ungrace

Last week a young, African-American, single mother randomly knocked on my door…

“Do you believe in second chances?”

Never wanting to miss an opportunity for meaningful dialogue and encouragement, I said:

“Of course. I believe in second, third, even sixty-fifth chances.”

She shared the toughness of her life thus far. She now wanted to work hard and change the trajectory of her and her daughter’s future. How could we help?

It made me think about how generous or stingy we are with those chances… how for whatever reason, we justify drawing the line somewhere, believing we’ve offered enough chances already… 

“You’ve gone too far,” we think… concluding that grace is no longer necessary nor even wise…

And just like that, in all of our infinite, perceived wisdom, we put limits on grace.

While there certainly is a time for healthy, relational boundaries, I’m not sure I can wrap my brain around the need for stern limitations on grace.

Grace is unmerited favor… meaning there is nothing we have done to deserve it. 

But often — especially in our increasingly fractious culture, we seems more generous with our “ungrace.”

Ungrace equates to grace’s absence; it is the declaration that because grace is undeserved — as inherent in its definition — we should withhold it.

My fear, friends, is that we are quickly becoming more of a culture of ungrace. Because we can sense the undeserving-ness — often deeply — we justify the withholding of kindness. We justify a lack of forgiveness and respect. We justify a lack of forbearance with one another.

That’s part of the beauty of Representative-elect Dan Crenshaw’s interaction with Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson last week. 

Davidson publicly, cruelly insulted Crenshaw as a candidate. He mocked a man, maimed during his military service in Afghanistan. But instead of ranting and raving and ensuring Davidson “got what he deserved,” Crenshaw offered Davidson what he did not. 

After appearing on SNL alongside Davidson, joking together — after also then, Davidson’s apology and Crenshaw’s forgiveness — Crenshaw said the following about their exchange: 

“We were hesitant at first… We weren’t sure what the skit was going to look like… but in the end we decided to do it. And we decided to do it because what better platform than to sort of give a united message for the country, talk about forgiveness and talk about veterans…

It felt good. It felt like the right thing to do. I would appreciate it if everybody would stop looking for reasons to be offended, and that’s what this was all about.”

Fascinating.

Friends, I understand that on different days, we each have cause to be offended. Dan Crenshaw certainly did. But our offense is impeding our offering of grace. Our offense is causing us to limit the number of extended chances. Our offense is breeding ungrace.

I had a fantastic conversation with the young woman at my door last week. After authentic connecting, an encouraging sale, and some mutual thanks to the good Lord above, we both walked away in gratitude and humble joy.

May we always believe in those second, third, and even sixty-fifth chances.

Respectfully…

AR

a market for grace in today’s politics

Rarely do I post a piece straight from any clearly left or right leaning publication; they aren’t always helpful in encouraging respectful dialogue with those who think differently, as we learn to listen well and sharpen one another.

Today is different. The following is an excellent piece… thanks to an apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation. There are few things more beautiful than an apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation. 

Written by senior writer David French in National Review, with all emphasis mine…

“There’s a market for grace in American politics.

Given the spirit of our times, things could have gone so differently. On November 3, when Saturday Night Live comic Pete Davidson mocked Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw’s eye patch, saying he looked like a “hit man in a porno movie” — then adding, “I know he lost his eye in war or whatever” — it was a gift from the partisan gods.

A liberal comic had gone too far. He had mocked a man who was maimed in a horrific IED attack, an attack that had taken the life of his interpreter and nearly blinded him for life. He mocked a courageous man’s pain. And thus Crenshaw had attained the rarest position for a Republican politician: aggrieved-victim status. He was free to swing away.

Instead, he refused to be offended. He noted that the joke was bad, but his handling of the whole affair was — as the Washington Post described him — ‘cool as a cucumber.’ Then ‘Saturday Night Live’ called. The show wanted to apologize, and they wanted Crenshaw on-air. He said yes, and this happened…

[Davidson apologized. Crenshaw appeared and accepted his apology.]

