is it over?

Is the pandemic over? Are we finally witnessing COVID’s imminent demise — at least in the US?

As public and private safety guidelines begin to ease, the answer seems to depend upon who you ask (…noting some descriptions are a little more colorful than others… such as…)…

… The epidemic in America is like a poisoned rat, limping, staggering, crawling, and gasping its last breaths. The poison is the vaccine now jabbed into the arms of most adults. Pandemic, thou art slain…”

“Right now, COVID-19 is still killing people all over the world — the pandemic is still viscerally real. But in the US, it doesn’t have the same sharp bite as it did six months ago. The end feels close…”

So is the pandemic over? … at least for now?

Memorial Day is here. Summer is in sight. Evidenced by traveling now nearing pre-pandemic levels — air travel increasing and car rentals being scant — the nation seems increasingly ready for normal. Whatever “normal” now is.

But before we definitively answer the end, let’s take note of the beginning…

In December of 2019, a new virus surfaced in China. A month later, China reported the first death. Still in January, now of 2020, cases were quickly confirmed in Japan, South Korea and Thailand and soon thereafter in the United States. A young man from Washington State had contracted the virus after returning from Wuhan, China.

In February, the first death was reported outside of China (in the Philippines). At least 360 people had now died. France announced the first death in Europe. The virus was spreading rapidly… Italy, Iran, Latin America, for instance. On Feb. 29th, the first person in the United States was reported to have died from Covid-19.

Still before American life shut down in March, Sen. Tom Cotton began publicly posing the possibility that the virus emerged from a research facility in Wuhan. But leading news sources immediately, staunchly refuted the potential of any likelihood. The Washington Post accused Cotton of spreading a “conspiracy theory that was already debunked.” The New York Times lead with “Senator Tom Cotton Repeats Fringe Theory of Coronavirus Origins.” And proclaimed fact checker, PolitiFact, designated the possibility with their noteworthy, deceit-deserving, “pants on fire” rating… “The claim is inaccurate and ridiculous. We rate it Pants on Fire!”

As of Tuesday of this past week, 3,494,935 people have reportedly died from Covid worldwide, with 604,941 of those deaths occurring in the United States.

What is also now true is that Cotton’s floated possibility is now considered plausible. Maybe likely. PolitiFact has quietly retracted their claim.

Friends, please go easy on WaPo, the Times, and PolitiFact. We all get something wrong sometimes; the point is not blame. The better question is this:

Why could a dissenting possibility not even be entertained by mainstream media? Why did news sources not just disagree with Cotton’s speculation, but also attempt to squelch it and shut it down?

By no means does the Intramuralist have anywhere close to all the answers. But we are well aware of what gets in our way — not just in the discerning of truth, but also of thoughtful examination and the media’s ruinous role. Listen to the recent words of former Times science reporter Donald McNeil, who initially joined in the chorus of squelchers. “We still do not know the source of this awful pandemic. We may never know. But the argument that it could have leaked out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology or a sister lab in Wuhan has become considerably stronger than it was a year ago, when the screaming was so loud that it drowned out serious discussion.” [Emphasis mine.]

Think of how raucous we’ve allowed our conversations to become. Think of how the media has amplified the raucous. They’ve encouraged the screaming of singular perspective. It makes us ask: what other diverse geopolitical and socioeconomic conversations are they attempting to drown out?

So thus when we attempt to determine whether or not the pandemic is now over, admittedly, that’s a bit of a loaded question. Some will say “yes.” Some will say “no.” Some will even create creative metaphors utilizing limping and staggering rats.

But in order to thoroughly, thoughtfully, and accurately answer summer’s biggest current question, the screaming needs to end. It isn’t wise, and it’s impeding serious discussion.



JFK, Phil, and really poor odds

A simple block of wood used to sit on the Oval Office desk, when Pres. John F. Kennedy was in office. Attached were the bronzed words from the Breton Fisherman’s Prayer, a poem by Winfred Ernest Garrison:

“Oh God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.”

I admit. It’s always attractive to me when one considered so knowingly powerful chooses humility. Hear that word again: chooses.

