Reclaiming Jesus Declaration

I recently finished the book by Jim Wallis, Christ in Crisis? Reclaiming Jesus in a Time of Fear, Hate and Violence. I really enjoyed the book. At the end of the book, the author reprinted the “Reclaiming Jesus Declaration” that a group of pastors and Christian leaders wrote. I think it is a much needed message during these challenging times in our nation. Below is the full text of the declaration:

We are living through perilous and polarizing times as a nation, with a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches. We believe the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith are now at stake.

It is time to be followers of Jesus before anything else—nationality, political party, race, ethnicity, gender, geography—our identity in Christ precedes every other identity. We pray that our nation will see Jesus’ words in us. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

When politics undermines our theology, we must examine that politics. The church’s role is to change the world through the life and love of Jesus Christ. The government’s role is to serve the common good by protecting justice and peace, rewarding good behavior while restraining bad behavior (Romans 13). When that role is undermined by political leadership, faith leaders must stand up and speak out. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.”

It is often the duty of Christian leaders, especially elders, to speak the truth in love to our churches and to name and warn against temptations, racial and cultural captivities, false doctrines, and political idolatries—and even our complicity in them. We do so here with humility, prayer, and a deep dependency on the grace and Holy Spirit of God.

This letter comes from a retreat on Ash Wednesday, 2018. In this season of Lent, we feel deep lamentations for the state of our nation, and our own hearts are filled with confession for the sins we feel called to address. The true meaning of the word repentance is to turn around. It is time to lament, confess, repent, and turn. In times of crisis, the church has historically learned to return to Jesus Christ.

Jesus is Lord. That is our foundational confession. It was central for the early church and needs to again become central to us. If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar was not—nor any other political ruler since. If Jesus is Lord, no other authority is absolute. Jesus Christ, and the kingdom of God he announced, is the Christian’s first loyalty, above all others. We pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Our faith is personal but never private, meant not only for heaven but for this earth.

The question we face is this: Who is Jesus Christ for us today? What does our loyalty to Christ, as disciples, require at this moment in our history? We believe it is time to renew our theology of public discipleship and witness. Applying what “Jesus is Lord” means today is the message we commend as elders to our churches.

What we believe leads us to what we must reject. Our “Yes” is the foundation for our “No.” What we confess as our faith leads to what we confront. Therefore, we offer the following six affirmations of what we believe, and the resulting rejections of practices and policies by political leaders which dangerously corrode the soul of the nation and deeply threaten the public integrity of our faith. We pray that we, as followers of Jesus, will find the depth of faith to match the danger of our political crisis.

I. WE BELIEVE each human being is made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). That image and likeness confers a divinely decreed dignity, worth, and God-given equality to all of us as children of the one God who is the Creator of all things. Racial bigotry is a brutal denial of the image of God (the imago dei) in some of the children of God. Our participation in the global community of Christ absolutely prevents any toleration of racial bigotry. Racial justice and healing are biblical and theological issues for us, and are central to the mission of the body of Christ in the world. We give thanks for the prophetic role of the historic black churches in America when they have called for a more faithful gospel.

THEREFORE, WE REJECT the resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership. We, as followers of Jesus, must clearly reject the use of racial bigotry for political gain that we have seen. In the face of such bigotry, silence is complicity. In particular, we reject white supremacy and commit ourselves to help dismantle the systems and structures that perpetuate white preference and advantage. Further, any doctrines or political strategies that use racist resentments, fears, or language must be named as public sin—one that goes back to the foundation of our nation and lingers on. Racial bigotry must be antithetical for those belonging to the body of Christ, because it denies the truth of the gospel we profess.

II. WE BELIEVE we are one body. In Christ, there is to be no oppression based on race, gender, identity, or class (Galatians 3:28). The body of Christ, where those great human divisions are to be overcome, is meant to be an example for the rest of society. When we fail to overcome these oppressive obstacles, and even perpetuate them, we have failed in our vocation to the world—to proclaim and live the reconciling gospel of Christ.

THEREFORE, WE REJECT misogyny, the mistreatment, violent abuse, sexual harassment, and assault of women that has been further revealed in our culture and politics, including our churches, and the oppression of any other child of God. We lament when such practices seem publicly ignored, and thus privately condoned, by those in high positions of leadership. We stand for the respect, protection, and affirmation of women in our families, communities, workplaces, politics, and churches. We support the courageous truth-telling voices of women, who have helped the nation recognize these abuses. We confess sexism as a sin, requiring our repentance and resistance.

III. WE BELIEVE how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Christ himself. (Matthew 25: 31-46) “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” God calls us to protect and seek justice for those who are poor and vulnerable, and our treatment of people who are “oppressed,” “strangers,” “outsiders,” or otherwise considered “marginal” is a test of our relationship to God, who made us all equal in divine dignity and love. Our proclamation of the lordship of Jesus Christ is at stake in our solidarity with the most vulnerable. If our gospel is not “good news to the poor,” it is not the gospel of Jesus Christ (Luke 4:18).

THEREFORE, WE REJECT the language and policies of political leaders who would debase and abandon the most vulnerable children of God. We strongly deplore the growing attacks on immigrants and refugees, who are being made into cultural and political targets, and we need to remind our churches that God makes the treatment of the “strangers” among us a test of faith (Leviticus 19:33-34). We won’t accept the neglect of the well-being of low-income families and children, and we will resist repeated attempts to deny health care to those who most need it. We confess our growing national sin of putting the rich over the poor. We reject the immoral logic of cutting services and programs for the poor while cutting taxes for the rich. Budgets are moral documents. We commit ourselves to opposing and reversing those policies and finding solutions that reflect the wisdom of people from different political parties and philosophies to seek the common good. Protecting the poor is a central commitment of Christian discipleship, to which 2,000 verses in the Bible attest.

IV. WE BELIEVE that truth is morally central to our personal and public lives. Truth-telling is central to the prophetic biblical tradition, whose vocation includes speaking the Word of God into their societies and speaking the truth to power. A commitment to speaking truth, the ninth commandment of the Decalogue, “You shall not bear false witness” (Exodus 20:16), is foundational to shared trust in society. Falsehood can enslave us, but Jesus promises, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32). The search and respect for truth is crucial to anyone who follows Christ.

THEREFORE, WE REJECT the practice and pattern of lying that is invading our political and civil life. Politicians, like the rest of us, are human, fallible, sinful, and mortal. But when public lying becomes so persistent that it deliberately tries to change facts for ideological, political, or personal gain, the public accountability to truth is undermined. The regular purveying of falsehoods and consistent lying by the nation’s highest leaders can change the moral expectations within a culture, the accountability for a civil society, and even the behavior of families and children. The normalization of lying presents a profound moral danger to the fabric of society. In the face of lies that bring darkness, Jesus is our truth and our light.

V. WE BELIEVE that Christ’s way of leadership is servanthood, not domination. Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles (the world) lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26). We believe our elected officials are called to public service, not public tyranny, so we must protect the limits, checks, and balances of democracy and encourage humility and civility on the part of elected officials. We support democracy, not because we believe in human perfection, but because we do not. The authority of government is instituted by God to order an unredeemed society for the sake of justice and peace, but ultimate authority belongs only to God.

THEREFORE, WE REJECT any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule. We believe authoritarian political leadership is a theological danger that threatens democracy and the common good—and we will resist it. Disrespect for the rule of law, not recognizing the equal importance of our three branches of government, and replacing civility with dehumanizing hostility toward opponents are of great concern to us. Neglecting the ethic of public service and accountability, in favor of personal recognition and gain often characterized by offensive arrogance, are not just political issues for us. They raise deeper concerns about political idolatry, accompanied by false and unconstitutional notions of authority.