It was the act of grace heard ’round the nation. Davidson came on the ‘Weekend Update’ set and offered his apology, and then Crenshaw joined. He took some good-natured shots at Davidson — Crenshaw’s phone had an Ariana Grande ringtone (Grande recently broke her engagement with Davidson), and he mocked Davidson’s appearance — but then things took a more serious turn.

Crenshaw briefly spoke of the meaning of the words ‘never forget’ to a veteran, saying that ‘when you say ‘never forget’ to a veteran, you are implying that, as an American, you are in it with them.’ Then he addressed his next words to Davidson: ‘And never forget those we lost on 9/11 — heroes like Pete’s father. So I’ll just say, Pete, never forget.’

Davidson’s father was a firefighter. He died trying to save others when Davidson was a young boy. In one moment, Crenshaw not only honored a true hero, but also softened American hearts towards Davidson, casting him in a new light. He’s a man who carries his own pain.

It turns out that there’s a market for grace in American politics. Within minutes, clips of the apology and Crenshaw’s tribute to Davidson’s dad rocketed across Twitter. As of this morning, the YouTube clip of the moment — not even 48 hours old — already had more than 5 million views. And it seems as if this is no act. This act of grace was an expression of who Crenshaw is…

There are those who argued before the election that, to punish the GOP for Trump, even conservatives should vote against Crenshaw. Vote against a good man for the sake of beating a bad man not on the ballot. That would ‘send a message,’ they said.

But it turns out that one of the messages we needed to hear came from Crenshaw himself… that grace isn’t weakness and that reconciliation can sometimes be more compelling than division…

[Crenshaw’s] future is not yet known. But when faced with a clear political temptation — to indulge in a period of partisan pugilism — he chose a different path. He (and Davidson) gave Americans a moment they needed. It turns out it was also a moment they wanted.”

Thanks to Dan Crenshaw, Pete Davidson, and SNL. There is a market for grace.

Did I mention there are few things more beautiful than an apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation?

Respectfully…

AR

what kind of person am I?

A young brother and sister were squabbling somewhat. Their father notices, asking what’s going on.

With adrenaline fully flowing, the kids share, “We don’t agree! We don’t get it, Dad. Who should we look up to? Who should be our friend?”

Their father, with a softened grin, recognizing the opportunity, then directs his kids to sit with him for a moment… and graciously, candidly, responds…

“Kids, there are three kinds of people in this world. Allow me to teach you — first, the one who is easiest, the one you should seek out, get to know, and spend tons of time with.

First is the person who is wise.

The wise person desires truth. They may not always be happy-happy, but within them is this sense of inner joy that is never distrait or derailed. They have peace — even when life around them is crumbling or chaotic. They are not moved; they are not shaken. 

What should we do with a wise person?

Lean in, kids. Spend more time with them. Even in disagreement, you can know and trust a wise person; you can trust their character. They are not perfect — but they know that; hence, when/if they discern they’ve made a mistake or been wrong, they will clarify, apologize, even ask for forgiveness, if necessary. You can trust in who they are.

The second example is a little harder. The second person is the one who is foolish.

The foolish person denies truth. They want to live in the bubble that their experience actually serves as the truth — and nothing but the truth… as if it also serves as everyone else’s reality. While we may love these persons dearly, you know who they are when you think about how they would react if you would share constructive feedback with them. The foolish person struggles with feedback — often even despising it. The foolish one typically speaks first and listens last. They may lash out at you.

So what should we do with a foolish person?

Learn to set healthy boundaries. Consider limiting your advice, limiting your vulnerability with them, and limiting your exposure.

But as your father, I’d also encourage you to pray for them; don’t get puffed up — as kids, you and I know well, that we have often been foolish, too.

The third kind of person is the hardest to wrestle with. Sadly, the third person is one who is wicked. 

The wicked person destroys truth. They don’t care what’s true and what’s not; in fact, they tend to weaponize whatever they can to work against what’s true. The end may justify the means for them; they may intentionally dishonor another, if that person competes with their purpose.

Kids, hear me. This one’s really hard. Yes, we are each called to love one another, and that means loving another well. But be careful with the wicked; they are really out there. Figuring out how to love them well is tricky.”

Kids, listening intently, in unison and immediate response: “But Dad, what do we do with them?”

