Category Archives: Tolerance

Pilgrimage Reflections: Walls & Doors

Two months ago I was in the midst of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with thirty others from the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. It has taken me that long to articulate in writing my reactions and feelings about the political climate regarding Israel and Palestine. I have already posted numerous reflections on the sites we visited, both spiritually and historically. But I have skirted around writing about the reality of the Palestinian people that I experienced; it was just below the surface in all my postings about Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Samaria, and Galilee.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, Israel is called to be a light to the nations. As a people chosen by God (technically, Abraham received this promise for all his descendants/offspring) to show the way back to right relationship to God, today’s Israel has fallen short of this covenant. Power and rule have a tendency to let leaders forget their responsibilities, which ultimately leads to division and corruption. As in Old Testament times, history continues to repeat itself. Recall the role of the prophets who kept calling God’s people back.

This past Sunday’s readings (10th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 15) spoke to me (with help from a great sermon which I will link here when it is posted) from Isaiah 5:1-7 and Luke 12:49-56. Israel continues to this day to grow (be) the wild (sour) grapes, while God gave all of us a beautiful vineyard to live in to grow sweet grapes – if we would only cease our divisions and love God as well as love our neighbor. God is angry. Jesus weeps. Yesterday and today.

The U.S. and Israel have a complicated relationship, which was exacerbated this past week with the on-again, off-again visits of two U.S. congress women desiring to visit family in the West Bank. You can read about it here (from NPR) as well as many other news sources. These two women know what it is like for the Palestinians (Muslim and Christian) to live in the occupied territories. I don’t believe most Americans really understand what is really happening in Israel, or how the U.S. government is upsetting the precarious balance. You have to see it to really understand.

Continue reading Pilgrimage Reflections: Walls & Doors

From Limit to Grace

backpackAnyone who has participated in any of Eric Law’s workshops or trainings or read some of his books, know that he is a gifted writer, musician and poet. His work on diversity and inclusion is well known throughout the Episcopal Church and beyond.

Eric weekly blogs on The Sustainist, offering reflections of the events occurring in our world as well as questions for pondering the Sunday lectionary readings. This week he shares a reflection on how we react when things happen in our society and what it means to live fully alive in a culture of fear.

From Limit to Grace

I carry a backpack containing my computer and the things I need for my meetings, workshops, travels and conferences all the time. I switched to a backpack a couple of years ago after carrying a heavy shoulder bag on one shoulder making my posture unbalanced for years. So, when in the midst of the frantic media reactions to the bombing at the Boston Marathon, someone suggested that we should ban all backpacks from public events, I was a little upset.  I was upset because this reaction to this tragedy was to set more limits, which is one of the typical responses to fear.  Here is the logic: since the last tragedy involved two people who carried backpacks with explosives, we should limit the use of backpacks to increase safety.  Using the same logic, why don’t we also ban baseball caps and immigrants from public events?

He suggests that we should be sustainists rather than setting even more limits that narrow our thinking. How are we living out Jesus’ command to “love one another”?

Read more of From Limit to Grace, including a link to listen to a song he wrote following the shootings in Sandy Hook in December entitled, “Sustain the Weary.”

What Will the New Year Bring?

I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions.

Partly because I’m not very good at following through with them. Yes, I always say I will lose weight, exercise more or keep up with the laundry and cleaning better. Today I’ve noticed an extra number of joggers on the roads and many folks posting what their resolutions are going to be on Facebook. And I’ve learned there is a App to make sure you stay on track with your resolution.

I’m wondering if I should resolve to post more regularly here. That’s a tough one; I already blog daily at Building Faith and weekly at The Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education. With editing manuscripts and writing educational program materials, that’s a lot of writing. So, I’ll probably pass on this as a resolution.

However, this afternoon I cleaned up my office. AKA moving around file folders, straightening up books-to-be-read stacks, and filing receipts and clips I’ve torn out of magazines for some future reference. I rediscovered a number of books that I’ve picked up on my travels. I’m a sucker for book stores at conferences. I’ve started a few, but got sidetracked with other reading material. And my Kindle often takes precedence if I’m traveling (or looking for mindless entertainment).