VI. WE BELIEVE Jesus when he tells us to go into all nations making disciples (Matthew 28:18). Our churches and our nations are part of an international community whose interests always surpass national boundaries. The most well-known verse in the New Testament starts with “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16). We, in turn, should love and serve the world and all its inhabitants, rather than seek first narrow, nationalistic prerogatives.

THEREFORE, WE REJECT “America first” as a theological heresy for followers of Christ. While we share a patriotic love for our country, we reject xenophobic or ethnic nationalism that places one nation over others as a political goal. We reject domination rather than stewardship of the earth’s resources, toward genuine global development that brings human flourishing for all of God’s children. Serving our own communities is essential, but the global connections between us are undeniable. Global poverty, environmental damage, violent conflict, weapons of mass destruction, and deadly diseases in some places ultimately affect all places, and we need wise political leadership to deal with each of these.

WE ARE DEEPLY CONCERNED for the soul of our nation, but also for our churches and the integrity of our faith. The present crisis calls us to go deeper—deeper into our relationship to God; deeper into our relationships with each other, especially across racial, ethnic, and national lines; deeper into our relationships with the most vulnerable, who are at greatest risk.

The church is always subject to temptations to power, to cultural conformity, and to racial, class, and gender divides, as Galatians 3:28 teaches us. But our answer is to be “in Christ,” and to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable, and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

The best response to our political, material, cultural, racial, or national idolatries is the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Jesus summarizes the Greatest Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your mind. This is the first commandment. And the second is like unto it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:38). As to loving our neighbors, we would add “no exceptions.”

We commend this letter to pastors, local churches, and young people who are watching and waiting to see what the churches will say and do at such a time as this.

Our urgent need, in a time of moral and political crisis, is to recover the power of confessing our faith. Lament, repent, and then repair. If Jesus is Lord, there is always space for grace. We believe it is time to speak and to act in faith and conscience, not because of politics, but because we are disciples of Jesus Christ—to whom be all authority, honor, and glory. It is time for a fresh confession of faith. Jesus is Lord. He is the light in our darkness. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

  • Bishop Carroll A. Baltimore, President and CEO, Global Alliance Interfaith Network
  • Rev. Dr. Peter Borgdorff, Executive Director Emeritus, Christian Reformed Church in North America
  • Dr. Amos Brown, Chair, Social Justice Commission, National Baptist Convention USA, Inc.
  • Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary
  • Dr. Tony Campolo, Co-Founder, Red Letter Christians
  • Dr. Iva Carruthers, General Secretary, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
  • The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church
  • Rev. Dr. James Forbes, President and Founder, Healing of the Nations Foundation and Preaching Professor at Union Theological Seminary
  • Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary Emeritus, Reformed Church in America
  • Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church, Decatur, GA
  • Rev. Dr. Richard Hamm, former General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Faith Community Organizer and Chairman, Community Resource Network
  • Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent Emerita, The Wesleyan Church
  • Bishop Vashti McKenzie, 117th Elected and Consecrated Bishop, AME Church
  • Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., Co-Convener National African American Clergy Network
  • Dr. John Perkins, Chair Emeritus and Founding Member, Christian Community Development Association and President Emeritus, John & Vera Mae Perkins Foundation
  • Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Fr. Richard Rohr, Founder, Center for Action and Contemplation
  • Dr. Ron Sider, President Emeritus, Evangelicals for Social Action
  • Rev. Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners
  • Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, Director, NCC Truth and Racial Justice Initiative
  • Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-Convener, National African American Clergy Network; President, Skinner Leadership Institute
  • Bishop Will Willimon, Bishop, The United Methodist Church, retired, Professor of the Practice of Ministry, Duke Divinity School

Mastery

I recently finished the book, Mastery by Robert Greene. Mastery in a particular subject, trade or skill includes the feeling of having a greater command of reality, other people and ourselves. It is a misconception to imagine that creativity and brilliance comes out of nowhere, or a good mood, is the result of natural talent or just luck. The author’s thesis is that at the root of the power of mastery is a simple process that is accessible to us all. Lots of time and work must be dedicated in order to master anything, but it is possible. While I do not agree with all the author’s ideas, there are some great insights shared and those inspired me to deliberately embark on the journey to achieve mastery in some areas. Here are some of the ideas from the book which stood out to me:

  • Mastery involves a childlike state in which spontaneity and access to the unconscious are common. There is a mix of the instinctive and the rational.
  • People wrongly assume that mastery is inaccessible to all but a few select individuals.
  • At the root of the intensity that leads to mastery is not talent or brilliance but a deep and powerful inclination toward a particular subject. The inclination is a reflection of a person’s uniqueness.
  • It is an emotional quality that determines those who master a field from those who simply work at a job. Our level of patience, desire, persistence, confidence, energy and motivation play a bigger role than our intellectual powers.
  • You must see your attempt at attaining mastery as something necessary and positive.
  • Your Life’s Task is to build your uniqueness (an “inward” task) through your work, but the social pressures to conform are a powerful counterforce that must be overcome.
  • You must see your work as something more inspiring, like a vocation, instead of something to get through on the real way to pleasure. However, your work must be deeply connected to who you are and not a separate compartment in your life.
  • Your vocational path should be seen as a journey with twists and turns, not a straight line.
  • Finding a larger purpose for our lives is a religious-like quest.
  • You must love a subject and feel a profound connection to it in order to achieve mastery.
  • Be primarily committed to your Life’s Task, not a position, company or career.
  • Mastery requires a great deal of patience – keep your focus on five or ten years down the road.
  • Ignore your weaknesses and resist the temptation to be like others – direct yourself to the small things you are good at and become proficient at these simple and immediate skills.
  • Don’t envy those who are naturally gifted.
  • Search for, and find, an apprenticeship that will bring challenges to toughen and improve you along with providing objective feedback on your performance. The goal is transformation of your mind and character.
  • Accept and embrace the tedious work required on the journey to mastery – cultivate the ability to handle these situations with discipline.
  • As you gain skills and confidence, move to a more active mode of experimentation which might involve initiating a project of some sort or doing work that exposes you to criticism of peers or the public.
  • The strategies for completing an ideal apprenticeship are: value learning over money, keep expanding your horizons, revert to a feeling of inferiority, move toward resistance and pain, apprentice yourself in failure, combine the “how” and the “what” and advance through trial and error.
  • To learn requires a sense of humility. Accustom yourself to criticism. Fight complacency by cultivating a sense of active wonder.
  • Praise can do harm. Become motivated by the work itself and the process. Public attention is a nuisance and distraction.
  • In looking at the exceptional work of Masters, do not ignore the years of practice, the endless routines, the hours of doubt and the tenacious overcoming of obstacles these Masters endured.
  • Use your spare time not to look just for entertainment or distractions, but take up hobbies that bring pleasure and a chance to strengthen your memory capabilities and the flexibility of your brain.

Winning Through Intimidation?

My middle son is reading a book called, Winning Through Intimidation: How to Be the Victor, Not the Victim, In Business and in Life by Robert Ringer. The title is a turn off to me as I do not consider intimidating others to be a virtue. However, I read the book and the author had some good points about how being intimidated by others can prevent a person from being successful.

I like the author’s willingness to face the hard realities of the business world and his corresponding insights. I do think that the author makes the mistake of using his specific experience in commercial real estate brokerage to hastily generalize principles for all of business. I disagree with his more cynical perspective on people, but I do understand how he came to that perspective based on the experiences that he shares in the book. In any case, I think there is truth to some of his theories and I think that it is worthwhile to consider his ideas. The author is also very humorous, which made it more fun to read the book. I’m looking forward to talking through the theories with my son.

