one word in a new year

So there are certain things the Intramuralist will always advocate for…

… respect…
… humility…
… growth…
… intentionality…

… each near the top of the list.

A year ago, we introduced the new year concept of picking a word — a single word.

As blogged by the self-described “regular guy,” Mike Ashcraft, on his “MyOneWord” site (with a few select edits by moi):

“I love the time between Christmas and New Year’s. Just a couple days after one holiday and a couple of days before the next, the week between gives me a chance to think about the year that was, and the year that is lies ahead.

The wonderful chaos of Christmas is behind me and there’s the proverbial ‘calm after the storm.’

What will you do with the relative calm of the next few days before work and routine begins again?

Once the presents have all been unwrapped and company has gone home, we’re great at looking ahead to next year and all the ways we want it to be different. We’re ready for a fresh start. A new wall calendar. Maybe a gym membership. Perhaps a January cleaning or organizing spree.

But what about bringing this year to a great close?

How can you finish the journey of 2017 well?

Think about this like a journey on an airplane. You take off, reach cruising altitude a few months into the year, then you can feel free to move about the cabin a while.

Soon after Christmas you hear the captain say: ‘Flight Attendants, please prepare the cabin for final approach.’ This means your trip is almost done. The journey is about to end. You are getting ready to land. But have you prepared for landing?

If you don’t intentionally land in a plane, what do you do?

You crash.

I suspect most of us just crash at the end of the year. We’re exhausted from the speed in which the year ended, and slightly dazed from the Christmas celebrations. Engines off. No preparations made for a final approach. We just shut down and crash until the new year appears.

And in our exhaustion, we fail to make time to intentionally land the year we’ve just lived.

I want to invite you to use this week a little more intentionally — not just to prepare yourself for 2018, but to bring 2017 to a close — to finish well.

For many of us, the end of one year and the beginning of the next happen in the same moment. There is a ten second count down. There are kisses and confetti, party horns and people all around us. Fun, but not a real conducive environment for reflection and stillness.

Can I suggest you schedule time in these days between the holidays to finish well in 2017?

Make an appointment with yourself.  Carve some space over the next few days. Don’t just wait for the new year to begin — but rather land the plane before you take off again.

This time of year provides an incredible opportunity to look at the past and the future — without regret or fear. We just need to prepare to land.

You can find a great resource to guide you through a personal retreat here.

Finishing well is a critical part of starting strong. Maybe, this will become your favorite week as well!”

The days until the end of the year are nearly done. But let us start 2018 well… with respect for all… humbly, always… being intentional… and committed to individual growth.

Cheers, friends. And happy new year!


victors in the midst of strife

Still desiring to intentionally focus on what’s most important and the joys of the season, I’ve repeatedly had one song running in my head (… and thank God it was neither about Grandma getting run over or whatever marshmallows have to do with Christmas).

I can’t shake the words shared in “The Hymn of Joy.”

More commonly called “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” after the hymn’s first line, Henry van Dyke penned the poem in 1907 with the intention of musically setting it to the infamous “Ode to Joy,” the final movement of Beethoven’s final symphony.

Van Dyke felt he shared “simple expressions,” expressions of feeling and “desires in this present time.” As I keep singing along with the ongoing tune, I can help but believe the “present time” extends to now.

He starts first with praise, recognizing someone, something bigger than he…

“Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love…”

He then shares a vulnerability, transparency, and submission — a submission that is nothing short of beautiful…

“Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
Op’ning to the sun above.”

And then the power that submission has, with a clear awareness that sin is real for each of us, although it doesn’t have to be damning…

“Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away…”

The great big God of the universe is acknowledged as the source of gladness and light — no doubt a gladness that extends to peace, hope, and a true, unshakable inner joy…

“Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!”

And while the rest of the joy-filled song of trust and hope goes on to acknowledge more of the characteristics and creation that can only be attributed to God, there is one line in the song that seems the reason it resonates so loudly in my head — the reason it’s evident of the feelings and desires of this present time.

It’s an area where each of us seems challenged… and where each of us could indeed grow… no matter our age, stage, or any ethnic, religious or other demographic category…

Right after acknowledging the works of the Almighty — both on this Earth and in each of us — Van Dyke writes:

“Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine…”

Look at the unparalleled joy when we learn to love one another!

And yet, too often, for too many self-justifying reasons, we — yes, we — intentionally withhold love from another. We act as if another doesn’t deserve our love and respect. They are less worthy, we have somehow concluded.