Back to their father, with a sobering, extended pause…

“Walk away.

But don’t walk away and never think of them again. Don’t walk away and think ‘we are done forever.’ But be ok putting some distance between you and them. Pray for them. Be humble. And beg God to change their heart.

God is capable of changing hearts… just as he has done for you and me.”

The kids begin to stroll away, with no more dispute, but wondering…

With whom do I need to spend more time? 

With whom do I need to set healthy boundaries?

And… maybe the hardest question…

What kind of person am I? 

Respectfully…

AR

the eradication of the middle

Two years ago, I did the unthinkable. As a currents events observer and an encourager of respectful dialogue, I typically tune into significant cultural events, including watching returns, for example, from even the most random elections.

But on Election Night 2016, I did the unthinkable. I never turned on the laptop nor TV; I turned off the lights, said my prayers, and went to bed exceptionally early. I did not watch a single return. While elections are important, my faith is not in an election nor in any of the elect. I thus slept very well that night.

I guess that’s it. I don’t see government as our moral authority. In fact, I don’t find it even capable of such; we are no one’s convictor of truth. In fact, when we started this blog 10 years ago (Happy Birthday, Intramuralist), our first post shared the top ten things learned from the election cycle. These included:

  • Jesus would not be a Democrat OR a Republican.
  • And most people don’t know how to respect those with whom they disagree.

10 years later, I would reiterate those same words.

We continue to find persons — in God’s name or in intentional omission of him — who attempt to morph government into the moral authority of the land… acting as if there’s only one right perspective… dismissing entire people groups… no longer seeing the wisdom in another point of view. Note these words from an editorial in Time Magazine last week:

“… We are in a political moment where we find ourselves on opposite sides of what feels like an unbreachable gulf. I find myself annoyed by the hand-wringing about how we need to find common ground. People ask how might we ‘meet in the middle,’ as though this represents a safe, neutral and civilized space. This American fetishization of the moral middle is a misguided and dangerous cultural impulse… What is halfway between moral and immoral?”

And just like that we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s ok — maybe even good — to wholly describe an entire other people group as immoral, elevating our perspective as the only moral approach. With all due respect, when we claim that our political position is the only moral perspective possible, we have usurped the role that only the divine is capable of assuming.

This is bothersome — and much of why my faith remains not in a person or party. There is a lack of integrity/morality/ethics hailing from both political parties… 

… like the conservative supporter who shamed one of my friends in the LGBTQ community last week… like the liberal protestor my friend watched mock the veteran… or like the Kavanaugh accuser who only now admits that she lied…

Friends, no party is completely moral.

Last week two highly respected friends of mine attended the same partisan function. Both are emotionally healthy, intelligent and sincere in their desire to live and love well. And yet, one walked away impressed — the other, disturbed. How is it possible that two wise people would walk away with polarized perspectives?

I wish there was an uncomplicated answer; it’d be easier. It’d be easier to label all of one party or one party’s leaders or loyalists as all bad, evil, immoral, etc. Then we’d never have to wrestle as to why a person thinks differently than “we.” But there is no easy answer; different perspectives exist from healthy, intelligent, compassionate people. So allow me to humbly offer what I believe to be true…

To conclude that the entire political perspective of the other party is immoral is a limited conclusion.

Friends, as an entire party, conservatives aren’t bigots; liberals aren’t liars. But when we take our individual experience and interactions —  with the bigots and liars in both parties — and project them onto all others as their character, we fall prey to limited, judgmental conclusions.

Rep. Ryan Costello, a Pennsylvania moderate, said it well recently:

“I think the far left and the far right look at people like me, and they say we’re the problem. And I actually think, No, we’re the answer. But what you hear and what you get is just ugliness toward you…

If you’re in the hot 10% on the left or the hot 10% on the right, you have a national audience. If you’re in the middle and can see both sides, you know what? You used to get called thoughtful — now you get called weak. And that’s messed up, man.” 

It’s messed up when we look down upon the different or attempt to eradicate the middle. It’s messed up when we thrust limited, judgmental conclusions upon entire parties or people groups. There truly are good people on all sides. Wisdom calls us to get to know them… interact with them… and be humble enough to listen as to why they think differently than “we.”

