honoring Kayla

After a years-long hunt, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS/ISIL), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was cornered and then killed (himself). Wikipedia describes him as follows: “Baghdadi would become directly involved in ISIL’s atrocities and human rights violations. These include genocide of Yazidis in Iraq, extensive sex slavery, organized rape, floggings, and systematic executions. He directed terrorist activities and massacres. He embraced brutality as part of the organization’s propaganda efforts, producing videos displaying mass crucifixions, sex slavery and executions via hacking, stoning, and burning.” He was a man motivated by evil.

Let us never pay more attention to evil than to good.

In that light…

The U.S. military operation tasked to find Baghdadi was dedicated to Kayla Mueller, a 26 year old woman who was kidnapped, raped, tortured, and eventually killed by the terrorist group. She had been abducted in August of 2013, with her death reported in 2015; her body has never been recovered.

While in captivity, Mueller penned the following, amazing (in my opinion) letter to her parents…

“… I wanted to write you all a well thought out letter (but I didn’t know if my cell mates would be leaving in the coming days or the coming months, restricting my time but primarily, I could only but write the letter a paragraph at a time), just the thought of you all sends me into a lot of tears.

If you could say I have ‘suffered’ at all throughout this whole experience, it is only in knowing how much suffering I have put you all through. I will never ask you to forgive me as I do not deserve your forgiveness. I remember mom always telling me that all in all + in the end, the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in this experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator because literally there was no one else… + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in free fall. I have been shown in darkness, light & have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful.

I have come to see that there is good in every situation; sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness & surrender to God as well & have formed a bond of love & support amongst one another… I miss you all as if it has been a decade of forced separation. I have had many a long hour to think… I have had many hours to think how only in your absence have I finally @ 25 years old come to realize your place in my life. The gift that is each one of you & the person I could & could not be if you were not a part of my life, my family, my support. I DO NOT want the negotiations for my release to be your duty; if there is any other option, take it, even if it takes more time. This should never have become your burden.

I have asked these women to support you; please seek their advice. If you have not done so already… 

None of us could have known it would be this long, but know I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able & I have a lot of fight left inside of me. I am not breaking down & I will not give in no matter how long it takes.

I wrote a song some months ago that says ‘the part of me that pains the most also gets me out of bed, without your hope there would be nothing left.’ aka — the thought of your pain is the source of my own, simultaneously the hope of our reunion is the source of my strength.

Please be patient; give your pain to God. I know you would want me to remain strong; that is exactly what I am doing.

Do not fear for me; continue to pray, as will I & by God’s will we will be together soon.

All my everything, Kayla”

Kayla Mueller died in captivity. In the face of evil, she found something better.

She found strength. She found faith. She was resolute. And her message is good for each of us to soberly remember now.

Rest in peace, young friend. You have wisdom beyond your age.



gender. confusing?

Today I’d like to talk about something I’m actually hesitant to talk about. It’s not that the Intramuralist doesn’t have an opinion nor that I believe we cannot discuss respectfully. Rather, it’s that my vantage point is so far away. Time and time again, we witness those around us (maybe even us) become firmly entrenched in staunch, passionate opinions, failing, no less, to realize that our vantage point is so far away, that we are actually incapable of having a fully accurate perspective. My sense is many of our conversations would be better — and more solution-oriented — if we were willing to admit that our opinion has been formed from very far away.

Hence, noting our very removed perspective in the following incident that made some headlines this week, there are two concluding questions that seem wise for us to ask. Let’s see if we can do this well…

Meet James Younger. He is a 7 year old twin brother, whose parents are involved in a significant, contentious custody battle. The primary reason for the contention is that his mother wishes to raise him instead as a girl. 

Anne Georgulas and Jeffrey Younger were married for 4 years before having their marriage annulled in 2016. They have been fighting in a Dallas family court for more than 2 years over the conservatorship of James.

Georgulas is a pediatrician in private practice. She believes James has gender dysphoria and thus should be raised now as a transgender girl. Georgulas calls her son, “Luna.” In a released video recording of James at 3, James states that he is a girl because his mother told him so and has him wear dresses and finger nail polish.

Younger is a mathematician. He believes his ex-wife has “manipulated” James into a “false gender self-identity” and thus opposes the child’s gender transition.

On Tuesday of last week, a jury ruled 11 to 1 that Georgulas has the sole right to make all medical and psychological decisions for James and his brother, Jude. On Thursday, however, after significant state and national outrage, a judge reinstated “Joint Managing Conservatorship,” meaning both Georgulas and Younger must be involved in decisions about their kids’ medical and psychological care.

