they. don’t. care.

So I really appreciated the dialogue after our last post, “Four Days After Parkland.”

There have been strong opinions, intense emotions.

And truthfully, that makes me thankful. Why?

Because people care.

I’ll say that again. Seventeen innocents died and people care.

Isn’t that the point we miss most in some of our tough topic discussions?

We assume that because people come from a wide variety of angles (note: far more than a mere two) that they don’t care.

We think They. Don’t. Care.

Isn’t that the reality?

And once we’ve convinced ourselves that another (again: far more than the other) side/person doesn’t care, then we can justify believing and calling them morally inferior (… and yes, I actually saw one adult use that exact description in another thread).

Wow.

Friends, this is tough. This is us. And this is sad.

This is sad.

Why?

Because reasonable people…
… intelligent people…
… good-thinking people…
… good-hearted people…

… typically reasonable, intelligent, good-thinking, and good-hearted people are justifying thinking of whole other people groups as morally inferior.

As the weekend thread about Parkland evolved some forty plus comments later, I had one sincere friend succinctly pose her concern that the days of people coming together, wanting to make lasting change, are permanently gone. Instead of listening to other angles and perspectives, because we are assuming that another side/person is morally inferior — in other words, because we are assuming the worst in another — we justify exerting only our opinion… because…

WE are morally superior.

Friends, with all due respect… knowing I can be just as guilty… do we see the arrogance and judgment in that assumption?

… to believe we are morally superior to another?

I continue to believe that our country is digressing morally and socially. It’s not because certain traditions no longer exist nor because we’re less old-fashioned or more technologically advanced.

It’s instead manifest in how we treat each other… how typically reasonable, intelligent, good-thinking, and good-hearted people treat each other.

No man/woman is morally superior. Each of us was created by the great big God of the universe — not one better than another.

That’s it, friends.

We care.

Respectfully…
AR

four days after Parkland

Let’s talk honestly, rawly about what happened last Wednesday. Let’s talk about the students. Let’s talk about solution.

First, take a moment to say each of these names out loud. Take note, too, of their ages…

Alyssa Alhadeff (14), Martin Duque Anguiano (14), Scott Beigel (35), Nicholas Dworet (17), Aaron Feis (37), Jaime Guttenberg (14), Christopher Hixon (49), Luke Hoyer (15), Cara Loughran (14), Gina Montalto (14), Joaquin Oliver (17), Alaina Petty (14), Meadow Pollack (18), Helena Ramsay (17), Alex Schachter (14), Carmen Schentrup (16), and Peter Wang (15).

We need to know their names, see their faces. We need to make sure we humanize the process and allow ourselves to feel. We cannot simply stand back behind a policy; we need to stand most behind our people.

17 people died Wednesday afternoon. No doubt none expected to lose their life that day. And that could have been any our kids or any of us or any of our loved ones, too; we expect school to be safe. It was not. It’s seemingly, increasingly not.

So what do we do? What’s the solution?

Let me first say I have tremendous respect for those who shout and shame on social media. They are motivated by a deep desire to solve this problem.

I also have tremendous respect for those who cry out and pray, acknowledging we need help in this area. They are motivated by a deep desire to solve this problem.

What concerns me are those who see only one of the above as right, and therefore denigrate all others. “The ‘my way or the high way’ approach is rendering all of us incapable of rising up to a challenge that will continue to consume the most innocent and best of us,” says one wise friend. We need to address the challenge without attacking or dismissing the approach of another.

I do find comfort that even among the most passionate, shameful expressers, each of us is still motivated by a desire to solve this heartbreaking challenge in our country.

Friends, we can — and should, I believe — look at policy changes. So let’s do something that works. Let’s take the politics out of it and find what’s effective and works. There is no such thing as “there is nothing we can do.”

Do we need to limit access to semi-automatic weapons? Then let’s do it. But let’s limit more than just the scary looking ones.

Do we need to limit the lobbyist groups that are influencing policy and our legislators’ votes?