What I love about the fisherman’s prayer is not the Celtic language nor the affinity for the sea. What I love is the reference of humility… how this then sat on the President’s desk.

Humility changes things, friends.

It changes how we lead.

How we interact. 

How we voice our opinion.

How free we feel to judge.

Writes author Gavin Ortlund in a recently read book by the Intramuralist…

“Now, it’s easy to admit in principle that you have blind spots. But humility will cause this recognition to make a noticeable difference in your actual interactions with people. It will lead to more clarifying questions, more pursuit of common ground, more appreciation of rival concerns, more delay in arriving at judgments…

Humility teaches us to navigate life with sensitivity to the distinction between what we don’t know and what we don’t know that we don’t know…”

That means we approach potential disagreement with “careful listening, a willingness to learn, and openness to receiving new information or adjusting our perspective. Pride makes us stagnant; humility makes us nimble.”

What made the throngs of people surround surprising victor, Phil Mickelson, for example, as he closed the course on Sunday, wasn’t just his powerful drives nor incredible sand shots nor even the fact that he’s 50 years old. The people were prompted by how the PGA’s beloved Lefty handled himself not only Sunday but also as his career has evolved…

He didn’t stand before the mics and tell everyone how talented and great he is.

He didn’t boast that he would win the next major, too.

He also didn’t tell everyone else how wrong they were — and yes, at 200-to-1, the oddsmakers were emphatically wrong.

But Phil never shamed the oddsmakers. He never bashed a competitor; in fact, he affirmed his competitors, especially his fiercest. Phil Mickelson approached his unexpected, additional moment of fame with gratitude and humility. Humility is always attractive.

What would it change if we were to embrace that more?

… if our leaders embraced that more?

… if we forsook the temptation to boast or bemoan?

“Oh God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.”

May we remember the sentiment savored by JFK. May we practice it more generously, too.



what’s going on in the Holy Land?

Perhaps, like you, my current rhythms of life and daily routine have recently been interrupted by bits and pieces of breaking news about the latest violence in Israel. I’ve been tempted to pay brief attention to headlines and press reports to have at least some sense of what’s going on in the world — granted, that is before conveniently returning to the ease and comfort of my routine and to what I already know. Israel is some approximate 5690 miles away. Why should I care?

But I do.

The challenge immediately stems, no less, from the difficulty of obtaining knowingly accurate news. As the Intramuralist engaged with caring others this past week, one concerned friend insightfully responded, “I just wish I knew what was true. I also wish I knew where to find it.”

And there we have it. We don’t know. And suffice it to say that seemingly many others with mics in their hands and keyboards at their fingertips not only also don’t know, but, they don’t know what they don’t know. That lack of awareness makes the problem worse and more difficult to comprehend.

Too many have boldly asserted simplistic answers or edicts, presumably — semi-admirably, perhaps — to make the problem go away…

One state…

Two states…

Can the Jewish and Palestinian communities overlap?

(Or perhaps the most oft tempting response…) Could they please just stop fighting?

Others have offered input from their own, respectfully faulty filters… labeling Israel an “apartheid state,” for example, forgetting that Arabs and Jews vote and stand equal under Israeli law, which thereby contradicts the definition of “apartheid.” This is not a racist issue, friends. In fact, we serve our collective intellect poorly when we assume all can be accurately understood from a racist/anti-racist binary.

In discerning this issue, aware that we don’t know what we don’t know, the most important approach seems once again doused in humility. Humility reminds us we don’t have a perfect understanding of the issue. Humility makes us open to new information. In humility, we ask more than we declare. 