I wrote up some notes about the various chapters. Below are those notes:

Chapter 1 – Shattering the Myths

  • Deal with the world as it is, not as you wish it was.
  • A positive mental attitude + hard work does not necessarily = success (that’s a myth).
    • The problem arises when someone relies solely on these virtues to the exclusion of others.
  • A real positive attitude comes by being good at what you do, understanding realities to succeed and having self-discipline to base your actions on the realities of the business world.
  • Preparation is key to success!
  • Theory of Next: The key is to realize that no deal is that important and be ready to move to next deal when the current deal does not work out. 
    • Anticipate short-term setbacks – this deflates their impact on you.
    • You need to come to grips with the reality that most deals don’t close.
    • Negative experiences = learning experiences – extract lessons learned.
  • “Working hard” is subjective.  Ability plays a role + the size of your goals.
  • Keep the law of diminishing returns in mind.
  • Uncle George Theory: If your only focus is to work long, hard hours then your only guarantee will be getting old.
    • Hard work alone will not make you successful.

Chapter 2 – Replacing the Myths

  1. Theory of Reality: Reality does not = your wish or appearance – acknowledge reality and use it to your benefit or it will automatically work against you. 
    1. Very few people demonstrate, through their actions, coming to terms with reality.
    1. It’s just a wish that you will be rewarded by focusing on the best interest of others, especially in business dealings.
    1. Handshake (wish) vs. clear, written agreement (reality).
    1. Business plays out in a vicious jungle.
    1. Illusions are a problem – learn to probe each deal for them.
  2. Four Cornerstones
    1. Theory of Relativity: In order to settle on a rational course of action/inaction, one must weigh all the pertinent facts in a relative light and carefully define terms (examples: “honesty” vs. “dishonesty”, “hard work”, “success” – define what you mean by that!).
    1. Theory of Relevance: No matter how interesting or true something may be, primarily consider its relevance to your achieving your main objective.
      1. Someone’s honesty is not relevant to a deal – what’s relevant is whether the person is willing to put it in writing.
    1. Mortality Theory: Given that your time on earth is limited, it makes good sense to aim high and move fast.  Don’t squander time/opportunity!
    1. The Ice Ball Theory: Given the apparent fate of the earth, it is vain to take oneself too seriously.
      1. Eliminates stress and makes it possible to enjoy your quest for success.
      1. Striving and struggling for success brings joy!
      1. Advantage: don’t see every deal as life or death.
      1. Look at life as a game – this makes it easier to take chances.
      1. Common sense: try to win and have fun!

Chapter 3 – Passing My Entrance Exam at Screw U

  • Be aware of members of the Discouragement Fraternity
    • Insecure with fear of competition
    • Ferocious about protecting their own turf
  • Tortoise and Hare Theory: The outcome of most situations is determined over the long term.  A short-term battle focus is for the ego-trippers.
    • Tortoise traits: consistency, perseverance, and resiliency (Rocky example).
    • It’s not important to be the life of the party or the center of attention.
    • Quickly getting out of the starting blocks may get people’s attention, but all that counts is where you are when the race is over.
  • Organic Chemistry Theory: Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by know-it-alls who thrive on bestowing their knowledge on insecure people.  Mentally close your ears and move relentlessly forward with the knowledge that what someone else knows is not relevant.  In the final analysis, what is most relevant to your success is what you know and what you do!
    • Role of the “Court Holder” in the organic chemistry class as an example of know-it-all who intimidated others but could not back it up in the end.
    • Mind your business – don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by someone else’s knowledge or apparent knowledge.

Chapter 4 – My Three Unforgettable Professors at Screw U

  • Three Type Theory: There are only three types of people in business.
    • Type One – The person who lets you know he’s out to get your chips, then he does just that.
    • Type Two – The person who goes to great lengths to assure you he would never pilfer your chips then he tries to grab your chips.
    • Type Three – Like Type Two with assurances, but he means it.  In the end, he still ends up trying to get your chips (good intentions are irrelevant to the final outcome – therefore, in the end assume that he will attempt to grab your chips).

Chapter 5 – Type Number Three is Sincerely Sorry that He Grabbed Your Chips, but the Result is Just the Same as If He Were Glad

  • Law of Risk and Reward: The less risk you take, the lower the potential reward.  The higher the risk taken, the higher potential reward.
    • Watch out for the reality of greed in others.
  • Attorney to Attorney Respect Rule: Don’t do harm to the other attorneys, protect your own interest (example story of his first real estate deal).

Chapter 6 – Type Number One Isn’t Sorry that He Grabbed Your Chips, Because He Warned You Ahead of Time How He Plays the Game

  • Type One is the most honest – you can choose not to become involved with him.
  • All wealthy people have an important weapon: staying power – no one deal is that important, therefore they cannot be intimidated.
  • “Professor” story
  • Value for value – this is the best, honest foundation for a business relationship.

Chapter 7 – Type Number Two Isn’t Sorry He Grabbed Your Chips, Because, In spite of His Assurances to the Contrary, that Was His Intention from the Outset

  • Type Two people can be devious.  If he says he will only deal with people like himself, with lots of integrity, and a holier than though attitude, watch out!

Chapter 8 – My Senior Year at Screw U

The three “credits”/experiences earned to complete his undergraduate degree from Screw U University:

  1. Credit #1 – What happens when you are in a position of need (weakness) and you let it show.
  2. Credit #2 – People resent someone without much money if they are set to make a lot of it – people think that little guys don’t have a right to make much money.  This can impact your mindset and your preparedness to see a big deal through.
  3. Credit #3 – The story of the author flying across the country to cash a check – presence and quickness are important!

Chapter 9 – My Graduation from Screw U

  • Leapfrog Theory: No one has an obligation (moral, legal or otherwise) to work his way up through the ranks.  Everyone has a right to re-direct his career and start operating at a higher level at any time that he, and he alone, believes he is ready. 
    • You decide to operate at a higher level, but be prepared!
    • There is no need to wait for the “conventional wisdom” crowd to anoint you.
    • Being intimidated in past deals limited the author – being intimidated by others is the source of most problems in trying to achieve your objectives (and therefore in allowing them to control your destiny).
    • When leapfrogging, prepare for jealousy, resentment, and scorn.
  • Theory of Intimidation: The results a person achieves are inversely proportional to the degree to which he is intimidated.
    • Knowledge and ability seemed to have no effect on people’s position as intimidator or intimidate.
    • The most relevant factor is my posture.
  • Posture Theory: It’s not what you say or do that counts, but what your posture is when you say or do it. 
    • The overriding question is: what can I do to improve my weak posture?  Wealth can help, but it is not necessary.
    • In life, substance is more important than perception, but in the reality of the business jungle perception is what matters!  But, you must have substance to back up perception.
    • Legal strength is an important power (real power).  Legal strength and image power together lead to staying power.
  • Three Legal Tools for Real Estate Agents
    • #1 – Real estate license in state of property
    • #2 – Signed commission agreement with seller before beginning to work on his property
    • #3 – Use of certified mail
    • Primary purpose of these tools was to avoid litigation
  • Beyond legal power, performance power is critical – being the best and having a reputation for getting results
    • Allow intellect to guide actions (author customized his theory to practical situations).
  • Bottom Line Theory: You’re not through until you’ve crossed all the t’s, dotted all the i’s, and the check has cleared the bank.  Everything else is fluff.  Fifth step added to traditional four steps to selling – GETTING PAID!
    • This philosophy can also be applied to your personal life.  Important question: What must I do to bring about the payoff that I am after?