Oh, how we fail some days amidst the strife. Oh, how so often intelligence seems to get in the way. Intelligence and wisdom are so not the same thing.

Lord, teach us how to love each other.

Let us “join the happy chorus…”
Let us recognize you “reigning o’er us…”
Let us be “victors in the midst of strife…”

In this present time.


hope (still after Christmas)

[Borrowed once more — and slightly edited — from a blog by Justin Taylor, Crossway Sr. VP & publisher, in a historical account giving each of us hope amidst our pain — putting life into perspective… still relevant when Christmas is done for the year… as first posted in 2016…]

In March of 1863, 18-year-old Charles Appleton Longfellow walked out of his family’s home on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and—unbeknownst to his family—boarded a train bound for Washington, DC., over 400 miles away, in order to join President Lincoln’s Union army to fight in the Civil War. Charles was the oldest of six children born to Fannie Elizabeth Appleton and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the celebrated literary critic and poet. Charles had five younger siblings: a brother (aged 17) and three sisters (ages 13, 10, 8—another one had died as an infant).

Less than two years earlier, Charles’s mother Fannie had died from a tragic accident when her dress caught on fire. Her husband, awoken from a nap, tried to extinguish the flames as best he could, first with a rug and then his own body, but she had already suffered severe burns. She died the next morning, and Henry Longfellow’s facial burns were severe enough that he was unable even to attend his own wife’s funeral. He would grow a beard to hide his burned face and at times feared that he would be sent to an asylum on account of his grief.

When Charley (as he was called) arrived in Washington D.C. he sought to enlist as a private with the 1st Massachusetts Artillery. Captain W. H. McCartney, commander of Battery A, wrote to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for written permission for Charley to become a solider. HWL (as his son referred to him) granted the permission.

Longfellow later wrote to his friends [Sen.] Charles Sumner, [Gov.] John Andrew, and Edward Dalton (medical inspector of the Sixth Army Corps) to lobby for his son to become an officer. But Charley had already impressed his fellow soldiers and superiors with his skills, and on March 27, 1863, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, assigned to Company “G.”

After participating on the fringe of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia (April 30-May 6, 1863), Charley fell ill with typhoid fever and was sent home to recover. He rejoined his unit on August 15, 1863, having missed the Battle of Gettysburg.

While dining at home on December 1, 1863, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow received a telegram that his son had been severely wounded four days earlier. On November 27, 1863, while involved in a skirmish during a battle of of the Mine Run Campaign, Charley was shot through the left shoulder, with the bullet exiting under his right shoulder blade. It had traveled across his back and skimmed his spine. Charley avoided being paralyzed by less than an inch.

He was carried into New Hope Church (Orange County, Virginia) and then transported to the Rapidan River. Charley’s father and younger brother, Ernest, immediately set out for Washington, D.C., arriving on December 3. Charley arrived by train on December 5. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was alarmed when informed by the army surgeon that his son’s wound “was very serious” and that “paralysis might ensue.” Three surgeons gave a more favorable report that evening, suggesting a recovery that would require him to be “long in healing,” at least six months.

On Christmas day, 1863, Longfellow—a 57-year-old widowed father of six children, the oldest of which had been nearly paralyzed as his country fought a war against itself—wrote a poem seeking to capture the dynamic and dissonance in his own heart and the world he observes around him. He hears the Christmas bells and the singing of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14) but observes the world of injustice and violence that seemed to mock the truth of this statement. The theme of listening recurs throughout the poem, leading to a settledness of confident hope even in the midst of bleak despair…

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
, their old familiar carols play,
 and wild and sweet the words repeat, 
of peace on earth, good will to men.

 I thought how, as the day had come,
 the belfries of all Christendom
, had rolled along the unbroken song
, of peace on earth, good will to men.

 And in despair I bowed my head:
 “There is no peace on earth,” I said,
”For hate is strong and mocks the song
 of peace on earth, good will to men.”

 Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
 “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; 
the wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
 with peace on earth, good will to men.” 

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
 the world revolved from night to day,
 a voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
 of peace on earth, good will to men!

Respectfully… with hope… always…

Christmas greetings

We tend to go, go, go…

And when we go, go, go, we may miss it when we step on someone else’s toes.

We may care not if we hurt or unfriend another.

We may not make the time that it takes to wholeheartedly listen to another, especially to the different.

