When is the label Conservative Christian an oxymoron?

April 17, 2015

I had a “like” recently on one of my posts from someone who self-identified as a “Conservative Christian”. The label intrigued me enough to go see what that meant. Apparently, at least for this individual, that meant that he was free to call himself a Christian while behaving in an intolerant, bigoted and self-righteous manner. There is unfortunately quite a bit of that sort of behavior from people who self-identify as Conservatives. I would probably self-describe as fiscally conservative but moderate on social issues. I suspect that the issue is those who self-identify using the word conservative before Christian have inadvertently also identified their problem – they have subjugated their Christian beliefs to their conservative beliefs.

It used to be that the “Conservative” label was reserved primarily for people who were very careful (some might say tight) about money issues. Then the label was also taken on by people who were concerned about the size of government and government interventions into their daily lives. Then the “so-called moral majority” decided that being a “Conservative” is about being like them – people who shared their beliefs about “others” – people who were not like them. Since most of these self-righteous people also self-identify as Christians, they became Conservative Christians – those who share “our family values” and condemn “those” who don’t share the exact same values, those who aren’t like us. They have put their conservative beliefs ahead of what should be their Christian beliefs.

So, I went to this Conservative Christian’s blog site and discovered to no great surprise that he expends a great deal of energy and time on blog posts that rage against the sins of those who are not like him.  As might have been expected he has concocted an elaborate defense of his position by scouring the Bible for passages that supposedly support his narrow and definitely exclusive view of the teachings and intent of the words of Jesus. He builds a huge case against anyone who would dare not be like him; yet, in the end, it is not convincing because it would have the reader believe that Jesus came only to save those who were like this man – people who were, in his eyes, without the sins of being different (at least to his way of thinking). Somehow I missed that side of Jesus and his message in my readings of the same Bible.

I found it telling, when reading about this person’s background (he posted it so it must be true) that he is estranged from his church – a church in which at one time he was an ordained minister – because it moved away from his conservative beliefs and embraced the changes and the people of the modern world around us today.  It really doesn’t matter which of the modern day issues caused the alienation of this man from his church; the fact is that he has been unable to see the inclusive message of Christ in today’s world and had chosen to isolate himself in a cocoon of hate and intolerance, all the while trying to claim the cloak of being a Christian. There was no room for that attitude in his church and there is really no room for it under the label of Christianity; however, we Christians are forgiving and welcoming for those who see the light, who repent and want back under the tent. So, pray for this man. He has joined the sheep that have wandered away from the Shepard and we need to help him find his way back into the grace and peace that comes with being a true Christian.

We have room under the tent for people who are fiscally conservative in their lives, even for those who rail against big government in our lives; but for those who try to use their religious beliefs as a way to discriminate against those who are “not like them”, there is no room. Get it together. Get right with Jesus. Get your priorities right and get back under the tent.  The label Conservative Christian has no place trying to justify bigotry, intolerance and self-righteousness.  Go back to the Bible that you like to use so freely to justify your position and read about the people that Jesus associated with so often – the unclean, the outcasts and the people who were “not like us.” Perhaps being a Conservative Christian is more like being one of the Biblical Pharoses; and, remember, that they missed the boat. So turn it around and be a Christian who is conservative. I can live with that.

So, am I saying that you have to embrace the lifestyle of those whom you do not understand, who are not like you? No, but if you want to continue to include the word Christian in how you describe yourself and what are supposed to be your values in life, you need to do a serious reset towards tolerance and understanding and acceptance of people who are not like you. Show love to all of your fellow men. Don’t let your personal hang-ups, ignorance or foibles take you away from what should be your anchor beliefs. Jesus did not say that the greatest commandment was to “Love God with all your heart and love some of your neighbors who are like you”. Get your head around that. It’s not that hard and it’s not about your personal beliefs. The ability to show love, compassion and understanding to those who are “not like you” is perhaps the most Christian thing that you could do.

