Friday, December 14, 2012

What Would Jesus Do? The uncomfortable call to Christians in light of the Newtown massacre

What would Jesus do?  It’s generally seen as a trite marketing question, yet if you are a serious Christian, it is supposed be a strong guiding principle as you move through life.  The problem for many Christians, particularly the fundamentally oriented ones, is that the real answer – at least the Scriptural answer, isn’t always what they want to hear.

Such a question confronts me now as I begin to frame my response to today’s school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  As I wrote earlier today, my initial reaction is grief.  And there I had planned to stay for a time, as any parent would.

Unfortunately, Governor (and former Presidential candidate) Mike Huckabee roused me from that comfortable denial late in the day.  As reported on Facebook, Governor Huckabee apparently tied this tragedy to the lack of prayer in the schools.  This on a day when pundits on both the left and right tried to convince us that we shouldn’t talk about gun control.  No, they say, we have to wait and mourn properly.  Well apparently the Governor didn’t get that message.

But still, what would Jesus do?  Were He to be walking among us, how would He respond?  And what would His lessons mean for the grieving families in Connecticut tonight?

First, I have no doubt that He would rend his clothes in grief, and that the stream of tears would be almost unending from His eyes.  Time and time again in Scripture, we hear Christ talk about both the innocence of children, and how we most all return to that open, forgiving place in our hearts to truly experience the gifts that God give us.  No doubt He would both try to hold and support the many grief stricken parents as well as the many who responded to the scene, risking their lives to protect the survivors.  Christ would echo the word of the President, that we have seen this sort of thing too often.  He would also seek to welcome the dead home to God, for there is nothing they could ever have done to merit their lives ending in this way.

Second, Christ would have begun to teach us all, as he did in every time of tragedy recorded in Scripture.  Just as He threw the money changers out of the temple to drive home a point about how we should all treat each other, He would no doubt have taken our society to ask over this.  What, He would ask, would you expect in a a society which chooses to solve it’s problems by invading and occupying foreign countries, instead of bringing those responsible for the last attack on our soil to justice and punishment.  How, He would lament, can you expect young men to learn to deal with life’s tragedies and triumphs when you take fathers from their lives and remove the rites and rituals that define the transition from childhood to manhood.  And finally, in perhaps His greatest teaching, He would ask us what we have done for the least of those among us, no doubt pointing out along the way the least of these include those who suffer mental illness and psychological damage.  If we meet this heinous event only with restrictions on gun ownership, then we miss the greater need in our society, and we miss the second highest calling from Christ to His flock in America.

Perhaps His toughest lesson, however, would be the lesson of forgiveness.  Troubling though it will be for many, Christ would no doubt instruct all of us that if He could forgive those who hung him on a cross, if He could call to God for forgiveness even as His own body weight was slowly and inextricably crushing the life from Him, then we must, as part of our own healing, reach forgiveness of all those involved.  Forgiveness of the shooter will be the most challenging part of this, of course, and many will never be able to do it.  But if we who choose to follow Christ are to be completely true to His calling, we have to embrace ALL of His teachings, not just those which are most convenient or easiest to fulfill.

What Would Jesus Do?  It’s not a trite question by any means, and in Newtown tonight, it’s a question with nothing but tough answers.

A Father's lament - more innocent children died today in Connecticut

On that now infamous September 11th, I was working in a boat on Tampa Bay trying to help restore sea grass.  We saw the fighters scream overhead that we learned (Later) were to escort Air Force One away from Sarasota.  It was only when we got back on land that we were sucked into the maelstrom of the day.  That night I hugged my oldest daughters closer and tighter then I had in the days and months before.  I cried in front of them too as I tried to explain what was happening - and that was probably the first  time they saw their dad shed tears (my earlier divorce from their mom not withstanding).

My younger kids have seen me cry before.  When my close friend from college passed away earlier this year from cancer, the two littlest ones watch their daddy break down at the dinner table, Facebook having delivered that terrible news.  Mercifully for me, they both hugged and held on, perhaps not knowing why.

Tonight they may see their dad cry again, once I get them home and safe in our living room.  No parent can see the news coming out of Newtown Connecticut today and NOT want to sweep their kids up in a bear hug that lasts an eternity.  To be sure, we want to comfort them if they are scared - but equally we want to be comforted by their little faces, warm breath, and young and naive zeal for the world around them.  That passage of energy from young to old, child to parent, is the only salve that can hang upon our open wounds today.  For no matter what the FBI or police turn up, no matter how many warnings of this were ignored, no matter how irrational our gun control laws continue to be, it is the warm th of their smiles that will save us all.

Rest in peace small ones.  We can not know what you would have done in your lives, but we can be assured that your kisses, you hugs, your art projects, and your indomitable energy has already left its mark on the world around you.  Your cruel passing can not take that from you, or those who love, and now mourn, in your wake.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Approaching the Fiscal Cliff - a little panic might do us some good

In a piece today in Salon, Alex Setiz-Wald brings forth an important point about who, and how, our domestic security debate has been shaped by the psychology of fringe voices:

Psychological research has demonstrated that in times of crisis, people respond most acutely to emotionally strong voices, Bail explains. The media industry has long understood this intuitively and featured dramatic, colorful and emotional figures because they’re more compelling to readers. We’ve all seen this “fringe effect,” as Bail dubs it, from the Tea Party to the birther movement.

Yet I would humbly suggest that this observation is equally applicable to the “fiscal cliff/austerity bomb” debate currently raging in Washington.  Simply put, Republicans may be blamed in polling for causing the fiscal cliff, but their message is also likely to draw more resonance because they are using more emotional language, and actually displaying emotions, then President Obama.    The invective he raised when confronted by Republican attacks on his U.N Ambassador would be well suited to the fiscal cliff debate, yet his post-election speechmaking (and for that matter his campaign speechmaking)  is still fairly devoid of emotional content.

Does the fiscal cliff get “solved” or “fixed” if the President lets off a little steam?  No, but it does turn the narrative away from the raw emotion of the Republican position, and that may be the key to keeping both the government open, and the economy functioning after January 1st.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

so what's worse if you are a Republican - higher tax rates or increased collections for closing loopholes? Both raise more funds for government!