We may not work whatever it is out.

And we may act as if the respect and love that all deserve isn’t all that necessary, when in reality, that decision may be more made because we go, go, go; we withhold love and respect because it’s easier, more convenient, or more something. It thus seems that such a decision is way more about us than it is about them.

We don’t have the time, take the time, nor give the time.

But at Christmas, we intentionally pause…

Even the Walmarts of the world close down.

We pause and take time for what’s most important…

… peace on Earth…
… goodwill to men…
… an o’ so holy night…
… and a star chased after for years, noting the miraculous hope it holds.

I continue to marvel about all that babe in a manger some 2000 ago means to us today… if we only take the time to pause and reflect… to consider its impact… what it means… and not to simply go, go, go.

Merry Christmas, friends. Today, Happy Christmas Eve!

Whether near or far, solemn or celebratory, may we reflect upon what’s most important… never sacrificing peace on Earth nor goodwill to any. May we be generous with our love and respect…

… to all.

Best wishes and blessings to you…

social media’s exploitation

How do we keep what’s most important, most important?

It’s a question often asked in our household as we approach the holiday season…

How do we keep what’s most important, most important?

Perhaps we should first define what actually is most important?

Peace… joy… goodwill to all…

And yet we intentionally sacrifice some of the above.

I wonder why.

Last month Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, gave perhaps one reason why people too often seem to sacrifice what’s most important, especially relationship. We have made some things more important than our relationships with others. Note Parker’s somewhat concerning comments… [All emphasis mine.]

“When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, ‘I’m not on social media.’ And I would say, ‘OK. You know, you will be.’ And then they would say, ‘No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.’ And I would say, ….‘We’ll get you eventually.’”

“I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and … it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other … It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”

“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them… was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’”

“And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you… more likes and comments.”

“It’s a social-validation feedback loop… exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

“The inventors, creators — it’s me; it’s Mark [Zuckerberg]; it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram; it’s all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.”

This makes me stop and pause…

It makes me wonder if we’ve been duped… and not just duped into spending too much time and attention on our laptops and portable tech devices…

It makes me wonder if we’ve been duped into thinking this is a wise form of communication — representative of authentic relationship…

And when our vulnerabilities have been exploited — and we believe this alone stands as a healthy determination of friendship — and a rant or a rave is offered with no respect to its audience — or we’re uncomfortable with different opinion — we become more likely to sacrifice relationship.

We’ve been duped…

… and perhaps unknowingly sacrificed what’s most important.


the great American hero

Some words are used so often their meaning is diminished — words like “unimaginable,” “war,” or “amazing.” Each is used with such a frequency, that it seems to water down what the word was originally intended to describe.

A “hero” is one of those words to me. A hero is a noble man or woman admired for their courage and outstanding achievement. Combine that with the coming close of another year, a time when many name their “person,” “sportsperson,” etc. of 2017. For CNN, they name a “Hero of the Year.”

Instead of selecting the person most in the news or making any statement with their selection, CNN annually honors a person who has made extraordinary contributions to humanitarian aid and/or has made a huge, marked difference in their community. Meet this year’s winner, Amy Wright.

Amy’s two youngest children have Down syndrome. In January of 2016 in Wilmington, North Carolina, Amy opened “Bitty & Beau’s Coffee,” named for the two. The coffee shop employs 40 disabled workers.

“My children are not broken,” Wright insists. “When you become a parent of a child with special needs, you are instantly thrust into becoming an advocate — trying to make people see the beauty in their lives that we see.”

That’s it; is it not?

When we look at a person with special needs, we often look at their life as something worse. We conclude in our heads somewhere that their quality of life is somehow lesser. We don’t see beauty first.

Look at Iceland. CBS actually ran a report last August (addressed by the Intramuralist) boasting how Iceland is close to “eradicating Down syndrome.” The “eradication” was due to prenatal testing and abortion.

No, we don’t see beauty first.

As CNN said yesterday in their announcement, Wright “reframes how we view disability.”

In CNN’s tribute show, in fact, Wright spoke directly to Bitty and Beau, saying, “I would not change you for the world, but I will change the world for you.”

Wright sees the beauty in her children first. She sees what they can do — not what they cannot She doesn’t view their life as any lesser.