Hence — noting that the current conflict has been the worst fighting between Israel and Hamas since the 50 day, 2014 Gaza War — we offer the following, admittedly incomplete list of 15 questions…

  • What started the current conflict? Was it due to the Supreme court of Israel determining an eviction date for several current Palestinian tenants in an Israeli-owned area?   
  • Was it due to clashing demonstrations in response at a holy site for both Muslims and Jews? 
  • Was it due to the President of the State of Palestine cancelling the first elections in a generation — fearful they may lose power to Hamas — and wanting to redirect domestic attention and angst?
  • What exactly is Hamas? Is it a terrorist organization as both the United Nations and European Union have designated?
  • When Fathi Hammad, Hamas Political Bureau member and former interior minister, called on Jerusalem residents to “cut off the heads of Jews” two weeks ago — adding “the moment of destruction at your hands has arrived” — was he speaking for all of Hamas?
  • Does Israel have a right to defend themselves?
  • If Hamas huddles in hospitals and schools as Israel reports, should Israel avoid targeting those locales for destruction?
  • Are both sides equally to blame?
  • What influence — as former Pres. George W. Bush questioned this week — is Iran having here?
  • Is Iran attempting to break up alliances made in the 2020 Abraham Accords with Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)?
  • What is it about the six Arab countries that now have normalized ties with Israel that Palestine could learn from?
  • How involved does the entire Arab world need to be to solve this issue?
  • What role of the United States would be both appropriate and effective?
  • What does solution look like that honors both people groups?
  • And… does each nation/people group actually want peace?

Undoubtedly, the fighting here has gone on for eons; the solution isn’t simple. In the most recent, 100 year dispute, the fight has focused on who owns the land and who has a right to live there. There is so much history. So much to learn. And when people struggle to get along and honor one another, there is so much humility that is necessary.



stirring up the community!

Cultural overlaps are always fascinating to me. What are those things across diverse people groups that most people practice? What are the common values varied communities esteem?

Where are those pockets and places in which people groups we typically distinguish most by their differences, actually — maybe unknowingly, intentionally or even unintentionally — where do they actually agree? … where does commonality exist?

I stumbled across a huge one this week. As a very informal student of history, I noticed that among other books, the book of Proverbs has been quoted for centuries by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. What could be so significant? I wondered. What truths are there? Why would three distinct, diverse groups — seemingly most often identified by their differences — admire and adhere to like thinking? And not just thinking, but everyday, wise kind of living.

In my fairly awkward stumble, I found this rich nugget… “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”

Things. God. Hates. Let’s be honest; if there are things stated that the great big God of the universe actually hates, it would be wise to know what they are.

Much of the above, no doubt, makes immediate sense…

haughty | ˈhôdē | adj. – disdainfully proud; scornfully arrogant; snobbish.

lying | ˈlīiNG | adj. – telling or containing lies; deliberately untruthful; deceitful.

shed | SHed | v. – to pour out, spill (blood). 

wicked | ˈwikid | adj. – evil or morally bad in principle or practice; sinful; iniquitous.

evil | ˈēvəl | n. – profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity.

false witness | fôls | adj. – not according with truth or fact; | ˈwitnəs | n. – evidence, testimony; a person who sees an event.

And then there’s that last one…

A person who stirs up conflict in the community.

I had to pause there.

I’m not really one who wrestles with feeling evil. I am by no means perfect, and I have a zillion areas to grow and improve upon. But I know I’m God’s kid and strive to move forward in a way that honors him daily — imperfect and all.

Sure, I can be arrogant. I can even be mean or insensitive sometimes… even on a seemingly good day, although I pray for humility, knowing how incredibly wise, good, contagious and attractive that is. 

Lying? Nope. As a parent, few things get my goat more. That is unacceptable.

But a person who stirs up conflict in the community…

stir up | stər əp | v. – to cause; spread.

conflict | ˈkänˌflikt | n. – strife, contention; controversy.

community | kəˈmyo͞onədē | n. – a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common; a feeling of fellowship with others.

There lay the question I can’t ignore.

Where have I intentionally stirred up controversy? Where — in this thing that multiple cultures acknowledge — this thing that God reportedly hates — where have I justified disrupting community and spreading strife? Where, too, have I cheered on another when they did the same? In other words, where have I ignored wisdom?

Only questions this day, friends… and a few unsettling ones at that.



the glue a nation needs

When the Intramuralist began, I remember feeling weary at the way people spoke not only to each other but also about each other. Day one we asserted that “most people don’t know how to respect those with whom they disagree.” That was twelve and a half years ago.

With respect being not only our mantra but also our practice, I am always attracted to those who warn how a lack of respect is damaging our nation. We can’t be any “we the people,” “home of the brave” or even “united” state of America if we can’t learn to respect the different. 

