Colin Kaepernick has inspired a lot of people to stand up for the American flag. All he did was remain seated during the National Anthem of a preseason football game. He explained his rationale:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
If Kaepernick’s intention was to create a backlash of public opinion, then his efforts have been a resounding success. There may be a question related to his method, but we definitely need to work harder at finding common ground among people who are different from us. While his concerns deal with racial equality, the upcoming anniversary of 9/11 causes us to stop and take stock in how our nation has moved forward (but apparently not as much, together) over the last 15 years.
Our church recently completed the “Different Books, Common Word: Baptists and Muslims” documentary provided by EthicsDaily.com. The subtitle for this video is “Love God, Love Neighbor” which summarizes the two great commandments that Jesus left for his followers. It should also be an area of agreement between people who have obvious religious differences.
This was not the first time I shared this resource with our people. We watched it six years ago, and found it to be useful in listening to Muslims and Baptists dialogue on their beliefs. It was important to note that friendships despite religious differences were possible. People could unite to improve their communities, without compromising their religious views.
I thought sufficient time had elapsed to bring the material. Many of the same persons as well as new members have been present to watch it. I also thought it important to revisit the theme of finding common ground among Muslims and Baptists. As tensions continue to exist between adherents of these global faiths, it’s good to be reminded that sincere followers should not be defined by extremist factions.
I’ve been a pastor for 20 years and with my current congregation for half of that time. I am grateful for our Baptist heritage, values, and closeness to several college campuses. There’s an appreciation for differences of opinion and a broader understanding of what the church’s role should be in our world beyond what happens on Sunday morning. This is a wonderful reality, one that I do not take for granted.
In our church, when I ask for feedback, I usually get it. We have a cross section of ages, social, economic, and education backgrounds. Still, I was surprised by the vocal, vehement reaction to “Baptists & Muslims” by one of our older, retired Baptist pastors. He was extremely antagonistic to the video, fearful that universalism was somehow creeping into our church despite the fact that there was no evidence of this in the documentary. Fortunately, he held the minority viewpoint but his outburst truncated a good discussion.
During that period of awkward silence, I told our people that we don’t have to be afraid of learning about new things. Learning new things doesn’t mean we have to agree with them. We need to mindful of others who don’t believe as we do, and we should our best to build relational bridges in order to promote peace and become good neighbors. Many people from other religious backgrounds are concerned about the same things we are: good schools, good jobs, safe neighborhoods, and taking care of their families.
I wanted us to review the documentary in advance of the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on our country. I wanted us to realize that not every Muslim is like those portrayed in the media or hates America. We should not stereotype an entire people based on those who do violent things in the name of their religion. Besides, there are many “Christians” who do hateful things and then use the Bible to substantiate their behavior. When this happens, we need to speak out against these actions so that the extremist voices are not the only ones being heard. People of good will need to come forward and be united for the cause of peace.
On this September 11 anniversary, I will be remembering those who lost their lives in that horrific attack. I will be mindful of the families who were forever changed by the death of their loved ones.
I also hope to realize that not all Muslims are terrorists who are out to kill us, and that Christians can be patriotic without having hate toward those who don’t share our belief in Jesus Christ. We need the presence of mind to distinguish the extremist voices and avoid stereotyping entire religions because of them. This is a time for courage and an active faith that will “love your neighbor as yourself.” We can listen to people and work toward common goals and goodness without having to agree theologically or politically.
This is a time for us to come together as one nation, regardless of and because of our rich diversity. May God help us as pastors and congregations to be catalysts of peace and good will in our communities.
It was a great privilege to attend the Global Leadership Summit last week. This is simulcast to hundreds of sites all over the world; fortunately Trey and I were able to take part at a church here in Springfield. This is one of the highlights of my year, and this time didn’t disappoint.
One of the faculty members, John Maxwell, is a former pastor and author on leadership. He has written numerous books on this subject and is widely considered as an expert in this field. He made a comment that has stayed with me all week:
The church has to ask itself a question–Are we going to spend more time on correcting people, or spend more time connecting with people?
This Sunday will be a great opportunity for connection with students. We will be hosting the MSU Pride Band and many other students who will begin or continue their academic careers at schools here in Springfield. I encourage us to do our best to show hospitality to these young men and women, and their parents.
Another important feature about this year’s event is that we will meet Dr. Brad Snow, the new director of Athletic bands and the Pride Marching Band. We are grateful to have him in the Springfield area and wish him all the best in the transition to the Ozarks.
An ongoing effort at connection will be the simulcasting of our worship services on Facebook. We are making investments into our technology to enable us to be more effective in sharing the gospel to those outside our building. I’m especially excited about this development, and believe it will increase our reach into our community and beyond.
I hope you’re using the UHBC prayer guide. It is a useful tool for keeping us “on the same page” in seeking the Lord’s leadership in the church.
May the Lord help us to do more connection with others and less time with correction. Let’s let the Holy Spirit handle that task while we show the love of Christ to those around us.
I’m encouraged by the spirit of renewal in our church. I hope you sense it as well. See you soon.
One of the most difficult jobs during a presidential election has to be that of a pastor.
Although noticing a number of ministers openly endorsing one candidate or another, I’ve often thought that this action could alienate members of his/her congregation.