Let us all pray for those wandering in the wilderness of hate and prejudice. You are welcome back under the tent if you will only embrace the true teachings of the one for whom the tent was built.

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Know the facts, but accept the Truth…

April 14, 2015

“The truth is more important than the facts.”  (Frank Lloyd Wright) – as seen in a post on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I must admit to initially being nonplussed at this little quote. My initial confusion grew a bit when I researched the two key words – facts and truth –

Fact – (from the Merriam Webster Dictionary site)

: something that truly exists or happens : something that has actual existence

: a true piece of information

Truth – (from the same source)

a  (1) :  the state of being the case :  fact (2) :  the body of real things, events, and facts :  actuality (3) often capitalized :  a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality

b :  a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true <truths of thermodynamics>

c :  the body of true statements and propositions

d :  the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality

It took me a while to discern the key differences in those definitions, especially since each definition uses the other term within the explanations of their meaning. So, the big difference that I finally realized  is that facts exist as free-standing entities and truths, while perhaps based upon some facts, exist as beliefs.

My next revelation (I’m a bit slow sometimes) was me finally understanding why Wright might have said this and why Jack (the ex-pastor at my church) might have found it to be so appropriate for his blog. It boils down to the facts that support the existence of a man named Jesus, who lived over 2000 years ago, was from Nazareth and went about preaching and performing miracles, and who died on a cross was buried and then disappeared from the tomb. There are enough recorded stories from a great variety of sources at the time to establish those facts. And then there is the Truth. There are also recorded eye witness reports of the risen Jesus appearing to a great many people after his “death” and before ascending into Heaven.

As I said in an earlier post, any prosecuting attorney always likes to have some facts, like a fingerprint on the weapon or a DNA test from the crime scene; however, they also love to have eye witness testimony from someone who was there and saw what went on. It is that testimony that cements the truth about what happened in the minds of the jury. We have that testimony from witness after witness in a recording of the events called the Bible and other historic document of the time. We can establish the Truth based upon those eye witness accounts – He is risen!

Why is that Truth so important? Because it established the fact that death can be defeated; that death is not the end. If you had to point to one overriding concern (worry, anxiety, fear, call it what you will) that drives men’s search for faith, it is the burning question, “What happens when I die?” It is egotistical and self-serving; but, no one wants to believe that the end of our existence is the death of the body here on earth. All sorts of facts point to the Truth that one man defeated death and has shown us all the way to join Him after our lives here are over. There may not be enough facts for the skeptics to embrace this Truth; but, I would ask them what they have to offer as an alternative? As for me, I have decided to believe the Truth and not worry so much about the facts. The Truth is more important than the facts.

Have a great week ahead. The Truth is out there.


Listen to the stories of our own Main Street Brat – Mary Lou Gharrity

April 13, 2015

The Milford Historical Society presents Mary Lou and Main Street – Our Thursday April 16th General Meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Milford Methodist Church at 1200 Atlantic St and it will be a Potluck. Pot Luck assignments are as follows: A—F– Salad or Side Dish G—Q Main Dish R—Z— Desserts.

The Guest Speaker that night will be our own Mary Lou Gharrity (shown below on the left with Marlene Gomez, our recently Mary Lou and MArleneretired Museum Director). This is a Meeting you will want to attend for sure. Come listen to the stories of the Main Street Brat! Mary Lou grew up in Yea Olde Hotel on Main street and has decades of Milford stories to share.

The Milford Historical Society holds general membership meeting every other month, with guest speakers talking about topics of historical interest from the area and from Michigan. Past speakers have talked about topics like the founding of Detroit and the early settlers who migrated out to found Towns and Villages like Milford, about the impact of the railroads on the small towns that they passed through, about the work of the CCC during the Great Depressing and the CCC camps that were set up in Michigan, about the Vernors soft drink company and about being in the Nazi concentration camps (from a concentration camp survivor).