Then let’s do it. But let’s limit far more than the NRA. Let’s limit the AARP, AFL-CIO, and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, too. Each of those (and more) is affecting the way our legislators vote. As said here previously, the Intramuralist strongly believes that the eased restrictions on lobbyists and special interest groups — which occurred in the late 1970’s — is a primary origin of the divisive governance we sadly witness today.

But  remembering that we are talking honestly and rawly, is there more we need to do? After acknowledging the students and advocating for solution, let’s not ignore the also true realities…

  • What happened in Parkland was evil. We cannot legislate evil out of the human heart…
  • We are a society which is at best inconsistent and at worst arrogant regarding the sanctity of life. We care more about some lives than others… and…
  • We have become increasingly less compassionate and accepting of violence.

Let me make the last point a little more poignant. We have become increasingly more accepting of selective compassion, meaning we are not compassionate toward all — and we justify it.

Follow the perspective of one Florida middle school Teacher of the Year [with the emphasis being mine], “Until we, as a country, are willing to get serious and talk about mental health issues, lack of available care for the mental health issues, lack of discipline in the home, horrendous lack of parental support when the schools are trying to control horrible behavior at school (oh no! Not MY KID. What did YOU do to cause my kid to react that way?), lack of moral values, and yes, I’ll say it – violent video games that take away all sensitivity to ANY compassion for others’ lives – as well as reality TV that makes it commonplace for people to constantly scream up in each others’ faces and not value any other person but themselves, we will have a gun problem in school.”

So yes, we need to review policy change. Yes, we need to keep praying. And yes, we need to respect one another in their different approach. Let’s work together toward solution.

That’s love, friends. Let’s make love toward all lives — toward the victims, especially — be our loudest, collective voice…. for far more than four days after Parkland.

Respectfully…
AR

I may be wrong

Every four years, at this time of year, we seem to get visions of sugar plums or ice skaters (or something) dancing in our heads, and I’m reminded of how enjoyable the Olympics can be… athletes coming together for fierce but friendly competition, regardless of nation, ethnicity, etc.

I think of so many who’ve gone before… Apolo Ohno, Franz Klammer, and Kristi Yamaguchi, to name a few…

… and to those we have our eyes on this February… Nathan Chen, Chloe Kim, and the “Shib Sibs,” Alex and Maia Shibutani.

I think, too, of Tonya Harding.

With the new movie “I, Tonya” undoubtedly, intentionally timed for its recent cinematic release, we are reminded of the disturbing 1994 event…

Prior to Olympic hopefuls Harding and Nancy Kerrigan descending upon Lillehammer, Norway for the XVII Olympic Winter Games, Kerrigan was intentionally clubbed an inch above the knee during practice by a man associated with Harding. The man was attempting to break Kerrigan’s leg in order to prevent her from competing in the games.

Harding was then hounded by the media during all public events at and leading up to the Olympics. CBS, in fact, notoriously assigned Connie Chung to follow the skater’s every move in Lillehammer. There, Kerrigan would physically recover and go on to finish second — Harding eighth. Two and a half weeks later, Harding pled guilty to conspiring to hinder the prosecution of the attackers; she also received a lifetime ban from the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

Tonya Harding became one of the most hated sports figures in America.

“I, Tonya” chronicles this account. It also shares more — about the abuse she says she received from both her mother and first husband… about her “white trash” reputation… and about her fluid vulgar mouth, for example (a representation Harding denies). Harding — now Mrs. Tonya Price — is said to be pleased with the film.

As I read reviews and subsequent interviews with Harding, I was reminded of a few details.

First, the FBI found that the attacker had been hired by Shawn Eckardt, a friend of Jeff Gillooly’s. Jeff Gillooly was Ms. Harding’s ex-husband at the time.

Second, Harding’s guilty plea acknowledged that she knew who was responsible for the attack but only after it occurred. She then did not report it immediately.

In other words, even though the prosecution believed Harding was guilty of far more than her plea encompassed, Harding became hated for both what she did and didn’t do. The media mocked her — again, for what she did and didn’t do. The media encouraged us to hate her, even though the courts did not find her guilty of encouraging, planning, nor executing the attack.