First and foremost, I find my heart grieving for young James. Remember James is 7 years old. 7 year olds have just mastered learning to ride their bike. Typically in second grade, they are beginning to understand how numbers fit together; they’re more solidified on left and right and how to read a clock; and they often really look forward to recess and lunch. They are not adults, and according to the medically adopted stages of child development, they are just now beginning to demonstrate logical, concrete reasoning. Logical reasoning is not indicative of 7 nor especially not 3 year olds.

How confusing.

I often think of how confusing even our teenagers are, trying to find their identity… trying to find how they fit… trying to find a way to navigate through life in a healthy way, with massive hormonal changes, in a culture that’s way too full of social media, comparison, and too-often-encouraged self-absorption. As written in Psychology Today, “One of the important things to remember is that what a teen does and is exposed to during this critical time in life, has a large influence on the teen’s future, because experience and current needs shape the pruning and sprouting process in the brain.” Hence, with so many unhealthy influences coercing our kids, how can they not be confused? And that’s teenagers. 

Thus remembering we are so far removed from the Younger situation — and that we are incapable of having a fully accurate perspective — I find myself wrestling with two questions…

First, if a parent wants a child to be a different gender — I ask sincerely — is that abuse?

And second, what’s the role of the state? In a situation like this, is it appropriate for the government to intervene and terminate the authority of either parent? 

Who, friends, has the most authority for our kids?

(God help us. We need it. Did I mention this is confusing?)



the current state of culture

Everyone needs wise others to speak into their life to sharpen, encourage, and inspire. My good friend, Collin, is one of those pivotal people for me. As we sat together last weekend, we found ourselves toying with current culture… what’s healthy… what’s not… how do we navigate through? Collin always encourages what’s better…

Let’s talk about honor. People mistake what it is.

While honor means to place value on or highly regard, honor is nothing short of humility in action.

When you’re honoring another it’s not that you are thinking less of yourself. Consistent with humility, it means thinking about yourself less. We should be outdoing one another in our intentional expressions of honor.

But there’s a huge challenge obstructing each of us.

The challenge is that we don’t live in a culture of honor. In fact, strikingly sadly, we live in a culture in which the manifestation of humility is not taught or encouraged.

No, we live in a culture of contempt…

We live in a culture that encourages us to see others not only as wrong — but as worthless.

Think about that for a minute. Worthless.

“A culture of contempt presents us with a false choice — that we have to choose between strong beliefs and close relationships,” writes Arthur Brooks, the Harvard professor. 

We’ve set up this whole narrative of false choices, choices that allow us to see another person as worthless or actually deserving of our scorn. For example…

If you support Black Lives Matter, you hate cops. That’s a false choice.

If you take a knee during the National Anthem, you are anti-patriotic. Again, false choice.

If you are against taking a knee, you are anti-civil rights. False choice.

If you voted for _____, you must be _____. Fill in the blank with whoever/whatever you wish; it’s still a false choice.

A culture of contempt is sustained by a narrative of false choices.

When Ellen DeGeneres and former Pres. George W. Bush enjoyed an NFL game together a week ago — as discussed on the Intramuralist — the reason for the resulting social media outrage was the existence of this culture of contempt. A culture of honor instead allows for differences to thrive.

So why do we honor? 

We honor because all men and women are created equal. We are crafted by our Creator. In other words, whether we realize it or not, God’s image and signature is on every person… on us… on everybody else… even when they don’t think, look or love like us.

How to we honor?

We honor intentionally. Are you purposeful about valuing and esteeming others around you?

We honor generously. Are you generous with your words? … resources, service, and affection? Do you ever intentionally withhold one, some, or all of the above because you think the other is undeserving? That’s not honor. And make no mistake about it; we cannot honor God when we are dishonoring the people he created. (Maybe read that sentence again.)

We also honor humbly. Are you willing to feel a little awkward to show honor to someone else? Remember: this is humility in action.

Oh, how much better our neighborhoods, workplaces, families and social media hangouts would be if we attempted to outdo each other with honor… if we contemplated what we said and how we said it … if we stopped slamming anyone on social media… if we stopped avoiding or not talking to… but instead engaged in honoring interactions… if we put humility in action.

It’s not going to happen until we decide to do it in our individual communities; it starts with you and me.


