I worry about my son

I worry about my son, should he ever go to Florida or any place where someone may misunderstand what he is doing and kill him. I worry about my son, to even bring him into this world where we are still so torn up about subjects of race and personal appearance.

I worry about my son, who may yet not be able to act in the same way as his friends and neighbors without putting his own life at greater risk. I worry about my son, for in my hope to bring about a family that crosses racial divides he may not yet find his way to adulthood and to the fulfillment of his dreams.

Let me tell you this, I do not currently have a son or any child. However, it has been my hope to be a father and to share with that child the same love I have found from my God, my family and my community.

Nevertheless, when children are followed and killed for looking suspicious I worry about how suspicious my child may look when he walks down the street at night. I worry about my own inability to explain to him what it means to be a man with dark skin since my own skin is so light.

No one, no child nor adult, should have to act differently because of the color of his or her skin. No one should have someone with a gun following him or her down the street after stopping by the store for a snack.

I have been so pleased, for the most part, of how society has accepted my marriage to a bi-racial woman. I had been thinking that the U.S. society has come so far in countering racism.

Unfortunately, it only takes one incident to remind us that there is much further to go before we will truly know that “there is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free” (Galatians 3:28).

I want my child to live. I want him to enjoy life. And, I want him to feel free to walk home alone from the store so that he, too, may grow up one day to experience the hope and joy of fatherhood.

 

MLK's dream may take awhile.

It’s Time for a Multi-Party State

House Speaker John Boehner

House Speaker John Boehner (Photo: Andy Wiltrout. Some rights reserved.)

Alright! I have avoided much overtly political conversation on this blog to date, but the Federal government’s inability to work out a debt deal is driving me crazy. It is time for the different factions in Congress to split into their own parties. This is not to say that they cannot form coalitions to elect house-wide leadership or to pass bills. However, we need to free up the leadership and each parties’ membership to state their true alliances.

The main divide we see right now is between the House Speaker John Boehner-led Republican old guard and those most often cited as being backed by the Tea Party. It is time for the Tea Party to formally become a political party with its own members of Congress. This would make the lines between each group much more clear so that the various groups may focus on what is really important to them and their constituents.

Of course the real question here is whether the Tea Party is more powerful working through the Republican Party or separate from it. Boehner and the Republican old guard have the most to lose from a formal split with Tea Party backers. They would either have to give more power to the Tea Party in order to maintain a coalition or switch to working more closely with the Democrats. Even without a formal split, that’s what seems to be happening. Boehner’s trying to figure out whether he and the Republican Party have more to lose by bending more to Tea Party supporters or toward Democratic members. Republicans gained control of the House because of Tea Party support, but at least some Democrats are needed to get a deal into law.

I have been in support of a multi-party system for many years. I would love to see more choices throughout the political spectrum. I am tired of a one-on-one party fight, and now I’m tired of an internal party fight. Let’s break into a multi-party system, coming together where we have agreement and finding other partners when we don’t. The people of the United States deserve to know where their political leadership truly stands.

Why Are There Less Married Households?

Wedding couple with child

Are more people having kids before marriage? (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

The Census Bureau, as reported by the New York Times, shows that for the first time most households in the United States do not contain any married couples. I am disappointed, but not surprised by these numbers. Society has done little to support and advocate for marriage. Indeed, most states deny marriage to a portion of their population. However, that is by no means the only factor we need to address in order to build back up the number of married families in the United States.

The New York Times article says that women with only a high school diploma are less likely to marry the fathers of their children than in the past. The Census does not give us reasons for this; however, the Times suggests economic instability as a factor. If that is the case, one way to increase the number of marriages is to provide stable employment for those without college degrees. I encourage our government to do more to strengthen this segment of the job market.

The Times also says that most people in the United States still will be married at some point in their lives. However, people marry later and many do not stay married. The economic stability issue would certainly help here as well, as would a greater emphasis on understanding marital vows both before and during a marriage.

It is possible that some people marry later so that they have more time to understand what it means to be married. That is a good thing. Even so, I think society should also look at the value of getting married before having children or even before sexual relations. The latter may be the hardest part to argue for in today’s society, but it is such a wonderful thing to keep the sexual relationship solely within the bonds of the holy commitment of marriage.

This report from the Times leaves me with more questions than answers. I would love to see more of the actual data, though data will only get us so far. I am curious which states have seen growth in the number of married households. What are the factors that lead toward growth there? I hope the government, business community, churches and other parts of civil society will step up to strengthen married households and promote the meaning and benefits of marriage. Not everyone should get married, but we can do more to build stronger families and thus stronger communities.

Palm Sunday: Marching is Not the End of the Story

Civil Rights March on WashingtonThis morning as I heard the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, I could not help but think of an historical march on Washington. Both moments were exciting times for those who participated in them. The people thought that victory was surely within their grasp. However, both the story of Christ and the story of the civil rights march have yet to be completed.

