Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Welcome.

(note:  This is the welcome and info article and it does not change.  Scroll on down for the most recent article addition.)

I believe in the power of truth.  I also believe in the power of freedom.  I am neverendingly impressed at how truth sets us free, and how freedom opens us up to the truth.  Though I have some posts that are personal to me, this is my ministry site.  I post articles about all kinds of things that are of interest to me… and I also find great joy in answering, or at trying to answer, or at least discussing, questions.  Feel free to ask them here.

I am still working on these sites, but the best way to navigate this material is either the tabs at the top of the page – these take you to totally different pages with targeted information.  If you are researching me as a personal therapist, click the Counseling/Therapy tab… if you are a man looking for encouragement, ideas and support in life, click on Phalanx… if you are considering me as a speaker, teacher, pastor, or consultant, that information should be available there.

Most of my work hours are spent serving at South Spring Baptist Church. Check out the amazing ministry there.

I am also the lead therapist at the Alethia Counseling Center in Tyler, Texas… and I love the team of Counselors we have here, so…

I want to introduce you to our team of counselors at the offices:

 

You can meet them HERE.

 

If you are interested in scheduling with any of us, call us at 903 561 8955 today!

…If you are more interested in browsing my articles, then your best bet might be the catagories list to the right.  If you are interested in me writing an article on a given topic, you can request it in any comments section… I will try to get to it as soon as I can!

I will continue to post all new articles here as well as on the targeted site, so either option should still give you the chance to find what you are looking for.

Typically, my series, sermons and seminars will be found at:  Talks

Thanks for stopping in… God Bless you and Keep you.

Chris

More Information on my specific Counseling

My style of therapy is generally called “eclectic” which really just means I make use of many different styles and techniques of counseling.  I believe that every human life has intrinsic value, including yours.  No amount of pain, guilt, shame, regret, resentment, anger, depression, depravity, or brokenness can change that.  Every person has a story that is worth hearing, no matter how much hurt, love, purpose, abandonment or normality that life includes or lacks.

A big part of why I believe what I just said is that I am a proclaimed follower of Jesus, The Christ, into Life, death, and Life again.  I think life can often feel a lot like a series of life and death patterns.  I believe it is hopeful to know that those are a parable of the larger Epic story.  I believe in a Creator, and I therefore rationally think the most foundational thing in life is to have a right relationship with our Creator.

It seems reasonable to me that it would be impossible to over-estimate philosophically how important it would be for a created thing to know its creator.  After doing decades of research, of the major views on this problem, only Christianity has been able to offer what I consider the most reasonable answers. So, with that understanding, I am a Christian therapist.

However, as a “style” I am not exclusively what is called a “biblical counselor” nor do I offer counseling only for other Christians. Far from it. I agree with the way I was taught: I expose my faith, but am careful not to impose my faith on my clients. It isn’t always an easy integration, but that is my goal. The main way that my faith and philosophy impact my counseling is in regards to truth. I believe in the power of truth to set us free (John 8:31). I think it is vitally important for everyone to be able to acknowledge the truth about their lives – this point is also made in Orwell’s “1984” when it is noted that true freedom begins with the freedom to speak the truth.

Until we can say what we know is true, we are still bound. I make use of reality therapy techniques, Gestalt work, psychotherapy, Jungian archetypes, personality theory, paradoxical work, REBT, transactional analysis, and virtually anything else I come across that works and fits within what I believe is true.

I believe that each human being is so complex and unique that no one therapeutic theory covers everyone. Generally, I talk to people for about 50 minutes in the session, but the real work comes in the hours of integration in-between sessions. I encourage people to deal with the past and not ignore it – to speak the truth about their past. This is not about living in the past. Understanding, speaking and accepting the truth about our past is a work of the present.

I also encourage people to face the present and future honestly. Reality therapy becomes vital when dealing with the present. I think that many more people could really benefit from counseling than get it. It takes a certain level of emotional health to be able to risk coming in. Coming to counseling the first time can be pretty tough, so I applaud anyone strong enough to do it, especially those who are able to come in before they are in stage 4 sickness… Counseling isn’t meant to last forever, so come in with some specific goals and you and I will work together to identify and deal with those and any others that arise.

Final words for this section: beware of coming in for counseling when it is storming and the roof is leaking, and then quitting when the rain quits rather than when the roof is repaired.

any questions?

Advertisements

Noah and Gilgamesh

Guest Post by Mark Legg

This is a great addition to the series about Christ and ancient myths.  What about how the ancient account of Gilgamesh overlaps with the account of Noah?

