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website and blog of Dr. Kevin D Glenn

The Media Confirms Dungy’s Point

July 23, 2014
kevindglenn

I want Michael Sam to succeed at football. I want him to succeed at football because he’s good at football; not because he’s gay, not because he’s black, not because he’s from Mizzou, and certainly not because a media machine threatens to assassinate the character of anyone who doesn’t make Michael Sam’s NFL career about his sexuality instead of his playing ability.

The internet is abuzz with opinions about Tony Dungy’s comments regarding whether or not he would have drafted Michael Sam. The kerfuffle is from excerpts of a statement Dungy gave as part of an article published in the Tampa Tribune.

“I wouldn’t have taken him,’’ said former Bucs and Colts coach Tony Dungy, now an analyst for NBC. “Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it. …It’s not going to be totally smooth … things will happen.’’

So, what did Dungy mean by “all of it” and “things will happen?” That’s where the assumptions begin. That’s the point at which critics have run with Dungy’s comments like a rookie kickoff returner streaking aimlessly and recklessly down the field, into the end zone, spiking the ball in self-congratulation while clueless to the fact that they stepped out of bounds 80 yards ago.

This is where incivility draws a penalty: a personal foul – unsportsmanlike conduct.

Dan Wetzel, of Yahoo Sports, wrote that Dungy’s comments displayed a “lack of courage” and went on to tie Michael Sam’s narrative to the bravery of African American atheletes like Dungy, who persevered in the face of racism in order to blaze the trail for equality. Wetzel even played theologian, claiming that Dungy’s comments display a form of hypocrisy between his faith and his actions.

Then there’s Kieth Olberman, who called Dungy the “World’s Worst Person” on Monday night.

In The Bleacher Report, Mike Freeman called Michael Sam, who has yet to play a single down in an NFL game, “a pioneer.” Dungy’s comments were called “remarkably ignorant and stunningly shortsighted.” Freeman also assumed homophobia in Dungy’s comments and linked Sam’s plight to that of minorities forced to push through the “sting of bigotry.”

Is it true that Dungy faced bigotry and racism in his days as a player? Yes. Here’s the difference, he didn’t leverage race, nor the bigotry he faced as a platform for his success – he let his performace on the field do that. Dungy, Lovie Smith, Herman Edwards, Bill Willis, Kenny Washington, Marion Motley, and others were pioneers because of how they performed as players and coaches.

I want Michael Sam to succeed. I want Sam to prove his critics wrong, like Drew Brees did, like Derrick Brooks did, like Warrick Dunn did. These guys were told they were too small, too slow, or otherwise not able to take the pressure of the NFL. Even Manti Teo, after a flat performance in the 2013 National Championship game and a disappointing show at the NFL combine, pushed through and secured a spot on the San Deigo Chargers, with 61 tackles last year. Teo succeeded, however, by intentionally distancing himself from the media distraction his situation created. These players proved themselves by measuring up to the standard of play on Sunday. They were treated like every other player.

At least Freeman’s piece is honest enough to point out the reality that Michael Sam, strictly on his performance as a player, aside from the interviews, photo ops, Sports Illustrated covers, ESPYs, politics, rhetoric, and social hype, may not make the Ram’s roster. But if the current trend continues, woe unto Jeff Fisher if he cuts Michael Sam.

For all its talk of equality, I’m not convinced the media actually wants equality for Michael Sam. That’s because if Michael Sam is actually held to the same standards as every other player, he may not be good enough to make the team. And that will be unacceptable to a media machine that have already called Sam “a pioneer.”

And that is the problem.

And that is why a coach like Dungy would not have drafted him.

And that is what Dungy meant by “all of it.”

After returning from vacation with his family, here is Dungy’s response to the critics:

On Monday afternoon while on vacation with my family, I was quite surprised to read excerpts from an interview I gave several weeks ago related to this year’s NFL Draft, and I feel compelled to clarify those remarks.