This months speaker is lifelong Milford resident Mary Lou Gharrity, who spent at least a part of her childhood living in Yea Olde Hotel, Milford’s downtown hotel, which her parents ran. Later she and her husband owned and ran the Milford Times. Mary Lou, as much as anyone can represents a living history of Milford, and her stories of the old days are fascinating. we hope that you will join us.

The Milford Historical Society was founded in 1973 by a group of citizens who recognized the importance of the heritage of their community and wished to share it with their contemporaries and preserve it for those who will follow. To these ends, the members have established a museum, a research and archives room, and have sponsored, in conjunction with the Milford Township Library and the State of Michigan Library, the microfilming of the Milford Times newspaper beginning with the first issue in 1871. The Society is currently involved with a project in conjunction with Central Michigan University’s Clarke History Library to convert that microfilm library into a searchable, on-line database.

The Milford Historical Society is chartered as a 501c3 Non-Profit organization and as such is eligible to accept tax-deductible contributions. The Society supports the Milford Historical Museum at 124 E. Commerce St (one block east of Main St) and all of its projects from membership donations and fund raising efforts and received no outside support. The Society’s continuing projects include an annual home tour, various research projects and an effort toward local architectural preservation. Through it’s own Sesquicentennial Committee, the Society published a book titled TEN MINUTES AHEAD OF THE REST OF THE WORLD – A History of Milford as another step towards preserving and disseminating the history of Milford, Michigan. For more on the Milford Historical Society, visit our Web site – www.milfordhisoty.org.


You can’t walk the walk; but, do more than just talk the talk…

April 10, 2015

“There’s a simple trick for getting along with all kinds of people.  You climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  (Atticus Finch)  – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write – The Civil Rights Movement was stirred by more than the marches.  The novel, “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” also played a role.  Do you recall that the character Atticus from that book and movie helped his children see civil rights in a new way?

man in big shoesThere is another well-known saying – “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”

While I agree with the underlying sentiment of both expressions, the reality is that none of us has the ability to truly put ourselves in someone else’s skin or shoes, so that we experience things from the same perspective. There have been attempts by whites in the past to understand the perspective of African-American, the first reportedly by journalist Ray Sprigle. In 1948 (from WikiPedia), Sprigle disguised himself as a black man and wrote a series of articles under the title, “I Was a Negro in the South for 30 Days“, which was published in many newspapers. In 1961 journalist John Howard Griffin published Black Like Me, a nonfiction book which describes his six-week experience travelling on Greyhound buses (occasionally hitchhiking) throughout the racially segregated states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia passing as a black man. Griffin kept a journal  of his experiences which became the material for the book and later the film. Griffin was a white native of Dallas, Texas and underwent treatments under a doctor’s supervision that turned his skin dark. His book was turned into a 1961 movie starring James Whitmore.

Both Sprigle and Griffin reported quite a bit of harassment over their articles and the book’s assessment of racism in exclusionAmerica at that time. One can perhaps make the leap through time to see that today we have greatly expanded the categories of people who are stereotyped and discriminated against in our society. African-Americans have been joined by other identifiable racial or ethnic groups who have migrated to American and who are “profiled” to use a modern term by the white segment of our society and many would say by the police and other authorities. Add to that list the whole GLBT category of people whose appearance may blend in, but who fail the “WHAT” test for the so-called moral majority. There is no way to get some Doctor to help you disguise yourself in enough ways such that you could, “climb into his skin and walk around in it” for each of these groups.

So, we really can’t put ourselves into the skin or shoes of another person. Most of us can’t truly understand what it’s like to be judged by what you are or what you look like rather than who you are. The people who make those judgments seldom take the time to get to know who you are, since they have already formed an opinion of you based upon what you are or what you look like. It is also interesting that those very groups who are being discriminated against many times develop stereotypes about their tormentors, which they then indiscriminately apply to all who share a similar appearance. not like meAfrican-Americans, many with more than enough reason from personal experiences; often have “white bread” stereotypes that they use as a broad-brush for all Caucasians that they encounter.  The GLBT community likely has some strong stereotypes about the “straight” community, as well. Unfortunately, all too many of the traits of these caricatures are based in observed behavior by all of the groups involved. We tend to hold onto the worst case scenarios that we observe and let the good that was also there fade in our memories.

