Posts Tagged ‘debate

19
May
21

Tennis anyone?

Watch out for his wicked backhand!

I am not a huge tennis fan, but I do love watching a good, sustained, competitive tennis volley. Each player is moving to the ball… returning their opponent’s shot with confidence… probing to find the perfect angle to sneak the ball past the opponent… hustling to get in position for the return shot…

It reminds me of a few conversations I’ve had lately.

I am sure you know what I’m talking about. The settings are eerily similar; first, there is something in play, only in the case of the conversation it is a Topic of Mutual Interest (TMI for short) instead of a tennis ball. Second, instead of high-performance rackets, the combatants are wielding Perceptions

Custom-built, finely tuned Perceptions

Back and forth flies the TMI, vigorously batted from one side to the other. Sweat begins dripping down the face of each player as they grunt with the exertion of each stroke. Finally, one player breaks through and hits a screaming, utterly unreturnable shot past the flagging defenses of the person on the other side.

Game. Set. Match. On one side, a winner. On the other, a sad, deflated loser.

Flipping back to the tennis setting, we almost always experience great joy and satisfaction when we are the one standing on the winning side of the net. But when we shift our focus to the playing field of the person-to-person conversation, that moment of victory can sometimes ring a little hollow, can’t it?  

 Let’s all confess this right now, in unison: “I LIKE TO BE RIGHT!”

This is certainly true of me. Anytime a person makes a statement that exhibits deep, factual flaws [statements like, for example, “This whole COVID thing is a sham,” or “I’m really not sure these vaccines are safe, so I’m not getting one.” You know… dumb stuff like that] I feel a compulsion to rush in and set the record straight by lobbing a truth bomb and blowing away such blatant tomfoolery. 

But is that always needed? Are there times when there are higher values to uphold than factual correctness?

The Bible speaks frequently about the need to be “righteous,” (also translated as “right”).  By my quick count, the Good Book uses the words “righteous” or “righteousness” a total of 493 times. God is regularly quoted as saying – in effect – “It’s got to be MY way or the HIGHWAY.”

Jesus’ take on righteousness, in contrast, is markedly different than the one we find in the Old Testament. His call was for a right adherence to not necessarily all 613 commandments of the Torah, but to the Two Great Commandments: love God and love your neighbor. (Matthew 22:37-40, NRSV). 

Here is what Jesus has to say about the relationship of LOVE and RIGHTEOUSNESS, as he quotes Proverbs 21:3: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13, NRSV).

Being so brash as to interpret Jesus’ direct words to you, he seems to be saying here that he is more concerned with right RELATIONSHIP rather than factual or scriptural rightness. In other words, I think Jesus would be totally cool with you if – while stumbling to quote a passage of scripture accurately – you fed a hungry person. 

Which brings me back to my original question; are there times when you and I need to adhere to a higher value than our need to be right all the time? 

If you are married, you already know the answer to this one.

If you are NOT married, the answer is: YES…. there absolutely are times when you need to bite your tongue, refusing to return that shot for the sake of the relationship. 

Much easier said than done, I’m afraid. 

Abundant blessings;

20
Jan
21

Do it now? Or do it later?

One of the people in this house (not naming names) likes to do things RIGHT NOW! Action is his (or her) middle name.

The other one likes to sit with it a bit… let it marinate… wait for additional information to materialize before leaping into action. He (or she) is studious and thoughtful.

Do it before you forget about it!” argues A. “No time like the present.”

What’s the rush?” B asks calmly. “We might not have considered all the angles.”

“Do you want to order pizza tonight?” B asks idly.

Sure,” A replies. “Let me pull up the Krazy Karl’s menu and get our order started. Do you want the combo again?”

“Hang on… hang on. That’s just my first thought. No need to jump right on it. Let’s see… what are some other options?” comes the languid reply from B.

Does this dynamic sound at all familiar to you?

A dispassionate sociologist might observe this interesting blend of personalities and see a healthy tension… one that allows both action and circumspection to vie for supremacy, creating a beneficial blend. 

The people living in the middle of that dynamic might see it as something a lot more discordant… a source of friction and annoyance.

The question we all want answered is… so who is right? Is it better to be the Action Jackson person? Or is the Studious Stewart superior?

