A Great Divide: Challenge or Impasse?

There is a lot of arguing going on lately. We feel deeply and find offense quickly. The thing is, most of us know which side of an argument we will stand pretty early on, and that rarely changes no matter what evidence we hear. And yet we keep trying to convince others to join our side, our cause, our “right side of history”. Instead of seeing change, all we seem to do is stoke the fires of our own side and further the divide from those who disagree.

I have little tolerance for an impasse. I don’t mean a challenge; I love a challenge. A challenge is when the road from where one is to where one wants to be is difficult, or is non existent and needs to be built. An impasse is when every inch of progress is countered with destruction. It takes time to determine whether one is experiencing a challenge or an impasse. But eventually that impasse becomes clear. Most successful individuals will tell you that learning to recognize failure is essential to success. Remaining in the impasse is guaranteed to be continued failure. Most of us, with our views and convictions, remain at an impasse.

As I read and watch the latest divide, the #TakeAKnee/NFL/National Anthem controversy, I find myself tired. Not of the issues I believe in, but in the engagement with others over those issues. I am tired of trying to find meaningful dialogue. I am tired of the nasty dismissals of differing thoughts and ideas. I am tired of everyone talking and no one listening. I am tired of the ignorance, the lack of respect and love, the self-preservation. I am tired of being those things and I am tired of encountering those things. I am tired of the divide that seems to deepen and widen in this country.

This morning I took my coffee to my back porch. It is a beautiful fall morning, significantly different from yesterday’s nearly 90 degrees and very humid weather. The birds sang and the sound of leaves from the breeze blowing soothed my tired soul. How does one move from impasse to progress? As I sipped my coffee, I began to think about how my mind has been changed over the years. It wasn’t solid arguments or clever soundbites that I thought of. It was some of the people I have gotten to know and their stories I have heard. That is what has changed my mind, my opinions, my beliefs time and time again.

I thought of Dana, my friend with metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Through her journey, I have learned how little has been spent on stage 4 research. We celebrate the progress we have made with treating breast cancer. But there is significant and serious work we aren’t doing enough of. The progress we have made has been largely in the shallow end of the pool, so to speak. We have much work to do in the deep end of the pool and can’t claim victory until we navigate those deeper waters. Those with MBC are dying in the deep end. The pink ribbon campaign isn’t venturing out there enough yet gets most of our attention and funding. I now give differently because of Dana.

I thought of my friend Terry. As he shared the story of teaching his son to drive, which included how to safely be pulled over by the police (my friend is black), a bubble that I was living in burst. I had recently taught my son to drive and never once did I worry for his safety if pulled over by the police. Terry was one of the kindest men I knew. If he experienced injustice because of the color of his skin (and he did often) then I knew the world wasn’t quite as evolved as I thought it had become. I now see my privilege because of Terry.

I thought of John, a pastor and friend I knew years ago. When he told me he was gay, I expressed love for him and gently reiterated my position that I didn’t agree with his “lifestyle”. I didn’t hesitate in wanting to continue my friendship with him. And I felt it was my responsibility to be clear about where I stood on the issue of homosexuality. A few weeks later I received a letter from him. In it he said, “Do you think a moment goes by that I am not aware of what most Christians think of my being gay?” Navigating different convictions is difficult. Making someone feel loved shouldn’t be. What we do with our convictions is as important as the convictions themselves. I now see my self-righteousness because of John.

I thought of Kim, Jocelyn and Angie, women I went to seminary with who are lesbians. They are serious about their Christian faith. They challenged my views of homosexuality simply by living out their faith meaningfully. I had been taught homosexuality was a sin. These women (and many more friends since) taught me that their being gay is as much a part of who they are as being christians. And I wouldn’t want them to be anything other than who they are. I now see my ignorance because of Kim, Jocelyn and Angie.

I could go on. So many examples of people I got to know who by their being who they are challenged my ideas and perceptions. This is how we move from the impasse. We get to know people who are different from ourselves. If I have made any kind of impact in this world, it hasn’t been through my blog or Facebook status update or Instagram photo. Hashtags don’t change lives. If I have had the ability to make any kind of difference, it is because I am a better person having learned what I have learned along the way and am interacting meaningfully with others who differ from me.

I love to engage in conversations with diverse opinions being expressed. The point in doing so isn’t to convince others to see things my way. My hope is that each of us participating leave that conversation having taught something and having learned something, not with that as an agenda but with that as the outcome. But that is a choice we must make. And that is how we bridge the divide. When was the last time you learned something that surprised you? When was the last time a conviction changed, even slightly? These questions will help to determine whether you are up for the challenge these days require, or are part of the impasse that is getting us nowhere.

 

Foot Pins and Ultimatums

Three and a half years ago, I had foot surgery which left me with some hardware in that foot. For the past several months, I have had increased pain in that same foot, specifically in my big toe joint. Today I learned why: the pin in my big toe has come loose and is protruding from my toe joint. I could either live with the periodic pain and exchange all my shoes for large-toe-box varieties. Or I could have the pin removed.  Surgery isn’t to be underplayed. There are always risks. It won’t be inexpensive. I will miss some work. “It’s not going to get better?” I asked the doctor. “No,” she said. “So I am looking at 40+ years (I’m being optimistic of my lifespan) of babying this foot with what shoes I wear and avoiding contact where that pin is protruding?” “Yes,” she responded. I don’t know about you, but the answer seems pretty clear to me. I’m going to do the work, get the pin removed, and get this resolved.

While the decision is easy, it is not without sacrifice. I didn’t budget for the surgery. I’ve got a list of things to do that will take time in the midst of my very busy life. But the ultimatum is crystal clear. If I don’t have this surgery, I may as well give away at least half of my shoes. I will have to watch my activity level. I will continue to experience pain. And I might never be able to enjoy a Frye’s shoe sale again. I am 48 years old. I am too young to live with the side effects of a protruding pin.

This got me thinking about how much of our lives are filled with protruding pins. It happens slowly. We have adjusted due to the discomfort. We even settle for something less. If we took the time to identify that protruding pin and determine what it would take to have it removed, we would be freed from the handicap the pin created. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had someone in our lives to help diagnose our pins? Wouldn’t it be helpful if we increased our self-awareness? Doesn’t it make sense to listen to those we love and trust in order to better see ourselves? Wouldn’t it be wise to pay attention to the patterns in our lives regarding our work, quality of relationships, and the way we manage our ups and downs? Why don’t we take several steps back to look at the whole of our lives to see what is working and more importantly, what isn’t working?

Instead we change our shoes. We walk differently. We medicate to lessen the symptoms. We ice to numb the pain. In essence we fuss all around the protruding pin without ever dealing with the pin itself. We baby the pin while we live a life that is less than what it could be. If only it was as simple as scheduling an appointment and having someone identify the problem and then discuss what options we have. Or maybe it is, and we are not interested in learning what really ails us. Perhaps what we want to do is nothing at all.

 

The Paradox of Unity and Justice

Last week, I posted “Trump or Love” believing that you cannot choose both.  I made the case that Trump’s rhetoric counters love. Jesus was for the poor, the marginalized, the weak and the oppressed. None of those descriptors fit Trump or the majority of his supporters. And it is often the marginalized, the weak, the outsider who is painted by Trump to be the enemy.

Last night, I was challenged to seek unity by avoiding what is divisive. It was a challenge for me because I have felt strongly of the need to speak out against Trump. Each divisive statement he has made that preys on the fears of Republicans at the expense of minority groups has increased my resolve to be clear about how dangerous Trump is. I know my opinions have made people uncomfortable as evidenced by the conversations and cold shoulders I have experienced as a result. Am I working against unity by speaking out for justice? This is the question that weighs heavily upon me now.

I am highly unhappy with politics in general. I think politics has gone the way of religion and education in our country – we are more concerned about protecting the systems we have than educating, inspiring, and empowering those we lead. The systems are antiquated and failing. I have friends and family who are wonderful teachers and pastors, but they operate in these systems that more often hold them back than help them move forward. I was a Bernie Sanders supporter because he was the only candidate asking inspiring and relevant questions. His movement reengaged me and many others across the political spectrum. Even though there was great disagreement on the answers Bernie gave, we engaged the questions as we considered what might be possible and practical for our future.

But here we are, many of us unhappy with the options for November’s presidential election. Is seeking unity in our unhappiness the best choice we’ve got? Or is there another point in which we can connect? How do we unify and seek justice? What if our definitions of justice differ? I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. What we need are people with different perspectives who are willing to respectfully engage the conversation in order to seek the solutions. I have increasingly little patience for one-sided thinking which appears to be more egocentric than helpful.

Maybe unity isn’t about getting along in spite of our differences, but engaging our differences with respect. What surprised me about my post on Trump wasn’t the level of engagement about Trump but a retaliation against Hillary. I don’t blame you. You felt hit by my post so you swung back. It is so hard to stay engaged when we passionately disagree.

I am also thinking about how unity for unity’s sake can be dangerous. Germany was unified as it exterminated millions of Jews. I want to seek ways to unify through respectful dialogue. And where unity impedes justice, I want to speak out. How do I value and practice both?

So many thoughts swirling in my head today…

A Successful Launch

It has been a whirlwind of a summer. I spent 11 weeks doing an intensive chaplaincy training program at a hospital while my son, recent college graduate, found employment, moved, and settled into his new life. I had little time to contemplate the implications of his new independence, and little time to feel the feelings that go with it. But my intensive unit is done and my boy has settled in and now I find myself facing the undeniable reality that my job as mom has nearly come to an end.

Before you tell me that the job never ends, let me say how accomplished I feel to have gotten to this point with my son. It is our job as parents, as best as we are able, to get our children to a place of full independence and functioning. It is our job as parents to help our children to see their purpose in the larger world, a purpose that brings joy, contentment, and responsibility. And so I celebrate my son not needing me very much any longer. That is what I was supposed to do – ween him physically, emotionally, and mentally. I am supposed to move him from a place of needing me in his life to (hopefully) wanting me in his life. While he still calls with questions about things such as benefits or banking, the reality is he can reach out to a number of folks to get those answers too.

I celebrate his adulthood. And I grieve it just a little too. To deny that grief might mean I’m unhealthily holding on in a way that prohibits his full independence. I grieve openly and honestly because it is difficult to go from being the center of one’s universe to being just like everyone else, even when we are given years to accept it. And periodically I feel myself trying to be that center again. I guess that is natural. But when I feel myself wanting to be needed by him, I recognize that is more for my benefit and to his detriment.

I think the best thing I have done as a parent is to never stop learning how to be a better parent. I listen to my husband as he shares his observations. I listen to those who know me and my kids well. And most importantly, I ask my kids questions and listen to what they have to say. I know there is still learning I have to do as I figure out the new normal for my adult son and me. And no matter how much I have screwed up, I take comfort in remembering that parenting is about the cumulative effect. We always have the opportunity to improve the quality of a relationship. We make mistakes as parents. How could we not? But if we don’t forgive ourselves for the mistakes made, we can’t be our best selves in the here and now. I look at my grown son, and I see how we have all grown to get to this place in which we find ourselves.

 

To My Sweet 16 Baby Girl

In some ways, I can’t believe this day has arrived. In other ways, it has been a long time coming. You have been growing and changing and forming and challenging and pushing and loving and doing all sorts of other -ings as you are becoming the grownup you are meant to be. And I’ve loved nearly every minute of it. Well, at least a solid 80% of it. 🙂

A few years after having your brother, I remember thinking how much I wanted my second child to be a girl. I am not suggesting that your brother was a disappointment though I know that is how you would like to interpret it. I always figured I would have two kids and I unapologetically wanted one boy and one girl. Since my boy was already present and accounted for, I longed for a girl. With a 50/50 chance of that happening, I decided to wait until I was ready for whatever gender the baby turned out to be. That took about two additional years.

Finally the time arrived where I felt ready for child number two, any child. I was feeling pretty nonchalant even about getting pregnant. “If it happens, it happens” I remember thinking, and actually meaning it. Consequently, thanks to the flu and a few other factors, I didn’t realize I was pregnant until 11 weeks along.  What a gift to learn of your presence just as the fun part of the pregnancy was beginning. No longer was I suffering from morning sickness or fatigue, which I had mistaken for ongoing flu symptoms. I was carrying my second child.

I felt pretty relaxed about the pregnancy. I was also keenly aware of each milestone. I had taken those milestones for granted when I was pregnant with your brother. Six years later and having witnessed the loss others had experienced, I was more aware of what could go wrong. This didn’t make me nervous. It made me grateful. Each milestone felt like a gift. At the ultrasound appointment, the tech checked off her list. Everything about you was looking good, healthy and on track. I was thrilled. She then looked at me and asked, “Do you want to know the baby’s gender?” “Yes” I said as I held my breath. I knew that I really would be happy with whatever your gender was because I had learned you were healthy and well. “It’s a girl” she said. And I began to cry. “Are you sure?” I asked in disbelief. “Yes” she said.

When you arrived, on your due date no less, the doctor announced, “It’s a girl.” “Are you sure?” I asked, with tears filling my eyes. “Yes” she said. You were cleaned, wrapped, and placed in my arms. I know I loved you from the moment I learned of you. But that love was sealed the moment I saw you. My sweet little girl had arrived.

And now here we are 16 years later.

Liv & me

We’re both older and maybe a bit wiser. And I can’t imagine life without you. I’m not sure why my longing for a daughter was so strong. Maybe it wasn’t  just for a baby girl, but it was for YOU my heart longed. I have treasured the time I have had with you. I look forward to your transition into adulthood, needing me less as a parent and hopefully enjoying me more as a companion. You make me laugh and cry. You have turned some of my hair grey. But they provide some nice highlights in my darkening blonde hair so I don’t mind. Thank you for being you. And happy sweet 16!

Love,

Mom

Dear Coasting Christians

I realize there are many reasons you stay on the periphery of your faith community. You are burned out but don’t want to stop going completely. You try to be hopeful that maybe someday church will be relevant again. You keep your toe in the water where you are, while you periodically dip your toe into other pools nearby just in case the next one is a bit more to your liking. You stay because of your friends. You stay because you are members. You stay because that place has been part of your identity for so long that you decide it is better to be on its periphery than not there at all.

I understand these reasons because I have been where you are. I reached the point in my community of faith where it no longer stirred me or challenged me or inspired me, but I stayed anyway.

Eventually I did realize the need to move on. Staying, but only on the periphery, was giving me a false sense of engagement. While I might show up, I risked nothing. I offered little. I expected even less. I wasn’t really part of a faith community. I was merely pretending to be. And so I left and went to seminary because I knew what had led me to my church’s periphery is what I needed to better understand. My interest in God and faith hadn’t diminished. But the church where I attended, and many that were just like it, were increasingly unable to adequately and appropriately facilitate an exploration worthy of the 21st century.

The reason I write to you today is to let you know how much you are needed. There are many of us attempting to bring the church beyond it’s defined walls. It is in this space that so many wander. Paradox, honesty, complexity and wholeness dwell here in this space. But the space is not an easy one to navigate. It requires commitment and courage, companionship and endurance. We need you not because you have the answers but because you believe in the work to be done. You know that while faith can be difficult, it is also rewarding. We need you to be willing to be challenged and encouraged so that others who are just beginning to learn the value of community can be accompanied on this journey of faith. We need those of you who already believe in a God of grace to be bearers of that grace. We need you so that the church doesn’t merely survive but thrives. We need you. I need you.

And I think you need us too. I think your soul is tired of the periphery and hungers to reengage in a way that matters, that makes this world better, and you better too in the process.

Find a church – a community that will both love you and challenge you. Pick a place where you will give generously and maybe even sacrificially. We are meant to be in community with one another, and we need a community that will intentionally connect us with God too. It isn’t the savvy services, polished leaders or right programming that feed our souls. It is being known and loved, and doing the knowing and the loving of others. And once you find it, go for it.

With love,

Jen

Battling Time and Losing

My oldest child recently graduated from college. While collecting my thoughts on paper to share at the celebratory dinner, I thought a lot about time. Part of my toast included these words:

I somehow understood at a young age that there was something deeply profound about this thing we call time. Time marches on, whether we like it or not. It does not slow down and it does not speed up, but rather keeps a steady beat that can often feel monotonous. We are lulled into passivity until suddenly jolted awake when we realize that time has not been our friend. As a parent, this lesson is all the more profound. While I see this adult before me making decisions about career, love, and future, I wonder where my little boy went. I picture my towheaded companion who made me laugh often, impressed me with his questions, and trusted deeply. Memories flood my mind making it hard to breathe. Tears come easily. I feel as if I am trying to hold something so precious, essentially your childhood, and yet it slips through my fingers but doesn’t disappear. Is this a game and I am simply its pawn? Or is what I am trying to hold too sacred to be contained?

Time has stayed on my mind. In addition to looking back, I have looked ahead at some changes coming my way. Time will soon become significantly more structured. I will lose much of my flexibility and free time. Time is becoming an enemy as I anticipate the battle to get everything done while somehow managing to not lose myself in the process.

I love time when it merely marks the hour of the day, letting me know when I should wake or when to have a glass of wine. But I hate time when it acts as a stopwatch, forcing me into a race. Even as I type, my heart rate speeds up anticipating the effort it will take to defeat time. And I know I will lose. Time always wins. Always. Yet my mind keeps trying to come up with a new battle plan.

I wonder what the days would be like if I thought of time as a musical beat. I wonder what would happen to my stress if instead of seeing time as an enemy, I instead saw time as something with which to keep in step. I’ve learned this lesson regarding the seasons. While the end of winters can be difficult, I know to give the earth time to complete the cycle of death, dormancy, and cold so that spring might be all the more filled with new life. Equally the end of summers can be long. That last stretch of heat and humidity in late September is tedious after having tasted fall and its cool, crisp days. While I still might complain, I have learned that soon enough I will miss the heat and the strength of the sun in the winter days, just as I miss the cold and freshly fallen snow in the summer days.

Days will be long and things I want to do will not all get done. Yet time will bring another day. Maybe the question isn’t, “Did I get everything done?” but rather “Did I stay present and focused throughout my day?” If I can remain calm and breathe deeply, I have the ability to prioritize and decide. I have practiced this already as a mom. I was dedicated to being present and enjoying my kids. That is not to say they did not drive me crazy (they did) but I learned how to take care of myself so that I could also take care of them. I learned how to step back when I needed a break and when to step in so as to not miss something important. I need to not feel the compulsion to be superhuman but rather to be a good human. Time is not my judge and jury. My compulsion will still be to battle time. But I think it is time to stop fighting and simply to dance with it.

Do I Want You To Succeed?

 

This is an interesting question, if you give it some thought. Often I think the knee-jerk reaction is to say “Of course!” But when we stop and consider other factors, maybe deep down that’s not actually true. Think of someone who has hurt you. Or someone who you are a little jealous of. You appreciate his/her talents, but maybe he/she is just a bit more talented than you. So while you cheer them on publicly, quietly you are hoping for a little bit of a stumble that causes a dose of humility. There is the person who is seemingly smarter, more attractive, more successful, thinner, or has better stuff. There is the person who appears to have the perfect life, the best vacations, the largest 401k, or tremendous luck. You might enjoy that person and want to spend time with that person, but there is also just a hint of resentment too. And then there is the person who you keep helping, but seems to give very little in return. And you wonder if the relationship will ever feel equitable.

I was recently thinking about a person whom I like but have struggled with. I was questioning how much I would continue to invest in the relationship. And while in the midst of answering this very logical question of my time and energy, an entirely new question popped into my head like a poorly thrown bowling ball onto the lane. “Do I want you to succeed?” The answer, I knew almost intuitively, was “I don’t know.” Because the perceived right consequence is really what it is all about, isn’t it? Have you suffered enough? Have you paid the cost for your past behavior? Should you really be let off the hook and allowed to move forward?

Upon reflection I began to see how I would have the opportunity through our interactions to either help this person succeed, or through skeptical eyes wait for this person to fail. While I might not directly contribute to the person’s failure, I most certainly would not be contributing to the opportunity for success. I strongly advocate for the need of healthy boundaries so I am in no way suggesting we be doormats. But I realize that even with my boundaries in place, there is the opportunity to be kind and loving. Ultimately each of us is responsible for our own behavior. But there are people in our lives who help us to be our best selves, and there are people in our lives who make that more difficult. I want to be the former, and not the latter.

For our Ash Wednesday service at church, we read a buddhist meditation that has four parts. It is read in first person. Then it is reread thinking of a loved one. It is read a third time while thinking of those you encounter but don’t really know. Finally it is read while considering someone who has caused you suffering. Here are the words, using a second person pronoun:

May you be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.

May you be safe and free from injury.

May you be free from anger, afflictions, fear and anxiety.

 

May you learn to look at yourself with the eyes of understanding and love.

May you be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in yourself.

May you learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in yourself.

 

May you know how to nourish the seeds of joy in yourself every day.

May you be able to live fresh, solid, and free.

May you be free from attachment and aversion, but not indifferent.

The words are quite powerful as you go through them and consider the various people in your life. Sure, the words inspire as you ponder your self-image. And the sentiments are wonderful as you think of those you love. But what about the person behind the cash register who seems to take forever? What about the co-worker who relishes the opportunity to prove you wrong? And what about the person who has hurt you? Are you able to read and mean these words? I am not called to fix or even be in the life of that person. But the meditation calls me to wish for the person to succeed, and by that I mean to love and be loved, to find contentment and purpose and good mental health.

I will read these words and imagine those (yes, unfortunately there is more than one) I have some resentment towards. I will read them at first, probably not meaning a damn word. But as I have learned in the past, change occurs as a practice leads me away from one way of being and towards a better way of being. I will be more aware of how I might be impeding success for one, and how I might help success for another. And in doing so, regardless of the outcome, I hope to be a better person for doing so.

 

 

To My Officially Middle-Aged, Sometimes Grumpy Husband

Then...
Then…
Now...
Now

Dear Jeremy,

Last year I finished the year by writing a letter to my dear friend I had lost earlier that year. It was cathartic and painful, reflecting while looking ahead. I have reread that letter several times because the reflection continued beyond the letter’s inception. Because of how valuable I found that process to be and because another year is coming to an end, I thought it would be good to once again close out the year by writing another letter. It didn’t take me long to choose its recipient. (Aren’t you feeling lucky right about now?)

2015 has been quite a year for us. Our oldest child turned 21. Our youngest child finished her first year of high school. We celebrated 25 years of marriage. You turned 50. We said painful goodbyes to four pets. We welcomed two new pets into our home. We sorta planned an anniversary getaway, only to instead send our son to Rome for a trip of a lifetime. Wow, what a year.

While the milestones easily come to mind, it is all the ordinary days of 2015 that probably had a more cumulative impact. It is the way in which we do life together – talk, argue, laugh, cry, love, ignore, listen, scream – that built the foundation upon which our milestones stand. Sometimes we worked together seamlessly. Other times not so much. On occasion you carried me. Other times I carried you. But we kept going. We kept talking. We kept working things through no matter how hard the work got. Well, except for the times we took breaks from working because we couldn’t stand the sight of each other. But we always came back.

What I have learned from 25 years of marriage is that a healthy marriage isn’t about being happy or having great chemistry or partnering well together, although those things are great. A healthy marriage is one that weathers all weather together, storms included. A healthy marriage requires the efforts of both involved. It would be easy for you to enable me, or me to enable you. And I’m sure we do that somewhat. But I love that you call me on my shit. That we can walk away angry and live with the discomfort for awhile. That we have gone to counseling when we needed it. That we still have so much fun together. That our marriage isn’t about a pretty exterior, but a rich, deep, complex, and real interior. Our marriage is as imperfect as we are. Maybe that right there is the point…

Thank you for putting up with my penchant to challenge. Thank you for tolerating my profanity. I don’t want to thank you for all the sports stories you share, but I do want to thank you for wanting to share them with me. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for always loving me. Thank you for liking me on most days. Thank you for being my biggest supporter. You can thank me for putting up with your occasional grumpiness, although now we know it’s a serious disorder. While our differences are often part of the challenge of doing life together, I now celebrate those differences because of the depth and breadth they have have carved out within my sometimes stone heart.

For 2016, I hope to be kinder and gentler towards you. I hope to be more grateful and less critical. I marvel at where we have been and I am excited by where we will go. While a shirtless Hugh Jackman might catch my eye, you, Jeremy, have my heart. Happy New Year!

With love,

me

A Warmongering Faith

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

This is the latest beatitude I have been studying for a series at my church. Peacemaking is the idea of standing in the gap between two sides, recognizing that the separation between the two sets of people isn’t good for any of the people. The peacemaker believes that by standing in the middle, one might have the ability to help build reconciliation.

The cornerstone of peacemaking is grounded in the belief that all people have value. Not to say that all opinions have equal or even any value. But the hope nonetheless is that despite the divided opinion, a connection can still be made through the humanity we all share. However, taking sides is much easier. And when you choose to not take a side, you often piss off both sides. In spite of the challenges and even the alienation, the peacemaker remains committed to reconciliation.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are children of God.

The benefit for those who dedicate themselves to peacemaking is being given a place of belonging. Children of God – is there a better family in which to call your own? Yet in the name of belonging, Christians put the cart before the horse by claiming the belonging without ever doing the work of peacemaking. The latest example is Starbucks’ holiday cup. Some Christians have waged war against the company for removing the sacred symbols of snowflakes. But look back and you will find plenty of other examples where Christians have waged war. Whether a concept, an organization, a corporation, legislation, presidential candidates, political convictions, money, physical appearance – I mean seriously, the list goes on and on. Christians are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

While I am all for living out one’s convictions, where did the notion of waging war become acceptable? What makes us Christians in this country think we are persecuted? You cannot claim persecution while being part of the majority. When did we as Christians lust for conflict? I believe this occurs when a religion and a political infrastructure become deeply intertwined, or in other words a theocracy is revered and pursued. Theocracy is the idea that a system of government is able to rule on behalf of God. Who do you know that could do that? Who would you trust to speak for God while having incredible resources at his or her disposal?

I’m pretty sure God is not American, nor has any interest in joining our team. And evidenced by our lack of peacemaking, I believe we as American Christians are way off track. We cannot claim to be God’s if we are not doing the work of peacemaking. We do not belong to God if we are not working towards reconciliation. That involves the reconciliation of all people. All people. Gay and straight, black and white, Christmas-loving and Christmas-hating, rich and poor, conservative and liberal, Muslim and atheist, and all the in-betweens.

As I have reflected on the consequences, a new study came to my attention. It found that children of both Christian and Muslim households are less kind and more punitive than children of non-religious households. Can we just sit with that for a minute? I won’t speak for the Muslim households, but I do feel compelled to comment as a Christian. While we wage war on all that offends us, we are raising offensive children. While we build a legacy that is largely based on what we don’t like, we leave little or no room for what we love. We are Christian warmongers, God help us.

Blessed are the peacemakers…