Chapter 10 – Using Posture Power to Get the Ball

  • Marketable Deal Theory: Concentrate your efforts on finding a few marketable deals rather than working on a large number of unworkable deals with the desperate hope that one of them will miraculously close.
    • Focus on efficiency.
    • Great desperation of others makes a deal more likely (story of author using techniques to differentiate himself from normal real estate agents and create a posture of power/control/importance).

Chapter 11 – Advancing the Ball to Midfield

  • Serious real estate buyers DO have definite guidelines, regardless of what they say.
  • Learn to weed out curiosity seekers (not serious buyers) asap for efficiency sake.

Chapter 12 – Reaching the Opponent’s 20 Yard Line

  • In the area of sales/deal making, build a detailed record of your involvement as a reminder to all the principals that you were instrumental in making the deal happen.
    • A strong posture led to communication flowing through him instead of around him.
    • Posture maintenance (not allowing it to puncture) was important and he was always a part of conversations between the buyer and the seller.
  • The Fiddle Theory: The longer you fiddle around with a deal, the greater the odds that it will never close.

Chapter 13 – Scoring

  • Boy-Girl Theory: Everyone wants what he cannot have and does not want what he can have.
  • Better Deal Theory: Before a person closes a deal, it’s human nature for him to worry that there may be a better deal down the road (greed plays a role in this).
  • It’s good to analyze what the real objectives and objections of people are – buyers and sellers are not always consciously aware of themselves.
  • If you aspire to a high success rate in getting results, you must not assume someone else will take care of important details – take care of them yourself!
  • Role of Legalman character – looking to find problems (which leads to killing deals).
  • Degree of financial desperation of seller is the most important factor in determining how marketable a deal is.

Chapter 14 – It Doesn’t Count Until the Points Are on the Scoreboard

  • The Bluff Theory: The secret to bluffing is not to bluff.  Determination is key and getting paid is what matters.

Chapter 15 – The Return of the Tortoise

  • Be prepared.
  • Find the right opportunity.
  • Come through at the moment of truth.
  • Booze Bros. story – be ready to walk away.

Chapter 16 – The Return of the Tortoise, Part II

  • Continuation of Booze Bros. story – 2nd Kansas City deal closing and success of Leapfrog Theory

Chapter 17 – The Tortoise Dons His Hare Costume

  • Story of getting burned again – Dayton deal with “Mr. Biggshotte”, typical Number One – he let his guard down

Chapter 18 – The Tortoise Returns to True Form

  • Story of Memphis deal with “Bubba”, habitual backslapper and “Mumbles” – author recognized Type Number Two’s from the outset and came out ahead

Chapter 19 – The Ultimate Insurance Policy

  • Story of successful Dallas deal with “Paul Pervertte” and “Manny Moral”

Chapter 20 – Sticking with a Winning Formula

  • Story of successful closing from Omaha with Manny Moral: complicated sale, able to get paid on 100% of sale in leaseback scenario, new variety of Number Two – “Scott Scam” who came across as dumb but was clever as a fox.

Chapter 21 – Answer: NOT to be Intimidated

  • Author’s relentless pursuit of reality was the factor most responsible for him being able to turn the tables on intimidators and achieve many successful deals.
  • Following all the author’s theories together brought success.

What Does “Re-Jesus” Mean?!

I just finished reading Re-Jesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church by Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch again (I read it a few years back). The book compares the way of Jesus and the religion of Christianity. The authors want to recover the centrality of the person of Jesus in defining who we are and what we do (both as individual Christ-followers and as the “church”). The challenge is that the way that Jesus set for us to follow is inherently subversive against all attempts to control, and therefore institutionalize. A continual return to Jesus is essential for the movement that wishes to call itself by his name! This book was exciting and challenging for me to re-read. It helped me to want to re-commit myself to learning to walk in the way of Jesus.

In order to follow Jesus, you have to move beyond belief to actually trying to emulate him, become a “little Jesus”. The authors state, “But Jesus is still calling us to come and join him in a far more reckless and exciting adventure than that of mere church attendance. When allowed to be as he appears in the pages of Scripture, Jesus will not lead us to hatred, violence, greed, excess, earthly power or material wealth. Instead, he will call us to a genuinely biblical and existential faith that believes in him, not simply believing in belief, as in many expressions of evangelicalism.” (p.11)

“And so any attempt to reJesus the church must also recover a real sense of the radical and revolutionary nature of what it means to follow Jesus in the current Western context. To be free in Jesus must somehow mean that the idols of our time come under some serious questioning. For instance, to be free in Jesus surely will mean liberation from the shackles of a predominant and omnipresent middle-class consumerism that weighs heavily on us.” (p.11)

Here are some more quotes from the book that will give you a sense of the message:

  • “It must be called subversive by all that is called civilized. It is what Ellul called “antireligion.” Jesus undermines any status quo that is not built on the all-encompassing demands of the kingdom, and this must call into question much of our religious codes, institutions, and behavior.” (p. 12)
  • “It appears that a good church upbringing will do many marvelous things for you, but one of the unfortunate things it also does is convince you that Jesus is to be worshipped but not followed.” (p.17)
  • “The difficulty for the church today is not in encouraging people to ask what Jesus would do, but in getting them to break out of their domesticated and sanitized ideas about Jesus in order to answer that question (what would Jesus do?). Jesus was a wild man. He was a threat to the security of the religious establishment. Even his storytelling, so often characterized by the church today as warm morality tales, was dangerous and subversive and mysterious. If your answer to the question “what would Jesus do?” is that he would be conventional, safe, respectable and refined, then we suspect you didn’t find that answer in the Gospels.” (p.19-20)
  • “Nonetheless, part of the process to reJesus the church will involve a dismantling of its much-loved temple theology. While Jesus embodies the fact that the Trinity is both sent and sending, his followers very often seem to prefer a deity who reveals himself in sacred buildings, liturgies, and sacramental practices. So-called temple theology locates God as a withdrawn deity calling recalcitrants back to his temple/church/cathedral to be reunited with him. But an encounter with the Jesus of the Gospels flies in the face of this idea.” (p.27)
  • “He is antireligious, offering his followers direct access to the Father, forgiveness in his name, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, to be reJesused is to come to the recognition that the church as the New Testament defines it is not a religious institution but rather a dynamic community of believers who participate in the way of Jesus and his work in this world.” (p.29)
  • “Jesus is suggesting that rather than running around drawing lines of demarcation between those who are in the community of Christ and those who are not, we are simply to bless all who participate with us in the work of Jesus. This is how robust Jesus’ view of the kingdom was. It couldn’t be contained within borders. It was a living thing, a wild thing, and it was bursting out everywhere. It is one of our greatest mistakes to equate the church with the kingdom of God. The kingdom is much broader than the church – it is cosmic in scope. The church is perhaps the primary agent of the kingdom but must not be equated fully with it. We need to be able to see the kingdom activity wherever it expresses itself and join with God in it. Jesus shows us how to see God working in the strangest of places.” (p.30)
  • “If we reJesus the church, we will lead it toward a greater respect for the unbeliever, a greater grace for those who, though they don’t attend church services, are nonetheless marked by God’s image. It will lead to a greater respect for people in general.” (p.34)

The authors’ project reminds me of one of my favorite writers, Soren Kierkegaard. I have been so challenged by his writings.