Both approaches, of course, have their distinct downsides. Leaping before you look can result in mis-steps, miscalculations, and mistakes. Spending too much time in probing, in-depth analysis can cause you to miss the moment altogether.

As the Bible so wisely tells us, the real answer is, “Both.” The Teacher (and much later, Roger McGuinn and the Byrds) told us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal…
 (Ecclesiastes 3:1-3, NRSV).

But instead of “both,” maybe the real answer is, “Sometimes it’s one, and at other times, it’s the other.”

Which makes me wonder: would that be a preferable answer to other dichotomies we face in life? In this highly fraught moment of mid-January 2021, my thoughts naturally skew in the political direction. 

As we look on from the cheap seats, we see the advocates of conservatism insisting that, “The conservative approach is the only valid approach to governing,” while liberals and progressives loudly and emphatically assert exactly the opposite. 

What if sometimes it was one and at other times it was the other? What if we were to become a people less concerned with defending our TRIBE and more concerned with defending the TRUTH? What if there was a way for us to lift our eyes above the immediacies of our narrow, self-interested cost/benefit analyses and to instead think in terms of the WIDER well-being of the WIDER human race?

What if?

Well, as it turns out, dear friend, there IS a way. And that way is GOD’S way. 

King Solomon in his legendary wisdom writes, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NRSV). 

 What would happen if we all did exactly that?

I’m not sure it would resolve a lot of disputes about what to have for dinner, or where to go on vacation (that is, when we get to go on vacation again), but it would certainly help us figure out where we go from here as a society.

And you know what? I think that would be a pretty good place to start. 

Abundant blessings;

19
Mar
18

Third Rails

AR 15 pictureWalking away from my mailbox Saturday, I thought back to August 2013. That was when the United States Postal Service – as a cost-saving move – proposed doing away with the Saturday delivery of mail.

If you think back, you will recall that proposal was met with LOUD howls of protest. In fact, I am not sure a proposal to immediately abolish all reruns of Matlock would have caused a greater hue and cry across the great landscape of retired America.

Needless to say, the USPS quickly dropped the idea like the proverbial hot potato.

And so now, as I look down at the sad harvest of one flyer for a local dentist, one for a landscaping company, an invitation to a “pre-retirement seminar,” a home improvement catalog, and our monthly gas bill, I breathe a grateful sigh of relief. Glancing briefly heavenward I pray, “Thank you Lord that I didn’t have to wait until Monday to receive this gold!”

The United States Postal Service was clearly facing some financial challenges. And while raising postage rates is always a quick and easy remedy, I thought they should have been commended for also considering cost-cutting measures.

And honestly… given the fact that 99.85% of my mail these days is either junk mail or bills, (yours too?) dispensing with Saturday mail delivery seemed to make perfect, reasonable, rational sense.

But the fact that people who proposed doing away with Saturday delivery were very nearly burned at the stake should have alerted us that something else was going on here… something beyond whether the idea was reasonable or rational.

Somewhere buried beneath the surface of the issue of Saturday mail delivery lays a very live, very hot third rail of EMOTION. As the USPS executives figured out very quickly, when you touch that third rail, you get burned very badly.

And so, as we engage in the national debate around guns and gun regulation, it is very clear the same principle applies here. Advocates of stricter rules around gun ownership, tighter background checks, and the abolition of assault-style weapons (people like me, in other words) feel our ideas make perfectly reasonable, rational sense.

I mean, honestly; who besides a combat soldier really needs a gun like an AR-15?

But as soon as those reasonable, rational proposals are advanced, they are just as quickly cut down in a barrage of pushback from gun owners.

Folks over here on my side of the debate can argue until we are blue in the face that, “No… no one is coming to take your guns away from you,” and that “This is NOT the first step in a government takeover,” to absolutely no avail.

It is too late; a nerve has been hit… an emotion has been stirred… the third rail has been touched. The opportunity for calm, reasoned conversation on the topic has disappeared.

Personally, I have never owned a gun in my life… and never will. And so for me, the issue has zero emotional content.

That is clearly not the case for those who have grown up around guns. For them, this topic is LOADED with emotion… emotion I can’t even begin to fathom.

This debate is VITAL. It needs to continue and laws need to change.

But until we gun control advocates can understand and speak to the emotional side of the debate, I fear no middle ground will be found and more and more Americans will die needlessly from gun violence.




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