Taffy Brodesser-Akner recently did an excellent interview with Harding for the New York Times Magazine. Harding claimed that no one had ever sat down with her before and listened to her side of the story. She believes the media in particular had only lied, tricked, and attacked her previously. In response to Harding discussing the media’s abuse, Brodesser-Akner writes:

“I told her about the essays I’d read about how we should have been kinder and protected her back then. She doesn’t want to hear it. What do we know about her? We never asked…

She doesn’t need our protection now, thank you very much. She needed it back then. Where were our think pieces then? ‘You all disrespected me and it hurt. I’m a human being and it hurt my heart.’”

And so it made me wonder…

According to Brodesser-Akner’s perspective, there are all sorts of contradictions in Harding’s account. But sitting with Harding, asking good questions, listening to her, trying to understand what influenced Harding’s behavior, and being willing to acknowledge that so much of what the public believes is inaccurate, Brodesser-Akner found herself having compassion instead of hate for the former Olympian; she had compassion on Harding, even though there is no denial that Harding did do something bad.

Where have we allowed that to happen to us? … where have we justified hatred because we are no longer willing to listen to another’s perspective? … where have we justified hatred, not realizing some details of our perspective may be wrong?

Respectfully… always…
AR

returning to a great era

And then there was this on Tuesday on the Senate floor, as calmly spoken by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)…

“So with that, I’m going to sign the pledge. It says here:

‘Pledge to Return to Era of Bipartisan Cooperation and Agreement

In order to restore civility to the United States Senate and our political discourse, we must pledge to return to an era of bipartisan cooperation and agreement.

I, Joe Manchin (signing his name), pledge to the people of West Virginia (the state Manchin has been elected to represent) and to the American people that I will:

Not campaign against a sitting colleague.

2) Not directly fundraise against them.

3) Not distribute direct mail against them.

4) Not appear or endorse any advertisements directed at them.

5) Not use or endorse social media campaign that attacks them.

I would hope that each one of you all would consider this.

I think we have to take this into our own hands right now, and make sure that we look at each other — we look at each other with sincerity.

You’re my friend.

We might disagree but we can work through this.

We can work through this, Mr. President.

We can definitely work through this — and remember our purpose in being here.

The people want us to succeed. They depend on us to succeed. And that’s the policies that they need… whether it be in Indiana, South Dakota, West Virginia, they all want the same. They want America to be the hope of the world.’”

How many of us would encourage our representatives to follow the lead of Sen. Manchin?

How many of us would not?

Let me also ask:

How many of us want to be part of the solution?

… or the problem?

Thank you, Joe Manchin III.

Please keep talking; please do not be silent.

Respectfully…
AR

if we were united…

As we await yet another Super Bowl, we await yet another appearance by none other than the New England Patriots. This is the tenth time the Patriots have played in the NFL’s annual championship game — the most of any NFL team. It is also the eighth appearance under the tenure of head coach Bill Belichick. Led by future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, the Patriots’ dominance on the gridiron has been unprecedented.

Much of that dominance seems evident in the decades-long unity both on and off the field; in order to be consistently victorious, the coaches, players, and all those associated need to be on the same page…

What’s the game plan? … where do we need to be when?… let’s do this together!

Successful sports teams are “together” teams; they are unified. Unity — combined with talent, hard work, and giftedness — equates to strength.

So as we live amidst a culture that seems to crave unity yet struggles to find what is lasting, I find myself pondering what exactly allows for the potential of permanence… what unity has the potential to never be undone? Where does true unity lie?

Like ambition and uniforms are simply not big enough to cover us all. Like life stories and demographics can also fade in time. Like gender only covers half of us.

Hence, we must ask: what’s big enough? What’s big enough to never go away?

“Isn’t there one father for all of us, one God who created us?”

Unifying under anything other than that profound yet oh-so humbling realization that there is solely “one God who created us” will at some point glean a few cracks, as in anything lesser, individual differences and thus competing desires will eventually come into play.

