of using it as a tool for hate.” (1Corinthians 12:21-27, Matthew 5:1-12)

Love seeks justice.
Love uplifts.
Love supports.
Love sustains.
Love always expands to include people on the margins.

Love takes the force of power and hate and turns it upside down. That’s the message of Jesus.

Furthermore, yes, Love will win but we also are charged with living it into our world today. (1 Corinthians 13, Luke 10:25-37)

Maybe you still want to hate and exclude but, you can’t claim to be a Christian while doing it.

Peace Love and Acceptance

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

Is Your Love in Limited Supply?

Is Your Love in Limited Supply?

The following post is a reflection based on the lectionary readings from May 19, 2019 of John 13:31-35, Acts 11:1-18, and Revelation 21:1-6. (https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=137#hebrew_reading)

Calm Love

It’s been a long week.

I had a great time and I learned a lot at a church conference in Atlanta. Then, on the way back, I visited family in Tennessee which was awesome (and a cool story about connection and restoration in its own right.)

I even wrote a blog post from the car about the tragic passing of blogger, speaker, and writer, Rachel Held Evans which had me marveling at the abilities of technology even as I mourned the loss of her voice while also thinking how it is more important than ever to speak up for justice and love when you lose leaders like her. (And, feeling some pressure as I try to find a platform for my own voice right now.)

So, maybe it’s really been a long few weeks.

Travel is not easy in this broken body for one thing. I came home and just crashed. But, it’s more than physical although it certainly is that.

I came home sore, tired, and drained; both physically and emotionally. And, I went to bed for like two days. I’m still not sure I’m fully recovered.

However, as I began to awaken from my travel stupor, I was overcome with great sadness. I began to hear again the ongoing stories of division in our world, of anger, injustice, and hate…

I don’t know, maybe I just blocked them out for a time. Maybe, I had just grown numb to them and, as I woke up, instead being refreshed they just hit me. – HARD.

Do you ever feel like that? Hit hard by the world around you? It can be you personally or collectively. It can come from yourself or others. Just the weight of it all. Like it’s all collapsing onto you?

What do you do? It’s overwhelming isn’t it? It seems like the best thing to do might be just to go back to sleep.

Except, you can’t sleep forever. Life carries on. You have work to do. Bills to pay. Maybe you’re at a life stage like mine where you have kids looking to you asking, “What do I do?”

My daughter, Hope, came to me just a few days ago and opened up about some of her questions and struggles. So, I listened. We talked. It was beautiful really to be able to relate on this level even as part of me wanted to say, “I just don’t know!”

That’s it, isn’t it? That’s the struggle. Wanting answers and not always having answers. Do you feel that?!

It doesn’t have to be just with kids either. I’m sure you have someone asking you questions no matter who you are even if it’s just yourself asking them. Because, these questions aren’t coming from just one of these directions. (Kids, others, or ourselves) they are coming from ALL of these directions.

We live in a time of division. We live in a time of injustice, and we live in a time of questions.

In fact, no matter what you believe or don’t believe, I bet we can agree that life comes with no shortage of questions.

Truthfully, though, we’ve always lived life amidst questions. That’s nothing new; not now or in Jesus’ time. I think the only variable is how much you feel these questions at any given moment.

Perhaps, not surprisingly then, we hear from Jesus about what matters most when confronted by these questions we all face right here in John 13.

This passage is part of a collection of passages known as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. Jesus is preparing his disciples for life without his physical presence. More than offering comfort, though, Jesus is trying to focus them and us forward to live into our mission as his people.

 And, they need it just like we need it. Think for a moment about everything they’ve been through over the last several weeks… Palm Sunday, “Hosanna!” Savior! (Matthew 21:9)

We are going to claim our power over injustice! …And, then, they watch Jesus get killed…

“Well, somebody has to anoint the body” and, in typical male fashion, we read the women go. “Us guys, we’ll just stay safely locked up in this room.” … “Wait. What do you mean he’s not there?!” (John 20:1-2)

“Wait, Jesus is back! Savior, again!” (Thomas, “I don’t believe it…”) … then, “My Lord and my God!” …We really are saved! (John 20:25, 28)

Except, ultimately, Jesus leaves again which the disciples aren’t ready for.

(Though, remember, they are waiting for the Holy Spirit. We already have the Holy Spirit, wait not required.)

Still, whether it’s the original disciples back fishing in John 21 or later retreating into the upper room in the beginning of Acts 1 or it’s us today, Jesus has already offered these words from John 13 to remember in our questioning times.

