Tag Archives: judgment

Obey the Law

The other day a Facebook post showed me a white police officer with the quote:

“It’s really simple–obey the law, and we’ll get along just fine.”

We do like our one-liners and hashtags when we talk about culture and politics in America. But anything that distills a complicated social issue down to one line is inherently ignorant, brushing aside facets and facts to make a punchy point.

I don’t think we should settle for ignorance, even if it sounds cool.

For example, on obeying the law, there’s a viral video showing what happens when two men legally carry their AR-15 rifles in public.

In case you don’t watch it, here’s the story:

The first man (average Joe white guy) is walking with a couple friends, all recording what comes next. A policeman shows up, exits his vehicle, approaches and asks for their IDs. The man says, “No, you have no need to take my ID, I’m not doing any crime.” The officer accepts this and begins questioning why the man is walking with an AR-15. The man replies, “Just exercising my rights as a legal firearm owner.” While the officer isn’t happy with this, the camera fades and we see nothing else after that.

The second man, who the video description calls a black man, walks down a street with his AR hanging at his side, untouched. His pregnant wife follows behind, both recording everything that happens next. A policeman stops in the street, steps out of his vehicle, draws his weapon and yells, “Get down on the street.” While the man lays in the street, he explains what he’s doing. “I am a legal firearm owner, exercising my rights to open carry, are you detaining me, sir?”

Not only is he detained, his wife is too. She is ordered (at 7 months pregnant) to sit on the curb while all this is sorted out. More police arrive, first one with gun drawn, then another car, then two others and still another. The police calmly approach and remove the AR, then search the man despite his protests and refusal to consent to search. He is led off to the sidewalk, his gun is taken (presumably for a check against some database), and a K9 unit arrives.

Both men obeyed the law but experienced a very different situation. One man was able to challenge the officer and flat out refuse to comply. One man’s life was threatened immediately for an extended duration.

Should I still believe it’s as simple as “Obey the law, and you’ll be fine” then?

But the sword of ignorance cuts both ways. There’s more to the story than the viral video suggests (go figure).

The two videos were shot in two different towns, one in Oregon, one in Nevada. What are the crime rates and demographics of those towns? We don’t know. From the video’s limited view, they do appear to represent two different economic levels. Is violent crime more prevalent in one than the other? Several factors can affect how police respond.

Both men set out to make videos about open carry rights, not anything race-related. The “black” man is actually a Hispanic Filipino. Certainly other minorities also can endure disparate treatment, so I’m not saying that to downplay the ridiculous difference in responses.

Supposedly a report was filed about the second man brandishing the weapon, but the video (and the longer original version) shows proof he did no such thing. Still, that report might partly explain a much more aggressive response.

The point is, an argument that chalks everything up to race might miss some key points. More importantly, I’m concerned by what seems like misleading and inaccurate presentation by this group claiming some kind of fair experiment where the only difference in the two clips is skin color of the gun owner.

In the process of writing a novel about racial tensions, I took time to research others’ experiences as well as what drives our reactions to race. I believe race is a factor in how we respond to one another on an unconscious level. I believe it because there is scientific proof.

Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink goes into this snap-judgment mechanism that helps our mind process myriad flows of information on a subconscious level. His book shows how this can be good in some cases, detrimental in others. In making his points, he presents examples of properly conducted scientific and sociological experiments. He addresses how our minds deal with the many emotions and notions we bring to the subject of race.

The end result? Turns out we’re all pretty racist, on the subconscious level. Thankfully, most of us control or resist those feelings very quickly, because we believe it’s wrong to judge someone on skin color. Yet experiments prove there’s still a delay between our conscious better reasoning and our unconscious first judgment.

Most of us–even the enlightened and progressive, even the cops–respond differently at first to the darker skinned person in cornrows than to a lighter skinned man.

Knowing that means we can think about it, talk about it, recognize it and work to reduce how long we operate off that misguided initial snap judgment. And then we can also talk about all those other factors and sides of the story that influence race relations.

That conversation won’t be simplified to a one-liner, and we can’t be satisfied with attempts to do so, regardless of which viewpoint we support.

Doubleplus Ungood Thoughtcrime

For the sake of future celebrities, CEOs, and spokespersons, I have a risk management proposal. I suggest the following application for anyone in a public position:

1)      Do you support same-sex marriage and consider same-sex sexual activity morally acceptable?
Yes? Continue to question 2.
No? Please sign at the bottom and turn in the form.

2)      Do you intend to positively advocate, in the form of advertisements, announcements, or personal interviews, for same-sex marriage and activity as well as the LGBTQ community?
Yes? Continue to question 3.
No? Please sign at the bottom and turn in the form.