Note the Patriots’ challenge as they move forward after Super Bowl LII…

Brady will turn 41 in 2018 — Belichick, 66. Each wants to win, but also… totally understandably…

… Belichick wants to keep his job.

… Brady wants to play as long as he can.

… and owner Bob Kraft wants to keep winning after Belichick and Brady are gone.

Competing motivations would thus seem to serve as potential for cracks in the unity — whether in football, politics, you-name-it. Recognizing we are each created by God, however, is the only aspect big enough in which there exists no individual difference wherein a competing motivation could lie.

Interestingly, a senior writer for ESPN questioned New England’s unity at the onset of this year’s playoff season. Said Seth Wickersham:

“Brady, Belichick and Kraft have raised expectations and possibilities so high that virtually no other team in the Super Bowl era could truly comprehend what it’s like to be them. Brady and Belichick weren’t only pushing the boundaries of what a team could accomplish. They also were challenging basic understandings of how a group of high achievers escape the usual pulls of ego and pride. For 17 years, the Patriots have withstood everything the NFL and opponents could throw their way, knowing that if they were united, nobody could touch them. Now they’re threatening to come undone the only way possible: from within.”

While the team disputed much of ESPN’s perspective of coming “undone,” the question remains how they best move forward, knowing preparations must be in play, without allowing for cracks in their unity… “if they were united, nobody could touch them.”

… if we were united, what could we do together?

Can we simply speak unity into existence?

Can we ignore our individual limitations and thus eventual, competing desires?

Or… could we pursue something more authentic… recognizing that the only lasting unity rests in a truth that is bigger? … that there is one father for us all and God who created us?

Respectfully…
AR

state of the government ’18

For the last several years, the Intramuralist has published our annual “State of the Government” analysis in conjunction with the President’s annual State of the Union Address. While the themes remain the same, this is a tougher blog to write this year, aware of the seemingly increasing challenge to specifically discuss the government’s role respectfully.

It’s been a tough year.  It’s been a tough several years. Some believe respect is no longer necessary. Sometimes that even, unfortunately, includes the current president. We then each take turns being disrespectful in response.

And so with my heartfelt desire is to communicate respectfully, regardless of topic, I acknowledge that I can’t control anyone’s Twitter feed. I can’t stop the flurry of social media memes that mock another whole party or people group. I can only encourage each of us individually to be aware of how we contribute to the division. This is about no one else, friends. This is us.

In recent years, we’ve opined here that the state of our government is “too partisan, too influenced by money, too big, too financially imbalanced, and too far removed from the Constitution.” My limited perspective also senses that the respect level has deteriorated so far — fueled by partisans on both sides of the equation — that we can no longer see the actual state of our government.

Partisans on both sides consistently blame someone else. We then blame someone else… if only they would _______.. The focus is typically on “they.”

I get it. It’s easier. We are far more comfortable pointing the finger elsewhere and demanding someone else change their thinking or behavior than examining our own negative contribution. We are far more willing to point the finger at someone else’s errors in thinking than to examine what aspects we are currently unable to see due to our bents, bias, emotion, and experience. We are far more wanting to point the finger at someone else’s…

Arrogance.
Insults.
Obstruction.
Blindspots. Unwillingness to listen.
And their lack of loving all people well.

We fail to look at our own…

Arrogance.
Insults.
Obstruction.
Blindspots.
Unwillingness to listen.
And our lack of loving all people well.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… if we’re only loving and respecting the person who thinks like we do, then we are only loving and respecting some people well.

When we fail to love and respect all people — regardless of whether we are a public citizen or elected official — we are fueling the division.

I once shared my earnest, impractical desire to wave some sort of unifying magic wand that could somehow end this growing, disturbing digression; that would no doubt be easiest. But perhaps the best place to start is not with any magic nor fictional tool that relies on something other than me.

The best place to start is with self — putting away our pointing fingers and looking instead internally…

How have I fueled the division?

Tough question. Tougher answer… albeit necessary.