Notice we speak not about agreement. We don’t have to agree; in fact, it’s preposterous to think we all would. But we do need to respect a person’s right to think, feel, and believe what they do if we are going to maintain any enduring sense of “we,” “brave” or “united.”

I believe that unity can be found amid disagreement. Unity, however, depends on respect.

Recently, The Christian Science Monitor began what they call “The Respect Project.” The goal is to “bridge the conflicts that divide us.” In race, gender, religion, and education, they offer a frank conversation about how respect is operating in our politics. Note a few of their headlines:

  • “Between religious and LGBTQ rights, what does fairness look like?”
  • “Why French Jews and Muslims are learning each other’s language”
  • “This woman bridges climate change divides, one Maine voter at a time”
  • “Asian in America: Reflections on the meaning of being American”
  • “‘Blind date’ for political rivals? TV show is breaking down barriers.”
  • “Can friendship be bipartisan? Ask the Janets.”


“Respect: Is it the glue a polarized nation needs?”

It’s important to acknowledge the differences between politeness, tolerance and respect. Politeness may gloss over significant difference. Tolerance may mask the depth of individual credence. But to respect means to see another as a human being, endowed by their Creator, of unquestionable dignity and worth. It is to see them no lesser than self. And it is to see them as no lesser or worse even if they have a belief, behavior or opinion that we may consider nothing short of certifiably crazy, criminal, or iniquitous. 

Political commentator, Andrew Sullivan — who is included in the initial article in the CS Monitor’s series — says this well. “It’s my profound worry about this, that we don’t see each other as individuals. We see each other as avatars of a race or an identity or as something threatening to us, as opposed to another human being.” We need, as Sullivan continues, to refresh our commitment — “to the bedrock principles of liberal democracies, including an abiding respect for the inherent dignity and absolute worth of every human being.” 

Too much of what we are advocating and teaching, friends, starts by pitting people against one another… us vs. them… black vs. white… conservative vs. liberal… etc. vs. etc.

We are toying with a damaging tool: this pitting of one vs. another — a humanly-crafted, binary choice that only one can be good and the other must be bad or at the very least lesser. Such is nothing short of a veiled exercise encouraging deep disrespect… an exercise which is tearing our country in far more than two.

Note the following insight from “The Respect Project”:

“… Amid the nation’s political polarization and widening cultural divides are millions of Americans who have lost sight of each other, caught in reflexive rituals and simplistic clichés that dismiss, demonize, or otherwise delegitimize perceived enemies.

Respect is one vital way we heal and reestablish common civic ideals.

‘… respect helps get at something a little bit richer and deeper,’ says Ms. [Alexandra] Hudson, author of ‘Against Politeness: Why Politeness Failed America and How Civility Can Save It.’ ‘And I say both civility and respect are more of a disposition, a fundamental way of looking at the world and others as human beings first, more like us than not like us. It’s a way of reflecting on what that means for what we owe one another by virtue of our inherent dignity, our irreducible worth as human beings and as fellow members of the human community.’”

Ah… fellow members of one community…

And to see others as more like us than not…

Yes, that’s what we need.



making sure not to miss what’s bigger

I was cold.

I was wet. Very wet.

At one point I could no longer feel my fingers or toes.

Even with protective gear, my right arm was drenched. The sideways rain found ways to penetrate seemingly all inclement weather attire.

We had made the woefully strategic decision to dress for the event instead of the weather. Flying in for the weekend, our luggage capacity adherent to airline limitations only allowed for so much flexibility. I suppose, therefore, we took a calculated risk. We thoroughly failed.

Used to low temps now equating to under 70-something, 39° was bit of a blunt reminder shock to my system. I forgot that socks were good.

Proceed then with two hours sitting on a metal football bench in the rain… two hours fairly near the stage, albeit on the top level of the massive outdoor stadium. We were socially-distanced, of course. Granted, the paths between us seemed only to create a fiercer gauntlet for the plethora of intermittent wind gusts. (Did I say “plethora”?)

