Category Archives: News and politics

Abuse Reporting: What you DON’T do can get you into trouble


As I write this Monsignor William Lynn has just been convicted of child endangerment for not adequately protecting children by removing priests he had evidence had abused children. No one accused Lynn of perpetrating abuse by his own actions. But now he stands convicted for what he failed to do and is looking at some years behind bars.

Bottom line: if church leaders knowingly cover up sexual abuse allegations or allow other leaders to remain in ministry when they have abused children, there is now a track record of prosecuting those who didn’t take action to protect children–either those who have been abused or those who could be abused.

Frankly, it shouldn’t take the threat of prosecution to get us to do the right thing. For the sake of the purity of the Church and the care for the least of these, we should always protect children over the organizational reputation. If you or someone you know wants to know more about how to deal with abuse allegations in the church, join us on July 20-21 for our seminar on the topic. For only $50 dollars for 9 hours of training, you can walk away with some great ways to protect your church and care for victims and offenders. (FYI, the $50 rate is for anyone not wanting graduate credit…you don’t need to be a church official to get that rate!)

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Filed under Abuse, christian counseling, church and culture, News and politics, pastors and pastoring

Pray for the Congo (DRC) this week


DRC, orthographic projection.

Image via Wikipedia

Today, November 28, 2011, Congolese have been voting in presidential and parliament elections. For those of you who followed my DRC/Rwanda trip posts, I encourage you to lift up this country, its leaders, and the people. As you likely know, the country has a weak central government, an assortment of militias roaming the north and east, wrecking havoc in the form of rape where ever they go. It is a lovely country, resource rich (minerals) and yet one of the poorest places in the world.

Pray for no violence. Pray for leaders with integrity. Pray for the church to be the church. Pray for nonprofit ministries like the Bible Society in the Congo. Pray for a united will among all the peoples to stand against rape.

Read this short news item in the WSJ on the elections.

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The next generation will have less than us?


The western front of the United States Capitol...

Image via Wikipedia

I began the following post on March 1 of this year. I set it aside because I wasn’t so sure how to end it. But the recent squabbling about how to ensure the US will be able to pay its bills has me feeling pretty sure that the next generation is going to have a tough go at it.

I’m no economist. I stink at math. But, I’m pretty sure that my children’s generation is going to be worse off than my own. What makes me think this? Consider some facts

  • Our consumption oriented world cannot keep the economy afloat…debt is ballooning out of control
  • Educational costs are skyrocketing and do not necessarily bring greater income potential
  • We make few things in this country so jobs in industries are shrinking. At some point, don’t we need to do something other than service jobs?
  • Aging baby boomers (and those of us just a bit too young to be considered boomers) are going to need  a lot of help given that many live hand to mouth and with a ton of debt.
  • military cuts will mean fewer 18 year olds will be able to make a living in the service.

So, if my prediction is correct…what does it mean? I suspect it means families are going to continue to live together. I should probably expect my children to live with me a lot longer than I did with my parents (I went to college and never really moved back in except for 2 summer jobs). Families will need to pool their monies more. In some ways, this may not be all bad. Family members will grow in their sense of needing each other to accomplish daily life. This is how most of the rest of the world operates. Financial security, as much as I really do like it, may give us a false sense of independence that is neither healthy to our social or spiritual lives.

Okay, back to July 2011. Our lawmakers are playing chicken with the debt ceiling and hoping the other side will budge. No matter how this turns out, someone is going to get hurt. Probably our children’s generation.

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Lies, sexual assault prosecution, and the truth


Don’t know if you have seen the news that former IMF chief Mr. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, accused of sexually assaulting a chambermaid and ordered to house arrest while awaiting trial, has been freed from house arrest and it appears that the case against him is evaporating. Why? It appears that his defense team has done a good job in providing evidence that the chambermaid has a credibility problem. Lies on her asylum application, lies to the investigators as to what happened after she was assaulted (what she did next), and lies on her taxes. There may be other lies too.

But of course none of these lies are about that actual assault. It will be sad if (a) she did fabricate the assault, or (b) he did assault her but previous lies allows him to avoid being found guilty. While you and I do not know the truth, we do know that some of the evidence has not been explained (forensic evidence, his prior history of sexual harassment) away. But, due to the legal system values we protect the possibly guilty over the possibly abused. Better to let a guilty man go free than an innocent man be jailed. Note that the victim is not in this equation.

I do not know who is telling the truth. I do know that those who have means and power tend to be able to launch all out defenses and so destroy the credibility of victims so as to either make them appear to be lying or make it appear to be consensual. What I do know is that victims with checkered backgrounds probably receive little justice and that offenders with power or prestige are more likely to get off. What I also know is that one day, lies and truth will be revealed.

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Is being a victim a weakness?