Respectfully…
AR

the testimony of rachael denhollander

Last week’s victim impact statements in one of the nation’s most prolific sexual assault cases prompted a wide range of emotion in many… grief, shock, sorrow, horror, anger, etc. To see a seemingly intelligent adult take advantage of so many children for so many years with so many people simply looking the other way or even telling the teens to be quiet, seems nothing short of unfathomable.

Rachael Denhollander was the first survivor to file a police report against Larry Nassar, the now convicted, former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor. Denhollander was the last to testify. Note this poignant portion of her words…

“… I want you to understand why I made this choice, knowing full well what it was going to cost to get here, and with very little hope of ever succeeding. I did it because it was right. No matter the cost. It was right.

And the farthest I can run from what you have become is to daily choose what is right, instead of what I want.

You have become a man ruled by selfish and perverted desires. A man defined by his daily choices over and over again to feed that selfishness and perversion. You chose to pursue your wickedness no matter what it cost others. And the opposite of what you have done is for me to choose to love sacrificially. No matter what it costs me.

In our early hearings you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness, and so it is on that basis that I appeal to you:

If you have read the Bible you carry, you know that the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that He gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit.

By His grace I, too, choose to love this way.

You spoke of praying for forgiveness, but Larry if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance. Which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of it’s utter depravity and horror, without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen in this courtroom today.

The Bible you carry says it is better for a millstone to be thrown around your neck, and you thrown into a lake, then for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds. The Bible you speak of carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and his eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing.

And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet, because it extends grace, and hope, and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.

I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt so that you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me—though I extend that to you as well.

Throughout this process I have clung to a quote by CS Lewis where he says, ‘My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of unjust and just? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?’

Larry, I can call what you did evil and wicked because it was, and I know it was evil, and wicked, because the straight line exists. The straight line is not measured based on your perception or anyone else’s perception, and this means, I can speak the truth about my abuse without minimization or mitigation and I can call it evil because I know what goodness is.

And this is why I pity you, because when a person loses the ability to define good and evil, when they cannot define evil, they can no longer define and enjoy what is truly good. When a person can harm another human being, especially a child, without true guilt, they have lost the ability to truly love.

Larry, you have shut yourself off from every truly beautiful and good thing in this world, that could have, and should have brought you joy and fulfillment. And I pity you for it. You could have had everything you pretended to be. Every woman who stood up here truly loved you as an innocent child. Real genuine love for you and it did not satisfy.

I have experienced the soul satisfying joy of a marriage built on sacrificial love, and safety, and tenderness, and care. I have experienced true intimacy in its deepest joy’s and it is beautiful and sacred and glorious and that is a joy you have cut yourself off from ever experiencing and I pity you for it.”

Too often, it seems, when we wrestle with evil on this planet, we omit God from the equation. We attempt to have all sorts of conversations without acknowledging God’s presence and character. And yet, it is the comparison of acts to God’s unprecedented, holy character that shed light on exactly what evil is; it is the comparison of the crooked line to the straight.

What does that straight line include? … grace, forgiveness, sacrificial love… as Rachael Denhollander so beautifully, poignantly stated… a testimony for us all.

Respectfully…
AR

the devastating impact of sexual assault

“At 15, I believed that the adults at MSU surrounding Larry would do the right thing if they were aware of what Larry was doing. And I was terribly wrong. And discovering that not only could I not trust my abuser, but I could not trust the people surrounding him, has been devastating,” said gymnast Rachael Denhollander.

In September of 2016, public allegations were first reported against Dr. Larry Nassar, then the sports-medicine doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State. Since that September, over 140 women have come forth with reports of abuse — women that include athletes such as Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman and Denhollander.

Allow that number to sit for a moment… over 140 women. Most were between 13 and 20 years old. Multiple girls were under the age of 13; one said she was six. They were children.

One more number is arguably unfathomable; the first reports of abuse surfaced over 23 years ago. The victims — now “survivors” (as eloquently said by former Olympians Jamie Dantzscher and Raisman) — were asked to keep quiet… by other adult men and women.