Jesus says, “Listen, I’m gonna go…” (John 13:33) And, they say just like we sometimes do, “What do we do now?” …Because, that’s the point. What are we, followers of Jesus, going to do in our world of uncertainty?

But, Jesus’ answer is simple… Even if not always easy to live out – Love

When uncertainty comes – And, it will come – Love

When you don’t know what to do… Love

That’s what we see in Acts 11 today. Some disciples weren’t so sure what to do about the non-Jewish believers…So, of course, they were fighting about it because that’s our human brokenness. We’d rather fight to keep people out rather than let everyone in. That’s not Love.

They said to Peter, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” (Acts 11:13)

But, Peter had a vision …A word from God…which told him just as it tells us, “Don’t worry about what you think the rules are. Love meets you where you are, no matter who you are just as I did because I am Love. Go do the same.

Remember, the disciples didn’t come to Jesus and ask to follow him.

That’s how it was done in those days. You’d go follow a rabbi for a time until you’d generally be sent home. (or you’d go become a rabbi yourself.)

But, Jesus did something different. He went and told these people (who would have been already told by another rabbi they weren’t good enough) “Come follow me.” (Matthew 4:19)

He says the same thing to us. “Come follow me” because Love accepts you no exceptions”

That’s what Peter’s actions in Acts 11 demonstrate as well.

It’s also what so many people who profess Christian faith seem to get wrong so often today.

The Good News is you can begin again today even if you’ve always gotten it wrong. It’s never a bad time to Love.

When you have questions, when you doubt, when you’re scared and uncertain as you look around at a world filled with injustice, unfairness, hate… and everything else…or even if you, yourself, are just not sure what to do, Love.

Just as I have loved you, love one another. (John 13:34)

Because, in doing so, in being loving in a world so often characterized by not Love, people will know who you are and whose you are.  “Everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” They’ll know you belong to Love. (John 13:35)

And, you’ll change hearts.

 Ultimately, love will win too so have courage to keep going. That’s the true significance of the vision in Revelation no matter what some folks try and turn it into. (Rev. 21:2-6) It’s love over injustice.

My home will be among you. I’ll dwell with you and wipe the tears from your eyes. “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more. The rest will be stripped away”

All things will be new. And, you can remember my words.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will provide the water of life.

In the meantime, Jesus says, hold onto love even amidst the questions, the hurts, and everything else and others will know Love because of me.

We are unified by Love, whenever we Love, and in case you need to hear it again so you remember it in your most difficult times, Love Accepts You No Exceptions. – Love always expands its circle. Anything else, isn’t Love.

Love is NEVER in limited supply. So, speak out for Love. Embrace it. That’s true discipleship; 2,000 years ago or today. 

Imagine if we lived this way? You can live this way. It even multiplies as you do it, and another, and another… That’s the power of love!

That’s Jesus message. Love. Wherever you are or whatever you’re going through, remember Love. Live Love out. Again and again, one action at a time. One person at a time. Until Everyone is included. That’s True Love. Amen.

Wherever you are this day, I hope you’ll join 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

Love Wins Even if You’re Struggling

Love Wins Even if You’re Struggling

Awake with Jesus: A Poem of My Night
Awake with Jesus
As the others slept
I could have and I will
The night would not hold me
In the garden I’d stay
Awake with Jesus
All the way to the hill
Yes, I might deny him
Scared, I’m sure
But asleep you’d not find me
Awake with Jesus
As the others slept
Because of my leg
But, still…

Calm Love

Good Friday: Love Rules the Day
As darkness spread across the land
And, it seemed to be bird in hand
The crowds were quiet
Their voices still
Imposing human
Over God’s good will
But God wasn’t daunted
So, neither should we
Change is coming, Eternally
Though, not just then
It is happening here
It’s happening both far and near
Take heart and hope, whatever they say
Right where you are, love rules the day.

Cross - Ashes

Today, isn’t a typical writing day for me. However, I’ve had the vulnerability of the characters in the scripture really present in my mind lately.

I will talk more about this in future posts as I’ll continue to explore the humanity on full display in holy writing. But, some of this really makes the most sense as we approach Easter, rather than after, so here I am.

I’ve continued to struggle with sleep which is largely a result of my post knee surgery life and so I’ve decided to put this struggle into verse. Why not? I’m awake.

More on that later too but for now you get a look into this world of mine as well as my belief that love is still somehow bigger even as I struggle. Maybe my words will resonate for you too. I’d love to hear from you.

Where are you struggling?

Where do you find love in spite of this struggle?

At the very least you get two poems from my sleep deprived brain so let me know what you think.

Wherever you are in all this, thanks for joining me on this part of our journey together and remember, in the realm of justice and love, “Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance