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website and blog of Dr. Kevin D Glenn

Of Walls and Borders: Christian Perspectives on Immigration – Pt. 1

May 7, 2018
kevindglenn

This past Sunday at Calvary (the church I pastor), we hosted a forum for an immigration attorney to come and share about the nature and challenges of her work, the immigration system itself, and what immigrants experience as they go through the naturalization process, as well as asylum, and deportation. It was insightful, informative, and heart-breaking. It inspired me to share information I compiled in an essay from a few years ago. I’ll share the essay in several parts over the next few posts.

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Although I now live in New Mexico, I’m a native of Florida. Florida natives are an interesting and rare breed. Florida natives possess a certain pride and frustration reflected in a popular bumper sticker message directed at the many seasonal residents of the sunshine state. The message is simple and straight-forward, “Welcome to Florida, now go home.” Another is equally popular, “We don’t care how you do it up north.” Still, another is functional in its tone, “When I get old, I’m moving north and driving slow.”

While these messages are sent in good fun, they convey several misconceptions. First, is the misconception that seasonal residents are bad for the economy. In reality, much was gained when the snowbirds came to town. Church attendance increased, businesses enjoyed the additional activity, and the increase in population allowed for greater real-estate revenue. While these half-year residents may not have paid as much in taxes as natives, they certainly contributed to the welfare of the community. Yes, they drove slowly, but they came as most of us came; from somewhere else. The second misconception is perhaps the most important. While my great-great grandmother was Seminole, my self-identity as a “native Floridian” is arguable.

Members of the Seminole tribe could point to the invasion of their land by my Scottish-born ancestors with much more disdain and cause for lament than my shallow rejection of snowbirds. The Seminoles are the true Native Floridians, I am the immigrant. In fact, we are a nation of immigrants, making the issue of immigration one that requires a wise, careful, and thoroughly biblical response.

While the messages sent from my bumper sticker to snowbirds generated friendly jibing, Immigrants in the United States have often encountered serious intolerance along with negative, if not inaccurate stereotypes.  While it is accurate to point to historical and political realities for their impact on one’s attitude toward immigrants, a fair question can be raised; where do those attitudes come from? Are there underlying factors connected to the formation of society’s perspective toward immigrants on an individual level?

To this question, several proposals have been offered. These include how one’s attitudes are influenced by the condition of the economy, how perspectives are shaped by concerns over safety and security, and how one’s affinity for their own culture impacts their capacity to accept the cultural particularities of another. There are many studies that provide helpful information regarding general attitudes toward immigration policy. [1]

People of faith, Christian faith in particular also form their perspectives on immigration through the lenses of the economy, security, and culture. Religion, however, has been mentioned as an almost incidental element in the formulation of one’s attitude toward immigration. Until recently, the role of religious thought and practice as a key element in the formulation of such attitudes has been overlooked as an area of serious study. While researching this series, it was interesting to note the appeal that more attention be given to religion’s role in this area by researchers themselves. Sociologist Steven Warner called the absence of material a “huge scholarly blind spot”.  [2]

Of course, just as there are widely diverse perspectives in each of the three conditions mentioned above, adding religious affiliation to the interpretive mix in no way yields a unified religious response. This is illustrated through my affiliation with a ministry to border residents and its director. The research reveals a primary concern often expressed by potential visiting church groups is whether or not the immigrants they would serve are “legal or illegal”. In more than a few cases, church groups elect to avoid ministry efforts toward undocumented immigrants. It was believed by these groups that to do so would serve to enable illegal activity [3]  While it has been no surprise for Christian groups to state their convictions on moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage, my source with the border ministry has been surprised to see more and more groups view immigration as a moral issue, and therefore decline opportunities to minister to what they call “illegal aliens”. The news, however, is not all negative. My source reports that other groups increasingly seek out his ministry in order to seize opportunities to minister specifically to immigrants they know to be undocumented.  [4]

Why would some groups decline to engage in ministry to undocumented immigrants based on Christian conviction, while others cite Christian conviction as a reason to seek such an opportunity?

