so what’s actually in the Bible?

Amazing how one of this past week’s most trending topics focused on what’s in the Bible… 

What’s biblical? What’s not?

And how does that apply to me?

Do I know what’s in the Bible?

Have I ever read it myself?

And what things can I — or can’t I — know for sure?

Allow me, no less, to thus share one of my all time favorite passages, a piece of scripture that I find humbling, profound, insightful, challenging, life-giving, and encouraging all rolled into one. And yet it’s a piece with which I think our society currently, significantly struggles. Let me change that… I’m thinking we’ve struggled with this for centuries…

From the book of John…

“… Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came to the temple courts again. All the people came to him, and he sat down and began to teach them. The experts in the law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught committing adultery. They made her stand in front of them and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone to death such women. What then do you say?’ (Now they were asking this in an attempt to trap him, so that they could bring charges against him.) 

Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. When they persisted in asking him, he stood up straight and replied, ‘Whoever among you is guiltless may be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground.

Now when they heard this, they began to drift away one at a time, starting with the older ones, until Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 

Jesus stood up straight and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?’

She replied, ‘No one, Lord.’

And Jesus said, ‘I do not condemn you either. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.’”

There is so much in this sequence that mirrors our culture’s current rhythms…

  • First, there was a person who engaged in behavior many thought was wrong.
  • The crowd then moves to harshly condemn her.
  • Jesus then asks the crowd who among them is “guiltless.”
  • With the recognition that none of us are guiltless, no one is capable of administering the consequence.
  • Only then, in the context of the relationship — with no shame nor condemnation — Jesus acknowledges that the behavior is wrong — and calls for the woman to grow and change.

Our struggle seems twofold…

We either are (1) quick to condemn or (2) in effort not to condemn, we deny the existence of any wrongful behavior.

When I read this passage repeatedly, I find myself quietly asking more questions…

  • Where have I been quick to condemn?
  • Where have I felt capable of administering the consequence?
  • Where have I failed to recognize that I am not guiltless — that I screw up, too?
  • Where have I been so harsh in my words to another?
  • Where have I thought, “I’d never do that,” and then justified treating someone with lesser grace?
  • Where have I denied the sin, because it was easier than wrestling with the reality that there’s an area in which I might need to grow?
  • And where am I inconsistent in how I apply scripture?

Indeed, humbling, profound questions…

Respectfully…

AR

Spade/Bourdain & the questions we should answer

Kate Spade.

Anthony Bourdain.

Two celebrities who were admired by many.

Two celebrities who “had it all,” so-to-speak.

And two celebrities who hung themselves within days of one another.

Spade was 55. Bourdain was 61.

This is hard, friends. This is really hard. For any who have lost a family member, friend, or loved one to suicide, you know the grievous struggle it is to attempt to make sense of it all. It doesn’t make any sense. 

And yet, when they are gone, our love for them does not end. We hurt because we love them… so we find ourselves seemingly endlessly racking our heads and our hearts in the middle of our grief in desperate search for solution — for any solution…

Why would someone we love choose this? 

Why would they intentionally end their life?

I wish I had some profound, good answer… an answer that could somehow smooth over the wretched remnants we’re left to deal with. I keep thinking of actor Booboo Stewart’s character in the excellent “Hope Bridge” movie (released in 2015) — in the young man’s quest to find answers and understand why his father took his own life. The answers are so hard to come by. Again, it doesn’t make any sense.

With Spade and Bourdain in particular, no less, I find myself wrestling with two questions… 

Let us first acknowledge the response of Bourdain’s mother, in an interview with NBC News. Gladys Bourdain, a former editor at The New York Times, said that there was never any sign that anything was wrong with her son.

Let me repeat that: there was never any sign.

As we rack our heads searching for answers, we look for those signs… what did I miss? … why didn’t I catch this?… And then we often settle on the thought of mental illness, as our search ends in unsettling ambiguity. 

I wonder if there are deeper questions we could be asking — questions about loneliness… self-worth… and fulfillment.

We see in Spade and Bourdain, for example, two people who had it all… 

Spade was a world renown fashion designer. She founded the euphonious “Kate Spade New York” in the early 90’s and came to be known as an incredibly creative, successful, and sophisticated businesswoman. She had been married approximately 24 years and has an adolescent daughter. Her net worth is estimated to be around $150 million.