He said, “My mission is to introduce Christianity into Christendom.” He also said, “Unlike the admirer who stands simply aloof, the follower of Christ strives to be what he admires. Without this essential condition all attempts to be a Christian are fruitless.” One last Soren quote is, “We possess Christ’s truth only by imitating him, not by speculating about him.” Here are some more quotes from the ReJesus book:

  • “We’ve heard too many sermons about how to be better citizens. Too much preaching is concerned wiht the fostering of a capitulation to the mores and values of a post-Christian empire rather than a call to allow our imaginations to be overtaken by Jesus and focused on treasures in heaven.” (p.48)
  • “… a living relationship with the Lord of the universe is a risky, disturbing, and demanding experience. We never get the better of him, and it is a whole lot easier, and less costly, to think than to do. It is not good enough that we just follow his teachings or a religious code developed in his wake. Discipleship requires a direct and unmediated relationship with the Lord, and the loss of this immediacy is catastrophic to the movement that claims his name.” (p.51)
  • “In the New Testatment, Jesus does not disciple people by generating information, developing programs, or implementing plans. Rather, Jesus’ discipleship always involves a deeply personal process of being drawn into becoming more like the image, or form, of Jesus.” (p.54)
  • “At the beginning of this new century, we have never needed so desperately to rediscover the original genius of the Christian experience and to allow it to strip away all the unnecessary and cumbersome paraphernalia of Christendom.” (p.68)

The message of the authors also reminds me of Jaques Ellul’s book, The Subversion of Christianity. This book rocked my world when I read it. Here’s a sample quote just for fun, “The gospel and the first church were never hostile to women nor treated them as minors. … When Christianity became a power or authority, this worked against women. A strange perversion, yet fully understandable when we allow that women represent precisely the most innovative elements in Christianity: grace, love, charity, a concern for living creatures, nonviolence, an interest in little things, the hope of new beginnings – the very elements that Christianity was setting aside in favor of glory and success.”

  • ReJesus, the refounding of the church, means departing from a blind, slavish allegiance to religious rules inherited from our parents and forebears. It means walking into the turmoil of chaos and daring to trust that at the end of the path will not be bedlam but a rediscovery of the way of Jesus, a rediscovery of the original rules that we can own ourselves with greater conviction and authenticity. Jesus, as our founder, is our guide on this path.” (p.83)
  • “And why wouldn’t he be? Even his friends were somewhat frightened by him. When Jesus asks them what people are saying about him, they reply that some think he is a resurrected John the Baptist, or even Elijah. They’re not saying they think he is a real softy, a big, gorgeous guru of love and goodwill. They think he’s a resurrected wild man, for that’s surely what both John and Elijah were when alive. Our point is that to reJesus the church, we need to go back to the daring, radical, strange, wonderful, inexplicable, unstoppable, marvelous, unsettling, disturbing, caring, powerful God-Man. The communities around us are crying out for him. The church needs to find itself in league with this Jesus, staring at him in amazement and saying, as Peter did, with a trembling voice, “What kind of man is this?” Even the wind and waves obey him. Even the wild demons obey him. Even the Pharisees quake at the thought of what he might unleash if left to his own devices.” (p.111)
  • “When we associate this idea to the Christological redefinition of monotheism (as we must), then our task in the world is to be Jesus’ agents in every sphere or domain of society. The lordship of Jesus extends to our sexuality, our political life, our economic existence, our family, our play, and everything in between. There must be no limitation to the claim that Jesus makes over all of life.” (p.123)
  • “If we wish to become like him, we must learn to actively participate in Jesus, actively applying him and his teachings to our lives. We cannot be disinterested spectators when it comes to Jesus. In fact, in the encounters described in the New Testament, the desire of people to remain neutral observers is in a real sense the real sin.” (p.150)
  • “For many suburban, middle-class churches, niceness is the supreme expression of discipleship. But any cursory reading of the Gospels will serve to remind you that Jesus wasn’t all that nice. He was good. He was loving. He was compassionate. But, he wasn’t always nice. The church must abandon its preference for good-manners piety and adopt again the kingdom values as taught by Jesus.” (p.184)

Why Doctors Must Not Kill

I finished Chapter 9 in the book, Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times by Leon R. Kass. In this chapter, Kass makes a strong argument against euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. This is a topic that I have thought about in the past but not deeply. This chapter helped me to clarify what I believe on this subject. It’s important to mention that this chapter puts aside the topic of refusing medical treatment and focuses on the more controversial topic of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. In recent years, it appears that public opinion has shifted towards a more favorable/accepting view of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Autonomy and compassion are the two reasons used to justify the killing of patients and these ethical orientations reflect the values of the larger American society. The thinking behind both of these rationales is opposition to the belief that medicine is intrinsically a moral profession – they assume that the medical profession is amoral. For the ethical school of compassion, “all acts – including killing the patient – done lovingly are licit, even praiseworthy. Good and humane intentions can sanctify any deed.” (p.205)

The author believes that the practice of medicine is an ethical activity in which technique and conduct are ordered in relation to an overarching good, the naturally given end of health. “Being a professional is more than being a technician.” (p.206) It engages not only one’s mind and hands, but one’s character. The virtues required for practicing medicine are moderation, self-restraint, gravity, patience, sympathy, discretion and prudence. The positive duties are demands for truthfulness, instruction, and encouragement. The fundamental negative duty is that a doctor must not kill. “Doctors may and must allow dying, even if they must not intentionally kill.” (p.207)

“In view of the obvious difficulty in describing precisely and “objectively” what categories and degrees of pain, suffering, or bodily or mental impairment could justify mercy killing, advocates repair to the principle of volition: the request for assistance in death is to be honored if it is freely made by the one whose life it is, and who, for one reason or another, cannot commit suicide alone. How free or informed is a choice made under debilitated conditions?” (p.209) “With patients thus reduced – helpless in action and ambivalent about life – someone who might benefit from their death need not proceed by overt coercion. Rather, requests for assisted suicide can and will be subtly engineered.” (p.210) By making euthanasia or assisted suicide an option available to gravely ill persons, some might come to see this right to choose this as an obligation or duty.

“Thus in actual practice, physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia will be performed by physicians not out of simple deference to patient choice, but for reasons of mercy: this is a “useless” or “degrading” or “dehumanized” life that pleads for active, merciful termination, and therefore deserves my medical assistance.” (p.210)

“But once assisting suicide and euthanasia are deemed acceptable for reasons of “mercy”, then delivering those whom illness or dependence have dehumanized will also be acceptable, whether such deliverance is chosen or not.” (p.211)

The legalized practice of physician assisted suicide and euthanasia will damage the doctor-patient relationship. Once a doctor has license to kill, how can you trust him/her to act in the interest of preserving your life? Trust is a critical factor in the relationship and the healing process. Mistrust produces stress, anger and resistance to treatment. Also, having the option to kill will alter the physician’s attitude toward his/her patients. Setting limits to the use of dangerous powers is very important. Also, human life in living bodies should command respect and reverence by its very nature.

“Can wholeness and healing ever be compatible with intentionally killing the patient? Can one benefit the patient as a whole by making him dead? To intend and to act for someone’s good requires his continued existence to receive the benefit.” (p.220) Medicine owes patients assistance in their dying process but it has never had the mission to produce or achieve death itself.

Medicine can provide adequate relief of pain and discomfort. Also, physicians can keep learning how to withhold or withdraw interventions that are only burdensome or degrading. But, to stop medical intervention is fundamentally different from mercy killing – the physician who stops treatment does not intend the death of the patient. However, with physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia, the physician must intend the patient’s death and take on an “angel of death” role.

What the dying need most is our presence and encouragement. Withdrawal of affection, contact and care is the greatest cause of the dehumanization of dying. “The treatment of choice is company and care.” (p. 225) We should try to reverse dehumanization by not allowing doctors to be the dispensers of death.

This summary doesn’t do justice to all the arguments and detail that the author provides to support his position. This chapter (and book) is worthy of your reading and evaluation.