The information above illustrates a significant divide among Christians in their attitudes toward immigration. While the reason for the differing responses above are cited as Christian conviction, this series of posts will observe the way in which one’s Christian beliefs are constantly at odds with one’s sense of economic, security, and cultural self-preservation, and how this struggle impacts one’s understanding of the information available on immigration issues. This leads members of the Body of Christ to very different mechanisms by which they process and interpret the economic, security, and cultural factors of the current immigration conversation. The goal of this series is to heighten one’s awareness to the diversity of perspective within the Body and to provide a synopsis of the differing views of Christians in a way that promotes greater understanding and education. My hope is that even with differing perspectives on immigration policy issues, Christians will see immigrants as people in need of compassionate ministry, love, and respect. They are what all of us were at one time; strangers in need of a place and people.

Economic Concerns

A Christian perspective on the economic impact of immigration can be summarized through two different questions. One, can our nation afford the number of immigrants crossing our borders? Two, can our nation afford not to have the number of immigrants crossing our borders? To be sure, one could speculate that both sides would agree such questions on their own are temptations to see immigrants as fiscal units rather than as individuals made in God’s image. This, however, must be held I tension with the reality of the concerns raised by immigration’s economic impact.

  1. The influx of immigrants takes jobs from native workers.

Citing studies by Harvard economist George Borjas, immigration specialist and devout Christian, James R. Edwards, observes that a large number of low-skilled immigrants puts “downward pressure on low-end wages”, making it difficult for low-skilled citizens to compete for the same jobs, since the immigrant will usually do the job for much less money. This, according to Edwards, “is not a good thing for America’s low-skilled workers, leaving them vulnerable to…direct job competition, wage depression, and flooded labor markets.” [5] This claim assumes an influx of immigrants sufficient to create such an environment of job competition. However, other factors are present to temper this claim.

The condition of America’s current and future labor force must be taken into account. It is projected that from 2006 to 2016, the U.S. economy will grow at an average rate of 2.8%, a modest projection to be sure, but one that will generate an increased need for workers in the labor force. Among citizens, no increase in the labor force is expected between now and 2020, leading to an aging native labor force. [6]  In addition, Jenny Hwang, devout Christian, and director of the Refugee and Immigration Program of World Relief, notes that “low U.S. fertility rates will not only slow labor force growth but increase the ratio of retired people to working people.” [7] In short, there are simply not enough native-born workers to replenish the low-skilled labor force as its needs grow with the economy unless those gaps are filled by immigrants.

The citizenry that makes up the current labor force is also becoming more educated. In 1960, 50% of American men dropped out of high school to work a trade or join the military (my father being among them). Presently, less than 10% do so. However, of the 50.7 million jobs projected to be created between now and 2016, half will require no more than high school diploma. [8]

The suggested solution to this situation is to tighten and limit the extent to which immigrants can fill the gaps mentioned above. Such attempts, however, have been problematic and have produced shortages. Hugh Morton of the National Association of Home Builders points out that “contractors struggling to find quality roofers, concrete finishers, etc…found immigrant trade contractors a godsend.” [9]  In 2011, crackdowns on immigrant workers in Georgia led to an astonishing 50% of its agricultural produce being left to rot in the fields – at a cost to the state of more than $400 million, with total losses prompted by the act topping $1billion. In Alabama, immigration limitations have cost the state $11 billion since June of 2011. [10] New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg said of immigrants, “New York City alone is home to more than three million immigrants, who make up 40% of our population…our City’s economy would collapse if they were deported. The same holds true for the nation.” [11] The entrepreneurial spirit of many immigrants accounts for a number of business and services that would otherwise not exist due to the culturally distinct manner by which some immigrants perform their service. [12]

