Archive for category Say Something Nice

In Unkind Culture, Is There Still Something Nice to Say? ethicsdaily.com

I helped launch the Say Something Nice Day movement 13 years ago.

Never in my wildest imagination did I think that the greatest barriers to our success would become a president of the United States and evangelical Christians who support his coarse way of communicating and his behavior.

I remember when President Bill Clinton was skewered for his sexual exploits and Vice President Joe Biden was roundly condemned for his foul language.

I remember when the Republican Party campaigned vigorously as the party of family values.

I remember when the Southern Baptist Convention apologized to the African-American community for its racial discrimination in the past, promising a new day of race relations.

Those days have faded.

The pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Robert Jeffress, says that the president’s sexual behaviors will not keep him from supporting the president. “Evangelicals knew that they were not electing an altar boy,” Jeffress said.

Franklin Graham, son of the famed evangelist, says that Trump is God’s chosen: “God put him in the White House for a reason.”

Henry McMaster, the Republican governor of South Carolina, said that the students who protested in support of the Parkland, Florida, high school students were a disgraceful tool of the left wing.

Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Center, says that evangelicals have given the president a mulligan on the Stormy Daniels adventure.

I have searched the Bible from cover to cover and I can’t locate either 1 Mulligan or 2 Mulligan. I must have been asleep when my pastor preached from that text.

I was wide awake when my pastor preached on forgiveness, but President Trump said that he has done nothing for which he needs to seek forgiveness.

Perhaps Peter was misquoted. “How many mulligans should I give, seven times seven?”

On the president’s language, Franklin Graham said, “He is a businessman. That is just the way he talks.”

Growing up, when I talked as the president so often does, I got my mouth washed out with Octagon soap. Dad did not give me a mulligan. Maybe he was asleep that Sunday also.

After all of the crudeness and meanness in the public square today, is there still something nice to say? Yes.

Amy Butler, pastor of Riverside Church in New York, is planning a conference on God and guns for pastors and church leaders.

Former president Jimmy Carter is still leading a brave movement for the inclusion of women in church leadership.

High school students are still exercising their right to protest peaceably. A second-grade teacher in Oklahoma, Haley Curfman, encourages creativity by allowing her students to write kind things on her white dress.

Pope Francis continues his pleas for mercy and forgiveness. Mayor Tom Tait of Anaheim, California, campaigned on a platform of kindness.

Large sections of our society have become mean and disrespectful of others, but those of us who cling to the teachings of Jesus are faced with a great challenge: How do we persevere when so much of our opposition is in the church and so much of the meanness is coming from the pulpit?

We turn to Jesus for the answer. Most of his opposition when he was on earth came from the church of his day. Most of his criticism was directed at the religious leaders of his time.

In spite of the opposition, he stuck to his message of love and forgiveness. He never deviated from that message. From the cross, he pleaded, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

The message of Easter is that when he arose from the grave, he returned to those people who killed him. He never gave up on them or us. He hasn’t given up. Neither should we.

June 1 is Say Something Nice Day. June 3 is Say Something Nice Sunday. These are tangible opportunities to model constructive conversations and to infuse some positive rhetoric into the public discourse.

Keep on keeping on. Go about doing good. Say something nice to everyone you meet.

 

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If character is ‘irrelevant’ in politics, eventually the Church will be, too

Russ DeanI do not even know where to begin.

Life has always been confusing, and there have never been easy answers, but we live in a very bewildering time. Is it my imagination, or has it gotten worse? The confusion seems just recently to have magnified pretty dramatically.

No one trusts facts anymore. And what is truth?

The conservative Christian influences of my younger years used to disdain the danger of “liberal relativism.” But what “truth” could be more relativistic than what we are now hearing from some evangelical pulpits?

As reported by Baptist News Global, Robert Jeffress from the First Baptist Church of Dallas, recently pronounced that having an affair with a porn star is “completely irrelevant” to evangelicals. Jeffress believes forgiveness is between the sinner and God, “for anyone who asks.” The sinner in question, of course, has publicly and proudly admitted to never in his life having asked God’s forgiveness, for anything. But maybe that’s irrelevant, too.

I trust the reporter, I know the source, and I’ve never appreciated the accusations of “fake news,” but when I read this I thought, “This has got to be fake news. It just cannot be.”

For my entire adult life evangelicals have unwaveringly inveighed against the personal immorality of political candidates (not wrongly, though maybe a bit too piously at times). Character has always mattered, significantly. Today, suddenly, it is “completely irrelevant.”

According to Jeffress, apparently personal morality and integrity are no longer the measure of Christian character. Personal morality is now irrelevant as long as you toe the party line regarding national policy on abortion rights and as long as you threaten to rain down all-consuming “fire and fury” on our enemies.

You know, just like Jesus said.

In this age of bitter polarization and angry divisiveness, maybe critical words, words that challenge someone else’s point of view only fuel the unhealthy animosity so many of us are experiencing. I worry about being the one to offer those words. I sincerely do not want to be part of the problem.

But can the Church really afford to allow such breathless hypocrisy to define Christian ethics and spirituality? Can we tolerate such an example to be the model of “Christianity” for the wider culture? Or could it be that people are running from the Church today in droves because we have allowed exactly this?