Christ was in pain when he entered Jerusalem on the fateful day. He knew what lay ahead of him. Surely he would have loved it if the march on Jerusalem signified a turning to God, but Christ knew it would not be enough. Similarly, Martin Luther King, Jr., surely would have loved for his march on Washington to signify an end to racism. However, he knew the journey was not over and that he “may not get there” with us.

Martin Luther King is not God as Jesus is, but King gave his life in service to Christ. Both died so that others may live in freedom. However, the story is still not over. Even though the people of Christ are now leaders of many nations, we still see pain and suffering throughout the world and within predominately Christian societies. Even though a black man is now President of the United States, racism continues to be present in this country, even within the government that he leads.

The journey is not over. We must remember the sacrifices that Christ and Martin Luther King made for us. We must continue to strive for holy peace and the end of all prejudice and injustice. The march on Jerusalem was not the end of the story, but neither is Christ’s death and resurrection. I know I need to find a way to bring about truly Christ’s, and King’s, beloved community. How about you?

Are We to Judge Each Other or to Judge Ourselves?

Who is to judge what is in one's heart?

Perhaps one of the toughest callings that Scripture asks of us is not to judge. We need only to read Matthew 7 to hear this proclamation. However this morning as I read an article about the Reverend Ted Haggard’s return to ministry, I find myself trying to figure out the intents and purposes of both Haggard and his critics. I have to remind myself that it is God whom we are ultimately under the judgment of. I don’t know what is in the hearts of Haggard or the other church leaders keeping an eye on this case. It is also not my responsibility to find out.

What is my responsibility is to look at my own life and to deal with my own failings in living the life God has called me to live. I must remove the log in my own eye because it is making it harder to see my own troubles and sins.

When I do come in conflict with a loved one or neighbor, I need to acknowledge my own faults. I cannot move forward in our relationship if I try to hide or defend my own failures. Thus, I need to open myself up to those I have sinned against and ask for their forgiveness.

Seeking forgiveness is more important than going to worship. Scripture says if you are in conflict with another leave your offering and go and reconcile before presenting that offering at the altar (Matthew 5:23-25). God wants us in right relationship with each other so that we can be in right relationship with Christ. Thus, it is important that we clean up our own lives and let God be the judge of others.

Churches Should Support the Newly Married

Wedding Couple

Marriage is just the beginning.

Marriage ministry should not be limited to premarital and divorce counseling. The church needs to support couples as they stumble together through years of marriage following the wedding day. Surely a stronger relationship between spouses based on faith will reduce, if not eliminate, the likelihood of divorce.

Soon I’ll be celebrating my fourth wedding anniversary. I am looking forward to it and the 44+ anniversaries we will have after this. However, I know like any couple who does not live in a fantasy world that marriage is not easy. It would have been nice to have had one or more other couples not related to us to talk with, particularly during the first couple years of marriage. Surely there would have been value in relationships with either long-time married couples or those who were married around the same time. The time could have been used for gaining wisdom from many trials spent together or for mutual support from peers at the same point in the partnership journey.

In any case, the church is a wonderful place to provide support. It grows right out of premarital counseling programs and continues after the couple returns from the honeymoon. Some churches do have programs for new couples. Interpreter Magazine highlighted some of these in its May-June issue. I am excited about them. Such support will help the new couples continue their relationship with the church in the years between marriage and when they bring their kids to be baptized. It can also be an extension of the ministry to young adults, though many new couples are no longer young adults. My wife and I were in our 30s when we got married, and many other couples we know were older.

The wedding ceremony is a valuable service of worship when held in the local church. It should not be the churches only connection to marriage. We ask in the wedding service for God to be present in the marriage, so the church should continue its relationship with the couple afterward to strengthen the couple’s connection with God and each other. Please share in the comments what your church is doing to support those who are recently married.

Have a Drink, Let’s Talk Religion

Spiritual conversations over a drink are actually becoming more common these days. They just might help a younger audience think religion is cool.

I drank my first beer while discussing the religious life of Kenya. (Ah, I miss a Tusker baridi.) However, as a United Methodist with family connections to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, I cannot help but think about the limits we need to place on alcohol use.

Scripture is full of statements saying how drunkenness leads to many problems (Proverbs 20:1; Isaiah 5:11-15; 28:7). However, it also shows the value of wine during weddings and religious ceremonies (John 2; Luke 22:15-18). But even if I don’t drink to excess, I agree with Paul that if my partaking of something leads another into sin, I would rather abstain (1 Corinthians 8). Thus, I don’t drink much in public and support the policies of many United Methodist churches and agencies to prohibit alcohol use in their events.

Even so, I want to reach out to those who may think such blanket prohibitions are reasons to stay away. If having a conversation about faith at the bar can bring someone into a life with Christ, I want to be there. After all, this may be a way to help someone move away from being drunk on a drink and instead be intoxicated by the Spirit (Isaiah 29:9). Praise God!