Wright elaborated with CNN host Alisyn Camerota:

“‘It is a very personal story for me,’ Wright told Camerota. ‘When Beau was born 13 years ago, my husband Ben and I didn’t know anything about Down syndrome, and I reflect on that and the fear we felt and the grief we felt and how we transformed that into some of the greatest joy we’ve known in our lives.’

Wright and her husband were inspired to act on behalf of people with disabilities when they learned about the lack of opportunities within the population.

‘You use a statistic: 70 percent of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities like Down syndrome, like cerebral palsy, like autism are not employed, and so what kind of life is that?’ Camerota asked.

‘It’s not that the jobs aren’t there, it’s that people don’t value people with intellectual and developmental disabilities [IDD],’ Wright said. ‘And so, if we can reframe the way people think about people with IDD, then opportunities are organically going to follow.’”

Reframing how we think…

Reframing how we view quality of life…

Reframing how we see beauty…


Reframing who actually is a hero.

Well deserved, Amy Wright. Well deserved.


“the healthiest debate I’ve ever seen”

So follow me here.

I witnessed the most wonderful thing.

This past week I saw a social media discussion (if such actually qualifies as discussion) play out something like this:

Person #1 shared a sincere concern. His words were non-inflammatory, affirming of the audience, but expressive of a strong opinion. He was neither vain nor vulgar in his expression, but make no mistake: his opinion was strong. At the end of his comment, he apologized for his “rant,” adding that the motive for his sharing was due to how much he and his wife were sincerely bothered.

Almost immediately, Person #2 chimes in, solely sharing, “Yeah, completely disagree.”

Person #1 asks #2 to clarify. When #2 clarifies, he simply says to #1 that “you’re judging” other people.

(Meanwhile all sorts of silent social media participants are inconspicuously hitting the “like” button for one or the other above. Not sure that’s helping.)

People chime in, adding all sorts of info and perspective that were not shared in the initial comments by #1 and #2. (Of course, all info and perspective were not shared; this is social media, a limited, non-comprehensive form of communication.)

Then come a few insults — pretty minor, but insults, nonetheless. Something about somebody’s grammar.

Then comes a little defensiveness. Makes sense; insults and sarcasm typically don’t go over very well in the middle of conflict, regardless of intensity.

#1 and #2 keep talking, with others feeling a need to chime in, supporting but also sometimes egging on the opinion with which they most concur.

But then comes the something wonderful…

#1 and #2 stay engaged. Each resists the temptation to allow their defensiveness or passion to alter their communication style. You then saw phrases such as “that’s true,” “I understand,” and “I see your point”… but the key was that there was an allowance for varied opinion without disrespect. What then happened was a recalibration of the opinion by Person #1, who said some 49 comments later, “You are right. My assessment of the situation is way off base.” He then added that we each are entitled to how best we see to handle this incident; there was not one right way. He sincerely and humbly acknowledged the conversation’s participants.

The conversation continued for a while, with late-comers making their points known, but at this point, all intensity was seemingly diffused. Varied opinion and further perspective was offered with full respect of all in the audience.

That then proceeded to this wise comment from a chimer-in-er: “This is the healthiest debate I’ve ever seen; hats off to both of you.”

And from another, this: “Seeking to understand — and not just to respond — is key to having a meaningful, civil, discussion on most any topic. Kudos!”

You know what made this work?

This group of people were all part of our wonderful, thriving neighborhood. We are a diverse group… multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-everything. We are a community.

Recognizing community is key. A community recognizes what they have in common. They focus more on what they have in common than on what they don’t — and they never let something smaller become more magnified. Magnification results in division.

The reason the above conversation worked with onlookers applauding them both was because the conversation happened within the context of community.

If we would each recognize community, how would we individually change? How would it change how we expressed ourselves and the actual conversations that ensued?

The reality is we have more in common than what we don’t, friends.

Respectfully… always…

error in the court

I love the below early judicial system. I love it because it makes sense. (Note: it’s typically good when life makes sense.)

Moses was struggling with all that was on his plate. He had boldly stood up to rulers of the day, sharing their awaited fate should they refuse to release those in captivity. Moses saw swarms of locusts and frogs and flies from afar, and he even witnessed the total separation of the Red Sea, a miracle so massive we sometimes forget it was real.

Moses was then involved when his community totally changed up their nutritional needs. He followed the clouds, so-to-speak. He also led his soldiers into battle when he seemed at the very least physically drained and exhausted, with his brother and friend actually having to hold up his arms. Moses was indeed a busy man.