In looking back at 2011, I’ve read plenty of books. Lots are work-related (I wrote the study guide for several*, so I really did read these) and definitely have a theme to them.

  • Love Wins: A Book About Heaven and Hell by Rob Bell
  • Christian Formation 2020 by John Roberto
  • Formational Children’s Ministry by Ivy Beckwith
  • Child by Child: Supporting Children with Learning Differences and Their Families by Susan Richardson (as editor)
  • Conversations with Scripture: Daniel by Edmund Desueza and Judith Jones*
  • Conversations with Scripture: Judges by Roy Heller*
  • Tweet if you ♥Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation by Elizabeth Drescher
  • What Episcopalians Believe: An Introduction by Samuel Wells*
And some (fewer than I’d wish) were for pleasure:

So what’s on the list for 2012? Guess I should tackle that stack in my office:

Hmmmm . . . I sense a theme. Could 2012 be telling me something? What book would you recommend I add to my list?

Words Matter

A huge snowstorm struck New England this past week, dumping 18″ of snow on the already 2 feet we already had on the ground. My brother, Dave, was visiting from California and arrived Tuesday evening, just before the flurries started to fly. He had come for a couple of days to visit with my parents who live about 3 miles from us. Of course, he got snowed in with us, so their visit was delayed by a day. The night he arrived, the two of us did stop at my parents, where he picked up their car, knowing mine would not be good in the snow and drove back to our house.

We finally got plowed out on Wednesday night, so the plan was to pick them up on Thursday morning to go out to breakfast. However, along the way Dave got delayed en route. As he left our house in my dad’s 1990 Buick, he came upon a car that had spun out, struck an underpass and with steam pouring from the engine lay in the middle of the road. A woman was standing stunned next to the car – in the middle of the road. Dave pulled over and encouraged her to step off the road. She was shaken, but okay, and had called the police. Dave said he’d wait with her until the police came. He called my dad telling him he was going to be late . . . “There was a car accident. I’m waiting for the police to come. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

Simple words. For those on the scene, it would make perfect sense. But for my 86-year-old father, whose son from Berkeley, California was driving his car on snowy streets, those words meant something very different. Dave was in a car accident. Was he okay?  His car was totaled. He couldn’t afford repairs. Now what? He sat for an hour in a panic, not knowing what to do or what to think except imagine the unimaginable.

Of course, that was not the story. And Dave showed up with the Buick about an hour later without a scratch to find a very upset and shaken man. How words are used to convey a story matter. It’s important that the speaker is clear to the listener. And with an older person, talking slow, allowing for questions, and full explanations with as many details as needed are important.

In our national news this week we also heard about how words matter. Terms such as ‘civility’, ‘discourse’, ‘tone’, and ‘rhetoric’ have been all over the internet, talk shows, and radio following the horrific shoots in Tucson, Arizona. Conversations, whether it be a simple phone call about a car accident or discussing our views on health care or immigration, need to be spoken with the listener in mind. And when opinions differ, we need to respect the thoughts of the other person. We CAN agree to disagree.

Teaching Tolerance, an arm of the Southern Poverty Law Center, posted connections to their lesson plans for helping teach children and youth how to respect and listen to one another.

Even Jon Stewart, one who often seems to bait conversations and poke fun at others, used his platform and audience to tone things down. President Obama said as much in his speech at the Arizona memorial service, offering us some avenues to follow.

Share his speech with your youth, in print and on video. Talk with them about the crucial role that free and reasoned speech plays in self-government, and in helping us to bridge the barriers between us.  From Teaching Tolerance, here’s one idea about how to proceed. Take this excerpt from the speech:

“But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized—at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do—it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.”

Words can heal or wound, Obama said. Words can shed light or generate heat. (Remember the car accident and my dad?) We can think of other comparisons—do we speak to convince others or to understand them? Do we want speeches that inspire hope or fear? When we are speaking to others, what are our words REALLY saying?

Ask your students to work together to come up with different pairs of contrasting outcomes. They can use any of these prompts.

  • Words can . . . or . . .
  • We speak to others to . . . or . . .
  • We can hear . . . or . . .

In what other ways could you use this speech in your congregation or Christian education program? And can you plan to encourage a conversation about civil discourse?