Let me add to the visual none other than a clunky, inconvenient hobble — a hobble or wobble brought on by a recent foot injury that currently necessitates both an oh-so-attractive boot and a demonstrably slower pace. 

By all accounts, it was miserable. Absolutlely miserable.

Except that it wasn’t.

This weekend, we had the most wonderful day!

None of the above is untrue.

None of the above is exaggerated. 

Ask any who attended the 2021 commencement ceremonies in Ohio State’s “Horseshoe” last Sunday.

(And if you can find the one other woman I saw also donned in a semi-formal dress and low heels, be sure to ask her, too.)

But I repeat: we had the most wonderful day!

The bottom line was that our son was graduating… four years in college… multiple honors…  professional steps eagerly awaiting… what an accomplishment! What a moment for our family … what a moment not to miss!

We miss the moment, friends, when we focus on what’s lesser.

We miss the moment when we focus on the “rain.”

We miss the bottom line when we focus on all that tempts to derail and distract us… what’s unfortunate, what’s inconvenient, what I wish wouldn’t have worked out that way…

We miss what’s bigger when we focus on what seems unfair, what other people have that I want, where I feel like the victim…

There were so many things Sunday I wished wouldn’t have been that way. I admit, it was temptingly irritating to be unable to steadily hold one of our multiple umbrellas with nothing short of a shivering, soaked right arm. When the water started running down the back of our legs, there may have been an added squeal or two.

But here we were, seeing past our circumstances, not allowing any to zap our joy. We were so gleeful!

We laughed. We cried. We laughed so hard we cried!

True, this proud parent cried, too, at the onset of the accompanying “Pomp and Circumstances.” I admit to also crying as a bit of a softie at the site of the gown, the cords, and the academic distinction added to his prestigious diploma.

But I think the lesson learned, for me and more, is that no matter the depth of irritation or inconvenience, circumstances need not zap our joy nor dampen the celebration. When they do, we miss the moment; we miss what’s bigger; we miss the sweeter blessing and opportunity for growth.

That goes for way more than graduation.

Oh, what a wonderful day…



Dear Graduate

As I sit down to pen this post, the words seem few. But yet, there still seems so much to say. How do I say this well? How does one compact an approximate 20-some years of events and experience into one nice-sounding, semi-concise letter? How do we mark this awesome milestone?

As you stand tall in “The Shoe” (or elsewhere) this day, accepting your unquestionably well-earned diploma, so much will be running through this proud parent’s mind…


The older I get, I’m not certain there’s any healthier emotion. I’m not certain any other emotion keeps life in perspective, humbles us, prompts peace, joy, confidence, all at the same time. Be grateful, son. Learn to feel it. Express it. Be generous with it. I think of a simple example — how neither of your siblings nor so many others were accompanied by any Pomp and Circumstance only one year ago. Don’t compare; just be aware. Let your awareness always be cause for gratitude.

An added note… Be sure the gratitude is not aimless. To be grateful means to give thanks not only for something but also to someone for that something. That goes with other people; that goes with figuring the faith thing out. One of the sweet, profound beauties of life is that the more we learn to give the Creator of the universe and the Creator of us thanks — to directly express our gratitude to Him — the more we are aware of who He is and who we are in relation to him. That puts life in perspective and keeps too much else from getting in the way.


To be clear, pride and arrogance are not the same thing. To be arrogant means to have an exaggerated sense of self. Pride is different; it’s not exaggerated. Pride is this quiet sense of dignity. It’s a confidence embedded within the awareness of achievement, knowing you’re uniquely gifted, trusting the next step before you, even if it’s not exactly what you would have designed. You will go far, my son. I have no doubt of that. Know we are for you. Always. We believe in you.


Oh, how I wish as a culture we embraced this consistently more. Beware, son. Humility is not universally encouraged. We’ve all had moments in which we’ve been tempted to dismiss the value of life’s arguably most attractive virtue. There will never be a moment when humility isn’t prudent. There will never be a moment when humility isn’t called for. There will never be a moment in which humility should be forsaken. In winning, losing, weakness and strength, be humble. Admit it. Your humility will prompt the ease of extension of both generosity and grace. Such is how one truly wins friends and influences people. Oh, the places you’ll go.