I was asked whether I would have drafted Michael Sam and I answered that would not have drafted him. I gave my honest answer, which is that I felt drafting him would bring much distraction to the team. At the time of my interview, the Oprah Winfrey reality show that was going to chronicle Michael’s first season had been announced.

 I was not asked whether or not Michael Sam deserves an opportunity to play in the NFL. He absolutely does.

 I was not asked whether his sexual orientation should play a part in the evaluation process. It should not.

I was not asked whether I would have a problem having Michael Sam on my team. I would not.

I have been asked all of those questions several times in the last three months and have always answered them the same way by saying that playing in the NFL is, and should be, about merit.

The best players make the team, and everyone should get the opportunity to prove whether they’re good enough to play. That’s my opinion as a coach. But those were not the questions I was asked.

What I was asked about was my philosophy of drafting, a philosophy that was developed over the years, which was to minimize distractions for my teams.

I do not believe Michael’s sexual orientation will be a distraction to his teammates or his organization.

I do, however, believe that the media attention that comes with it will be a distraction.  Unfortunately we are all seeing this play out now, and I feel badly that my remarks played a role in the distraction.

I wish Michael Sam nothing but the best in his quest to become a star in the NFL and I am confident he will get the opportunity to show what he can do on the field.

My sincere hope is that we will be able to focus on his play and not on his sexual orientation.

 

Dungy’s comments were not about race, and they were not about sexuality. They were about whether or not a player is able to perform at the NFL level and the impact distractions like Sam’s situation have on the individual and team’s performance.

Dungy said, “Things will happen,” and happening they are. The biggest thing we’re seeing this week is this: The media, while criticizing Dungy’s point, is brilliantly making it for him.

 

 

Embrace the Variety

July 17, 2014
kevindglenn

I read a blog post recently that really got me thinking.

 
In the post, Pastor Alan Rudnick advocates for services based on differing worship styles to be de-segregated, that is, to be replaced by services containing multiple worship expressions.

 
Alan’s title and thesis are about age segregation in worship services. The assumption being certain styles attract particular age groups. In my 23 years of church ministry, I simply cannot affirm this to be a clear-cut reality. Traditional services have attracted both young and old, as have contemporary services. I will concede that the majority of traditional service attendees are of a certain age, but not an overwhelming majority. The same is true for contemporary services. The “segregation” in my experience has been related more to other preferences. First, preferred convenience of schedule, but I’ll write about that another day. Second, preferred worship style.

 
Alan asks if churches will reverse the segregation and predicts that over the next decade, churches will de-segregate through blended worship services.

 
I hope they do not.

 
I think a church should have as many different styles of worship as they can offer with excellence. The more, the better.

 
Now, I really like Alan’s blog. I agree with much of what he writes, and I hope my thoughts here serve not necessarily to rebut Alan’s, but to offer another perspective…not necessarily a better one, just another one.

 
First, I am not convinced that “segregation” is the right word to describe the presence of various worship services. This assumes a deeper divide than may actually exist, and creates a problem that may not be present. Segregation describes being forced into assigned restrooms, classrooms, bus seats, water fountains, etc., based on attributes one cannot control. Segregation is something that is enforced. I don’t think we have that issue when talking about worship services. To frame the discussion with such a negative term like “segregation” overstates the issue and can short-circuit meaningful evaluation of other perspectives.

 
What if instead, we use words like “variety” or “variation?” Variation recognizes and could even promote the presence of differences, but within a related system or family. It can also communicate the preferential quality of the differences, as well as the voluntary aspect of differences. This seems a more appropriate and positive word for the discussion.
Second, I think worshippers would better navigate the variations of worship style if we better understood the source of our own preferred worship expression. This is largely a sociological issue. The style of music that moved us in seasons of meaningful growth as well as the style of music embraced by the community within which we were raised socializes us toward a preferred style. The music is “meaningful” as it causes one to re-experience feelings of positive familiarity. It’s much less about what is spiritually sound, since there are popular hymns with both solid and horrendous theology just as there are popular modern worship songs with both solid and horrendous theology. Musical style is largely a socialized preference.