Though there are many accounts of a flood that extended back many thousands of years ago, the epic of Gilgamesh is remarkably like the flood narrative of Genesis in many ways. The mention of the flood begins as early as line 7-8 in tablet I. In introducing Gilgamesh, it compares him to people before the flood, and that his in his wisdom he knows many secrets of the world before it. Later, Gilgamesh hears the whole story from Utanapishtim (the Noah character), who possesses eternal life (tablet XI, 10-212). How do the stories differ, and how do they compare? Though the main narrative is similar, many details and the theology behind the story differ.

Utanapishtim’s story infers that the gods attempt to destroy mankind because of overpopulation and that population was also wicked and full of wrongdoers (XI, 185-200). Similarly, we see God’s judgment in the Bible. Genesis 6.1 begins with this sentiment: “When man began to multiply on the face of the land . . .” The text then explains that mankind has grown immoral and wicked (6.5-11). These are cited as reasons for the destruction of mankind in both cases. Also, in both instances the antagonist builds a boat at the command of a god (or the God). Both take the lives of other animals or people (XI, 27 and 6.20). Both come to rest on a mountain (of whose true identity we are unsure of) (144 and 8.4), and both offered sacrifices after arriving safely (160-165 and 8.20). Furthermore, we read a strangely similar detail in the story. To check the safety of the surroundings, they send out birds essentially as scouts (148-160 and 8.6-12). Furthermore, both generally speak of the absolute destruction and the terrible power of the flood.

However, many details differ between the two ancient accounts. The construction and dimensions of the Ark (48-75 and 6.14-22), the length of the flood (it is much shorter in Gilgamesh) (114-150 and 8.1-12)), and many other specifics contrast. More importantly, we see several theological differences. Utanapishtim’s story includes, naturally, multiple gods. All except for two wish to destroy the entire human race. We see the common attribution of gods the ancient times, that they are essentially overgrown people. They cower in fear, their “lips are parched”, and they infight (115-126, 180-200). In the Bible, God sees Noah’s righteousness and decides to save him unilaterally, since He is the only true God. Finally, Utanapishtim receives eternal life on earth (205-211). Though we can assume Noah similarly received eternal life in heaven, the two do differ in that regard (Heb. 11.7).

Though the messages are similar, the difference in deities and details pose a very interesting comparison. The overall stories do overlap in many ways, however. It could easily be theorized that the Babylonian epic drew from the real life events that transpired in Genesis 6-9.

This is an era of when suicide is a part of the cultural conversation again, we need to be prepared to engage with it in a serious way.

The article I linked to above is for parents who kids are watching or who have watched the popular show “13 Reasons” – but in general, I think that the show is not appropriate for any audience.  It glorifies suicide and turns into a hero a teenage girl who is in serious need of help and yet instead chooses to take her own life and communicate it in a vengeful vindictive way.

Suicide is a complicated issue, biblically and psychologically.  I strongly recommend you check out this sermon on suicide I posted a few weeks back.  I think it will be very helpful to anyone.  All of us have thought about it, and all of us know someone who has taken their life… and others who likely will in the future.

However, I think what would be most valuable to many is just simple, practical guidelines for what to do when someone we know threatens suicide.

Anytime someone threatens, even in a veiled way, to commit suicide, we have two options:

  1.  Take it seriously
  2.  Not take it seriously

Typically, based on statistics, it would seem to be perfectly safe to go with #2., right?

Obviously, people threaten or hint at committing suicide all the time without actually doing it. There are many reasons why someone might even threaten without any intention of doing it.

Rarely do otherwise rational people become disconnected enough from reality to go through with suicide. The disconnection may not be what you think, but it is there when someone actually comes to the point of being willing to take his or her own life.

So, let’s examine option #2.  Anyone who can become delusional – who can experience a psychotic break from reality – can do things that are dangerous to themselves and others. They might get in a plane attempt to vanish without warning, or have an affair, commit suicide.  Even in those cases, the chances are low, right?

However, not taking it seriously can leave us with a dead or devastated friend… and we should not be willing to take that risk for a lot of reasons… one of which is that we do not want to carry the burden of our decision to not take them seriously after they are dead.

So, even if our odds of being ok not taking such a threat seriously are kind of good, the cost of being wrong is unacceptable.

Which leaves us option 1.

So, here are my recommendations:

Speak to a friend or family member and make sure she or he knows that if you suspect that they are a danger to themselves, then you are going to contact the police and send them to your friend to check on them and verify that they are safe.

Make the call.

It is also possible to send a family member who lives with them to check on them and keep a watch over them until they are safe. If that is not an option, then the police are the best option.

