kevinglenn.net

website and blog of Dr. Kevin D Glenn

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.

 

 

 

 

Mourn with those who are mourning; no exceptions.

June 13, 2016
kevindglenn

My mind and heart are still processing the tragedy that took place at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on Sunday morning. As I preached this morning, my iPad (I preach from my iPad) was lighting up with notifications from friends of mine (I grew up in Central Florida) using the “I am safe” feature on Facebook to report they were ok. A childhood friend was at the club itself. He escaped through a back door unharmed but reports the loss of around 20 of his personal friends.

It’s difficult to put into words the many things I’ve been thinking and feeling since the story broke. I mentioned the tragedy in my sermon today. After church, in what was perhaps a mistake, I checked my Facebook newsfeed and was dismayed at how quickly this event is being trivialized by politics, social causes, and religious pontificating, all at the expense of civility and compassion toward the victims and their loved ones. To be sure, there will be a time to discuss and debate gun laws, sexual orientation, national security, and religious fundamentalism. Those are necessary conversations, but not now.

At this point, information is still being gathered, facts are still unclear, speculation is rampant, and fear is front and center. Add to this the frustration of a fractured and polarized population and you have every reason to react in ways that simply deepen the divide, increase the fear, and add further insult to these tragic injuries.

The Scriptures provide a better way. They call us to mourn with those mourning (Romans 12:14). I know many Christians will be concerned with when “they,” be they Muslims or members of the LGBTQ community, need to be “told the truth.” The truth will come through in your living example of grace. Remember, Romans 12 is the same chapter that calls Jesus’ people to demonstrate their worship by presenting our lives as “living sacrifices to God.” That would appear to remove any exceptions we’d like to put between the command and our obedience. Some Christians will object, thinking this call to mourn and bless only applies to fellow Christians. Think again. Just before verse 14, is a two-word command; “practice hospitality.” Hospitality here is a mash-up of two greek terms, phileo – brotherly or familial love, and xenos – stranger, foreigner, or one who is other. Philoxenian – familial love for the “other.” That means love toward those you may not understand, agree with, or otherwise consider to reside in your circle of comfort. The Way, Truth, and Life who is Jesus will shine through as you put flesh and blood hands and feet to work in tangible, visible, and practical ways. Want to be in a position to speak the truth? First, earn the right to be heard.

How?

Now is a time to be present to weep and mourn with victims and their loved ones. It really doesn’t matter what your views are on same-sex attraction, gay bars, alcohol, gun control, ISIS, or what Trump and Hillary had to say. Now is a time to go and give blood. Now is a time to prepare and deliver a meal. Now is a time to provide a shoulder to cry on or hand to hold. Now is a time to cover your co-worker’s shift because their loved one is being treated in a hospital; or being prepared for burial. This is a time to give comfort and stand vigil with those grieving. Now is the time to stand in humble protection over those who would be further victimized by ignorant and insensitive rhetoric from “religious” people whose hate-filled words are not much different than the terrorist’s bullets. Followers of Jesus are bound to those hurting. These are people. People created in the image of God. People for whom Jesus died. People that belong to the one and only global tribe we call the human race. While I understand and agree with the call of many to pray, I would encourage praying people to become active people. As the old African Proverb says, “When you pray, move your feet.”

It takes courage to love. That’s why it’s easy for this tragedy to be made worse by reactionary words and actions. Love takes the time to cultivate and bear the fruit of patience, kindness, truth, generosity, humility, dignity, selflessness, mercy, forgiveness, and perseverance. That’s what love does, and it’s why love never fails.

It is only through active love that the tide of hate and violence can be turned. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? pp. 62-63

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

 

 

I’m PLaying the Race Card

July 15, 2013
kevindglenn

I blogged last year about the Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman case. Specifically, I shared my uneasiness with claims of “God’s plan” being part of the rhetoric.

The verdict is in. I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t claim to understand the ins and outs of our judicial “system”. Perhaps that’s why for people of faith, we are told by God to withhold our vengence, and trust that in God’s wisdom, vision, and insight, justice will be rendered in righteousness, and at the proper time.

If George Zimmerman had been convicted of Murder 2, Trayvon Martin would still be a dead 17-year old. His parents would still be crushed by the grief of his life cut short. A conviction would not have been a victory for Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict does not render him a free man. His decisions leading up to the altercation will be second-guessed, criticized, and talked about by our nation for a long time. He will have those conversations within his own mind for the rest of his days. This will never go away for him. The jury’s decision was not a victory for George Zimmerman.

There are no winners in this case.

This conflict was indeed about race. This conflict was indeed about color, but not black, white, brown, tan, or yellow…The color problem began with the first drop of red blood spilled in this altercation. When violence brings the flow of red blood from the body of a fellow human being, you have an issue of color and race.

We all bleed red.

We all share in one race; the human race.

As people fearfully and wonderfully made in the Image of God, we share a diverse commonality. That makes Travon Martin and George Zimmerman brothers. It makes them both my brothers…and yours. We all lost on Saturday night because we forgot our common color and race.

Pray for the parents and loved ones of Trayvon Martin…and pray for George Zimmerman …and God help us all.

“He prayed-it wasn’t my religion. He ate-it wasn’t what I ate. He spoke-it wasn’t my language. He dressed-it wasn’t what I wore. He shook my hand-it wasn’t the color of mine. But when he laughed-it was how I laughed, And when he cried-it was how I cried.” – Amy Maddox

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