 

Unfortunately, Christians take their preferences and attempt to spiritualize them as principles for everyone. Such an attitude diminishes unity in Jesus, to whom worship is due in all its varied expressions.

 
Such an attitude also fails to account for the variation of worship expression found in the Bible itself. There are seven Hebrew words used to describe worshipful praise – a wide variety of meanings from solemn silence, to instruments playing loud, to hand-waving dance. It seems the very word describing how worship looks includes varying styles. Not only should varying styles be acceptable in church, they should be encouraged, expected, and experienced – as long as they point to the Lord as the One being praised.

 
• Halal – Halal is a primary Hebrew root word for praise. Our word “hallelujah” comes from this base word. It means “to be clear, to shine, to boast, show, to rave, celebrate, to be clamorously foolish.”
• Yadah – Yadah is a verb with a root meaning, “the extended hand, to throw out the hand, therefore to worship with extended hand.” According to the Lexicon, the opposite meaning is “to bemoan, the wringing of the hands.”
• Towdah – Towdah comes from the same principle root word as yadah, but is used more specifically. Towdah means, “an extension of the hand in adoration, avowal, or acceptance.” It is used in the Psalms and elsewhere for thanking God for “things not yet received” as well as things already at hand.
• Shabach – Shabach means, “to shout, to address in a loud tone, to command, to triumph.”
• Barak – Barak means “to kneel down, to bless God as an act of adoration.”
• Zamar – Zamar means “to pluck the strings of an instrument, to sing, to praise; a musical word which is largely involved with joyful expressions of music with musical instruments.
• Tehillah – Tehillah is derived from the word halal and means “the singing of halals, to sing or to laud; perceived to involve music, especially singing; hymns of the Spirit.

 

Third, a blended worship service is itself a particular worship style. To offer this style exclusively appears to contradict the very diversity called for in the original piece. I can appreciate the idea of a worship service with “something for everyone.” I just find it to be less than practical and largely inauthentic when attempted on a regular basis. I’ve attended services that tried to cater to a multitude of palettes but it came off as just bland.

 
In my experience, what does work are special services dedicated to bringing the whole church together. Several times per year churches can hold joint worship services that function as a sort of “family reunion.” These can provide a harmonious sampling of the various styles present within the Body while celebrating the mission being pursued in unison by the whole church. These moments are sacred, special, and powerful… they were EPIC!

 
In support of its thesis, the post quotes influential thinker, author, and Semiotician, Leonard Sweet. Sweet coined the acronym E.P.I.C. to describe the elements of a meaningful worship service. EPIC stands for Experiential, Participatory, Image Based, and Connective.

 
EPIC worship, however, is a goal to be pursued in worship regardless of preferred stylistic expression. A contemporary, traditional, hip-hop, cowboy, or blended service should pursue EPIC status. Len Sweet is my friend and mentor, so I’ve discussed this acronym at length with him over coffee from his collection of uranium-enhanced Jadite mugs. In my conversations with Sweet, although he certainly has preferences of worship style, his hope is that worship services of any and all styles would be EPIC.

 
Finally, one’s preference of worship style is often a moving target. It can vary within one’s own comfort zone, or in cases of myself and my circle of friends, it can vary wildly, depending on the mood we’re in. Since I’m a drummer and bass guitarist my first preference is music with solid rhythm and bass you can feel. On other days, I like bluegrass. Because I grew up with a Grandmother that sang gospel, there are some days I want some southern gospel (then some fried chicken and biscuits after church). Then again, few songs move me like the hymns, Be Thou My Vision and A Mighty Fortress is our God. It might be wise for us to address the variation in our own preferences as a way to understand the space needed for the variation of worship expression in the church.