If the police do not think they are safe, they should take your friend to a hospital.  Your friend needs to know that you will always, without hesitation, contact professionals and police if you suspect that this person is a threat to themselves.  This is in an effort to protect your friend; and an effort to protect yourself from the regret that doing nothing can create.

So, she needs to make sure that if she is going to threaten or hint at suicide, that your love for her and desire for her best will motivate you to take her seriously.

If you are going to take her seriously, you have no choice to contact the professionals and/or get the police involved ASAP.

It is incumbent upon us to communicate this boundary with anyone who threatens or hints at suicide. Make sure they know that this is how you will respond to such things – that you will contact a professional and/or the police.

This kind of boundary will help you know that when the friend speaks of suicide, they are serious, since they know what your response will be. If, by some chance, they use the threat of suicide as a manipulative tool, this will put a stop to it.

If they are serious, you may save their life by refusing to keep their suicidal ideas secret.  If they are serious, then even if they are going to be angry at you for telling, when they are healthy again, they will recognize that you have done what a good friend would do.

If they are not serious about suicide, they probably are serious about getting help or attention or something – and you will have helped them in that way, too.  They will know you are a friend who listens and takes them seriously.

The cure for real suicidal ideation is hope.  People who care can go a long way toward giving us hope.  People who love us even more than they care if we are happy with them right now, give us solid hope. They give us some space to grow.

We all deeply desire to be heard and known.  Giving people, whether seriously suicidal or not, other options for being heard, cared about, valued, is quite a gift.   Help them understand that they are treasure and you can help them live an abundant life as the treasure they are!

Crisis Culture

In our crisis-based nation (we seem to have almost no culture except for the culture of crisis… which, by the way, I assume is the unavoidable consequence of the culture of media that we developed in the last few decades. To paraphrase Frank Peretti , “TV does not reflect the culture nor affect the culture; TV is the culture.”)

Crises allow attention-seeking people to find that attention without earning it. I think this is a major cause of this cultural shift.   My generation, Gen X, was the first generation of Americans to not be drafted into combat and I think combat is probably a consistently trustworthy way to weed out attention-seeking people with a poor sense of identity outside of their role within the current crisis.

These people find purpose in creating problems for other people in their sphere of influence and are in a constant search to prop up their flagging identity by linking their identity to a cause that is in the attention of the public. They experience a sense of fear or even panic as the crisis begins to fade as its few hours or days begin to run short – and the next new end-of-the-world crisis begins to take over.

Add to that the fact that some of these cultural crises have created their own cottage industries and you can see how certain ones keep coming back. Racism is one of these. The entire world as well as the US has a long history of racist thought. Any concept of racial superiority is, and always has been, one of the stupidest thoughts humans have come up with. More has been accomplished in the modern western world to engage with and minimize racist thought than probably ever before in history and anywhere in the world… but it is still one of the culture of crisis’ favorites.

Again, there is still endemic racist thought.  It seems to be a universal experience for my African American friends.  It has to end.  It makes absolutely no sense that any black man would be treated any differently than a white man for no other reason than the color of his skin.  Absurd.

I am always impressed at my own inability to see from the perspective of people different from me – from other cultures, backgrounds, sex, ethnicity, etc. The more that is different about them from me, the less intuitive it is to me to see their way of thinking.

But I don’t think these crisis culture people are motivate by racism positively or negatively. I think they are motivated by likes, thumbs up emojis, clicks, and public attention.

It is the quantity of response they crave, not the quality.

Not everyone is like this who is involved, of course.  But some are, and I hate the thought of being lumped in with them hurts me.

In fact, this seems like a good time to communicate my assumption that I am off base in my understanding in some of this stuff.  I am sure that I have committed some of the same internally scripted thinking that is so tough for almost any of us to completely see.  There is nothing in this article intended to offend people who are sincerely struggling with this, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t!  If I did, I apologize.

Anyway, the attention seekers, and crisis culture addicts?   I see them as more innocent than another group – the baiters.

Hate –  baiting, of which race-baiting is an example, is a deeply evil motivation, and I think there are many in the US who are involved in it.  I want to take just a second to call them out.  I don’t care which side of these issues you are on.  If you are continuing to support and empower the role of racism in our culture, you are a race-baiter. The white supremacists and supremacists of any race are the easily (deservedly) seen to be culpable in this, but in my soul, I fear that much of it is motivated by some people who don’t hate nor really care… but just seek position, power, or election through race baiting. I hope I am wrong, but I think I am not on this one.

Followers of Christ must be different on this.  We are the peacemakers!

I also think I have an answer to the question of “how far do we take this?”  I think the line can be “honor” versus “remember”.