To be sure, navigating our political system will always present a challenge, especially for voters of faith. There’s the law, and there’s the “higher law” — and then there’s that thorny concept of the separation of church and state. Making voting decisions difficult for all is the fact that there is no perfect candidate (and no perfect voter either!). No candidate will perfectly mirror a voter’s views, issue by issue, point by point, and given the complexity of our democracy, based largely on the “either/or” of a two-party system, voters — maybe especially religious voters — will sometimes have to settle. Choosing a candidate might come down to choosing an issue or issues, being willing to compromise on other concerns …

… but never compromising our own, core values in the process.

The primary job of a leader is to lead — and no one leads without first setting the example. In leading by example, character and integrity are essential. Jesus said you will know a tree by the fruit it produces. Conservatives used to say this was Truth.

I believe it still is.

In a recent sermon about gun violence I told my congregation that I am not “anti-gun.” I said this because … I am not anti-gun! I am, however, anti-foolish — and I believe what we are doing, and all that we are not doing proves our utter foolishness with every tragic, often preventable, killing. Likewise, I am neither anti-conservative nor anti-evangelical. I am, however, anti-… well, anti-whatever-this-is. I just have no idea what to call it.

I have never seen anything like it. I do not even know where to begin. Character doesn’t matter. How do we even talk about truth?

It is a confusing time, but one thing is crystal clear to me: if committing an adulterous affair with a porn star, if that kind of morality and that kind of character is “completely irrelevant” to a Church that has always said exactly the opposite, there is another thing that will be “completely irrelevant” to today’s culture — and that is, sadly, the Church.

*Russ Dean is co-pastor of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. A native of Clinton, S.C., and a graduate of Furman University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he earned a D.Min. degree from Beeson Divinity School. He and his wife, Amy, have been in church ministry for 30 years, and they have served as co-pastors of Park Road since 2000. He is active in social justice ministries and interfaith dialogue, and when he isn’t writing sermons or posts for Baptist News Global you’ll find Russ in his shed doing wood working, playing jazz music, slalom or barefoot water skiing, hiking and camping, or watching his two teenage boys on the baseball field.

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Follow Me at mitchcarnell.com

All good things must end. From now on I will only post at mitchcarnell.com. I want to Christian Civility Screenshotthank all of you wonderful people who contributed to this blog. You made it so much better and your work was a real joy for me to read. I also thank all of you wonderful readers. Without you, there would have been no reason to write other than I enjoy it. There will be a Christian Civility Section.

My son, Michael, will make the new set-up happen. He is a whiz at this stuff and operates MichaelCarnell.com. You might know his online publication, Just British. It has all the bells and whistles. I am really indebted to him. You will be also.

Happy New Year!

Why gratitude may be the best gift under the tree this year – Jeff Brumley

If you’re reading this story on the new laptop or tablet or phone you just got for Christmas, be thankful.

But don’t forget also to be grateful, which, many spiritual leaders say, is not necessarily the same thing.

“We are taught repeatedly to be grateful when we have material gain, so it should come as no surprise that we wake up one day thinking people with more material possessions are more grateful,” said Joshua Hearne, abbot and director of Grace and Main Fellowship, an intentional Christian community devoted to hospitality, prayer and grassroots community development in Danville, Va.

“Our culture has taught us that gratitude is a bland cheerfulness that is all too often connected with financial security,” he said.

Rather, gratitude is a spiritual practice that, like other disciplines, requires daily attention. And its focus is on a growing awareness and experience of grace that may or may not be inspired by material blessings.

“In our experience, gratitude multiplies,” said Hearne, who serves as field personnel for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Those who cultivate gratitude, he added, “will not only be grateful for the thing itself, but they’ll be grateful for their own gratitude.”

Scarlette Jasper has seen that phenomenon firsthand.

Jasper is director of Olive Branch Ministries, which serves the homeless population, working poor and those experiencing medical crises, financial devastation and domestic violence in a 10-county area around Somerset, Ky.

The holidays always add a level of financial and emotional stress for most of the clients her ministry serves. It’s especially tough when children are involved.

“I had one call me last week saying the kids are asking ‘are we getting a tree?’” said Jasper, who also serves as CBF field personnel.

Likewise, there are more calls for help providing gifts and food.

“You just see the need increase,” she said.

But the gratitude also increases — even among the poorest people Jasper encounters.

Scarlette Jasper

“The families I work for are grateful for … the littlest things I do to brighten their day.”

It’s especially true for those struggling through medical challenges. People sitting with very ill or dying loved ones seem to be able to pull from a deep well of thanks for even the tiniest of moments of togetherness.

“They don’t have huge expectations,” Jasper said. “They are just appreciative … for the time they have together.”

Hearne said it isn’t necessary to feel sorry for people facing such challenges at Christmas. Doing so reveals a disturbing theology.

“This time of year it’s common to talk about how blessed we are and how sorry we feel for those who are doing without, assuming that material wealth is a mark of God’s favor or the value of a person,” he said.

Those who simultaneously experience poverty and gratitude, likewise, are not doing so despite their circumstances, Hearne said.

“It has little to do with their poverty. They just choose to practice gratitude.”

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