3)      Are you free of the influence of any deeply held personal beliefs?
Yes? Congratulations, your application is complete.
No? Please sign at the bottom and turn in the form.

I, the undersigned, accept disapproval for consideration for this position through no fault of the employer based on the above.
Sign: ___________________

Based on recent events, tolerance is not enough. Acceptance is not enough. Only full-fledged outspoken public support will do. Anything else means you’re a homophobic bigot.

If your pasta or fast-food company isn’t making ads for same-sex couples, expect questions. Because pasta, chicken, and every other product on the market is all about the same-sex marriage debate. If you’re a star in an ongoing reality TV show and you express an unapproved but entirely expected opinion, prepare for indefinite suspension.

Corporations are willing to make millions off you in the short term, while cringing on the inside saying, “Lord, please let them not get asked about gay marriage today so we can keep raking in the cash.”

But eventually, the disgusting hypocrisy of such corporations might cost too much, making even huge short-term gain unprofitable. Thus, the litmus test err application I have provided above.

Your tolerance is required. Our tolerance is on back-order.
Your tolerance is required. Our tolerance is on back-order.

The message is clear. There is an unwavering standard. There is no acceptable form of dissent on this issue, no expression of disagreement respectful enough, no divergence from the correct position:

You must not think ill of homosexual activity. You may not speak ill of it. Your mere acceptance only buys you time until you are caught expressing homophobia. Your tolerance is allowed but will not be returned.

Homophobia is thoughtcrime; violators will be prosecuted.

Only in the court of public opinion.

At least, for now.

See what Phil Robertson actually said. Crass, yes. Hateful, no. Homophobic? Not at all, unless we redefine the word.

Pasta Politics

So there’s trouble boiling over in the world of noodles.

The chairman of Barilla Group said there’s no plans for the company to have same-sex family pasta ads. His comments are attracting lots of negative attention, and his apology is viewed as hollow and insincere by some.

To which I ask, do we need same-sex family pasta ads? I understand debate on marriage rights, on legal benefits, on laws that discriminate. I understand frustration with how the LGBT community is treated in certain places and certain circles, and outcries against violence. I am outspoken among my Christian friends about the vitriolic and disproportional manner in which the church in general responds to homosexuality. I even argue with folks like the Southern Baptist Convention concerning their policies for chaplains in the military, delineating which service members defending our country can receive ministry and care from a chaplain and which cannot. So while I am probably considered no friend to the homosexual community due to my faith, I still fight for them in several ways.

But this one I just don’t get.

It’s pasta.

It's obviously the ravioli
Can YOU pick out the pasta of hate?

Is there gay pasta and straight pasta? Wait, don’t answer that. Yes, there is straight pasta.

But is pasta the battlefield on which issues concerning homosexuality should be fought?

Is there an activist watching TV somewhere, checking off companies that include a same-sex couple in at least one ad? Is one ad enough? Or do you need two?

In a minute, I’m going to drive my Ford minivan to band practice. I’m going to play a Korg piano. The whole time, I will be paralyzed with fear, because I just don’t know if Ford or Korg have ads that show non-traditional families and same-sex piano playing!

I mean, I look around the room and wonder what other bastions of advertising prejudice I might be supporting. I have a Logitech mouse and I’m typing this on an Alienware laptop. Do they have same-sex ads showing a couple using their Logitech products? Are there ads for homosexuals using Alienware computers?

Do there need to be?

Come on. This is Chik-fil-A all over again. And we know how that turned out: a tidy profit for the “purveyors of hate.”

I’ve eaten at Chik-fil-A. I’ve eaten Barilla pasta. I’ve tried other places and similar products. At no point did I find myself exposed to hatred, nor have I been motivated to look down upon the differences of others.

Sometimes a product is just a product.

Fight the battles worth fighting.

Die a Log

There’s a tactic of discussion that drives me nuts. Take any social topic, and start out with name-calling against your opposition.

“So and so is a bigot.”

“She’s a racist.”

“He’s a misogynist.”

Because clearly any difference of opinion is exactly the same thing as hatred (animosity, hostility) and intolerance (an unwillingness to endure without repugnance the existence of something).

It’s an incredibly lazy way to approach social issues. It’s judgmental, it’s making assumptions about the motivations and the thoughts of another person – something we cannot accurately and objectively determine – and treating those assumptions as fact. It’s the pot calling the kettle black.

When you call folks out on this disparity, they love to declare “I won’t be tolerant of intolerance.” It’s ok to judge the judgmental. Disregard the fact that almost all virtues are revealed when we demonstrate them toward others, and especially regardless of how the other party behaves. Compassion is no virtue if I’m only concerned about those who are concerned about me. Integrity is useless if I’m only honest with those who have been faithfully honest. If you love only those who love you, what’s special about that?