Low-skilled jobs are not the only areas of employment where Christians raise economic concern. Highly skilled positions are also addressed, although concern does not appear to be as intense in this area. Edwards confirms that among the gains and benefits brought to the nation through immigration, those related to work done by “highly educated and entrepreneurially talented immigrants” is seen as a valuable contribution to the economic picture. Notable examples are, Sergey Brin, Russian immigrant who founded Google, Inc., John and David Tu, Taiwanese immigrants and founders of the multi-billion dollar Kingston Technology, Dr. Alfred Quinones-Hinojosa, neuro-surgeon at Johns Hopkins University, who picked tomatoes in the fields of California as an undocumented immigrant before working his way through school, eventually attending Harvard Medical School. It is clear from these examples that the contribution of immigrants to the fields of science and technology in the U.S. is unmistakable. Another Taiwanese immigrant, Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo, explains,

“Yahoo would not be an American company today if the United States had not welcomed my family and me almost 30 years ago. We must do all we can to ensure that the door is open for the next generation of top entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists from around the world to come to the U.S. and thrive.” [13]

It would seem that while concerns are valid regarding the number of immigrants entering the U.S., there appears to be sufficient room for both citizens and immigrants in both high-skill and low-skill jobs. However, more research is needed, including an answer for why contractors would have trouble finding roofers, masons, and concrete finishers at a time during which so many are out of work, and why American students continue to score low in math and science, while the best educational institutions and the most state-of-the-art research facilities in the world reside in the United States. It appears the world makes the U.S. its destination of choice while its own citizenry struggles to seize the opportunities in its own back-yard.

Next Post: Are immigrants a fiscal drain on public resources?

[1]Tanya Maria. Golash-Boza, Due Process Denied: Detentions and Deportations in the United States (New York: Routledge, 2012), 47.

[2] Warner Steven, “Religion, Boundaries, and Bridges.,” Sociology of Religion 58, no. 3 (1997): 217.

[3] Border ministry source, interview by author, August 26, 2012.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Carol M. Swain, Debating Immigration (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 60.

[6] Betty W. Su, “The U.S. Economy to 2016: Slower Growth as Boomers Begin to Retire,” Monthly Labor Review 130, no. 11 (2007): 13, accessed December 2, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2007/11/contents.htm.

[7] Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang, Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009), 118.

[8] Arlene Dohm and Lynn Schniper, “Occupational Employment Projections to 2016,”Monthly Labor Review 103, no. 11 (2007): 33, accessed 2012.

[9] Sorens and Hwang, Welcoming the Stranger, 119

[10] Ed Pilkington, “Kansas Prepares for Clash of Wills over Future of Unauthorised Immigrants,” The Guardian, February 2, 2012, section goes here, accessed December 3, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/02/kansas-prepares-clash-unauthorised-migrants.

[11]Testimony the Committee on Judiciary, United States Senate (2006) (testimony of Michael Bloomberg, Mayor, City of New York).

[12] My research revealed numerous branches of business supporting this claim. In the interest of space, a brief list would include; food services, tailoring, art, alternative medicine, exercise, and non-traditional education, just to name a few.

[13] “US Venture Capitalists Investing in Immigrant Businesses,” US Venture Capitalists Investing in Immigrant Businesses, 2006, accessed December 05, 2012, http://www.workpermit.com/news/2006_11_27/us/immigrant_business_venture_capital.htm

Why we need pastoral prophets instead of partisan pawns.

December 21, 2016
kevindglenn

Civility Clarification: This post is pointed, aggressive, and personal. It is intended to be a redemptive rebuke. As such, some may question how I can call for civility while writing in such a manner. It’s simple; civility is NOT the absence of conflict and conviction, nor does it demand one’s rhetorical tone to be constantly perky. Civility deals in honesty, which at times requires some hard truth to be spoken. For more, refer to this post of mine from June 2015, Do Unity and Civility Sacrifice Conviction?  

Okay, on we go!