I know I mentioned this already, but I think we need to determine who it is appropriate to honor in our culture and why (big enough step, I know), but at least there are some we are likely to be able to agree on one way or another.  Those on the list who are on the “we know we desire to honor” list, we name things after them, etc.  Those on the “we know we don’t want to ask people to honor” we change the names or move the monuments into museums, where they can be remembered.

Now, who decides how to enforce this?  I think it has to be local governments – the more local the better, but I still think it is a fair way to come at the issue.

All this being said, all of the articles on The Theology of Race (**** link to follow) and this series of articles is really written to my Christian brothers and sisters.  I think the ethics of Christ give us some great guidelines for how to handle crises like this.  Let us not seek after our on interested above others.

May I beg all of us, especially proclaimed Christ followers, as we seek to

  1. humble ourselves,

2. grow up to learning to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4),

3. to live at peace with everyone (to the degree it is up to us),

4. to think about right things, and to

5. consider others more significant than ourselves,

6. to recognize that we are broken too, and we must consider our own motives. If we find ourselves craving those clicks, maybe we need to make no provision for the flesh which yearns for the comfort of such counterfeits of true value and identity, and wait before we respond, so that,“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The Apostle Paul, Romans 12:18 & 21

Christian Ethic #2 for this conversation:

So, what about in 2017? Should we be removing monuments to Confederate Leaders?

Well, there certainly is wisdom in doing so… and then a Christian ethic for doing so.

First, the wisdom – and from what you might consider an unlikely source:

Lexington, VA., August 5, 1869.

Dear Sir–Absence from Lexington has prevented my receiving until to-day your letter of the 26th ult., inclosing an invitation from the Gettysburg Battle-field Memorial Association, to attend a meeting of the officers engaged in that battle at Gettysburg, for the purpose of marking upon the ground by enduring memorials of granite the positions and movements of the armies on the field. My engagements will not permit me to be present. I believe if there, I could not add anything material to the information existing on the subject. I think it wiser, moreover, not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.

Very respectfully, Your obedient servant,
R. E. Lee.

Obviously, I cannot know the heart of the long-dead General.  Why did he prefer that there not be monuments for the American Civil War?

Was he ashamed of defeat? Did he somewhat regret his role in the Civil War (as I was raised to believe)? I don’t know. However, his advice, at least in this case, was to “commit to oblivion the feelings engendered”.   Whose feelings was he concerned about? I am not sure, but I think everyone’s. Who is hurting? Who is wounded?

“Let us remove the unnecessary reminders of those wounds.”   Maybe he had really come to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth the pain it caused anyone anymore.

This concern for the feelings of others brings about the second Christian Ethic, also found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (2:3-8)

Paul tells us that looking after others as though they were more significant than us, is the very mind of Christ, and thus should be followed.   Paul fleshes this out in Romans 14 further. If what I am doing, even if my motivation for doing it isn’t wrong, unnecessarily offends a sincere brother or sister in Christ, it should be a relatively easy call for someone who has already committed to death for the sake of Christ!

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:7-8)

If I am committed to dying to myself, then if a sincere brother asks me to stand alongside of him while we remove a monument to a part of history that he is asked to honor (by sending his children to a school named after someone who fought to defend a state’s rights to own people, for example), then even if I like that monument, it should be an easy call!

And, honestly, it is for me.

There is an African American pastor here in Tyler who is also a school principal. I have sat under his teaching numerous times. He is an excellent Bible teacher. I don’t know him as well as I should, but I certainly think of him as a friend, brother-in-Christ and a fellow worker and warrior. If Steven asked me (and he hasn’t, yet) to stand with him in an effort to change the name of a school in our district or to remove a statue that his congregation found offensive, I would happily do so.

He has faced racism in ways that caused me to shake with anger.

God knows that I would love to confront a group of White Supremacists about my reasons… especially one that claims to be a Christian organization (like the pathetic modern KKK apparently does). Please let me debate one of them on a stage. (If any of you are reading this, please learn some Hermeneutical techniques!)

But what if a Civil War re-enactment group wanted to use our facilities to practice? Should I refuse them – or at least those dressed in Confederate garb? What if I know them personally and I know they are not racists? I am sure someone would be offended by a yes or no answer. Maybe part of the Christian ethic would be to ask a wise, sincere member Christ-following representative of that group who might be unnecessarily offended and get their wisdom, too.

This stuff gets hard quickly. At least we have the Christian ethic of loving one another, dying to self, and looking first after the interest of others. It doesn’t make things less complicated, but it does mean there is a way to engage with these questions with grace and strength.

So, if this is the ethic, then it should be easy to make this call, right? I stand with all African American brothers and sisters and who want the statues down, right? Well, yes. However, how do I do it with the same consideration of the brothers and sisters who see these monuments as important to them?