And so knowing his plate was full and he thus had great potential for distraction, Moses’s father-in-law came to see him and gently speak truth. When we are so busy — so filled up with either emotion or task — sometimes it’s hard for us to see what’s true.

Moses bowed and welcomed his father-in-law; each asked the other how things had been with him. Jethro was delighted in all the good that God had done in the community. He first paused intentionally, just to thank God — noting that we often get so busy, we forget to thank he who makes the world go round. Sometimes we think we deserve the credit for all we do.

So the next day Moses took his place to judge the people — to execute the legal system — as was his practice and responsibility at the time, as the people knew they needed something organized, compassionate, and fair put in place.. Yet the people would stand before Moses all day long. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What’s going on here? Why are you doing all this, and all by yourself, letting everybody line up before you from morning to night?”

Moses told his father-in-law this was his job. “The people come to me,” so he answered their questions about what was good and who is God, and he also settled all of their judicial disputes.

Quickly, his wise father-in-law said, “That is not good.” It was too much, and one person can’t do this alone. “You need to keep a sharp eye out for competent men — men who fear God, men of integrity, men who are incorruptible — and appoint them as leaders over groups organized by the thousand, by the hundred, by fifty, and by ten. They’ll be responsible for the everyday work of judging among the people. They’ll bring the hard cases to you, but in the routine cases they’ll be the judges. They will share your load and that will make it easier for you. If you handle the work this way, you’ll have the strength to carry out whatever God commands you, and the people in their settings will flourish also.”

I love a couple of things here. First, I love how Moses listened to the counsel of his father-in-law and did what he said.

I then love how Moses picked competent people — people with unquestionable integrity. Integrity is so important. There is some correlation between integrity and flourishing.

It reminds me what a fair judicial system is…

… and is not.

A fair judicial system is governed by one or some who listen to all relevant accounts…

It is one which has the goal of justice for all… not only for some… and allows for appropriate consequence, absent revenge.

The reason Moses could not do it all on his own is because he was stretched too far; he couldn’t listen to all relevant accounts. And thus his potential for error would have been higher.

Sometimes I see current culture also making errors in what counts as our courts…

We sometimes don’t listen to all relevant accounts. We sometimes are biased to particular bents, because of how we feel about a person or based on our own experience, which we can’t seem to separate.

Sadly, sometimes our judicial system plays on a different court.

We have allowed social media to often decide innocence or guilt, forgetting that social media is not exclusive to competent persons — persons who respect God, are of solid integrity, and who are incorruptible. We listen to what we want, discounting perspective that could be deemed as far more than inconvenient truth.

When we allow social media then to be the decider of justice, we should be the ones to say, “this is not good.”


maximizing the meaning

This Christmas season, let us slow down somewhat. Let us pause long enough to reflect, grasp the meaning, and ask even the tough questions.

But let’s not wait until the 24th or 25th or even for any annual new year resolve. Let’s pause now. Let’s ask the questions now. Let’s maximize the meaning of the season….

Proclamations resound, calling for peace on Earth, goodwill to men…

What does peace on Earth take?
What does it look like?
Do I have a role in this?
What gets in the way?
And how am I contributing to it?

What about goodwill?
Do I really believe in it?
Do I believe instead in goodwill only toward some?
And is that dependent on if another has wronged me?
If they think like me?
Have I limited who I am and who God is by withholding goodwill?

They say the season is miraculous…

Do I believe in miracles?
Do I think they only happened long ago?
Do they happen only in the big stuff or in the practical, too?
What would it change in me if I saw miracles daily? … in my routine?
What keeps me from seeing miracles?

It’s a season of faith, hope, and joy…

Is there an area of my faith in which I know I need to grow?
If I’m refusing to look at that, why?
Where have I assumed I have all the answers?
And hope — pausing this moment to acknowledge what grieves me — am I recognizing the great hope shared this season?
Is it enough for me?

It also is a season of giving — although I don’t think it’s so much about stuff…

Am I focusing more on presents or presence?
Am I spending too much?
Am I focused on stuff?
What about consumerism?
Have I bought into the lie that more is better?
Am I worshipping the so-called god of more?

This season, friends, let’s pause before the actual holidays. Let’s pause long enough to ask the tough questions, maybe refocus a bit, and maximize the meaning of the season.