Who do each of us need to start honoring?



learning from elijah

“Pick a side — any side” is the dangling societal lure.

One of the Intramuralist’s aims is to always promote what’s better. With last week’s sudden passing of the honorable, Rep. Elijah Cummings, if we paused, if we actually took the time, cleared the noise, turned off the TV, we again have opportunity to see something better…

“There was no stronger advocate and no better friend than Elijah Cummings. I am heartbroken for his wonderful family and staff — please pray for them. I will miss him dearly.” 

“Saddened to learn of the passing of @RepCummings this morning. In my time working with him, he was upfront, gracious, & caring… God bless you, faithful servant…” 

“Very sad to learn that my colleague Rep. Elijah Cummings has passed away. He leaves a legacy as a determined public servant and strong fighter for civil rights.”

Cummings was an avowed Democrat. Each and all of the above were shared by members of the so-called other “side,” respectfully, from Republican Representatives Mark Meadows, Chip Roy, and Steve Scalise.

As tributes have continued to roll in from all “sides” these past few days, perhaps most poignant to me were the words of former Rep. Trey Gowdy, an ardent, conservative man who like Cummings, is known for the vehement expression of his conviction. I will not soon forget their much publicized 2015 argument, when the two of them, who were the top committee members on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, in front of a silent Hillary Clinton, went back-and-forth for multiple minutes, mostly just screaming at each other.

This week, no less, Gowdy contributed an op-ed piece in The Washington Post and tweeted at length about Cummings. Wrote Gowdy…

“Elijah Cummings was one of the most powerful, beautiful & compelling voices in American politics. The power and the beauty came from his authenticity, his conviction, the sincerity with which he held his beliefs…

We never had a cross word outside of a committee room. He had a unique ability to separate the personal from the work. The story of Elijah’s life would benefit everyone, regardless of political ideation.

He was my friend, and it is that part of life working with Elijah that I will remember and cherish the best and the longest…

Members of Congress don’t always give advice to (or take advice from) one another. Most don’t have the kind of relationship where you can, but we did.

We did because we tried to understand where the other had come from, what made us who we were, why we believed what we believed…”

Gowdy’s op-ed was entitled, “Elijah Cummings and I were political opponents. We were also good friends.” 

Having watched the men (and more) bicker before the camera, most would not have known the depth of Cummings and Gowdy’s friendship. Most would not have guessed that each was sincerely intentional in understanding why the other believed what he believed.

Hence, one of the emerging insights from the week is that what we are witnessing on TV are just snippets… snippets. Snippets do not form an authentic narrative.

Wrote The Atlantic: “The story of the veteran lawmaker is one more example of how, in Washington, appearances deceive, and public performances and private relationships often diverge.”

One of the deceiving appearances in Washington is this need to pick a side. The danger in the side-picking, though, is that it fools us into thinking we no longer need to work at trying to understand why another believes what they believe.

My sense is that Cummings and Gowdy knew that. They knew what’s better.



can’t talk about kindness?

A little over a week ago, the Twitter-verse decided to hear themselves talk after gifted comedienne, Ellen DeGeneres, was photographed hanging out at an NFL game with former Pres. George W. Bush. Noting the attention that included both generous commendation and condemnation, DeGeneres responded further the next day by saying, “When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean only the people that think the same way you do. I mean be kind to everyone.”

Multiple celebrities responded [all emphasis mine]…

From Blake Shelton: “Amen… thank you for saying this.”

From Jamie Foxx: “Thank uuu very much for that!!!! Soooo needed and necessary.”

Reese Witherspoon, Gwen Stefani, Kristen Bell and many more supportively weighed in. Others, however, responded strikingly, differently…

From Mark Ruffalo: “Sorry, until George W. Bush is brought to justice for the crimes of the Iraq War, (including American-lead torture, Iraqi deaths & displacement, and the deep scars — emotional & otherwise — inflicted on our military that served his folly), we can’t even begin to talk about kindness.”

From Susan Sarandon: “But missing the point entirely, DeGeneres framed the issue as simply a matter of her hanging out with someone with different opinions, not a man repeatedly accused of being a war criminal.”

Far more than Ruffalo and Sarandon — many others who do not even know DeGeneres — took time to judge her from afar (… amazing how generous we can be with our judgment… especially when we don’t really know someone).

ABC’s “The View” responded with the following question: “Should you be friends with someone you disagree with politically?” And they disagreed.

Co-host Joy Behar actually inserted, “I’ve always said I didn’t want to get to know George W. Bush, because I knew I would like him.”