Two articles came across my Facebook feed this morning, each reflecting facets of our divided political context. One expressed worry over pastors of politically divided churches but revealed in the end, a one-sided concern; the plight of pastors dealing with fear from potential victims of Trump, but nothing about the fear and concern from folks over the appointments, policies, and other results from a Clinton presidency. That piece from Christian Century is here

The other was an article on the pushback against Russell Moore, of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Moore was not only an outspoken critic of Clinton during the campaign but also voiced concern and criticism over the efforts of many Evangelicals and Southern Baptist leaders for their rationalization of Trump’s words and behavior. Pastors like Robert Jeffries, of First Baptist Church of Dallas, openly endorsed the Republican candidate and encouraged other Southern Baptists to do the same. Moore pointed out the inconsistency and faulty logic of those who, like Jeffries, sought to make a vote for Trump a matter of spiritual fidelity, while explaining away rhetoric and actions by Trump that blatantly defied principles of Christian faith.

With the election over, Russell Moore is now being challenged by Jeffries, as well as Jack Graham, of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, TX. Veiled insinuations of de-funding the ERLC or of having Moore resign are now the stuff of Social Media outlets and church hallway discussions. That piece from The Christian Post is here.

I am worried about the role and responsibility of pastors in this context, but my worry is about the extent to which pastors are not seeing and seizing their role as a prophetic voice in these times. The voice of pastoral prophet is easily silenced when seduced by the promise of political power. My post will address the specific groups with whom I’ve served over the past couple decades, The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF).

After serving in exclusively SBC churches, exclusively CBF churches, and churches with more than one alignment, I’ve seen that much of the issue is the pastor’s posture toward politics (totally unintentional alliteration there!).

In order for pastors to be a prophetic voice to all sides of the divide, they must follow Christ’s posture toward political power. He resisted a simplistic posture, refusing to “come down on a side” when confronted by the unholy alliances of Pharisees/Herodians and Pharisees/Sadducees seeking to trap him with false dichotomies. Jesus also refused to allow complacency by demonstrating knowledge of and engagement with the political systems of his day. This is important since some problems are issues of justice for which we must advocate in hopes of legislative action. Finally, Jesus did not allow for a view that sees political power as the primary way to affect change, since many of our issues cannot be solved through political legislation, but through redemptive cultural engagement. In this way, politics is indeed downstream from culture.

So, what must the pastor do? In an admittedly generalized statement, but one I will stand by after 20+ years and five elections of alphabet-soup (SBC/CBF) observation and involvement; It is time for SBC pastors and leaders to get out of bed with the Republican party. It is also time for CBF pastors and leaders to get out of bed with the Democratic party.

While these two Baptist groups continue their 20+ year feud, I see them doing little more than mirroring each other’s errors in a way that continues to ignore the potential for unity in Jesus Christ and continues to damage our external witness toward a world needing community, compassion, care, and conversion.

So, what to do? For God’s sake, pastors, preach Christ!!!

When did preaching Christ become politically insufficient? When the grace of Jesus confronts human brokenness, such grace will be a redemptive rebuke to the deficiencies in the platforms and policies of the Left and Right, as well as serving to strengthen what honors God and people in the platforms and policies of both Left and Right. I believe it will take pastors modeling this approach for church folks to learn how to do it themselves. Such pastors will take heat for it from all sides since the present and previous elections have demonstrated that Christians display a greater devotion and trust in political systems than they do in the real-world, real-time redemptive power of the Gospel.

Princeton Theological Seminary President, M. Craig Barnes, author of the Christian Century piece makes my point in his second to last paragraph when he speaks with prophetic intensity about Trump’s sins while being oddly silent about Clinton’s. I agree with everything he wrote about Trump’s behavior and am sickened by the pass so many Evangelicals gave him. No doubt, the witness of the church has been damaged from this election. So yes, speak truth to Trump. However, the author’s prophetic credibility diminishes when he fails to deliver on the very thing he spent the article calling pastors to do. He does not speak about or to Clinton’s sins; especially since her policies, practices, and pronouncements were the reasons many Christ-followers chose not to vote for her. This element is as important for ministry as binding up the wounds and listening to those in fear over Trump’s election. But now, the author’s hand is tipped, his bias is revealed, and his message falls flat; precisely what happens when one attempts to speak with moral authority toward politics from the bed of their partisan mistress.