With Nassar finally on trial — and struck by the sobering extent of this atrocity — I reached out to a few highly-respected and well-educated friends… friends for whom gymnastics was, well, “my sport”… “my first love,” said one…

… My emotions are a mixture of sadness, anger, and relief. I cannot say I’m happy… gymnastics was a huge part of my life… working through the pain… the discipline… I got to fly through the air and land on my feet! … those years gave me my best, longest friends… but the sport now has a black mark… those people ignored it…

He’s a predator…

He is still blaming the victims. Does he know he did wrong?

After agreeing to plead guilty to ten counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, Nassar wrote a letter to the judge two months before his sentencing. In his six-page assertion, Nassar shared he was unsure if he was mentally able to handle facing comments from those he abused; he also accused the judge of of grandstanding and conducting a “media circus” during the hearing that started a week ago Tuesday. He said, too, “I’ve tried to avoid a trial to save the stress to this community, my family, the victims, yet look what it is happening. It is wrong.” [Insert far more than a “yikes” here.]

Yesterday Michigan judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison. Said Aquilina, first referencing his letter: “This letter tells me you have not yet owned what you did. You still think somehow you are right, you’re a doctor, that you’re entitled so you don’t have to listen.”

And more…

“… 40 years, just so you know and you can count it off your calendar, is 480 months. The tail end — because I need to send a message to the parole board in the event somehow God is gracious and I know he is — and you survive the 60 years in federal court first and then you start on my 40 years. You’ve gone off the page here as to what I’m doing. My page only goes to 100 years. Sir, I’m giving you 175 years, which is 2100 months. I’ve just signed your death warrant.”

While my trusted friends don’t believe any is beyond redemption — and granted, some situations are far harder than others — neither places human judgment over the miraculous works of the God of the universe; this situation is grievous…

This just breaks my heart.

Too many knew. Too many looked the other way… they covered up.

He used a situation in which girls trust the people in the room. He could not be trusted… but they didn’t know… they were children.



I pray this sentencing leaves a loud message to any other predator out there; your time is up… the consequences are huge.

Do I feel criminal justice was served? Yes. Full justice? Not sure. I try to leave that in God’s hands. He is wiser than I.

I pray the voice given to these young women, as well, as the sentencing… may they learn to trust again… may this be the beginning of healing… may they fly through the air again one day, knowing they will land on their feet.

May the flying and healing begin…

Respectfully…
AR

fighting words

“Dem’s fighting words!”

… said everywhere from Bug Bunny to the New York Times’ crossword puzzle. Note the following iconic exchange between Bugs and Yosemite Sam:

Yosemite Sam: “Now, you dog-blasted, ornery, no-account, long-eared varmint!”

Bugs: “Hey, just a minute, you! Dem’s fightin’ woids!”

Yosemite Sam: “Yeah, dem’s fightin’ words!”

Bugs: “I dash ya to step across dis line.”
[traces line along edge of diving board] 

Yosemite Sam: “I’m a-stepping.”
[Sam steps across line and falls off board; rises up] 

Yosemite Sam: “I hate you.”
[falls back down] 

Witness the clear progression from fighting words to hate. One person offers an emotionally -charged insult. The next labels the insult as “fighting words.” There are then back-and-forth threats, having justified the fight. And all of a sudden persons who have more in common than they wish to realize, declare their hatred for one another.

Dare I humbly suggest, the fighting quickly runs out of control.

The current cultural fighting seems to be out of control in areas where previously there was none.

Note even the NBA game Monday night between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers. The game featured the return of longtime Clippers’ star, Chris Paul, yet this time, he was an identified member of the opposition.

It was a game — a competition, if you will. Only one team could win. Things got heated. All sorts of emotions were flying. Insults accompanied the emotion.

As ESPN reported, “The final minutes of the game were filled with technical fouls, ejections, swearing, bumping — and that was just the beginning.”