Friends, do we see what’s happening?

Very intelligent people are struggling with basic moral questions…

Is it ok to be kind?

And many are justifying “no.”

When wrestling with the puzzling reason behind the refusal, in my semi-humble sense, it’s because we’ve got the order wrong.

If we actually got to know people first — and if we started to actually like them — to see that they aren’t evil, they aren’t stupid, and there is no way they are totally nuts, then we might actually have to wrestle with our own thinking — and why we are different. But we instead insulate ourselves with likeminded opinion so that we never have to allow our thinking to be seriously challenged. Many of the intelligent among us are unwilling to allow their thinking to be challenged. 

And in that process, we…

… refuse kindness…

… question forgiveness…

… and forgo relationship.

So what if we changed up the order? What if we got to know people first? What if we really got to know them (and put the disrespectful tweets and status updates away)? What if we could actually see the wisdom in Ellen’s words?

Music icon Elton John weighed in on Monday…

“George Bush has made a lot of mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes. Ellen DeGeneres has made a lot of mistakes… Yes, there were things that he’s — decisions were made. But they’ve been made by Democratic presidents and Republican presidents [too]… I admire Ellen for standing up and saying what she did.”

Notice the humility in the singer’s statement. It amazes me how in humility, it is far easier to extend kindness. When we instead refuse humility — when we refuse to respect, to interact with, or to even attempt to like those who are different — we are more prone to insulating judgment. 

Something, friends, seems wrong with that. If “we can’t even begin to talk about kindness,” something seems unwise and less fruitful in us.



who’s closer?

A little over a year ago, after a long day, off duty police officer Amber Guyger walked into the apartment of her unarmed neighbor, Botham Jean, mistakenly thinking the apartment was her own. She then wrongly concluded he was an invader in her home.  

She then shot and killed Jean; in fact, at trial, Guyger testified she intended to kill him.

At her recent trial and emotion-packed sentencing, Guyger was sentenced to 10 years behind bars after being convicted of second-degree murder in the state of Texas. 10 years is viewed as somewhat lenient, noting that life in prison was the maximum sentence — and of course, that she intentionally shot and killed an innocent man.

But perhaps the shot most heard around the country was the victims’ impact statement which occurred immediately after sentencing. The victim’s younger brother, 18 year old Brandt Jean, took the stand, and even though many of the onlookers and members of the press had already left the courtroom, Brandt had a most powerful thing to say…

Brandt — a black man — humbly, slowly said to Guyger — a white woman, “If you truly are sorry — I know I can speak for myself — I forgive you. And I know if you go to God and ask Him, He will forgive you. And I don’t think anyone can say it — again, I’m speaking for myself — not even on behalf of my family — but I love you just like anyone else. And I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die just like my brother did, but I, I personally want the best for you…” And then he asked twice if it was ok for him to hug her. He got off the stand. Guyger moved fast to him. The two embraced. You could hear the sobs. They held each other for over a minute.

No doubt forgiveness is a powerful thing.

Brandt Jean made no excuses for Guyger’s awful act. He did not deny the pain nor the wrongdoing. He did not deny that his family had done nothing wrong. He simply chose forgiveness when something different would have been easier.

Following the young man’s example, District Judge Tammy Kemp, who is black, also came down to hug the newly sentenced. “Had you witnessed the person who was hurting as Miss Guyger was,” said Kemp, “I don’t know a person who would have denied her that human contact.” Kemp seems to know that compassion is powerful, even and perhaps especially when undeserved.

What a fascinating scene — what powerful words. I am awed by one who has been so wronged — and by another who administers justice — how they could so unselfishly love on the one responsible for the wrongdoing. They chose mercy; that couldn’t have been easy. But those closest to the crime chose mercy and compassion.

Hear that once more… those who were closer chose mercy and compassion.

Moving farther away, the scene was not the same…

Outside the courtroom, there were protests. There was anger.

Further removed — on social media — there were lambasting taunts…

“How dare they!!” 

Allow me to humbly repeat what the taunt most seems to mean…

How dare they be compassionate.

Notice who is doing the chanting. It’s not those closest to the situation. It’s not those most involved or even most hurt by the wrongdoing. The chants, rants, and aggrieved accusations are coming from those farthest away. Those removed from the situation are hurling their hurt and attempting to project their emotion onto others.

Keen observation today, friends. Anger and outrage often come from places farther away.

That doesn’t seem helpful.