The Christian Post piece demonstrates the extent to which the old-guard Christian Right is unwilling to de-tangle their politics from the Gospel. I agree with the observation of a young pastor named James Forbis (@jforbis), when he says,”they’re (Jeffries, Graham and the like) worried about losing control within the SBC and Southern Baptists losing cultural relevancy,” he continued. “By all means as a young, informed, and engaged pastor within the SBC I’m fine with losing cultural relevancy,” he concluded, adding that he would rather the SBC be counter-cultural.

If you want to know what a prophetic pastoral voice sounds like, you’ve just heard it from James Forbis. In contrast, Jeffries, Graham, Falwell Jr., and others who think like them will find no prophetic voice until they leave the altar of their Golden Elephants.

So, I am worried. I am worried about the unwillingness of my pastoral colleagues to admit, avoid, and call out partisan idolatry. I pray and hope for a change, but I’m encouraged by the folks at my church and by next-gen voices like James Forbis who inspire us to BE the change.

Who’s with me?

Tolle Lege (Take up and read)

July 18, 2016
kevindglenn

Howdy, all!

In my sermon yesterday, I quoted from Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit and recommended the book. I usually recommend books that I quote from, even if they contain content that I and my congregants might disagree with. The frequent quotes and recommendations prompt a question I’m asked almost every week, “What are you currently reading?” I love this question, but frequently forget to provide a reading list … my brain gets pretty scattered on Sundays. Fortunately, someone reminded me to put out a list, so here we go …

I usually have a list for each season, so this will be the list for summer 2016

Books-bookshelf-person-head-540wDISCLAIMER: It is important to understand that just because a book is listed in my reading list does NOT mean that I agree with or endorse the content. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to chase down a rumor about some heretical thought attributed to me and find that it all started because someone assumed a book I was reading on a topic represented my position on that topic. I read widely. I deliberately and often read authors that challenge my beliefs, and I believe our best thinking can develop when all of us do the same. So, keep in mind that a book listed is not a perspective endorsed.

Ok, here’s the list for summer 2016 (bold means I’ve finished it)

11.22.63 – Stephen King

Strong and Weak – Andy Crouch

Good Faith – Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons

American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion – John Wilsey

Jesus Before the Gospels – Bart Ehrman

Unoffendable – Brant Hansen

People to be Loved – Preston Sprinkle

Metaphors We Live By – George Lakoff

The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders – Gregg Frazer

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling

 

Here’s what I plan to read in the fall of 2016

Mon2015-05-18-capitol-hill-books-0118editsters in America – W. Scott Poole

Us versus Us: Religion and the LGBTQ Community – Andrew Marin

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World – Scott Laurence

Next Door as It Is in Heaven: Living Out God’s Kingdom in Your Neighborhood – Lance Ford and Brad Brisco

Was America Founded As a Christian Nation? – John Fea

One Nation Under God? – John Wilsey

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit – James K.A. Smith

The Bad Habits of Jesus – Leonard Sweet

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

I prayed, “How long, O Lord?” He answered, “Until you change.”

July 8, 2016
kevindglenn

This week has been filled with tragedy, the most recent being Thursday night’s ambush of Dallas Police officers protecting the participants of a Black Lives Matter protest. At this time, 5 officers have been killed and 11 injured in the worst attack on law enforcement since 9/11.

My heart breaks for so many involved in these troubling times. I grieve with friends, colleagues, and loved ones who are black have been so patient with me over the years. See, I grew up in an environment that proudly waved confederate flags and referred to minorities by their first name – only after inserting a “title” containing a slur. Some of my earliest memories of interacting with African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and even Native Americans involved learning terms like, nigger, spook, coon, spick, wet-back, chinc, slant, gook, and in’jun. It wasn’t until friendships were formed with “those people” that my prejudices were challenged and changed. It was long and hard work that involved a great deal of me shutting my mouth unless it was to ask a question, listening, learning, and seeking to understand the stories of these folks as individuals and as a people. In doing so, I learned how many areas of daily life are points of caution, contention, and even confrontation to them while being non-issues to me in my white skin.