If you haven’t noticed, our church is not uniform when it comes to political views. We don’t impose a litmus test to ensure conformity or distribute voting guides to tell our people how to vote.
This isn’t our first election cycle to go through. But, I mention this because I believe we are heading into one of the most heated and possibly most hateful presidential elections in modern history.
I have my concerns about what this can do to the body of Christ.
We are living in a time of great cynicism. This was even more apparent with the joint appearance of Presidents Bush and Obama at a memorial service. They came together to show support for the five police officers who were gunned down by a sniper and their families.
I’m not naive to the politics and optics. But, it was disheartening to read criticisms instead of affirmations that they came together to show support for the city of Dallas and these families. I’m not sure if this attitude has always been prevalent, or whether social media has brought it more to light.
Discouragement affects us all. In “A Grief Observed,” C.S. Lewis talked about his struggle with heartache as he grieved the death of his wife:
“Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing him, if you turn to him then with praise, you will be welcomed with open arms.
But go to him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away.”
The story of Lewis is fascinating and offers many lessons for us. I would encourage you to locate some of his writings or a biography and read them.
We’re continuing our journey through the Psalms this month. I’ll be dealing with a personal and poignant passage dealing with questioning where God is during our most difficult times.
The summer months offer a time for a change of pace and routine. It’s been good to hear from many of you who are away visiting family or simply taking a much needed break. Even though some of us have been away, it’s been encouraging to see guests in our worship services.
I thought you’d like to know that our Payday Loan Relief Program is making an impact not only in Springfield, but around the country. UHBC is receiving notoriety for our creative partnership with the nearby credit union. Just this past week, I received an email from Nashville, TN. This person had heard of our efforts and wanted to know how to begin such a work in their city. We continue to receive local media coverage as well.
The Lord is at work in our church. We are making a difference for Christ in our community. We continue to see guests each week. And, I’m grateful for your willingness to try new things in order to remain effective for the cause of Christ. Your hospitality and prayers are making a difference.
I am grateful we can seek the Kingdom of God, together. See you Sunday.
It’s been a horrific few days in this country. In this era of instant news and communication, we feel connected more than ever and this, I believe, is a good thing.
Events like those in Louisiana and Minnesota seem to be happening with greater regularity. Two more police shootings and how the situations unfolded were captured on cellphones and broadcast on Facebook. Who would ever have imagined this kind of live broadcast?
In response, a protest took place on the streets of Dallas. We have seen these kinds of marches before, another example of our freedom of speech. More importantly, these calls to action have become an avenue to express frustration, fear, and appeals for change. This peaceful protest was interrupted by gunfire and the deaths of five police officers in Dallas. The shooter has been identified as a veteran who served in Afghanistan, and whose motivation involved killing white police officers.
David Brown, Dallas Police Chief, held a press conference to talk about the horrible details of how five of his fellow police officers where killed. He eloquently summarized the sentiment that many people have right now: “All I know is that this must stop. This divisiveness. . . between our police and our citizens.”
As disturbing as this violence is (and continue to be), I find some of the responses to these moments distressing as well. I don’t expect everyone to have the same reactions, but I would hope that we could have a little more compassion and understanding. My friend Stephen Reeves, Associate Coordinator of Partnerships and Advocacy for the CBF, put it this way on his Facebook page: Dear Lord, for our white brothers and sisters in Christ who methodically analyze every angle of a particular incident in order to justify a killing, but can’t be bothered to give a second thought to an unjust system, we pray.
I’ve become more interested in how these incidents affect the youngest among us. They are the ones who are going to inherit a nation with all its problems, challenges, and hopefully opportunities. Among these challenges will be how we bridge the racial divide. It also relates to the rise of gun violence in this nation. I admire their courage and activism in engaging our communities and calling for more dialogue and action.
My daughter Cally just graduated high school. It has been enlightening to observe how these gun related deaths are impacting her. She posted these thoughts on her Facebook page: We must not turn against each other. Now more than ever we need to love each other and respect each other. All the hateful words I’m seeing on Facebook and Twitter about the BLM movement really troubles me. We have a serious racial problem in this country and we need to work together to fix it. I’m devastated by what happened tonight in Dallas. Its going to be hard to sleep tonight thinking about everything that is going on. All this senseless killing needs to stop.
There will more calls for “thoughts and prayers” to be given to these families, and rightfully so. Grief needs to be observed. We need to call for calm and come together as families and communities. But, we also ought not be dismissive about the causes of this violence nor succumb to hopelessness that nothing will improve or change in this country.
Erin Grinshteyn is Assistant Professor at the School of Community Health Science at the University of Nevado at Reno. She offered these findings in a recent article by CBS News: “Overall, our results show that the U.S., which has the most firearms per capita in the world, suffers disproportionately from firearms compared with other high-income countries. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that our firearms are killing us rather than protecting us.”
I’m concerned about our nation and especially those in the millennial generation who are watching these events unfold before their eyes. It may be this generation of students and young leaders who compel us to do something to improve the way we relate to each other and how we view one another. We need to hear their voices.
I hope I’m wrong though. We can’t afford to wait any longer to come together. In the meantime, I call upon our churches to show our concern and commitment by living out the teachings us Jesus. We need to share life together in authentic community and do the hard work of demonstrating there is a better way. Let’s not let the moment pass.