Bourdain — a celebrity chef — “built a business outside the kitchen,” coined Town & Country. He was a successful author, travel documentarian, and TV personality, and he was considered articulate, insightful, and keenly influential. The Smithsonian Institution once declared Bourdain as “the original rock star” of the culinary world. He has one adolescent daughter, and leaves an estimated net worth of $16 million.

Both Spade and Bourdain seem to have “had it all,” as one might say, and yet for both, “all” was not enough.

This is heartbreaking, friends; there is zero judgment. There was an emptiness in Spade and Bourdain that celebrity and success could seemingly never fulfill; wealth and influence were nowhere close to enough. Hence, left with more questions than answers, today I ponder only two:

What are we pursuing that is potentially unfulfilling?

And what can we fill our heads and hearts with that is of greater, lasting value?

Respectfully…

AR

living in the land of the mic drop

Becoming prevalent in the ’80’s, primarily employed by rappers and comedians, note Wikipedia’s following definition:

“A mic drop is the gesture of intentionally dropping one’s microphone at the end of a performance or speech to signal triumph. Figuratively, it is an expression of triumph for a successful event and indicates a boastful attitude toward one’s own performance.”

In other words, a person stops speaking and releases whatever tool made his voice possible to hear — believing there is no need to continue the conversation.

My question today, no less, centers around how comfortable we’ve become with dropping the mic. Remember, based on Wikipedia’s definition, the act “indicates a boastful attitude” toward self.

… How many times does a person in social media have to have the last word?

… How many times can they seemingly not allow any opinion other than their own to stand?

Hence, if only their opinion is acceptable — and if they have to always have the last word — I come to two questionable conclusions:

One, they probably are not the most skilled at respectful dialogue.

And two, they’ve gotten way too comfortable with the mic drop.

So how do we proceed?

It would be wonderful if all on social media would band together to dismiss with this dropping, so-to-speak. Sadly, no less, I’m thinking that might be incredibly challenging. Too many too quickly enjoy “amen-ing” the act.

And so we must instead ask ourselves how to wisely respond.

In processing this question for the day, I kept coming to a quote my mother has long repeated:

“You don’t have to attend every argument to which you are invited.”

(Now there’s an “amen”…)

As elaborated upon by author, speaker, and psychiatrist Leandro Herroro:

“This quote is from an unknown author. He or she must have known a thing or two about the futility of engaging in every single discussion that comes your way. The quote is also a proxy for ‘pick your battles’. There are battles worth fighting and battles that are not…  

… a better angle is ‘What will make the difference?’

… [You] don’t have to attend to every argument to which you are invited, you don’t have to get involved in everything, and certainly, you do not have to spend your time fighting every battle.

The magic word is choice. Choices are always in front of you.”

Sometimes on social media, many choose to be silent. That silence should not be used to make assumptions about the non-speakers; such is only a surmise.

That silence may instead most signify a response to a perceived mic drop…

“What can I say that will make a difference?”

“Nothing?”

Then perhaps there’s little wisdom in response.

Respectfully…

AR

free (profane) & inconsistent

With multiple celebrities recently joining the known chorus of disrespectful communicators, it would seem wise to wrestle with what free speech is — and is not.

Let us first acknowledge that freedom of speech does not mean we can say whatever we wish, whenever we wish. We can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theatre nor use our words for slander, libel, perjury, or extortion, for example. The First Amendment does not protect such.

Let us also note that there is a difference between slander and libel as compared to ridicule or criticism. 

The challenge comes when the words becomes profane, as profane, rude as it is, does not legally equate to “wrong.”

What does “profane” mean?

— treated with abuse, irreverence, or contempt : desecrated; treated disrespectfully, irreverently, or outrageously.

Unfortunately, we live amidst a culture that seemingly, continually, allows and even encourages increasing irreverence and disrespect…

Rosanne Barr’s recent racist tweet about former Obama staffer, Valerie Jarrett, qualifies as “profane.” Samantha Bee’s recent vulgar insult about Ivanka Trump qualifies as profane.

But profane as they each are, both do not legally equate as “wrong” —  and thus still qualify as “free speech.”

Do Barr and Bee thus have a right to say what they said?

Yes.

Do they have a right to keep their job?

Also, yes.

Do ABC and TBS have a right to fire them? 

Again, yes.

And do the companies have a right to choose not to fire them?