The strength of those dueling stereotypes can make the establishment of true lines of communications difficult. Fortunately most of the groups have one thing in common that is both powerful and useful for getting passed the barriers that separate – faith. None of the stereotyped groups is shunned because they are atheists. In fact, many have very strong religious beliefs that were born out of the need for God’s help to get through the hardships of the discrimination.opinionated Some of the most virulent haters may thump their Bibles and claim that those they hate are Godless  or that “Their God” condemns the behavior that they don’t approve of; having put aside the most basic Commandment of all to love one another as they love their God. Pray for them for they have truly lost their way.

So, it is not surprising that often the churches that these groups belong to and the church leaders are often at the forefront of the efforts to promote understanding and acceptance between the groups. It is hard to continue turning the other cheek when you have been slapped upside both sides of your head, Tased and perhaps shot. It is hard to stay positive and motivated to work within “the system”, when the system has denied you the basic marital rights that you deserve. It is hard not to get angry when you are stopped and search every time you try to fly somewhere just because of where you or your parents came to America from. Put yourself in those shoes and you won’t be able to walk a mile before you are stopped and questioned about why you are walking through “their neighborhood”. You should, it will be pointed out, “go back to where you belong.” For all of these reasons, it is critical that the churches keep delivering the messages of forgiveness and love for your fellow men; and that they keep reaching out, no matter how many times their hand is rejected.

The church leaders who are preaching against hate and discrimination and for tolerance and love are just trying to show us all the way back to the core beliefs of our Faiths. There are more than a few examples in the Bible of Jesus and theWWJD Disciples reaching out to people who were not “like us”, not Jews; and even a few descriptions of Him going into their homes to share meals. Eventually, those who were ”not like us” became the majority of the believers, because they accepted the message of the Good News.

I have a feeling that our goal may not have to be to get all the way to understanding everything about the people in any of these groups; but, rather, to get rid of the hate that comes along with the stereotypes that we have adopted about them. I could walk 10 miles in the shoes of Snoop Dog and still not understand some of the stuff that he says or where he’s coming from; but, maybe I should stop worrying about that and focus instead in accepting him as a fellow man. I may never understand the attraction between two men (or two women) for each other, but I do understand the concept of the love that they can share and that’s enough for me.  To use a famous phrase from someone who had every right not to be in the mood to say them, “can’t we all just get along?”


Show someone that you care…

April 9, 2015

“People want to know how much you care before they care how much you know.”  (James F. Hind) – I’m relatively sure that this little gem came to me from the Jack’s Winning Words blog some time ago.

I’ve written here before about being a good listener – https://normsmilfordblog.com/2015/03/27/listen-up-people/. Listening is just one indication that you care about the person that you are with and what they have to say. Going beyond just listening and engaging them in a meaningful conversation is another indication.

Some would have you believe that exchanging a quick hug or an air-kiss is an indication of caring about the other person, but in many cases it’s just a perfunctory gesture with little real meaning or emotions behind it. Many people are so
opinionatedfocused upon what they have to say, thinking it to be the most important thing going on at the time, that they miss more than half of the communications exchange that was happening – the non-verbal, body-language parts. Their “let me show you how smart I am” approach to conversations quickly turns off listeners who might have their own opinions on the topic but who need to be drawn out to express those opinions. The know-it-all will wander off wondering why their remarks didn’t resonate better with the silent partner in the conversation; never realizing that their delivery itself showed that they really didn’t care to hear the opinions of others.