After the game was over, four Rockets’ players — including former Clipper, Paul — took a back hallway that Paul knew connected with the visiting locker room with that of the home team. In an incident investigated for multiple days by league officials, the Clippers were then stunned when these professionals burst into their locker room. They were stunned, too, that the men had “come calling for them.”

Said more by the entertainment sports network, “For a few fleeting moments, several Clippers dared the Rockets to come farther into the room, sources said. Security and team officials soon converged on the Rockets, pushing them out the door and back toward the visiting locker room.”

Hence, “On a night that the Clippers organization played a video montage to honor Paul’s six seasons here, the fractured relationships that led to his departure in June percolated in the raucous fallout of the night.”

And thus, with all the emotions resulting from two teams with similar goals in perceived competition with one another, someone, somewhere concluded, “Dem’s fighting words!”

Once we conclude that the other has utilized “fighting words,” we are lured into justifying hatred. Once we justify hatred, we fail to see the more we have in common with another…

… regardless of the court.

Respectfully…
AR

vivian, michelet, immigration & more…

One of the challenges in today’s seemingly react-first culture is that we sometimes find ourselves reacting to a symptom instead of wrestling with the root. We deal with related branches of an issue, as opposed to dealing with the issue at its core.

Such seemed true again last week in regard to Pres. Trump’s disputed crass comments in regard to the countries of origin of American immigrants. While his reported words created an understandable stir, the reality is that we need to find a way to deal with the deeper issues embedded inside immigration. Those issues are part of why the immigration issue has been so challenging for administrations and legislators of both parties to fix for years.

Note that in what has been none other than a sweet blessing to me, I have long had many Haitian friends. In fact, working alongside so many as my professional career began was incredibly insightful and growth-producing. I felt God gently but firmly stretching me, learning to deeply love those seemingly different than me. I learned more about what we had in common than what we did not.

Haiti is a beautiful country filled with beautiful people with some amazing stories… without a doubt, Vivian, Michelet, Lamar, etc… They shaped and sharpened me in so many ways. Their compassion… their so obvious humility and grace… they spurred me on in my early professional years. I thank God that my relationship with them impacted far more than my profession.

I heard, too, their stories of hardness, the hard life many chose to leave. Now almost eight years exactly after the catastrophic earthquake of 2010, I will never forget my friends’ poignant testimonies in regard to their struggles of everyday life… to make a living, to feed their family, to have a healthy child or a safe home. They came here to build a future. And as a wise man said in response last week, “Yes, life is hard. Though the President put it in a crass way, we can pause to ensure we haven’t become numb to suffering of our brothers and sisters.”

Let us never become numb… to any.

The existent poverty and lack of development in Haiti is accompanied by a complex history — one on which even with my friends’ insight, I have a limited perspective. Unfortunately, however, I know that much of the country’s history has been marked by corruption. That was evident in my friends’ sadness, as Haiti is has been known as one of the significantly more corrupt countries in the world.

So as I look at those who are still struggling, my question as one who loves Jesus back and thus looks to love all people well: what’s the best way to love all people well in the immigration debate?

Not being numb… but not forgetting the concerns both at home and afar…

How do we best love all people well?

Said Kent Annan, a senior fellow at the Humanitarian Disaster Institute, “Our framework for immigration starts and ends with love. In between, there are hard policy questions to debate honestly and rigorously. Yes, it’s wise to consider security issues. And yes, our resources to help can be limited. In some cases, the best way to help refugees is to support them closer to their homes.”

We must be honest about constraints but motivated in our choice by love for our neighbor.”

We have to find a way to do this well, friends.

Let’s wrestle with all the angles, complex as they may be.

Let’s be honest about all the angles — and stop politicizing them, possibly in lieu of future voters.

And in the meantime, let’s stop pointing fingers at one another.

Let’s stop seeing any other as idiotic or unenlightened or something worse than we. And mostly, let’s stop fooling ourselves by thinking we are loving all people well when any of our time is spent casting stones at someone here.

Vivian, Michelet, and Lamar taught me many things. Most of all, they helped teach me how to love other people well.

Respectfully…
AR