 
Given the thoughts above, I question whether or not variation of worship styles within a church is necessarily negative. In other words, should churches seek to reverse the amount of variation present in the worship services? I say no.

 
C.S. Lewis used the metaphor of a great house when talking about how differing groups practices both unity and diversity. In the hallways, they were united, in the rooms, they practiced differences. I like his metaphor and think it can make for a practical template.

 
My family is at once very similar and very different. We love each other, we love our home, and we love being together. However, we have very different tastes and interests as reflected in how our rooms are arranged. My man cave looks nothing like my daughter’s room. We live in the same house, but it would counter-productive and damaging to our relationships to insist we all stay in one room, or to require that every room look the same, or to require that each room contain elements of interest to other family members. What unites my family is our common love for each other and the time we invest working with, living with, and serving each other. For the church, it is our common mission as a Christ-centered Body that unites us, not a forced tolerance or acceptance of preferential tastes.

 

 

I don’t believe it necessary for a church to unite over worship style any more than a mosaic should be comprised of all one color or shape. What makes a mosaic such an interesting piece of art is the diversity of shapes, colors, and textures combined in a manner that creates a unified image. The church is such a mosaic, united in Christ, our Master Artisan.

 

 

What holds this mosaic together? Love for Christ and loving service to others.

 
I don’t prefer hip-hop music, but I love Jerry, a former student of mine who is a hip-hop artist. I’ll listen to Jerry rap, not because I pretend to like rap, but because I love Jerry. But even Jerry knows I wouldn’t go on tour with him. I may not attend a hip-hop service, but if Jerry were on my staff, I would advocate to have a hip-hop service. I would never make the people attending that service feel they have to attend the service I attend, nor would I tell traditional worshippers they should trade the organ for a drum kit. It’s what moves them, so I rejoice in what they prefer, even if I don’t prefer it.

 
However, when it’s time to be the hands and feet of Jesus, I would serve alongside people from the hip-hop service, the traditional service, the cowboy service, the reggae service or whatever other service might be offered. I would get to know them and their preferences at the common ground of love for and service through Christ. When you’re my brother or sister in Christ, who cares what your musical preference is? When someone comes to Christ, does it matter which service they attended? Regardless of the particular church service, the whole church wins! We may hang out in different rooms, but we’re in the same big family, in the same big house. And that’s a good thing.

 
Israel was called as one people to love and serve God and neighbor. They loved and served in unity. They worshipped One God in and through a variety of expressions. As long as we’re not building silos and fortifying our different rooms, why not celebrate the reality that Audio Adrenaline proclaimed loudly many years ago; “it’s a big, big house with lots and lots of rooms?”

Agreeable Disagreement

July 15, 2014
kevindglenn

My dissertation was on the topic of civility. My upcoming book is on the same topic.

Civility is a big deal to me, but it’s not because I am naturally good at it. It’s my field, but I have to work at it. I try, with varying levels of success, to practice what I preach. So when a good friend of mine wrote with some questions about how to engage in civil discourse online, it allowed me to do some thinking and sharing about my online habits.

Here are his questions, followed by my response:

Kevin, what is your view on bloggers or others writing through social media who interact with the writings and podcasts of authors and well-known Christian leaders and pastors? I was discussing the topic the other day with a pastor friend. He brought up the topic and said his view is Christian leaders, especially local church pastors, shouldn’t on social media criticize, disagree with, or otherwise comment in any way that might be perceived as negative because too many people take offense and take it as a provocation to fight. He asked what I thought, and I said I understood where he was coming from but thought it sad that people couldn’t have a reasonable conversation about disagreements, even if no agreement was reached.

I’ve also heard some argue Matthew 18 requires if you have a disagreement with a pastor/speaker/author/etc, you must contact that person first, etc, etc. I said in my opinion that’s a misapplication and misunderstanding. Again, the question is not whether or not to critically engage viewpoints and theologies. The question is whether one is doing so fairly, accurately, and civilly.