So, what can you do to show that you care? Maybe you can begin by focusing not upon what your next statement will be, but what your next question should be. Show the other person that you were interested enough in what they had to say to want to delve into it further and by doing so that you want to understand them and their point of view better. If you cancaring start your next remarks with Why or What or How; you stand a much better chance of both showing that you care and learning more about that person.

Another way to show that you care is by doing rather than just talking. Jump in and help them with something. Volunteer to take a part of the load that they are bearing or the task that they are performing. The old saw that “actions speak louder than words” is true and nothing shows more care than helping. Sometimes there’s nothing that you can do and the best way to show that you care is just to be empathetic and/or sympathetic. People whom you meet who are grieving a loss need that sort of support and care from you.

Sometimes the best way to show that you care is to help the other person find their way back to whatever Faith they have. Many events can take a person to the edge of the abyss and obscure the path back from the edge in darkness. There is lifes stormsno stronger light that can be used to cut through that darkness than Faith. If through your caring touch and conversation you can help them rekindle that light of their faith, you will be helping them on the journey back from the darkness of the depression that has led them to the edge. Show them that you care and remind them that God cares and help them see that nothing is impossible with His help. Perhaps you have a personal experience that you can share with them to help reinforce that message. Show that you care by sharing it with them. I think that you will find that you are as touched and reinforced by that sharing as they are and both of you will be the better for it.

So, what can you do today to show people that you care? Is there someone who has been trying to tell you something; but, you were too busy showing them how smart you are? Are their people talking at you whom you are not really caregiver handshearing? Take some time to listen. Take some time to ask questions. Take some time to get to really know those people and share their points of view. It will be time well spent. Let someone know that you care today.


They can’t take that away from you…

April 8, 2015

My real estate career often crosses the paths of elderly people, either alone or perhaps still as a couple. In many cases I get involved at the point in their lives where they have made the decision to move into an assisted living environment and need to sell their family home. old cooupleSometimes that is solely their decision and sometimes at the advice and urging of their children. In any case there is usually great anxiety caused by this move.  For some there is concern about a loss of control and privacy and dignity.

My advice to them is to accept that they are a time in their lives where they must relinquish some control of things that they are really not able to control for themselves any longer. Even the sharpest of minds eventually finds that it is trapped in a body that no longer is capable of doing its bidding. Things begin to fail, whether it is eyesight or hearing or strength and flexibility. I have found that latter part to be particularly true in my visits to the gym. At 71, I no longer have the flexibility or range of motion to do certain thingscaregiver and exercises that I could easily do in past years.  There is also an inherent loss of privacy that goes along with some of the physical help that may be needed. It is impossible to remain private while someone bathes you. Your dignity, however, is something you you can maintain and something that only you can choose to lose; they can’t take that away from you.

What is dignity?

The dictionary puts it this way –

dig·ni·ty

ˈdiɡnədē/

noun

– the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.

Usage – “a man of dignity and unbending principle”

– a sense of pride in oneself; self-respect.

Usage – “it was beneath his dignity to shout”

synonyms: self-respect, pride, self-esteem, self-worth

Usage – “he had lost his dignity”

So your dignity is all inside you; it’s all about you and how you comport yourself. Can you still have dignity while someone is performing very person care functions for you? Of course you can. No one can take that away from you. Does anyone think that Stephen Hawking is not a man of great dignity, just because his physical body cannot sustain him by itself? Do people think he is not a man worthy of honor and respect; a man of great pride and self-esteem, based upon the great things that he has accomplished in the world of astrophysics? So why would someone think you to be less dignified just because you may need assistance in some of your daily routine? There is no shame in needing assistance and it’s only you who shames yourself and takes away your dignity. Only you can make that decision to become less dignified; they can’t take that away from you.