Just read a CNN piece on whether or not we should call Huma Abedin a victim or not (Rep. Anthony Weiner’s wife). The author says we ought not to, that only she gets to decide if she is a victim. The author quotes from Laura Munson’s book (This is not the Story You Think it is) and suggests that when one decides to be happy (and to be responsible to find happiness), one stops being a victim.

Seems to me that we ought to differ between being a victim and having a victim mentality.

Huma is a victim of her husband’s behavior. When someone is harmed by the behaviors of others, that person is a victim. Now, a victim commonly has various emotional experiences associated with being helpless to stop harmful behaviors. But, being a victim is not the same thing as being helpless in all things. One may indeed be helpless to stop a car accident or infidelity. But, one is not helpless to decide what they want to do about it.

How do you respond to the word “victim?” Do you hear it as helpless? Completely unable to make choices? Devoid of happiness?

At the end of the article, the author lists several helpful responses to being subjected to harmful behaviors by others (nonviolent that is). Her recommendations are below and besides a few tweaks, I don’t disagree. However, I think she gives the impression that feeling hurt, anger, and confusion are somehow signs of weakness. They are not.

1. Wait to make big decisions

2. Focus on the present moment

3. Create something now

4. Give up on the dream (your personal myth)

5. Look for your truth

6. Choose your own feelings

7. Do not play the victim

 

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“Do you know who I am?” and other self-important acts


In the last little bit we’ve been subjected to lots of signs that famous people tend to fall into the trap of self-importance (or, is it a requirement to be self-important to run for office or seek the limelight?). What signs do I refer to?

  • Taking pictures of certain body parts and emailing them to others
  • Having no apparent qualms about serial cheating while in the limelight
  • Declaring, “Do you know who I am?” and believing that if the other person did realize the importance of the person, that they would give better treatment or allow the famous person off the hook

But we too suffer from the same struggle of self-importance. While I’ve never thought someone would treat me better if they realized my greatness and I’ve never thought it would be cool to send a risqué pic of myself to someone, I have thought, “How dare you treat me this way! I deserve better than this!”

Or how about these ones:

  • inching your bumper so close to the car in front of you so that the car wanting to merge into your lane can’t.
  • cutting in line at a store because you have to get somewhere soon
  • expecting others to praise you for routine work done
  • thinking that everyone is thinking about your gaffe or your entry into a room (this may be experienced as prolonged embarrassment and desires to flee)
  • worrying about fairness about chores and whether you’re doing more than another
  • ruminating on your unsung value to your company

What other acts of self-importance are you prone to? What do they say about your sense of self? We’d like to believe that the Congressman from New York or a drunk driving actor acting oafishly are cut from a different cloth and act in ways that you and I would never consider. But, in fact the root of their foolish behavior is (a) seeking self-importance and the acclaim of others, and (b) failing to see the value of self-denial.

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Some thoughts and emotions on justice


What is justice? How do you go about determining what is just and what is unjust?

If you are like me, you’ve had a number of conversations and thoughts about justice in the last 48 hours. I can only believe that such conversations about justice are good, especially if we apply our philosophies to ourselves as well as others.

So, how do you answer my first questions? Do you lead with your intellect or your emotions? Let’s consider each (even though we can’t really separate these two parts of our being)

The intellectual approach to determine what is just

1. What is legal? Lawful = just. This works if you assume that those who create the laws are just lawmakers. But, we all can point to some draconian laws that we would not consider just.

2. What is deserved? Justice = penalty fits the crime. If you get what you deserve, an eye for an eye, then you have been served justice. Of course, if we follow this thinking, it could be just to walk up to a pedophile and castrate him. This would be illegal whether he was tried and convicted or not.

3. What is adjudicated fairly? Justice = blind adjudication. If you are accused of a crime, then justice is served if you receive a fair trial. However, justice does not hold exactly the same meaning as fair. It more accurately means righteous. One could have a fair trial and still get away with murder.

The emotional approach to determining justice

If we are truthful, our emotions tell us what is just. We hear of someone getting their due and we feel relief. Or, we hear someone who got his due but we hear that the one measuring out justice did so in a vicious or destructive way…and we feel conflicted if not downright sickened. Some of our thoughts on justice reveal certain values that we have yet to articulate. Consider the following options from an emotion perspective:

  • Law enforcement attempts to capture a killer but uses deadly force because they thought they saw him reach for a gun
  • A soldier kills an opposing soldier on the battlefield
  • A soldier kills an opposing soldier who was unarmed and running away
  • A soldier kills an opposing soldier who had dropped his weapon and raised his hands in surrender
  • A mass murderer who was not given a final time to give self up before being shot to death
  • A mass murderer killing another murderer who had only killed once

I suspect we could argue that in each case, the killing was legal, even deserved. But does it pass the emotional smell test?