Civility and the Public Nature of Publishing

When one puts their perspectives out to the public, the public can and will respond. In fact, I believe the public should respond. Civil discourse promotes healthy and appropriate levels of engagement and accountability. In my opinion, one would be naïve to publish and not expect both agreement and disagreement among readers/listeners. Likewise, I would find it odd for someone to place a pastor, blogger, author, podcaster, or other figure’s public content beyond the scope of public criticism.

I think it is reasonable and positive for a local pastor to respond to something put out by a big-name individual. This could serve to sharpen the skills of the pastor by engaging in discussion on a more visible platform. It can help the big-name person remember that people make up their platform – so they should listen. It also can keep them humble. On both ends, feedback, even if in the form of pushback, will help us better understand and articulate our own views and those of others.

How then to disagree?

Of course, one should disagree in a manner that is agreeable. Put another way, disagree by way of civility. A friend of mine articulated a clear and concise description of what such a civil response looks like

“A civil disagreement with a viewpoint, doctrinal position, leadership paradigm, etc, is fair as long as one doesn’t denigrate or assign bad motives to the original author, and as long as one states the position with which one is disagreeing fairly and accurately.”

When addressing another blogger or public figure, I make sure I provide a link to the blog, speech, or article in question. When possible, I deliberately state where I might be in agreement with them on other issues, or I state my respect and admiration for their position, work, accomplishments, etc… In other words, I seek to affirm the person however I can while disagreeing with their position. I also frame my disagreements in the form of a conversation. I invite readers and the one with whom I disagree to contribute to greater clarity and understanding of the issue. My intention is not to compete, it’s to converse. I also leave open the possibility that I could be wrong in how I have understood the issue, and may indeed be less than correct in my response. Reserving the right to be wrong is key to meaningful dialogue, but I could be mistaken. 🙂

What about Matthew 18 and the directive to go to the individual first?

Because publishing is by its nature the public distribution of one’s content, I’m not sure it’s necessary to personally contact an author before offering disagreement on their content. I’m an advocate of the principle, “work the problem, not the person” or “speak to the issue, not the individual.”

Matthew 18 provides a framework for addressing disputes that threaten the personal and corporate health of Christ’s Body. The nature of such disciplinary / reconciliatory actions appear to encompass issues of personal character. At play are not mere disagreements, but issues of division, disobedience, disrespect, or other issues of character. Therefore, if one had cause to believe an author is engaged in something immoral, illegal, or something  rooted within the realm of character, then I would advise a private and personal contact before public response is pursued.

When such an approach does not yield correction or reconciliation, I do not believe it uncivil to publicly respond to the offending individual’s actions, especially if they are proven to be abusive, exploitative, or an affront to Orthodoxy. Civility is rooted in compassion, but is fueled by conviction.

Prove It!

Okay, here is a teaser … my next post is being written in response to another blogger with whom I disagree. Let me know if I adequately practice what I preach …

My Book is at the Printer!!!

July 10, 2014
kevindglenn

I’m very excited …

I mean Christmas Day when you’re about to open the “biggie” gift under the tree – like that.

or

When you know the first kiss from the love of your life is about to happen – like that.

or

When you’re driving a car faster than you’ve ever driven before – like that.

 

I think you get the idea!

 

My first book, Hand Over Fist: An Invitation to Christ-Centered Civility, has been submitted to the printers!! Click here for more info on the book

 

This means I’ll have a proof copy in my hands next week.

 

Stay tuned, I’m working with a marketing team to plan for a release date, release party, book signings, and other stuff.

 

None of this would be possible without the prayers, support, encouragement, kicks in the butt, pep talks, and belief you’ve had in me. Now when it’s time, just make sure you buy a copy 🙂

 

Thanks and I’ll keep you posted!!

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