Grace is a trait that is often associated with the word dignity. My favorite definition for grace, especially as used in this context is – a controlled, polite, and pleasant way of behaving. It is often used in sentences such as, “he was a man of great dignity and grace.” When you meet someone with dignity and grace it is an enjoyable happenstance. If dignity is an internal state of a person, then grace is its external manifestation and they can’t take that away from you.

The anxieties and fears of taking those first steps into a new stage in life are normal. How well you deal with them may helping old ladywell depend on how well you maintain your dignity and the gracefulness with which you deal with the new world around you. One really positive way to look at this change and turn it around to your favor is to realize that you no longer have to expend so much time and energy (both decreasing commodities at this stage) just trying to do the day-to-day things of life that have become so hard for you. You have help, now, with those things; so, you can turn more of your attention and energy onto the things that still interest you and those things that you can still do. You still have your dignity and they can’t take that away from you.

Maybe you’ll have more time to enjoy a hobby or watch a ball game or read. If you’re still with your life mate, you have increased time to appreciate one another’s company and companionship, without having to shift the burden of your infirmities onto them or onto family. Perhaps you’ll even find time to write and start your own blog. Thesunday walk great thing is that you have stories that no one else can tell, because no one else had the same experiences that you’ve had. Writing down your thoughts and sharing your story will reinforce your pride and self-worth and increase your self-esteem – it adds to your dignity and they can’t take that away from you.

It’s not the end when you have to go into assisted living; it’s just the start of the next chapter of your life. Make it the best chapter yet. Do it with dignity and grace. Be the one at the facility that everyone else there (staff and other residents) enjoys seeing and getting to know. Find out their stories, too. Exchanging stories of things that only people of similar age have been through is a great way to make friends and preserve memories. Taking a positive and upbeat approach to life as it is at this stage is the most dignified thing that you can do; and no matter what; they can’t take that away from you.


Don give up, get help…

April 7, 2015

Re-posted from the Jack’s Winning Words blog –

“When faced with a mountain, I will not quit! I will keep on striving until I climb over, find a pass through, tunnel underneath – or simply stay and turn the mountain into a gold mine, with God’s help!”  (Robert Schuller)  There was a time in my ministry when I faced a problem that did not seem to have an answer.  Schuller’s words led me to think about a new solution…and I found one.  Are you looking for an answer?  With God’s help, it’ll come.  Don’t give up!    😉  Jack 

Jack’s post makes a silent point that clearly illustrates one of man’s failings – his inability some times to admit that he gloomy guycannot solve a problem or find an answer by himself and must turn to God instead. I have posted here before about one of the turning points in my life, which was during a particularly tough time in which I could not see a way out, an answer to the situation that I found myself in. Having laid awake too many nights trying to figure things out myself, I finally took to heart a little phrase that my pastor had used in a sermon – “not my will, but Thy will be done.”

Once I put myself in that frame of mind, my troubles started to melt away. Once I accepted that I could not control things; that no matter how hard I tried I would not be able to find and answer by myself; I was able to let go of much of the anxiety and worry that had been depressing me. As is usually the case, I had let my imagination take flight and it had conjured up disastrous scenario after scenario, none of which everdissapointed lady occurred, but which consumed my thoughts and drained my energy. Once I off-loaded those thoughts and put my trust back in God’s hands, I was better able to cope with what did happen and preserve through the rough patch with an eye to the future. With God’s help I could see a future again.

Some may say that turning to God for help or proceeding on faith alone is a cop-out or ignoring the problem. I would reply that our little brains, no matter how well developed don’t always have the capacity to figure out every problem and that, indeed, there are problems for which there are no solutions, just acceptance and coping. Look at Schuller’s words again. He gives all sorts of good advice on alternatives to try to solve the problem of the mountain (a metaphor for a big problem, I’m sure), but it is the pushing uphillfirst three words of the second to last sentence that contains the real advice – “With God’s help”. So, like Schuler put it, Don’t give up – just get help, from God.

What mountains are you facing today, this week, in your life? Are you ready to ask for help? God has operators standing by to take your call.