Call these folks out (or just wait a minute while they sputter in self-righteous rage) and then you’ll hear “I don’t want to debate beliefs. Everyone can feel the way they feel. I just wish people wouldn’t shove their beliefs in other people’s faces.”  (Right, like when you claimed anyone who disagrees with you is a bigot/racist/misogynist/ignoramus.)

So in other words, don’t discuss ideas. Even though these differences of opinion form the foundation of multiple debates on social and political policy in our country, let’s not “shove our beliefs in anyone’s face” or discuss our differing perspectives.

Just close off in your little bubble, surrounded by the comfort of assenting voices, hearing only the praises of those who would have you conform to their view. Never let an outside opinion challenge your ideal world, and advocate the value of standing up for nothing, since apparently there’s no topic worth discussing, no argument worth making or defending, no person worth persuading to your cause.

People today — not all, but far too many — are content to live in a cozy little isolated fortress of solitude. Let not some strange concept or disagreeable thought intrude upon this idyllic fantasy! There is no need for dialogue! It would be a shame to have to think.

The Mirror

For a Monday Morning Snack, here’s a short piece about mercy and judgment.

The Mirror

I looked out the window at the world, angry at all the injustice.

Then I looked in the mirror, ashamed at all of my own.

I looked out the window at two men in love, and my religious beliefs rose in offense.

I looked in the mirror, saw how little I love, and I was humbled.

Outside I saw greed ignore need and I was enraged.

Inside, I saw my own selfishness, and I was appalled.

I looked out the window at passion paraded and praised, and I stood in judgment.

I looked in the mirror at my lust and desires, and I cried for mercy.

I looked out and saw people reject God’s word, and I thought them foolish.

Then I saw my life contradict my professed beliefs, and I was disgraced.

I looked out the window at everything wrong, and asked, “God, what are You going to do about this?”

Then I heard Him respond, “I gave you a mirror.”

Think of the Children

I’m usually a pretty calm person, especially when it comes to dealing with other people. It takes a lot for someone to really get under my skin.

I do have my moments. Technology that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, for example, is like turning on a flamethrower in my chest. (I’m looking at you, Microsoft products, with all the ways you try to ‘help’ me by complicating the simplest tasks.)

My dog peeing everywhere, just brazen and unashamed. Yeah, that gets me ‘perturbed.’

But mostly, I keep calm and drink my coffee.

One thing that does get on my nerves is when people spew venom in the name of Christ.

I really hate it when they use children as their excuse.

I really, really hate it when they look right past their own faults to point at the faults of others.

You can’t expect mercy for your sins while proclaiming judgment on everyone else’s.

(I probably hate that because I’m often guilty of that myself.)

So… at some point or other I got signed up for a “defend marriage as one man and one woman” page on Facebook. I only recently noticed some of the stuff they post in pursuit of their cause.

I’ve gotten into it with the faceless individual(s) behind the page. Every now and then, someone says something completely asinine, and I feel compelled to share a reasonable voice with a logical counterpoint to the ignorance. It would be one thing if people were having thoughtful discussions and clarifying how their beliefs intersect with government and freedom and tolerance and all that. Most everyone I know is willing to admit we may not all agree, but we can disagree in a civil manner and hopefully all learn something from the debate.

Not everyone seems so inclined.

This little tragedy of grammar and graphics got posted on my wall today:

I’m not posting this because I agree with the image. First off, I can’t agree with incorrect word choice and terrible cut-and-paste graphics…

I don’t know why, but I happened to read the ten comments on the picture.

It was like a religious frat party, with people giving each other textual fist bumps by reminding everyone about God’s original plan for marriage and how sad it would be when the child eventually says, “I wish I had a father.” Someone ridiculed the smiling faces, conveying the tragic nature of this hypothetical union and its dangerous impact on the child’s development. Someone simply responded with, “Oh, barf!!!!!”

I’ll leave aside the fact that there are children being raised by gay couples around the world and not all of them are collapsing under the burden of self-loathing or grief. Both sides will point to various “experts” with studies that “prove” that gay couples raising children is “no harm done” OR there is irreparable damage. Whatever. Let’s just agree that there are a lot of kids out there who are going to grow up with two mommies or daddies (yes, this is a proper time to use the plural ‘daddies’).

And they’ll be just fine.

There was one voice of reason, who made the outrageous and satanic comment that “Making fun of gays is not going to help. This is a serious issue and a heated debate which deserves a thoughtful response. Insulting people is only going to burn bridges.”