A Worthy Life

Deep down everyone wants to live a worthy life, one with meaning and purpose. I am enjoying Leon R. Kass’ book titled, Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times.

People, especially the young, are confused about what this kind of life would look like. We need encouragement in order to liberate ourselves from the prevailing cultural cynicism and strive after “worthy” lives. This book discusses crucial aspects of this type of life including chapters on love, family and friendship; human excellence and dignity; teaching, learning and truth; and the great human aspirations of Western civilization.

Here are some representative quotes from the first four chapters:

  • “Young people are now at sea – regarding work, family, and civic identity. Authority is out to lunch. Courtship has disappeared. No one talks about work as vocation. The true, the good, and the beautiful have few defenders. Irony is in the saddle, and the higher cynicism mocks any innocent love of wisdom or love of country. The things we used to take for granted have become, at best, open questions. The persons and institutions to which we once looked for guidance have ceased to offer it successfully. Today, we are supercompetent when it comes to efficiency, utility, speed, convenience, and getting ahead in the world; but we are at a loss concerning what it’s all for. This lack of cultural and moral confidence about what makes a life worth living is perhaps the deepest curse of living in our interesting time.” (p.10)
  • “We can begin by rejecting the despair and cynicism that often surround us and cloud our vision.” (p.11)
  • “It takes only one or two really good teachers to open a mind and turn around a soul. And for students of whatever age, it takes only an openness to learning and a desire not to be self-deceived to make for ourselves a life of thoughtfulness, and to become people who will not sleepwalk through life but will delight in learning whatever we can about the world’s mysteries, beauties, and truths.” (p.18)
  • “Above and beyond the benefits of remuneration, there is dignity in earning a livelihood, in providing not only for oneself but also and especially for one’s family. Among the rising generations, gainful employment is an early sign of maturity and the first step toward self-reliance. Holding down a job requires not only know-how and competence, but also the virtues of diligence, dependability, and the exercise of personal responsibility.” (p.26) “Finding meaning in work generally depends less on the external task than on the attitude and manner in which the work is done.” (p.27)
  • “…many of us regard our families as the heart of what makes life worthwhile. We do so, in many cases, with greater difficulty and less cultural support than did our grandparents.” (p.28)
  • “But many humanists and social scientists, who should be showing us what things mean, have largely abandoned the standard of truth.” (p.33)
  • “This brings me to what is probably the deepest and most intractable obstacle to courtship and marriage: a set of cultural attitudes and sensibilities that obscure and even deny the fundamental difference between youth and adulthood. Marriage, especially when seen as the institution designed to provide for the next generation, is most definitely the business of adults, by which I mean people who are serious about life, people who aspire to go outward and forward to embrace and assume responsibility for the future.” (p.51)
  • “The progress of science and technology, especially since World War II, has played a major role in creating an enfeebling culture of luxury. But scientific advances have more directly helped to undermine the customs of courtship. Technological advances in food production and distribution and a plethora of appliances – refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, dryers, etc. – largely eliminate the burdens of housekeeping.” (p.53)
  • “How shallow an understanding of sexuality is embodied in our current clamoring for “safe sex.” Sex is by its nature unsafe. All interpersonal relations are necessarily risky and serious ones especially so. To give one-self to another, body and soul, is hardly playing it safe. Sexuality is at its core profoundly “unsafe”, and it is only thanks to contraception that we are encouraged to forget its inherent “dangers.” “Safe sex” is the self-delusion of shallow souls.” (p.57)
  • “Real reform in the direction of sanity would require a restoration of cultural gravity about sex, marriage, and the life cycle. The restigmatization of illegitimacy and promiscuity would help.” (p.60)
  • “But sexual modesty and chastity awaiting marriage are not just strategically sound and psychologically important. They are also an emblem of the unique friendship that is the union of husband and wife, in which the giving of the heart is enacted in the giving of the body, and in which the procreative fruit of their one-flesh bodily union celebrates their loving embrace not only of one another but also of their mortal condition and their capacity self-consciously to transcend it.” (p.84)
  • “True intimacy requires embodied and exposed human beings, who are grounded and synchronously together in real space and lived time, and who use tacit and tactful rather than explicit and unvarnished modes of communication, including modes of expression that are deeper than speech itself. True intimacies are translucent rather than transparent to one another; self-surrendering rather than controlling; embedded in networks of ties and obligations to families and communities, rather than isolated atoms utterly free to create themselves ex nihilo; adventurous rather than playing-it-safe; guided by hope and trust rather than by calculation and information; face to face or side by side, hand in hand or arm in arm, as much as mind to mind; and driven less by the self-centered desire to find what you were missing than by an eagerness to become all you might become by being fully present to, and concerned for, the well-being of the other, who will also be fully present, and concerned for, you and your well-being.” (p.99)

Overparenting

I am about half way through reading How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims.  The author was Dean of Freshman and Undergraduate Advising at Stanford University.  She thinks that the well-meaning parents who over-parent their children are really setting them up for failure and anxiety instead of success.

Some of the reasons that she thinks that parenting changed in the mid 1980’s are:

  1.  Increased awareness of child abductions.
  2. The idea that our children are not doing enough schoolwork (big factor was the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983).
  3. The onset of the self-esteem movement.
  4. The creation of the play-date (practical scheduling tool when more mothers were entering the workforce) as parents began more closely observing and monitoring children at play.

Good summary quote from p.14, “Parental vigilance and technology buffer the world for our children, but we won’t always be there to be on the lookout for them.  Raising a kid to independent adulthood is our biological imperative and an awareness of the self in one’s surroundings is an important life skill for a kid to develop.  When we’re tempted to let our presence be what protects them, we need to ask, To what end?  How do we prevent and protect while teaching kids the skills they need?  How do we teach them to do it on their own?”

My youngest son is already 15 so some of the insights and recommendations about avoiding over-parenting are interesting but not as practical for me.  However, we desire to “launch” our boys well into adulthood and the ideas from this book are helping me to be more thoughtful about how we can help them become more independent as they leave the “roost” (#2 son is set to move to college in 2 weeks).  I do think we have done a good job with this (but can certainly improve).  All three of our sons are doing well and we continue to be impressed with their choices and their ability to make good decisions and figure things out as they go.  Our oldest son is in his 3rd year of college and living with a group of friends down in San Diego.  I’m so proud of him, and he is doing a great job in the transition to adulthood.

How to Raise an Adult book

“But in reality often we create parameters, conditions, and limits within which our kids are permitted to dream – with a check-listed childhood as the paths to achievement.” (p.41)

On page 81-83, the author lists the things that our 18 year olds need to be able to do (and then addresses why and how we are failing to equip them properly to do these things):

  • Able to talk to strangers – bank clerks, faculty, mechanics, health care providers, etc.
  • Able to find his/her way around a campus or town
  • Able to manager his/her assignments, workload and deadlines
  • Able to handle interpersonal problems
  • Able to contribute to the running of a household
  • Able to cope with the ups and downs of courses and workloads, college-level work, tough teachers, competitive situations, bosses and others
  • Able to earn and manage money
  • Able to take risks

In 2013 the American College Health Association surveyed almost 100,000 college students from 153 different campuses about their health and here is what they found:

  • 84 percent felt overwhelmed by all they had to do
  • 79 percent felt exhausted (not from physical activity)
  • 61 percent felt very sad
  • 57 percent felt lonely
  • 51 percent felt overwhelming anxiety
  • 47 percent felt things were hopeless
  • 38 percent felt overwhelming anger
  • 32 percent felt so depressed that it was difficult to function
  • 8 percent seriously considered suicide
  • 6.5 percent intentionally cut or otherwise injured themselves

These statistics paint a very grave picture of the condition of our young adults.  Somehow, we must be able to help them and better prepare them to deal with the challenges of life.