Allow us to learn from those who are closer.



happy birthday, son…

One of the things that puzzles me is how we react to life…

We can be so flippant, so callous. We can behave or believe as if some lives are better or worth more than others. Every time I fall or see someone seemingly fall into that shallow societal trap, I sense we are clearly missing out on some beauty or blessing specifically designed for us. There is so much to learn when we see no life as different.

One of those nothing-short-of-profound blessings happened eighteen years ago today; please oblige a more personal  —  albeit meaningful  —  post. One of my absolute, most favorite people was born on this day in 2001.

There wasn’t a whole lot of fanfare at the time; in fact, I remember significant worry, as we awaited word of how extensive a life-threatening heart defect would be. I now kind of wonder if the heavenly realms were cheering mightily that day. I couldn’t see it right then. I see more clearly now.

It did take some work to shed some of the initial shock and sting; take the geneticist’s words, for example. I don’t doubt he meant well.

He walked into labor and delivery, no more than an hour after birth, and began with zero salutation. He simply said, “This must be the saddest day of your whole life.”

The blank stare on my face was neither horror nor offense; it simply was a “wow… you don’t get it…” His words made no sense. A chromosomal condition may not be something one prays for, but every child comes with a few unwished for hurdles. Some hurdles are just a little more obvious.

Every birth is a miracle. Every life is a gift. My son is no lesser.

So on birthday number eighteen (a day in which his exuberance cannot come close to being contained — I exaggerate not), allow me to share a little more about my amazing young son…

  • He is witty and funny and bright.
  • He is engaging and inspiring and is better with people than most.
  • He is humble and kind.
  • He isn’t judgmental; he doesn’t let crap get in the way of people.
  • He likes pizza… and nachos and pretty much anything associated with queso. 
  • He finds food to be a bridge to community and connection… (yes, bright, I said).
  • He is brave.
  • He is inspiring.
  • He is adventurous; in fact, he wants to ride pretty much everything at Disney, which is a wee bit more than maybe one or two of his parents.
  • He can be stubborn — “determined” is the nicer word.
  • He is quick to ask for forgiveness. 
  • He loves music, motorcycles, and all things Batman.
  • He proudly calls his gold jewelry “ice.”
  • He wants to be a pop star.
  • He can sing most every song by the up-and-coming boy band “Why Don’t We” and also by Eben, our long-time, adopted family member.
  • He loves Zipper, our cat, and Yogi, our dog — but he will quickly admit he loves Zipper more.
  • He is good at making videos — especially on Mac’s iMovie; he’s been working on his grad video for 3 years!
  • He is also good at XBOX — especially NBA2K and WWE.
  • He’s becoming a Buccaneers fan (easier than the Bengals this year).
  • He has posters of Steph Curry, Michael Jordan, and Tim Tebow on his wall; much to his “funcle’s” delight, he prob still likes LeBron more.
  • He adores and admires his two older brothers.
  • He is cherished by them.
  • He has a special relationship with his older brothers’ best friends.
  • He is treasured, too, by our extended family, who have always been “for” him since the day he was born. 
  • He has great friends ranging in age and stage across the country — from New York to Arizona. Of course, his love of the land in Ohio is included along the way.
  • He has the gift of encouragement.
  • He has the gift of the rap.
  • He sings at the bus stop more mornings than not. Loudly.
  • His faith is solid and contagious; he likes to sit in the front row at church.
  • He has great joy, lots of patience, and one very special extra chromosome. 

In Josh I have learned much. The reality is that because of Josh, I have grown in ways I otherwise would have not…

… through the beauty… through the blessing…

Every life is a gift.



promoting the positive (thanks, Brené…)

In search of authentic promotions of what’s most important and unity — noting that the two are often encouraged by the same people — allow us today to focus on the words of author, speaker, inspirer, and research professor, Brené Brown. Noting that Brown’s TED talk – “The Power of Vulnerability” – is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world, Brown has much to say that would be wise for us to hear… that is, if we’re going to promote the positive. Here are just a few of her words…

“We’re a nation hungry for more joy: Because we’re starving from a lack of gratitude.” 

“What we know matters but who we are matters more.”

“Maybe stories are just data with a soul.”

“Trust is earned in the smallest of moments.”

“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”

“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”

“You cannot shame or belittle people into changing their behaviors.” 

“To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.”

“Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.” 

“It’s in our biology to trust what we see with our eyes. This makes living in a carefully edited, overproduced and photoshopped world very dangerous.”