Respectfully… with a few added Ho-Ho-Ho’s…

harassment & the current moral panic

I’ve struggled with how to write this. In fact, the writer quoted below said she’s been “more hesitant to speak about this than I’ve been of getting on the wrong side of the mafia, al-Qaeda, or the Kremlin.” Respectful advocates and conversationalists desire to provoke no one. Our desire is to correctly handle the word of truth.

It is hard, however, in the current court of public opinion and in a judicial system that has seemingly now absorbed an additional social media branch. Angles and perspective may be omitted. Some emotion may feel only callously addressed. And sometimes we each also project individual experience onto everyone else — forgetting that varied, valid perspectives exist.

We affirm the brave and the boldly articulate. We care deeply for the still silent, who are working through the hard stuff. We also affirm the advocates who’ve worked tirelessly to root out the misogynistic aspects of current culture that exist. No one should be despised nor harassed because of their gender. That truth should be handled well.

The unsettled question this day rests with how we discern what’s true. The concern that accompanies the question is if public opinion and social media — which at this point seem exponentially quicker in determining both verdict and consequence — is what are the ramifications of the current way we are discerning sexual misconduct?

Is an allegation enough? Does it matter if one person remembers an incident differently? What makes a perspective true? And what should the consequence then be?

I’m struck by the response of both Al Franken and Dustin Hoffman this week. Both have been accused of misconduct, yet both also were very clear that they don’t share the perspective of each of their accusers. Are the men automatically wrong? Does it matter?

The sincere, tough, awkward, elephant-in-the-room question is if a woman is uncomfortable — or uncomfortable now — is the man automatically wrong?

Claire Berlinski wrote a bold piece in “The American Interest” last week; it’s tough to read. Note that she’s a seemingly fair-minded person who believes former president Bill Clinton and current Senate candidate Roy Moore are both sexual predators; she also is quick to acknowledge that even though she is personally convinced, she may also be mistaken. Correctly discerning the truth means we acknowledge we might be mistaken.

More excerpts from Berlinski: “#Metoo, of course. Women are not going nuts for no reason…

… Yet something is troubling me. Recently I saw a friend—a man—pilloried on Facebook for asking if #metoo is going too far. ‘No,’ said his female interlocutors. ‘Women have endured far too many years of harassment, humiliation, and injustice. We’ll tell you when it’s gone too far.’ But I’m part of that ‘we,’ and I say it is going too far. Mass hysteria has set in. It has become a classic moral panic, one that is ultimately as dangerous to women as to men.

… It now takes only one accusation to destroy a man’s life. Just one for him to be tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion, overnight costing him his livelihood and social respectability. We are on a frenzied extrajudicial warlock hunt that does not pause to parse the difference between rape and stupidity. The punishment for sexual harassment is so grave that clearly this crime—like any other serious crime—requires an unambiguous definition. We have nothing of the sort.

In recent weeks, one after another prominent voice, many of them political voices, have been silenced by sexual harassment charges. Not one of these cases has yet been adjudicated in a court of law. Leon Wiesenthal, David Corn, Mark Halperin, Michael Oreskes, Al Franken, Ken Baker, Rick Najera, Andy Signore, Jeff Hoover, Matt Lauer, even Garrison Keillor—all have received the professional death sentence. Some of the charges sound deadly serious. But others—as reported anyway—make no sense. I can’t say whether the charges against these men are true; I wasn’t under the bed. But even if true, some have been accused of offenses that aren’t offensive, or offenses that are only mildly so—and do not warrant total professional and personal destruction.

The things men and women naturally do—flirt, play, lewdly joke, desire, seduce, tease—now become harassment only by virtue of the words that follow the description of the act, one of the generic form: ‘I froze. I was terrified.’ It doesn’t matter how the man felt about it. The onus to understand the interaction and its emotional subtleties falls entirely on him… Do not mistake me for a rape apologist… No civilized society tolerates rape…”

In Berlinski’s search for a wise way to discern what’s true, she goes on to discuss how our culture has historically been disposed to moral panics and sexual hysterias… how we’ve become prone to replacing complex thought with shallow slogans… how prominent and damaging our increasing extremism and black-and-white thinking has become… and the likelihood of men no longer enjoying the company of women in the workplace if unproven allegations are equated with truth.

We have to find a wise way to discern what is true, friends… a way through that is honoring of both women and men — of women and men whose integrity has not been compromised… a way, admittedly, thanks to public opinion and social media, that is currently hard.