Psychologist and author Dr. Madeline Levine shares her research on the three ways we might be over-parenting and unintentionally causing our children psychological harm:

  1. When we do for our kids what they can already do for themselves.
  2. When we do for our kids what they can almost do for themselves.
  3. When our parenting behavior is motivated by our own ego.

The author also tells some hard to believe real life stories of parents with good intentions getting over-involved with their kids’ college classes and professors as well as their employers after college, including trying to negotiate the salaries for their kids or trying to attend their job interviews or directly contacting their bosses to discuss issues at work.

Not only does over-parenting cause harm and fail to equip our kids for adulthood, it also hurts the parents by causing anxiety and stress in their lives.

Between my wife and me I am the one who has more of a tendency to over-parenting.  I’m so glad that my wife helps to keep me in check.  I am sorry to my boys for the times when I have over-parented, and I resolve to do a better job of helping them be more independent.  I have seen how this also makes space for healthier relationships with our kids as they transition to adulthood.

adult-son-talking-to-father-e1452543383376

The Aims of Education

Yesterday I finished the chapter titled, “The Aims for Education” in The Conservative Sensibility by George Will.  I believe he has some good insights.  I spend time thinking about education often in relation to our three boys.

Here are some highlights from Will’s chapter on education:

  • “The American regime is founded on the principle that human beings are rights-bearing creatures.  But if that is all they are, we had better batten down the hatches.  Individuals bristling with rights, but with a weak understanding of the manners and morals of community are going to produce an irritable and unneighborly community.” (p.361)
  • “A rights-centered society, must, however, take seriously the fact that duties are not natural.  They must be taught.  Self-interest is common and steady; virtue is rare and unpredictable.  A society devoted to guaranteeing a broad scope for self-interested behavior must be leavened by virtue.  So measures must be taken to make virtue less rare and more predictable.  Among those measures, Americans have always considered education crucial.” (p.362)
  • “Today there is a potentially fatal idea in circulation.  It is the idea that this pluralistic society should not want to have, should not be allowed to have, any core culture passed on from generation to generation.” (p.370)
  • “It is condescending and deeply anti-democratic when intellectuals consign blacks, or women, or ethnics, or the working class, or whomever to confining categories, asserting that they can be fully understood as mere “reflections” of their race, gender, or class, and that members of those groups should be presumed to have the “consciousness” supposedly characteristic of those groups.  The root of such mischief is the assertion that everything is “political”. (p.371)
  • “Education is an apprenticeship in those civilized – and civilizing – things, and not all texts are equal as teachers.” (p.372)
  • “But multiculturalism as a policy is not primarily a response to this fact.  Rather, it is an ideology, the core tenet of which is this: Because all standards for judging cultures are themselves culture-bound, it is wrong to “privilege” Western culture and right to tailor university curricula to rectify the failure to extend proper “recognition” and “validation” to other cultures.  Multiculturalism attacks individualism by defining people as mere manifestations of groups (racial, ethnic, sexual) rather than as self-defining participants in a free society. (p.372)
  • “The proper legacy of Western thought is a mind capable of comprehending and valuing other cultures while avoiding the nihilism that says all cultures are in commensurable and hence of equal merit.” (p.373)

The Thinker Rodin

  • “We are witnessing, on campuses and throughout society, the displacement of learning – a culture of reason and persuasion – by a politics of a peculiar and unwholesome kind, “identity politics.”  Its premise is that the individual is decisively shaped, and irrevocably defined, not by conscious choices but by accidents; that people are defined not by convictions arrived at by reasoning and persuasion, but by accidents of birth and socialization.” (p. 378)
  • “If the premise of identity politics is true, then there is no meaningful sense a universal human nature, and there are no general standards of intellectual discourse, and no ethic of ennobling disputation, no process of civil persuasion toward friendly consent, no source of legitimacy other than power, and we all live immersed in our tribes, warily watching other tribes across the chasms of our “differences.” (p. 379)
  • “The proper purpose of education in American democracy is not to serve as a values cafeteria, where young people are invited, and therefore encouraged, to pick whatever strikes their fancies.  Rather, the purpose of education, and especially higher education, for young citizens of a democracy is to help them identify a rarity excellence – in various realms, and to study what virtues bring it about and make it excellent.” (p.381)
  • “Ours is an age in which children are taught not to discover the good but to manufacture “values”, not so they can lead noble lives but so they can devise pleasant “lifestyles.”  It is an age in which the aim of life is not autonomy in the sense of a life regulated by exacting standards but rather “authenticity” in following strong feelings.” (p. 382)
  • “In today’s therapeutic culture, which seems designed to validate every opinion and feeling, there will rarely be disagreement without anger between thin-skinned people who cannot distinguish the phrase “you’re wrong” from
    “you’re stupid.”” (p. 387)Cambridge University
  • “Everyone with a smartphone has in his or her pocket, Nichols says, more information “than ever existed in the entire Library of Alexandria.”  This can, however, produce a deluding veneer of erudition and a sense of cheap success.  It would help if people would put their electronic devices away from the center of their existences and pick up a book.” (p.388)

book image

  • “Two converging and reinforcing intellectual tendencies have had demoralizing and de-moralizing effects on the way we understand history.  The first tendency has blurred the picture of human beings as responsible, consequential actors in history.  The second tendency involves painting mankind’s story without the bright primary colors of personal greatness.” (p.396)
  • “And there is something awfully small about someone who cannot admit that anyone else was exceptionally large.” (p. 397)

Churchill

  • “Nothing is inevitable but change, and the permutations of possible disagreeable outcomes are infinite.  So, prudence calls for auxiliary precautions, the beginning of which should be the restoration of education as a process of learning to praise, and to excavate from history knowledge of the praiseworthy, and of the cautionary, in the human story.” (p.403)

Long Days and Good Reading

During this Pandemic the days of the weekend can sure seem long.  I always wake up early and have a number of hours until the rest of my family wakes up.  We have so much less planned than we used to so it is also easier to make more time to read.  I’ve been up for about two and half hours and here’s how I have passed my time so far:

I read a chapter for the New Testament book of the Bible, Colossians along with a chapter in a book I am reading called Colossians Remixed.  Then I read The Economist magazine to get updated on news – I’ve found this weekly magazine to be the best source of global news.  I read a chapter in The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism since our book group from church is meeting again this week to discuss the book.  I read some of The Conservative Sensibility by George Will.  Lastly, I played a little of my vocabulary building app that I now love: Vocab.com.

A little sampling from each of these:

Colossians

Colossians The Bible Project

I’ve been re-reading the book of Colossians from the Bible each day lately (it is has four chapters).  Today, I read chapter 3 and here are some of the verses I enjoyed:

  • 3:9-11 – “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.  Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free: but Christ is all, and in all.”
  • 3:14-15 – “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.”
  • 3:23-24 – “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.  You are serving the Lord Christ.”