Of course. ABC and TBS may treat Barr and Bee differently; it is up to them as their respective, individual employers.

The First Amendment allows us to “say what you wanna’ say,” but it does not provide the right to maintain employment, especially if working for a private employer. Companies have a right to expect certain behaviors from their employees. Such is the core challenge embedded within the NFL/anthem controversy.

… “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech…”

That law — tough as the manifestation of it can be for different ones of us at different times — is the protection our Founding Fathers provided, even for what is unpopular. 

We have a problem, no less, with what we feel is wrong or unpopular.

For some of us, that is only the words of Barr.

For some of us, that is only the words of Bee.

For some of us, that is only the reaction of ABC.

And for some of us, that is only the reaction of the NFL.

Friends, this isn’t fun. Good people think differently. Good people think differently in regard to what speech should be “free.” We have different  — and different valid  —  perspectives.

And because we think differently, our application of First Amendment protection is perhaps more than anything, respectfully inconsistent.

Respectfully… always…

AR

to kneel or not to kneel

When the NFL recently announced their new policy that will fine teams if players on the field fail to stand during the Star-Spangled Banner, a rousing chorus again ensued in regard to whether or not kneeling during the National Anthem was appropriate behavior. In case any of us were somehow unaware, there seem some strong opinions on this issue. 

So let’s attempt to extract the emotion for a moment — an exercise that might be wise for our news sources to employ in order to reveal a little less bias. Let us simply ask relevant questions…

First, do players have to be on the field for the anthem?

No, players may protest and not incur a penalty by remaining in the locker room until after the anthem is finished.

How did this protest begin?

Former 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, told the media he sat to protest the oppression of people of color in the United States and ongoing issues with police brutality.

Is the reported origin of the protest accurate?

No one can say for sure. Kaepernick had lost his starting job and there were attempts to trade him in the off-season. His behavior also went unnoticed for two games before he mentioned any protest.

Does the questionable origin matter?

Excellent question — and the answer is subjective. The Intramuralist would opine “no,” as the protest has evolved to a point in which multiple players participate — and many others have fervently weighed in.

Why is the protest a problem?

Many feel the act is disrespectful to the United States, its flag, and its military.

What is our right to protest under the First Amendment?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Does the First Amendment apply to employers?

Unless we work for the government, the Constitution provides no protection for keeping our jobs based on what we say. Paraphrasing the words of former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, “An employee may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be employed.”

Is there inconsistency in what employees are allowed to express?

You bet. (Ok, that was opinion there.) The point is that the deciding factor in maintaining current employment seems to be what rubs an employer the wrong way (i.e. see Barr, Rosanne).

Why might this particular protest rub NFL owners the wrong way?

NFL ratings fell 9.7% during the 2017 regular season, according to Nielsen. A typical game was watched by 1.6 million fewer people.

Can the ratings drop be attributed to the protest?

Not with certainty. Ratings were down 8% the year before.

What do we know in regard then to how the public feels about this issue?

The public is divided, but discernment on what a majority of the public believe depends on how the question is asked. Borrowing from the wisdom of Kathryn Casteel, who writes about economics and policy issues for FiveThirtyEight, the public’s answer depends on whether the question posed focuses on patriotism, free speech, or race. When posing the question in regard to patriotism, “surveys tend to find that more people disapprove of the protests than approve.” When posing the question in regard to free speech, “a majority of Americans think players should be allowed to kneel — whether the respondents like it or not.” And when posing the question in regard to race, “it’s not clear.” Writes Casteel:

“Despite the many conflicting poll results, we can say a few things with confidence:

1. A plurality of Americans don’t like the NFL protests — at least if they aren’t told what the players’ goals are.

2. But Americans generally dislike protests involving the flag or anthem, so it’s not clear how much that might affect public opinion in this case.

3. Most Americans think racism is a problem in the abstract, but people are less likely to support the Black Lives Matters movement, which aims to stop police violence against African-Americans.

4. Americans are broadly supportive of the importance of free speech in general, though opinions are more muddled when people are asked about kneeling during the anthem in particular.

But looking at the overall numbers obscures an important fact: Opinions on these issues are incredibly polarized by party and race.”

So last question: how do we love and respect all people well when such a passionate issue is polarized by party and race?

And that is the most excellent and necessary question.

May we each humbly ask ourselves: how do we love all people well?

Respectfully…

AR