None of this was to make me feel guilty. Guilt motivates one to little more than a self-serving act that removes the feeling, but does little to actually produce change. No, the stories of these friends was shared to make me aware of my responsibility. My responsibility as a member of a privileged part of the population to speak up and speak out in support of equality, dignity, and justice for the multi-ethnic members of our singular human race. This has required much of me. I can not only speak of change, I must act in ways that demonstrate change.

I also grew up around first responders. My dad was a firefighter, so those guys were like a group of second fathers to me. Since the police and fire stations were next door to one another in those days, I knew most of the officers. My childhood best friend’s brother was (and still is) a cop, and that same best friend grew up to become a cop himself. I saw these men and women risk it all to serve, protect, rescue, and help members of the community; even those I had been conditioned to despise. Fast forward a couple decades and once again, I’m very close with folks from the military, fire/rescue, and law enforcement. I’ve prayed at the commissioning of military officers, police academy graduates, and led invocations at memorials for fallen soldiers and police officers. As one of my closest friends and active police officer wrote this morning, “The police are the last line between good and evil (thin blue line).” I am grateful for and supportive of the men and women who put their lives on that thin blue line everyday to protect each of us, and I grieve with those who have lost brothers and sisters in blue.

However, I can see and understand that there is a need for serious evaluation and change in aspects of law enforcement regarding their connection to, relationship with, and performance of their responsibilities toward the African-American community. There are simply too many complaints, cases, and confirmations of interactions between law enforcement entities (police, prisons, judicial systems) and African Americans that have resulted in oppression and tragedy.

So here they are. Real people with stories, concerns, responsibilities, and most of all, common humanity. But something has gone very wrong, resulting in the violence we have seen. There are very real points of concern, tension, misunderstanding, and even malice among these folks. The way forward is not with political spin, not with premature speculation, not with misinformed blame, not with useless guilt, and for God’s sake, not with vindictive violence.

As the news was breaking, I wrote a single question in my Facebook status, “How long, O Lord?” It’s a question of lament. A question that calls for change.

Indeed, things must change.

Some advocate for change.

Some will lobby for change.

Some will demand change.

Some will campaign for change.

Some will protest for change.

Many will pray for change … in other people; in THEM.

And we will expect that change to take place … in other people; in THEM.

That kind of change won’t happen. Why?

Until I addressed my own racism, privilege, ignorance, and participation in the problem did God begin to answer my prayers for change. Not until we stop looking through the window at others and look in the mirror at ourselves is change possible.

We will see change not when we merely talk, advocate, lobby, demand, or offer prayers that others change. Only when we take responsibility to embody the changes we seek will anything actually change.

Change must be done. Like justice, mercy, and love, change is an act of the will. It is a decision – an action. I must be and do differently. Is there a prayerful plan of action for that? There is, but I wonder who is serious enough about change to pray it for this will be the most dangerous, uncomfortable, sacrificial, liberating, and effective prayer you will ever pray – because it is answered in your being and doing it.

This is a prayer that can turn red and blue voters to purple, bring gun lobbyists from both sides to the same table, bring black lives matter and blue lives matter to solutions that matter, and bring together diverse perspectives under the unifying hope of peace and common good.

But do we really want to be the embodiment of this prayer? The answer to that question is what will determine where we go from here.

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.” – St. Francis of Assisi

Dare to BE this prayer.

 

 

 

 

Here’s your sign!

March 30, 2016
kevindglenn

This is a guest post from Carter Campbell. Carter is the founder and President of C2Roi Facilitated Solutions, a service dedicated to helping companies, institutions, organizations, and individuals reach their maximum potential. Carter and his wife, Roi are good friends and faithful members of Calvary Baptist Church, where I pastor.

Carter just released his first book, Leadership Tips: Common Sense Thoughts for Uncommon Times. The book is available on his website http://www.c2roi.com/. The site also provides information on Carter’s services. Be sure to sign up for his daily email!

Thanks so much to Carter for this post!

_______________________________

When I facilitate groups I’m always looking at body language, listening to tone of voice and considering individual motives.