As much as it is the American way to allow people to speak freely, even if the speaker is an ignorant hate monger. There is no freedom of speech if only inoffensive speech is protected.

Much moreso, it is the Christian ethic that if we only love lovable people, there is nothing special about following Jesus with His radical ethic of loving the “unlovable”.

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same?” Luke 6:32-33

For more on this ethic, see also: Matt 5:43-48 Luke 6:27-32, Romans 5:8, I John 4:19.

There is another part of this mental exercise that I promised to comment on before I was done. This is primarily what makes it so hard to jump in on either side. People who I know well enough to discern that their motivation for being vocal about this immediate issue is toxic. They are motivated by a disease that is perhaps the main pollutant of current American culture. I referenced it in my opening remarks many pieces of this article ago when I referenced that it must be Screwtape’s dream come true (a reference to CS Lewis’ brilliant and somewhat terrifying (at the deep level, not the jump scare level) book “Screwtape Letters”.

Some of you might have noticed that earlier, I used the phrase “a sincere brother or sister in Christ.” I wonder if that raised any eyebrows.

I don’t just mean someone who sincerely feels something.   By definition, “sincerity” (as well as “authenticity” “genuine-ness” etc.) means “the same over time or under pressure”, right?

Well, then, feelings, though perhaps honestly what someone feels at the moment, cannot really be thought of as sincere, since they are so vulnerable to change.

(As I have considered making a more vocal statement about supporting

and even agreeing with the decision to move Confederate monuments, etc. into private collections or even museums – maybe even a whole new type of “monument museums” that could engage in the complexity of the conversation – I continue to see people, often the front people, engaged and I know them well enough to know that I don’t want to be lumped in with them.  Let them become part of history rather than to have places of honor.

To ask someone to remember something is appropriate for many different reasons, some of which have be enunciated here.  To remember is wise (ask about Holocaust museums, for example).  To ask

someone to honor someone who they believe was wrong is very different thing and is often wrong.)

But when it comes to drawing attention to my own opinions, especially without explaining them, I don’t want people to assume the same motives on me that they are probably rightly assuming on these other people. This brings me to my last rant in this rant-heavy article:

The Crisis Culture and our response (****)

Here is a historical and human truth:  Essentially every human being has aspects of their lives that are noble (did you know that Hitler was an aspiring artist?) and aspects of their lives that were distressing (Did you know that George Washington was a slave owner?). This is according to the Christian understanding that though we are all created in the image of God, we all also have “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). No person ever lived a life as a human without willful sin except Jesus Christ Himself.

About every significant historical person and event, there seems to be the deification movement and the demonization movement (we are a Borderline culture, after all – again, as I promised, more about that before we are done).   I keep running into this every time I study an event or person.

The Alamo was a Thermopylae-like, multi-day defensive struggle by heroic and able men devoted to death in order to give the Texian army time to develop, or they were a band of misfits who surrendered at the first sign of their own blood, only to be summarily executed by Santa Anna.

I have read both versions presented as facts.

Christopher Columbus was a Godly man, given a vision, by his dying father, of an entire land of people without the hope of Jesus Christ… and he then dedicated himself to finding a passage for King (whichever king would back him), Country (whichever country would back him) in search of wealth and mission, or he was a sexually counter-cultural creature of vile tastes who sought only to steal, kill and destroy in an utterly self-serving goal to use whoever it took to grasp for what he desired.

Both of these have been specified within my hearing.

So, which Christian doctrines or scriptural ethics can help guide a believer when it comes to cultural shifts, especially sudden ones, like we have seen recently in the US regarding the removal of monuments and memorials that honor Confederate leaders from the American Civil War?

Christian Ethic #1 for this conversation:

First off, I have thought of a bunch of Christian ethics – meekness, mutual submission, following leaders, being peacemakers – and some of these are wrapped up in the ones I chose.

But, I intentionally chose the ones that I am using with my kids to talk about these issues.

I think one, which can be used to walk our children through these crises (in addition to the Romans 3:23 above) can be found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (4:8)

It seems that a valuable use of time for the Christian might be to actually study the people at the center of the controversy and look for what might be “commendable” or “worthy of praise.”

It is an overly simplistic mindset to relegate someone to the “bad man” position and then walk away, and it steals from us the most important role of history and historical people from us – the ability to learn from them.

At least in my family, I want us to understand that there were noble traits even about people where were on the wrong side of history… even about ignorant and evil people! This allows us to see the evil in ourselves.