Ok, ok, so you didn’t choose my beloved alma mater, but I do deeply respect your choice (except during football season, you know). No doubt you made the choice that was best for you. But don’t let your education end now. Let this be the beginning. Be a lifelong student. The wisest people I know are the ones who keep learning. There need not be any more 17 page papers, all nighters with an insane amount of caffeine, or even late nights at the library. But what the sagacious have in common is they know education never ends. Resist the lure to simply pad what you already think you know. Our culture isn’t very good at this. Be different. Read. Read more than the sports section. Read from the different. The diverse. Resist that tribal thinking. Tribal thinking can be dangerous, as it rarely expands any learning.


I really wish I had some neat, maybe even poignant, concise poetic phrase that we could end on here. But it’s harder; it’s so much bigger. I know honor is important. It’s timeless. You can never outdo another in honor. Still try. When we honor other people, it changes how we see them; it changes how we feel about them. It leads to compassion. Empathy. And it makes it harder to craft those human hills we conveniently suggest we’ll die on. But here’s the catch: most of us are selective in our honor. There is no wisdom in that. Work to honor all. Love another as yourself. Leave no one out. Ever. That’s authentic honor.

So today we sit… quietly… if anyone notices, probably, too, with a few silent tears falling down our face… trying to take it all in…

Grateful for your graduation… proud of your accomplishment… humbled by your growth… learning how very much you have taught us… and so, so honored…

Honored, absolutely, by who you are, son… and who you are becoming.

Well done. So well done. Congratulations, too. I can’t wait to see what’s next…

Joyfully… always…


I disagree!

“How do we handle disagreement?” posed my wise friend last weekend. In a fascinating exchange, his question prompted further, unquestionably relevant pondering…

We are passionate people. We have thoughts and opinions and ways we each think are right.

If it’s right for me, is it right for thee? Is it up to me to demand it right for thee?

Sometimes we think so. We think we are to serve as others’ moral compass. We think it’s our place to judge. We think we are somehow capable of making sensible conclusions for others and even able to render appropriate consequences for such obvious errors in judgment.

So what about disagreement? What are we to do with that? I mean, we all know — logically speaking, of course — that we are no one’s Holy Spirit. That’s a divine role; not yours, mine, government’s, etc. None of us are anywhere capable of that. 

But perhaps the better question — precisely because of our individual, unique thoughts and opinions and ways we think are right — centers around unity. What is it? What is it not? And can we experience unity even in disagreement?

Unity means to be joined together. Simply put, it is a connectedness — a means of being linked together.

Unity is not uniformity. For my entire kid and adult life, for example, I have been a steadfast fan of the Cincinnati Reds (don’t get me started on ignoring the Hall of Fame credentials of one Mr. Peter Edward Rose, Sr.). From my early days of cheering on the dominant “Big Red Machine” to even now, grimacing when the bullpen gives up another late inning home run, I have long been loyal to one of baseball’s charter members of the National League.

Granted, I am not alone in my fandom. I am connected with countless others in my devotion to America’s greatest pastime in southwest Ohio. We don’t all look, think, believe and behave alike. But we are connected. We cheer and grimace together.

Unity is not agreement. Agreement would mean we actually do all look, think, believe and behave alike. Believe me; there is much disagreement among us Reds’ fans as to which pitcher wouldn’t have served up that late inning home run.

But when we confuse unity with agreement, we lose sight of our connectedness.

How do we not lose sight of what is true?

“We prioritize people,” said my wise friend once more.

We invest. We get to know. We listen. Remain humble. Ask questions.

Is this conversation, is this social media post, is this rant or rave going to help another person grow, be encouraged, or be more mindful of what’s good and right and true?

Who am I ignoring in my rant? Who am I justifying disrespecting? 

Profoundly true is disagreement and disrespect are easier with distance; the farther I am from the experience of another, the easier it is for me to draw the judgment line in a place solely consistent with my thinking…

Think race isn’t an issue? Get to know the person of color who was racially targeted. Think race is always an issue? Get to know the person of color who is aware of multiple other factors…

Think Democrats are intolerant hypocrites? Get to know the loyalist, who sincerely believes progressive policy is more compassionate. Think Republicans are arrogant bigots? Get to know the faithful, who sincerely believes conservative policy is more effective. In other words, get to know them. Quit drawing lines from a distance. We prioritize people when we move closer to them.