“I’ve found what makes children happy doesn’t always prepare them to be courageous, engaged adults.” 

“It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.”

“We run from grief because loss scares us, yet our hearts reach toward grief because the broken parts want to mend.”

“I thought faith would say, ‘I’ll take away the pain and discomfort,’ but what it ended up saying was, ‘I’ll sit with you in it.’”

“Joy comes to us in ordinary moments. We risk missing out when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.”

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” 

“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.”

“One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on “going it alone.” Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into “those who offer help” and “those who need help.” The truth is that we are both.”

“The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We’re just quick to hit the snooze button.”

18, 19… oh, wait… there’s one more. Granted, this one might be harder for us; ignoring it really would be easier. But no one said promoting the positive is easy. It does, though, seem to be wise…

“Here’s what I believe: 1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called bitch, whore, or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, or Theresa May. 2. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables” then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said “Democrats aren’t even human.” 3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing pussy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman. 4. When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, “Is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?” 5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photoshopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photoshopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed. There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization—the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.” 




Let’s provide an epilogue of sorts to one of our recent postings, which you’ll note respectfully asserted that there’s a difference between news and opinion, with “news” sources often presenting information with a left or right bias as opposed to somewhere in between; the truth is secondary to the bias. The goal is to get us to rage — to keep our tribal fears and hatreds aligned — whether that be (as several noted) about the latest economic legislation or the long term effects of the local school levy.

To be clear, everyone has bias. As one of my fave new websites, AllSides.com, acknowledges, “It is part of human nature to have perspectives, preferences, prejudices, leanings, and partialities.” The challenge, though, as they continue, is that “sometimes, bias — especially media bias — can become invisible to us.”

How does that happen? How can even the most gifted intellectual be so obviously fooled? And… dare we admit… not even know it?

“We are all biased toward things that show us in the right. We are biased toward information that confirms our existing beliefs. We are biased toward the people or information that supports us, makes us look good, and affirms our judgments and virtues. And we are biased toward the more moral choice of action — at least, that which seems moral to us.” 

And so while so-called “news” sites/resources cover the same issues, they will insert their bias in a way which often goes undetectable.

AllSides.com identifies 11 types of media bias:

1. Spin

2. Unsubstantiated Claims

3. Opinion Statements Presented as Facts

4. Sensationalism/Emotionalism

5. Mudslinging/Ad Hominem

6. Mind Reading

7. Slant

8. Flawed Logic

9. Bias by Omission

10. Omission of Source Attribution

11. Bias by Placement

We won’t wrestle with all 11 this day (feel free to join me in thoroughly checking out the site),  but the point is that bias takes multiple — often creative — forms.

Spin, for example, is the use of “vague, dramatic or sensational language.” It is the manifestation of a journalist’s straying from objectivity and thus may prevent an audience from getting an accurate perspective; note that the audience will not even know they don’t have an accurate perspective. Words such as “tirade,” “crucial,” or “latest in a string of” may be inserted… or words that imply bad behavior — “finally,” “conceded,” or “dodged,” for example… also, words that stir something emotional inside of us, such as: “mocked,” “fumed,” or “gloated.” The words are typically not objective. 

Look, too, though, at unsubstantiated claims, statements that sound like fact, appear to be fact, but don’t include specific evidence. Note one example from our current campaign season (which I can’t believe extends for another 13 months… aye yai yai), this as reported by the Washington Post:

“First, [Sen. Bernie] Sanders complaint isn’t that billionaires exist per se. After all, if America’s household wealth were distributed evenly across the population, then every family of four would have a net worth of $1.2 million. Sanders’s critique is that the United States’ super-rich are symptomatic of a system that churns out a small class of extremely wealthy people who rule over the vast remainder.”

Looks like fact. Sounds like fact. And it’s in the much read Washington Post. But note there includes zero notation as to where the so-called “facts” came from. Friends, I’m no fan of the “fake news” chants, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discern that here is where the chants find their fuel. 

My desire is to wrestle with the facts. My desire, as you know, is to have respectful dialogue in which we can sort through those facts. But one of the most prodigious problems we face as a country and culture today is the existence of this bias. Again, as said by AllSides: 

“Bias can manipulate and blind us. It can put important information and perspectives in the shadows and prevent us from getting the whole view.”

Let’s commit to getting the whole view. Let’s acknowledge the bias and our own, individual ability to be both blinded and fooled — without even knowing it. How refreshing to start the conversation there.

Respectfully… as always.