Trying to understand how intelligent people allowed themselves to be on the wrong side of history – to be clearly wrong, is valuable! How did a liberally minded, practical philosopher like Ben Franklin think it was ok to own slaves? How did a character driven moralist like Dr. King (according to some reports) justify being unfaithful to his wife? It allows us to ask:

“What, in my personal life… What, in my culture, our culture, will be viewed as backwards, barbaric and/or evil 150 years from now? Are we so prideful as to think as they did? They used and abused even Holy scripture to justify their arrogance and sin.

I bet we do too.

But how will we see it unless we learn humility?

This is among the most important Christian ethic. If we are Christ followers, we are always under the assumption that we still need to be working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12); and keeping our hand to the plow and eyes forward (Luke 9:62)… and humbling ourselves under God’s mighty Hand! (I Peter 5:6).

The error and arrogance of our forefathers, all of our forefathers, is fertile ground for growing humility.

Next:  Christian Ethic #2

… (read part 1 if you haven’t yet) And, in the continued research, I discovered that there are dozens of various statues and monuments to the man, especially in South Carolina. Schools, streets, and a city are named for him. Because of his military prowess, a ship was named after him in WWII.

I want to give an insider explanation about one aspect of this argument – Civil War Monuments are not there to celebrate American History. They are there to celebrate Confederate History and Confederate leaders – notice that there are very few Confederate leader monuments north of the Mason-Dixon line.

At this point, I am still not offering my opinion as to the rightness or wrongness of these existing, but I wanted to clarify that the argument that this is about “American” history is not necessarily true.

The Civil War was certainly part of our history, but these monuments are there to celebrate the Confederacy and her leadership, not the US and hers – and typically in competition with the other.

These were people who declared themselves independent from their federal government and tried to establish what they thought was a more perfect union that the Union at that time. They fought for State’s Rights; sadly, the main State’s Right they were fighting to defend was racial slavery – The “right” (shudder to use that word here) to own another human being as property. How could any reasoning human being have ever thought that was ok? I don’t know…

Side note – I do think that the nearest equivalent we have today is abortion. For mostly financial reasons, we determine that one human being is not worthy to have life, liberty, etc. It is an industry built around something morally wicked that we are not willing to expel because of what it would cost us individually and culturally…

But most cultures in history have thought slavery (and killing children) was acceptable at some point. We aren’t talking about the most common biblical kind of slavery – what we would call indentured servitude – largely the choice of the servant.

This is what is known as Southern Antebellum (meaning “before the war”) Slavery, and it was almost exclusively racial.   The culture of the South before the Civil War was almost entirely dependent on slavery.

Wade Hampton, for example, found that it was nearly impossible to turn a profit on his farms without free labor.

For those who do not know first hand, “Southern,” is a thing, and it’s not all or even primarily about racism.  “Southern” exists independent of racism.

Southern heritage is a real thing… and, like every other aspect of history, not an all good nor all bad thing. There is Southern cuisine, southern style, and southern art. There are certainly Southern courtesies and ethics. As an insider, I will tell you that the role of racism in “southern” anything has lost a lot of ground in the last few generations (and I assume consistently since the evil of Antebellum Racial Slavery was ended).

Even in the deep South, in a white-only situation, I rarely hear any kind of racially offensive humor or openly racist remarks… and I would admit it if the opposite were true – because it was when I was younger.

As a teenager, racially charged jokes were still common when there were only white kids around. Few of those kids probably had any serious racist sentiment in their hearts, but they thought they could get a laugh with a joke about a different race. However, even that has become very rare. I honestly cannot remember the last time I heard someone tell such a joke or use a slang term for any other race than Caucasians, not counting media.

How awful, ironic and hypocritical that Southern Hospitality is a thing. It really still is.  Driving across the country, I can begin to feel the sense of being welcomed and wanted – and engaged with by everyone from the gas station attendant to anyone you ask for help… I love that aspect of the South.  I think hospitality is a pure gold and is a beautiful thing!

But, what if my African American friends don’t experience that?  That is a hateful tragedy.  I am realizing now that some aspects of Southern Hospitality haven’t been for everyone.  I hate that.

Do you feel unwanted and unwelcome?  I pray that is by a tiny minority of people – I would pray that anyone of any race or color attending my church would experience extreme levels of hospitality.

The highest level of injustice would be that I experience that Southern hospitality every bit as much from black people as white people!

I know there are plenty of people who have every reason to expect a sense of hatred and dismissal when they engage with white people, though.  I have some friends good enough to tell me about their experiences with openly, unashamed racist people.  Apparently essentially every African American has experiences of this kind. It so infuriates me that it helps me understand the levels of anger felt by those who experience it… God knows racists of this breed are real and truly intentional racist behavior is a reality still… but I have never it seen as an adult in front of me.