Moving closer means we humanize. As we move, we feel the connectedness. When we feel the connectedness, we recognize how hollow uniformity and agreement actually are.

Still pondering… so much there…



are we a racist country?

“… A hundred years ago, kids in classrooms were taught the color of their skin was their most important characteristic — and if they looked a certain way, they were inferior. Today, kids again are being taught that the color of their skin defines them — and if they look a certain way, they’re an oppressor. From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven’t made any progress. By doubling down on the divisions we’ve worked so hard to heal. You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country…”

In arguably the most talked about presidential joint address, contemporary rebuttal, the words of Sen. Tim Scott made us think.

To be clear, if you stopped by this day looking for a binary answer to the above question, allow me to immediately dispel your expectations. A binary choice answer is insufficient and incomplete. In fact, when we create binary choices — yes/no, racist/anti-racist, for-me/against-me, for example — we are ignoring the complexity of the issue.

Let’s discuss a bit further — as I believe this to be profoundly significant. Books have been promoted and popularized which are solely a series of binary choices. My sobered sense is such is a precarious gambit. 

When we reduce the sensitive, complex issue of racism to a binary choice, we are simplifying the issue. The binary disregards the validity of another. It assumes different perspective equates to either wrong or at best, an incomprehensible outlier. It ignores aspects and experience that don’t fit with our individual paradigm. And when we ignore what doesn’t fit, we fail to engage in the hard work of comprehending the difficult — the totality of the issue. We attempt to cut short the conversation… even though conversations make us think. We saw this in response to Sen. Scott.

With such a well-delivered message that the country is fascinatingly still talking about, pundits and personalities have had to find a way to deal with what Scott actually said… “Race is not a political weapon to settle every issue the way one side wants. It’s too important.”

And then, with few better ways to concisely say it, the name calling went nuts. The demeaning, schooling, awful Twitter tweeting went rampant. Targeting Scott.

I get it. His perspective doesn’t fit in the paradigm of many. That’s legitimate; the name calling is not.

But simply because Scott’s perspective may not fit with mine, it doesn’t make his nor my paradigm wrong; it doesn’t make it right either. It shows that multiple perspectives exist. As one who wants to grow in comprehension, I need to examine more than my or a likeminded perspective.

Those perspectives can be examined via conversation — interactive, respectful dialogue; those conversations prompt people to grow, opinions to expand, and hearts to change. Unfortunately, however, we have created paradigms that encourage us to cut short the conversation. That’s why the Intramuralist respected Scott’s message — the fact that he challenged the binary choice; he actually changed the conversation.

Note how the conversation changed the very next day…

On “Good Morning America,” Vice President Kamala Harris was asked if we’re a racist country. “No, I don’t think America is a racist country,” said Harris.

On “Today” a bit later, to Pres. Joe Biden: is America racist country? “I don’t think the American people are racist,” said the President.

Biden, Harris, and Scott each added more; none claimed racism to be nonexistent. They each acknowledged there is work to do and reform and healing that needs to be examined and take place.

But how the work is done, how reform is crafted, and how healing can effectively ensue will never result from shutting down conversation, shaming another, or by not even allowing another to think the way they do. 

Quick question: how many hearts have been changed via social media when one person opines, another respectfully chimes in with contrary perspective, and the original poster’s tribe members then jump in, swiftly bashing the perceived contrarian? How many are moved to change their opinion when the masses make sure another knows they are wrong?

The best conversations I have, friends — the interactions that make me grow, sharpen and make me think the most — are often with people who hold a different perspective than me… Please, Lord, let me never be so stuck in my own opinion…

Unquestionably, there are great questions in what work, reform and healing look like in regard to how race has affected our country, the progress that’s been made, and what healthy, God-honoring next steps look like. But the way the answers to those questions will actually be effective is by first allowing the conversation to occur.