One voice out of ten.

You can’t hear my sigh, but trust me, it’s a long one. (My wife can attest to this.)

The response from the page?

“We don’t believe putting adult lusts above the needs of children deserves consideration.”

Those dirty gays, sacrificing the souls of impressionable young kids on the altar of desire! /sarcasm

Full disclosure: I’m Christian, if you didn’t get that yet. I believe what the Bible says, though I understand a lot of it comes down to interpretation and theological debate. And the Bible seems to clearly identify homosexual activity as a sin.

But that’s not all it addresses.

What do I mean by that? I’ll let my response on Facebook to that picture speak for itself:

“Putting adult lusts above the needs of children is terrible, but people do it all the time. It’s just their sins are heterosexual. Or perhaps just gluttony, or alcoholism. Maybe it’s simple neglect. Maybe even it’s how some parents worship their work or ministry by devoting all their time and attention to those things while forsaking their responsibilities to their children.

“Maybe it’s the arrogance of adult Christians who forget that they’re looking down on the needs of some children out there, children who think they’re gay, who know they’re different from most everyone else, who absolutely know without any doubt that the Church is the very last place they’ll find love or acceptance (and I don’t mean acceptance of sin, but acceptance of them as a human being worthy of Christ’s sacrificial love expressed through us).

“Maybe our need to communicate how disgusting homosexuality is gets in the way of God’s desire to communicate to THEM how incredibly powerful and merciful and life-changing His love is, and maybe it gets in the way of His desire to communicate to us that in His holy sight all our sin is just as repulsive and ‘barf-worthy’ as theirs. ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ doesn’t mean much if we don’t do it.”
I don’t want to abuse God’s mercy or call sin ‘righteous.’ That’s not within my purview.

I haven’t torn out any passages in my Bible that claim homosexuality is a sin.

The difference is that I’m paying attention to the rest of the passages too.

Approach Boldly

Hebrews 4:14-16 states, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

If God was going to speak to you today, what might He say? What thoughts arise to answer that question? Imagine for a moment that Jesus Himself was standing there in your office. What would you say to Him, and what do you think He might say to you?

Many times I have found myself expecting judgment, discipline, or condemnation from God. Sometimes, I hesitate to pray or to worship based on that expectation. After all, He is a holy God, seated on His throne of righteousness and justice, and here I am, little old me; I stumble and fail in so many different ways. If I go to God in my condition, He’ll probably tell me how many things I am doing wrong, or correct me for my faults. He probably doesn’t have a lot of time for a failure like me. On top of that, I’m reminded of everything I should be doing… I don’t pray enough, I don’t read my Bible enough, it’s been a while since I went to church, etc.

Ever feel that way? This phrase, “approach God’s throne with confidence,” shatters that fear of God’s anger and judgment for all those who are covered by faith in the high-priest ministry of Jesus. Christ’s blood was the perfect sacrifice, making atonement and “reconciliation for the sins of the people.” Our high priest is called “merciful and faithful.” He understands our weaknesses because He has walked in our shoes; He does not stand aloof, out of reach, glaring down on pathetic and pitiful humanity. Instead, He became pathetic, pitiful, “a man of no reputation, familiar with sorrows,” in order to reconcile us to God.

Now we are free to come to the throne. The throne is the seat of authority, and is approached with reverence and fear. The one who sits on the throne in a particular land holds the power of life and death for anyone who approaches that place. But because of our high priest, we are not coming to a throne of judgment, but a throne of grace, of unmerited favor. Nothing I can do will earn God’s acceptance– He has already accepted me! We come with confidence because the One on the throne has granted us His favor and love. He has approved us, selected us, welcomed us to come before Him.

This breaks down all my thinking that my relationship with God is based on “Jesus and _______.” All the good things that I do will not grant me special favors from God. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God,” and when I work to earn something from God, my faith is in what I have done instead of in Him. God’s plan works the other way around: He saved us by His grace, through faith, and not by good deeds that we have done, so that we can’t boast about our “special” relationship with Him as though we did it on our own. But we were saved for a purpose, so that we can be in the right position to accomplish good deeds for God’s glory. We do good deeds because God loves us, not so that God might love us.

At all times, knowing that we have received His favor, we can come boldly to God in prayer and in worship, knowing that we can receive His loving assistance (mercy) and find divine power and strength (grace) to help us whenever we have a need. Jesus is a faithful priest in things pertaining to God; He is always able to administer the blessings of God to us. There is no time where He takes a leave of absence; He is never too busy; He is never taking a break. We can always rely on His ministry, and find mercy and grace at every point of need.