You can get a cool overview of the book of Colossians by watching this link from the Bible Project:  Colossians: The Bible Project

Colossians Remixed

Colossians Remixed

When I read different books of the Bible, I find it helpful and enjoyable to also read a commentary or a book about that book of the Bible.  This particular book attempts to help the modern day reader of Colossians understand the cultural and social context of the original biblical letter from the apostle Paul to the Colossians.  It also looks carefully at some interesting parallels in our modern world with the ubiquity of empire and globalization.  Today, I read chapter 3, “Placing Colossians: Discerning Empire.”  Some excerpts:

  • “Such myths, of course, drive contemporary globalization as well.  Most powerful is the progress myth, which has been the driving force behind Western capitalism since the Enlightenment.  The myth that we are moving as a culture toward increasing wealth and technological control, and that this is invariably good, provides the justification for all the economic and military policies of the North.” (p. 62)
  • “If the Pax Romana summarized the Roman imperial mythology, then the Pax Americana, with its clear distinction between good and evil and its self-righteous and aggressive foreign policy, encapsulates the dominant mythology of our day.” (p.62)
  • “Just as in the ancient world the images of peace and prosperity masked the reality of inequality and violence, so the contemporary images projected by advertising mask the reality of sweatshops, inequality, and domestic and international violence created by our lifestyles.” (p.63)

The Color of Compromise

Tisby The Color of Compromise

We have a number of small groups in our church reading this book together.  It’s been an educational book for me, but also disturbing.  I was particularly disgusted this morning as I read chapter 4, “Institutionalizing Race in the Antebellum Era”.  I am disheartened that Christians in previous generations not only failed to stand up to slavery and the dehumanization of blacks, but also were active in perpetuation of slavery and discrimination.  Here are a few excerpts:

  • “Despite the racism black Christians experienced, they did not abandon the faith.  In fact, the decades before the Civil War served as an incubator for newborn black American Christianity.  Black Christians began developing distinctive practices that would come to characterize the historic black church tradition.  Black Christianity in the United States grew alongside the explosive expansion of slavery and hardening of racial boundaries.  The faith of black Christians helped them endure and even inspired some believers to resist oppression.” (p.57)
  • “…of the more than 600,000 interstate sales that occurred in the decades prior to the Civil War, 25 percent destroyed a first marriage, and 50 percent broke up a nuclear family.” (p.60)
  • “If there is one concept that helps unlock the twisted logic of American slavery better than almost any other, it is the chattel principle.  The chattel principle is the social alchemy that transformed a human being made in the image of God into a piece of property.” (p.60)
  • “Indeed paternalistic attitudes toward black people defined much of American Christianity.  White evangelists compromised the Bible’s message of liberation to make Christianity compatible with slavery.” (p.66)
  • “A majority of white Christians refused to take a definitive stance against race-based chattel slavery, and this complicity plagued the church and created stark contradictions.” (p.68)

The Economist – Separate, Downtrodden: Race in the City

This last week’s The Economist had a special section on the Midwest.  One of the articles was about the particular problems in the Midwest with segregation and policing.  One quote from the article:

  • “The biggest concerns are inequality and segregation.  Carmelo Barbaro, at the University of Chicago, says too many people are born in neighborhoods that limit their prospects.  Historical problems are known: black students kept out of white schools; black people denied mortgages; violent attacks by white residents who corralled African-Americans into a few areas of cities.  Formally such restrictions no longer exist.  De facto many do.” (p.7 of Special Report in the magazine)

The Conservative Sensibility

George Will

I do not know why I like to pick such long books to read, but I am more than halfway through George Will’s 500+ page tome.  Mr. Will is not a Trump supporter and is not necessarily directly advocating for the current day Republican Party.  Instead, he focuses on the historical and philosophical roots and consequences of conservatism and progressivism.  I do not always agree with him, but it has been a good and thought provoking book.  Here is a sampling of what I read this morning:

  • “Paul Barton of the Educational Testing Service estimated that about 90 percent of the difference among schools in average proficiency can by explained by five factors: number of days absent from school, number of hours spent watching television, number of pages read for homework, quantity and quality of reading material in the home, and the presence of two parents in the home.  The fifth factor is supremely important, not least because it is apt decisively to influence the other four.” (p.316)
  • “By age three, children from poor homes have heard, on average, 30 million fewer words spoken at home than children in professional-class homes.  It is not altogether clear why more affluent and educated parents talk to their children more, although fatigue might be a factor in the relative silence of poor homes.” (p.317)
  • “Hence the vast-and increasingly misplaced-faith in schools as the great equalizers of opportunity for upward mobility in a meritocratic society.  Studies of early childhood development indicate that school comes too late for many children.  Before they cross their first schoolyard, severe damage has been done to their life chances.  Even superb schools often cannot correct the consequences of early deprivation, and superb schools are not frequently found in the neighborhoods where children who are damaged by their social environment receive those damages.” (p.321)
  • “Without the nurturing and disciplining done in intact families, individuals are apt to be ill-equipped to exercise the freedom to become unequal, and therefore are handicapped in the pursuit of justice for themselves and others.” (p.322)

Vocab.com app

I only played for a little while on my vocabulary app today.  A few Saturdays ago, I went a bit crazy and achieved 5th place in the world for my score (I probably played for about 3 1/2 hours that morning).  I don’t mind if you call me a nerd.  Here’s the screenshot:

Vocab.com #5

Here are a few sample words from today:

  • Overwrought: deeply agitated, especially from emotion
  • Malignance: the quality of being disposed to evil
  • Badger: annoy persistently
  • Lustrous: reflecting

 

 

 

“Radical” Hospitality

I just finished Rosaria Butterfield’s book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in our Post-Christian World.  I found the book to be extremely challenging in terms of a call to living an open and hospitable life.  Her stories of hospitality with her neighbors and unlikely friends moved me to want to be more like her.  I’m going to ask my wife to read the book to see how we can grow in this together as we lead our family.  She focused a lot of her stories of hospitality in their family’s home, which was great.  However, I think that we can also be hospitable to people wherever we encounter them as we open our lives to others everywhere.

hospitality

Here’s a few quotes from the book (but the stories are really the best):

  • “We must work hard to know who our neighbors are and how they struggle.  We want to show respect and a helping hand.” (p.32)
  • “Practicing hospitality in our post-Christian world means that you develop thick skin.” (p.62)
  • “Practicing daily, ordinary, Christian hospitality doubles our grocery budget – and sometimes triples it.  There are vacations we do not take, house projects that never get started, entertainment habits that never get an open door, new cars and gadgets that we don’t even bother coveting.” (p. 63)
  • “Jesus dines with sinners so that he can get close enough to touch us, so that he can participate in the intimacy of table fellowship as a healer and a helper.  Jesus comes to change us, to transform us, so that after we have dined with Jesus, we want Jesus more than the sin that beckons our fidelity.” (p.85)
  • “Christian hospitality is not for sale.  It cannot be made into a commodity.  The gospel is free.” (p. 86)
  • “But the question is: Do Christian people practice Christian hospitality in regular, ordinary, consistent ways?  Or do we think our homes too precious for criminals and outcasts?  Our homes are not our castles.  Indeed, they are not even ours.  So where can you start?  Start where you are.” (p. 100)
  • “We live in a world that highly values functionality.  But there is such a thing as being too functional.  When we are too functional, we forget that the Christian life is a calling, not a performance.” (p.111)
  • “The Christian life isn’t a math test.  A whole lot more than the answer matters a whole lot more.  So he accompanies them in their suffering.  And we need to do the same.  When people are willing to stop and tell us where they hurt, we need to praise God for it, and we need to stop what we are doing, shut our mouths, and listen with care.” (p. 200)
  • “Imagine a world where neighbors said that Christians throw the best parties in town and are the go-to people for big problems and issues, without being invited.  Imagine if the children in the neighborhood knew that the Christians were safe people to ask for help when unthinkable agony canvassed their private or family lives.  Imagine a world where every Christian knew by name people sufficiently to be of earthly and spiritual good.  Imagine a world where every Christian knew by name people who lived in poverty or prison, felt tied to them and to their futures, and lived differently because of it.  This is the world that the Bible imagines for us.  That is the world that Jesus prays for us to create in his name.”

 

P.S. Vocab word of the day is: elide – omit or strike out.