Think this is a new issue? Then check out Habakkuk in the Old Testament. He raises a complaint to God about the sinfulness of his own people, Israel. God answers him and tells him that a heathen group of terrible sinners will bring just punishment on Israel. Habakkuk, as you might expect, struggles with this. “You are going to you THEM? Why they are the WORST!” God answers and tells him that he, God, is going to act in righteous and mind-blowing ways. And Habakkuk responds in only the faithful way he can: I see your fame, I see your Glory and I stand in awe. You are just in all you do. And even if there is no food to eat, I will yet praise you.”

Justice, it turns out, doesn’t always make sense to us. It may be easier to tell what is not justice than what is. For example, we ought not promote pragmatism (e.g., killing someone because jailing him will cost too much) or vengeance (e.g., eye for an eye…since bin Laden didn’t warn 9/11 victims, we ought not warn him).

We cannot go on human laws alone, intellect (as good as it is), or feelings. God’s view of it surpasses all of these ideas. And even when we come to terms with justice, we recognize that justice, without mercy also, is something none of us want to see. We will treat others better than they deserve. We will rejoice when evil men may no longer harm. We will be thankful when governments deliver justice and yet hold them to higher standards than those they judge. We will not return evil for evil. And we will mete out justice yet knowing that we too will face our day of justice as well. And so we will ask God for the grace to live justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly!

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What is the proper response to Bin Laden’s death?


Last night as the news media began telling of Bin Laden’s demise I began contemplating this question: What is a proper response to his death or, for that matter, the death of any oppressor, abuser or grossly unjust person? What is the right response?

Celebration? I heard one person say they were not celebrating death but were celebrating the end of a mass murderer. Glee? Wishing him well in hell? Praising justice or vengeance? Confidence? (immediately, news outlets were noting futures for markets and the US dollar were on the rise and oil futures were on the decline)

Or, should we merely mark it with somber reflection on all those who died at his hand or in the attempt to bring him to justice over the past ten years?

Is there a best response? Here are some words that come to mind:

  • Relief. Something undone has been completed. At least one era has come to an end. One person seeking harm to another can do no more.
  • Joy. Now this is a complex emotion. You will see at the bottom I do not think we ought to gloat. But joy is a proper emotion when right is defended and wrong is put away. Now, this emotion needs tempering because in this world, we can easily defend righteousness with wrong actions and motives. You damage me so I, in turn, take out my wrath on your family. So, our joy must be tempered by the knowledge that “they” are not always evil and “we” are not always good.
  • Satisfaction. Any time justice is served, there is a level of satisfaction or vindication. Never fully experienced in this life, but in bits and pieces. (Of course there will be ongoing conversation about whether this was carried out in a just manner)
  • Remembrance. Of those who died as victims to a tyrant (and their families), of those who died trying to bring a tyrant to justice.
  • Reflection. Several kinds of reflections are quite appropriate. First, it is good and right to reflect on justice as a key character of God. Such reflection ought to cause us also to reflect on our own need for mercy in light of our own failings. We can reflect on how we want to handle future tyrants and how we speak about those who are quite different from us.
  • Pray. We can pray for peace. We can pray for protection of those who still serve in harm’s way. Pray for an end to the training of malleable children into practices of war, whether a child suicide bomber in the Middle East or a child soldier in the Congo.  We can pray that we will not turn a blind eye to injustices within our own communities. It is deadly to think that injustice is only in other countries. Remember, turning a blind eye to injustice in our midst is being complicit with the actual act of injustice.

While joy is a proper response to justice (Prov 21:15), I would think we ought not celebrate or gloat. Proverbs 24:17 tells us not to gloat when our enemy stumbles. But later in the same chapter it does tell us that there will be blessing for those who convict the guilty. Let God be the author of that and let us not attempt to bless ourselves.

If we rejoice, we ought to rejoice that God is in heaven and that our names are written in the book of life (Luke 10:20). Rejoice that all things here will pass away and one day there will be no more need for armies and warfare.

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Filed under Abuse, Christianity, news, News and politics, sin

Why Jonah was and is still wrong


You probably already heard the news that Fred Phelps and his family, aka Westboro Baptist Church, won their Supreme Court case yesterday. If you are unfamiliar with this case, read/listen to NPR’s news story on the sordid history. The short summary is this. The Phelps family believes that “sodomites” and their supporters (America) are going to hell. This particular belief is not all that rare. But what makes the Phelps family stand out is, (a) their belief about what God is calling them to do about the problem, and (b) their tactics of protesting at funerals of servicemen and women and other public figures. A father of a dead soldier sued the Phelps for causing him pain and suffering when they picketed outside his son’s funeral. Among their picket signs about homosexuality were signs such as “Thank God for dead soldiers”. A lower court agreed with the father’s suit and awarded the father 5 million dollars in damages. Yesterday the Supreme Court reversed that decision saying that hurtful speech is still protected speech.