I have never heard anyone brag about committing such an act.   But they certainly happen. They should never happen. That level of hatred and dismissal of another human is un-defendable.

What I do still hear regularly is “unintentional” racism. Things are said or done that reveal an ethno-centric tendency. It is HARD for us to see outside of our own instinctive ways of understanding things. (People ask all kinds of ridiculous questions about our adopted children – they don’t intend to be offensive , and they may even intend to be encouraging or seeking understanding).

Example – a common response I am hearing from those around me about re-naming our local “Robert E Lee” High School is “It doesn’t matter to me what we call it – it just isn’t a big deal…”

Notice that the person is making the effort to be conciliatory, but are still ethno-centric.  Their attitude may seem right and might be at the personal level, but sounds like it implies that the issue can be ignored or dismissed as “not a big deal.”

Perhaps to them, at the personal level, it isn’t a big deal, but it may be a very big deal to someone whose history doesn’t include a “grand Civil War General”, but a slave of that General.

They may not be at all dismissing the argument, but if an issue is a big deal to you, then it can easily feel dismissive.  See how that is unintentional ethno-centism?

I hope everyone can be patient and graceful with “well-meaning” human frailties in which even when the spirit is willing, the habit, ignorance, blindness, flesh is weak.

So, with all of that in mind… we are to the actual topic, I think.

Do we rename our schools? Do we take down the monuments?  Change the name of streets?

I think there was a day in which that answer was “no”. We were a literate enough and complicated enough culture to have the conversation in a healthy way and less likely to unnecessarily offend.

We (I admit that I am not sure who “we” is in this sentence. It seems that writings from the past and debates, like the debates about the Declaring of Independence or even slavery, indicate that people used to be able to have deep, complex, respectful conversations and even disagreements about things. But, were those all educated, well-off white people I am referring to? Did things like slavery give them the hours to do that instead of work? Even this is complex) could talk about the way people are complex. This isn’t new. One of the things I love about the Bible, for example, is that almost anyone who gets any press at all has at least a part of their lives revealed as dark, sinful, and reprehensible!

Abraham’s family all had a serious issue with dishonesty. They had a nasty tendency to lie their way out of problems, or at least to attempt to do so.

Many of the patriarchs were idol worshipers for at least some part of their lives; they could be unreasonable, easily misdirected and worse!

Of course, famously, King David managed to break pretty much all of the Ten Commandments in just a few months.

In the New Testament, the disciples were clueless at the best of times and deniers at the worst.

It is part of how we can know these were real people who behaved like real people and whose lives were complex – like real people.

People are complex? Read more (**** link to come)

I think that it might seem strange for me to publish the articles series that I started yesterday about Confederate Monuments without commenting on the protests. Those were scheduled a few weeks ago to publish at this time, and I was concerned that something new would be at the forefront by the time they posted(welcome to our media culture)… and I was right.  So, I am trying to apply some thoughts and hopefully increase some awareness about the current NFL – centered protest movement.

Some of those principles will apply here for sure, too, so this is an overall

I take no personal issue when people protest something; that is for sure… No matter what they protest and how they do it. What and how someone protests is about them, not me.

However, I sure appreciate some things about some protests more than others.

  1. I sure appreciate when the protest is non-violent and is unlikely to cause damage to people’s lives.
  2. I appreciate when those protesting are extremely clear about what they are protesting.
  3. I also understand that a protest has to make people uncomfortable and must draw attention to itself or it might as well not happen. This is something that people who are uncomfortable with a protest need to keep in mind.   Protests are meant to cost you something so that you sit up and pay attention!

For example, we are about to celebrate the 500th anniversary of one of the most important protests of all times – the Protestor Reformation (aka Protestant Reformation) … in itself, it was non-violent (though many of the responses to it weren’t).

It was super clear – at least at the beginning. Luther posted the exact issues that he was wanting to reform.

So, I also am not very troubled by the current NFL protests, but based on what I listed as what I appreciate, I have some ideas that I think would help us all in regards to it.

  1. It is nonviolent and is unlikely to cause actual damage to anyone. I appreciate that. It is likely to cost owners and the NFL billions in lost revenue, but those are private individuals and they will have to decide how to handle it.

Playing football is a job and a privilege – not a right. It is certainly legal for the players to protest and it would be legal for the league to enforce its own rules if it wants to, or for owners to implement their own rights as owners.

If an owner decides that the protests are hurting his/her business too much and decides to forbid the protests, or create consequences for them, that is appropriate too. If one of Alethia’s counselors decided to protest in a way that cost us clients, I would be sound in my decision to remove them from my team. I am not impacting their freedom of speech – they can still protest, if legal. They just cannot protest as a member of my team of counselors.