Thanks to a great book by Dr. Kevin Glenn called Hand Over Fist: An Invitation To Christ Centered Civility, I now have a name for it, semiotics (if you need help with the pronunciation buy the book) Dr. Glenn writes,

“it’s a fancy way of talking about perceptions that helps us understand another person’s collateral experience…. Signs are made up of many different components words, sounds, body language and context.” 

We can easily mistake another person’s body language, tone of voice or mannerisms 

To illustrate how egocentric we can be attributing another’s behavior to our actions I offer you the following story.

My wonderful wife and life coach Roi and I have a routine that we use when we get up in the morning, at some point in this routine I’ll usually settle in for some quiet time before I start my work day. One morning as I was sitting there reading Roi got up, went into the bathroom and slammed the door. I immediately thought “what did I do wrong?” When Roi came out she seemed to be in an okay mood so I didn’t say anything about it. This went on for two more days, a door would slam, I’d be a coward and not say anything. Roi would clean up and we would go about our day. On the third day I couldn’t stand it anymore, I meekly knocked on the door and peeked in my head and asked “honey what’s wrong?” she looked at me with a puzzled look and said “what do you mean what’s wrong?”  For the last three days in a row you have slammed the door to which she replied “of course I did, it sticks can you fix that today?”

The reward for my cowardice was three days wondering whether or not my wife was mad at me and what I should do about it instead of seeking to understand the situation first.  A facilitator and mentor of mine once said if you assume your conclusions you’ll conclude your assumptions. Be very careful when you suppose you know where another person is coming from. You probably have better than a 50-50 chance of being wrong, and remember when you do ask the question.

Say what you mean

Mean what you say But

Don’t say it mean.

 

Wars and Rumors of Wars…and coffee

November 10, 2015
kevindglenn

It’s that time of year when the smell of pumpkin spice is being replaced with peppermint, when the sounds of holiday cheer play in department stores, eggnog coffee creamer appears in my fridge, and when someone starts again with the mythical “war on Christmas.” This year, the opening salvo came as media outlets took a video from a particularly angry individual, made him the face of “Christians,” and proceeded to construct a narrative of offended and outraged caffeine craving crusaders who believe Starbucks scrooges have banished baby Jesus.

On cue, outlets from BuzzFeed to Good Morning America carried the narrative forward. My agnostic / atheist buddies over at the Lost or Profound podcast posted Buzzfeed’s article on their Facebook page, immediately garnering comments of disapproval toward those who would be offended at Starbuck’s decision. I read plenty of posts criticizing those easily offended Christians.

There’s just one problem. With the exception of the viral video guy, and a few folks trolling the comment threads, I have yet to run into, hear from, read about, or see a single Christian who has expressed offense over Starbucks’ cups.

Zero, nil, nada, not even one.

As my doctoral colleague, fellow pastor, and good friend, Dr. David McDonald observed, “To date, I have heard zero Christians complaining about Starbucks cups. I have, however, read ten articles chastising Christians’ complaints.”

What we have here is a classic example of the tail wagging the dog.

These “wars” are primarily media constructs fueled by a few fuming folks on the fringe. The “war” between science and faith, and the “war on Christmas” are two good examples.

I’ll concede that some of the talk comes from segments of the Christian community. Some of these folks are friends and relatives of mine, and I love them very much. However, contrary to the media’s “war” narrative, such a segment does not represent the majority Evangelical voice.

To my Christian friends that do believe there is a “war on Christmas,” I simply ask, do you really think the aggressive, in-your-face, “We say Merry Christmas” approach, usually aimed at a cashier, barista, or server does much to offer a compelling, compassionate, or even reasonable invitation to a productive conversation about faith?

Do you really want to keep Christ in Christmas? Live and love like Jesus 24/7 365.

Besides, do we really need a disposable cup to proclaim the arrival of the Everlasting Father? What if we remember and represent Jesus by no longer treating one another as disposable? Perhaps if we stop trying to make a point, we would end up making a difference.

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