The NPR coverage goes beyond the usual coverage and attempts to detail some of the Phelps’ theological beliefs and or motivations for their hateful speech. I found it very interesting since usually they are just (rightly) labeled as nut-cases. Some of their thinking:

  • It is their job to try to make American’s angry, to reject God and be damned to hell
  • “Our job is laid out,” she says, in comments sprinkled with biblical references. “We are supposed to blind their eyes, stop up their ears and harden their hearts so that they cannot see, hear or understand, and be converted and receive salvation.” (quote from NPR story)

Why the Phelps are wrong: A quick look at how we are to respond to sinners

If NPR has captured their motivations and beliefs accurately, then they have made a couple of significant errors.

1. Whose job is it to damn, blind, and judge?

At the last day, God will indeed judge the world. He will separate sheep from goats. There will likely be surprises in heaven (last minute conversions and people we thought were going to be there but were really wolves in sheep’s clothing). Sometimes God sends prophets to preach to the condemned. True enough. But, the prophets preach the need to repent and/or the coming judgment. God does say to Ezekiel that his hearers won’t listen to him preach the need or repentance. But, preach repentance he must.

Or consider Jonah. Jonah is called to preach to Nineveh. His job is to preach. And this is what bothers Jonah. Jonah knows that God is a merciful God and will forgive. That is what bothers him; he wants Nineveh to suffer! The Phelps want America to suffer.

2. The message? Do the Phelps want people to be converted and get into heaven? By the quotes above you would have to answer an emphatic NO. Seems they might be afraid to find that heaven is filled with all sorts of sinners (maybe even pride-filled, angry, protesting, mean-spirited people?). Paul says gives a list of sins and says, “and such as were some of you” as he writes to believers. Let us remember that heaven will be filled with sinners. Yes, those sinners have been forgiven and are living lives of daily repentance and turning from their sin. But sinners they are right up to the moment of entering heaven.

How do we respond to sinners? How do we respond to ourselves? Pray, converse, eat with, and care for. Oh, and yes, talk about the only way to righteousness. Following Jesus’ example is a good start!

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Thoughts on causation and tolerating complex answers


Three things have me thinking about causation: a comment on autism my wife heard on the radio…the Arizona shooting…and the ending of my Congo book (mentioned in the previous post). We love to know WHY something has happened. Why autism or any other illness? Why a senseless shooting? Why so much corruption and unrest in central Africa?

Why is a good essential question. Might it be part of being an image bearer of God? It is hard to have dominion over our world if we don’t have the capacity to understand cause and effect. But, being human and therefore limited hands us a challenge. How do we understand complex facets of problems. Too often we mistake correlations for causes. And even more often we limit the cause to one simplistic answer.

Simple works for us. It is more efficient. We consider a problem, conclude an answer, and move on to other subjects. If we couldn’t move on, we might bog down and lose traction in our lives. Simple also works for us humans when we want to lay the blame for something that has happened at someone else’s feet.

Here’s what I notice in many of these kinds of conversations. If you try to single out a particular causal facet for focused discussion, there will be others who say, “yes, but, you also need to consider…”. It is extremely hard to play out one part of the cause/effect without being accused of being biased.  And if you try to develop a laundry list of causes…the conversation often loses traction and some hear you as letting others (e.g., vaccine manufacturers, Sara Palin, Mobutu, etc.) off the hook.

Try this experiment!

So, try to have a conversation today where you either (a) try to single out a particular cause for some widely discussed situation, or (b) try to list the complexities of the situation…and see what happens. Would love to hear your experience! What happens when you single out a possible cause? What happens when you try to include all of the possible causes?

Not sure what to talk about? Try one of these:

Consider autism. Why does it happen and why does it seem to start happening soon after a vaccine? There are known neurotoxins in vaccines…child seems to develop them after being vaccinated…thus it is the fault of companies who make them (and the medical establishment that promote them). See if you can talk about the relationship between the two without getting into an argument. Or you might decide to discuss the fact that autism is higher in subsequently born children if they arrive within one year of their older sibling. (Of course, if this were true then we should be able to document higher autism rates in Catholic families from the previous century!)

Consider the Arizona shooting. Why would someone shoot so many people and have so little disregard for human life? Sounds like the shooter was delusional and probably suffering from paranoid schizophrenia (armchair diagnosis). Try discussing the possible causes of this behavior? Schizophrenia? Over the top political fighting language? Failure of the educational system to get him to treatment?

Consider the Congo. Why is there so much corruption and unrest? African culture? The sad effects of so many decades of European rule and racism? Greed over the countries natural resources?

 

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