That brings up an issue that is worth mentioning:

Freedom of anything doesn’t mean the freedom from any consequences for practicing that freedom! If you are going to practice your freedom of speech, others will practice their freedom of speech in disagreement. How absurd to practice freedom of speech and then ask (or force) everyone to stay silent in response to your protest! A protest is meant to be an invitation to join the conversation or the conflict in a new way.

So, if you are going to protest, then of course you will get pushback and conflict… again, that is the nature of a protest. Remember how you want to make people uncomfortable or cost them something? So, to complain about what people SAY about you in your protest is pretty silly.

However, protests can be about moral issues that transcend even issues of legality. If you are willing to break the law in order to protest, then consequences can go beyond just words. Depending on how serious you are about your protest, you may need to be prepared to die for it.

  1. My main concern with the current protest is that I think the protesters are not being very clear about what exactly they are protesting and that is leading to a lot of confusion and unnecessary anger.

I know this essentially started with an individual, but I don’t know that he is or was in any way, a spokesperson

for a protest movement.  Spokespersons are

powerful agents of clarity.

A quick glance online says that the current protest is against #1 police brutality, #2 Donald Trump, #3 social and racial injustice, #4 the treatment of black Americans, #5 the flag and the nation it represents, #6 the anthem itself and the man who wrote it… and that it isn’t a protest at all, but a show of unity. And that is from only 5 websites!

I can see that some of those are similar, but I think a more effective protest would be clearer as to what they want to accomplish. I think that lack of clarity of message is what has created distraction from the value of the protest.  It has led some people to think that the protest is about the military, or NFL leadership or just a hatred for America.

I cannot support anything that dishonors the work of soldiers or professional responders as a group, so I need to know what I am responding to and at the beginning of the article, I didn’t know. Here is a prediction: some people will respond to this article as to what “the real reason” people knelt this last Sunday at the games… but they won’t agree as to what that was.

So, what if I sympathize with #3 & 4 above, but not #5 & 6? Should I support the protest or resist it?

If more people knew that kneeling was meant to model a soldier kneeling next to a wounded comrade (see article below), then kneeling as a response to the anthem might not seem as offensive to American Patriots.

For example, it was intriguing to learn that the reason Kaepernick (the recent-first to sit in protest during the anthem) switched from sitting on the bench to kneeling was because of a conversation with a soldier/NFL player (Nate Boyer).   Did you know about that?  I sure didn’t until starting to research for this article.  They decided that sitting was rude to soldiers but kneeling was a statement of support for soldiers but not support for the country that oppresses people (this is paraphrase, but very true to the original statements I found, see article below)…

It seems that they imagined the kneeling being similar to a soldier kneeling by a fallen or injured comrade.

This is what I mean about having a clear message, and/or a clear spokesperson.  I think if people understood the motive and message of the kneeling (if that is accurate), there would be MUCH less (unnecessary) offense taken.

Most of us are not willing to support anything that comes across as insulting to our military.  My opinion is that we should find ways to avoid that… and anything that seems to insult the Anthem is often connected to them.   Anytime insult to the military could be inferred, a protest must tread lightly and clearly (have I said that yet?)

I would love if there were a way for this protest movement to distance itself from even seeming insulting to our military men and women.  I think it could do that with even just a clear explanation for WHY they are kneeling (rather than other things).  It might be better done at another time during the platform that athletes have in the US in order to avoid that connection if it isn’t intended (and apparently it isn’t.)

Anyway, I think that point is made.

I agree that there are still systemic and unashamed racial issues that can be improved upon – even though things are and have been improving.  So, we need to experience some discomfort in order to be reminded of the need to change (ask any of us therapists).  Ask any African American man and he will have accounts of facing it… and it must stop!  

Please, God.

So, I appreciate the attention to the general issue, while I offer the feedback above to make it more valuable for the target audience.

As Christians, we come from a protest movement as Jesus Christ came to fulfill a covenant and usher in a new one. 

This is the good news.  Jesus came to save us from so much, and thinking we are somehow more special than anyone else is one of those things.  Our need for a savior unites us in ways that nothing else divisive can compare.  Christians, let us not be so distracted by whether we agree with the way someone protests during a sporting event or a national anthem.  Look past our own discomfort to their hurt… AND defend the appreciation of those who put their lives on the line for us, too.  Peacemakers can do that.

This was a helpful article for some of this (obviously, I looked at a handful of others, but I am uncomfortable linking to them for various reasons): http://elitedaily.com/news/politics/actually-nfl-players-protesting-national-anthem/2080704/)