Respectfully…

AR

voting guide

In light of Tuesday’s coming election day, we thought it wise to offer a concise resource in regard to our decision-making for the day.

Oh. Wait. If by chance, you are expecting the Intramuralist to tell you how to vote this day, you may have been misdirected. We will willingly offer opinion, with a desire to entertain and encourage respectful dialogue. However, we will tell no one how they should vote; in fact, we believe no one is capable of such. Hence, instead…

“THE DO’S & DON’TS OF VOTING”

D&D #1

No one can nor should tell you how to vote. 

Contrary to unfortunately popular belief, there is not one right way to vote. We are each divinely wired and uniquely gifted, with varied experience and expertise. This results in varied passion and perspective. Let the variance refrain from fostering judgment.

D&D #2

Voting is your right.

Multiple constitutional amendments have established suffrage (specifically, the 12th, 15th, 17th, 19th, 24th, and 26th). We encourage you to take advantage of it.

D&D #3

Your vote matters.

How many times have we heard this defeated retort? Granted, there are many old wives’ tales that exist, seemingly to create a false sense of urgency (i.e. one vote bringing Texas into the Union, making English the official U.S. language, or giving Hitler control of Nazi Germany). There do exist times in which a single vote has been significant, but they are far less dramatic. The bottom line is that voting helps your voice be heard, and all voices are valuable even when not in the majority.

D&D #4

Consider voting for members of more than one party.

No party has cornered the market on integrity. In fact, perhaps one of the most disturbing trends is that partisan loyalists often overlook or minimize unscrupulous behavior in their own party, perceiving it as the necessary means to an end or the “lesser” of two evils. Last I looked, “evil” still meant “evil.” 

D&D #5 

Study the issues.

In addition to the people we elect, at the state level, there are actually 155 ballot measures that will be voted on in 37 states this Tuesday. For example, 7 measures in 5 states with wrestle with the legalization of medical and/or recreational marijuana. 8 measures in 6 states are considering some kind of limitation on taxes. Need more info? Go to www.ballotpedia.org. Find your state. Look up the issue. Look, too, at who supports, opposes, and is funding the initiative. As best as possible, attempt to discern what multiple motives may be in play.

D&D #6

Beware of bandwagons.

Let’s quote “Urban Dictionary.” The definition of a bandwagon: “when someone adopts a popular point of view for the primary purpose of recognition and/or acceptance by others.” Popularity has never been equated with wisdom. Beware of those attempting to rile you up, emotionally luring you into joining their “tribe,” not recognizing the sharpening available via varied perspective.

D&D #7

Know that voting is incapable of legislating morality.

If there was one “Do & Don’t” we continually find the masses falling prey to, it is perhaps this. Well-intentioned persons hailing from both the left and right seem to desire to dictate the behavior of another. Call me naïve, but whether we attempt to impose a moral authority upon another in the name of God or omitting his omniscient name, none of us are capable of being the convictor of truth in another.

D&D #8

Engage the different.

Want to learn? Want to grow? Want to learn to love your neighbor well and not just the tribal likeminded? Get to know them. Ask them how they think. Take the time to say, “You don’t have to share with me your vote, but it sounds like you and I don’t think always alike. Help me. Can you share why you feel that way?” Then listen more than speak. Always.

D&D #9

Respect the results.

Each election cycle this seems to get worse… “He’s not my _______.” Fill in the blank. The reality is that whether we voted for a person or not, if we live in his/her jurisdiction, that person represents us. Do they represent our individual beliefs well? Maybe not. But be active. Let your voice be reverently heard. And again, engage with the different. Respectfully.

D&D #10

Be prepared for the next election cycle.

The reality is on Wednesday, the day after, in our fast-paced society, the next election cycle will begin. Be ready for the immediate formation of exploratory committees. Be ready for partisan calls to obstruct, resist or blindly follow. Be ready. For years I’ve wished we all had a little more respect for who’s in office when they’re there.

As for me, I’ll, too, be ready… to observe… contemplate and converse … also off to buy some Advil.

Respectfully…

AR