Category Archives: Tolerance

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?

A Cry for Help

But the child’s sob in the silence curses deeper than the strong man in his wrath. Elizabeth Barrett Browning

It’s a troubling phenomenon: several gay teens have killed themselves in recent weeks after being harassed because of their sexuality. They were bullied. They were not accepted for who they were – children of God. As people of faith we are called to speak out against those who use their self-proclaimed power to intimidate, condemn, and belittle others. And it is important that we teach our children (of all ages) to respect others as Christ modeled in welcoming the stranger and embracing the outcast.

Our churches need to be safe places for adults, teens and children to learn how to practice tolerance; to understand our mission to respect the dignity of every human being. If the religious community can’t act and become a voice to all generations, we are just as guilty as those who cause the pain of others.

Some articles and resources to assist in the conversation. Don’t wait another day to begin the work. The lives of people (young and old) you know (and even more so, don’t know) depend on it.

Articles & Action:

Resources for Study and Conversation:

  • The documentary Bullied, produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center, will premiere today, Oct. 5, in Washington, D.C. Bullied tells the story of Jamie Nabozny, a Wisconsin student who fought back against anti-gay bullying. Kick off National Bullying Prevention Month by ordering your school’s free copy of Bullied here.
  • Download the Study Guide for Bullied, which gives a definition of bullying, how to identify someone who may be a victim, and how to assess your school (or church) environment.
  • The Trevor Project and It Gets Better website features video clips of LGBT adults sharing their own high school horror stories, while telling kids to stay alive because brighter days are coming. So far, there have been 131 videos posted and more than 300,000 views.
  • Bully Bust is a program to stand up to bullying and promote upstander behavior.
  • For the Bible Tells Me So is a film about the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families – including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson. Discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard’s Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, A study guide is also available for further discussion.
  • Burst: Bullies and Mean Girls is a short-term study from Abingdon Press (United Methodist Church affiliation) for youth. It’s website also offers a variety of links including movies, books and other websites.
  • If You Really Knew Me is a program that began in July 2010 on Tuesday evenings on MTV. Yes – MTV. Watch the trailer to see how you might tap into this program with your youth.
  • The Golden Rule Pledge website offers bullying prevention resources for churches.
  • From the New York Times (Dec. 5, 2010): Cyber-Bulling and What a Parent Can Do

What resources, programs or action do you plan to engage in?