Category: Resources

Loving Your Enemies

Many years ago I bought a small pamphlet for $1 with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1957 “Loving Your Enemies” sermon, his 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and his 1967 Riverside Church address, “Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam.” Here are excerpts from his “Loving Your Enemies” sermon:

…we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. … Forgiveness … means … the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. …the evil deed is no longer a mental block impeding a new relationship. … Forgiveness means reconciliation ….

… there is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. … we love our enemies by realizing that they … are not beyond the reach of God’s redemptive love.

…we must not seek to defeat or humiliate the enemy, but to win his friendship and understanding. …

… Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies–or else? The chain reaction of evil–hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars–must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation. ..

To our most bitter opponents we say: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. … We shall meet your physical force with soul force. … be… assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall win you in the process….

As a footnote, in Alabama and Mississippi, today honor both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee. An Alabama bank is taking heat for noting the dual aspect of today as a bank holiday. Mississippi Public Broadcasting gives the strange history of joining the Confederate general alongside the winner of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.

This digital age

The underlying theme for Tuesday’s meeting about how to deal with rapid technological change was this: It’s a great time to be alive! Just as the industrial revolution brought greater complexity, this digital age brings a similar thoroughgoing change, with pluses and minuses of technical specialization. Some jobs disappear while others are created.

My friend Ernie named seven ethical issues for us to consider. Here are two: (1) workers displaced by smart machines; and (2) growing inequality. These require creativity regarding education, work and income. How do we educate for breadth and depth, while adapting to rapid change? How does our system of work adapt when machines generate much of the world’s wealth?

One change I’ve noticed is the increasing number of people in university teaching roles who are Professors of Practice, including Joyce Vance (University of Alabama School of Law), Ben Jealous (University of Pennsylvania School of Communication) and Andrew Weissmann (New York University School of Law).

From Never Forget Our People Were Always Free, by Ben Jealous, 2022

Elders

Our monthly meeting, pre-pandemic, was for lunch and discussion. Now, we meet for 60 minutes via Zoom. Yesterday’s 20 attendees came from Alabama, North Carolina (2), Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas (the home of yesterday’s presenter).

The group began many years ago as an informal gathering of laity and clergy, skewed toward older adults. Yesterday, one attendee was 92, one was 91. We have a strong 80s contingent. We’re living into our somewhat whimsical name, the Elders.

The largest group by vocation is clergy, mostly United Methodists, but yesterday’s group included two Baptists and an Episcopalian. Present were educators, engineers, counselors, a psychiatrist, an attorney, a financial advisor, and a military retiree.

We’re exploring the privilege and challenge of rapid technological change. How can we collaborate from our various disciplines for a healthier, more humane planet? I’ll share more in coming posts. Click the link below for a brief book review.

From a Kirkus Review of The Power of Crisis, by Ian Bremmer, 2022

The more you know…

I think it was my mother, but I can’t be sure. It’s a version of a thought attributed to Aristotle: “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” The version I internalized in my childhood was: “The more you know, the more there is to know.”

Aristotle’s version implies some humility, which is a virtue, but the version I learned opens the Universe to further exploration. It implies that knowledge is cumulative, that one data point leads to perhaps numerous other data points. The Universe is expansive.

Today, I’ll be part of a meeting where my friend Ernie will lead part two of a discussion about recent rapid advances in science and technology, specifically the impact these advances have had on our ability to adapt to changes they’ve brought about.

A few weeks ago another friend, Burton Flanagan, shared with me his book, The White Rose, about a resistance group in Nazi Germany in the 1940s. The group was unknown to me, but on Saturday I read about the group in a Minnesota newspaper article.

The more you know…

From “‘The More You Know’: There’s More to Know,” by Megan Garber, The Atlantic, December 16, 2014

Christian nationalism

Following yesterday’s post about Russian Christian nationalism, it’s appropriate to look at our American experience. The best source I know is Christians Against Christian Nationalism, led by the BJC, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. The BJC’s Amanda Tyler is a strong, clear voice for religious freedom.

Christianity was born as a sometimes persecuted faith in a large (Roman) empire. Emperor Constantine (280-337) embraced Christianity, saw the faith as a way to solidify loyalty and made it the official religion of the empire. The development of European nation-states led to holy wars between Christian nations.

The Founders concluded Article VI of the US Constitution with: “… no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” The First Amendment to the Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof.”

From “Why White Christian Nationalism Isn’t Going Away,” by Samuel Perry and Andrew Whitehead, Time, November 13, 2022

A good life

For 80+ years, Harvard researchers have studied what makes for a good life. One surefire predictor has emerged: developing stronger relationships. The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness will be updated on January 10. Robert Waldinger described the study’s work in a 2016 Ted Talk.

The New York Times has a health and wellness desk known simply as Well, which was inspired by the Harvard study to develop a “Seven Day Happiness Challenge.” Times subscribers can sign-up for seven daily emails (January 2-8). Jancee Dunn, a reporter for the Well desk, described her experience with one of the challenges.

The challenge is to write or tell someone why you’re grateful for them. Dunn wrote to her 4th grade teacher, Roseann Manley to thank her for a note she wrote on Dunn’s report card: “Jancee is a very talented writer, and I think she’s going to be a famous writer someday.” Dunn remembers thinking, “Oh, she sees something in me.” Dunn said the teacher’s affirmation changed the course of her life.

So I tracked Ms. Manley down, all these years later. And I told her how grateful I was. And we’ve now exchanged dozens and dozens of letters. She’s 91, widowed and doesn’t have kids. I call her every Christmas. She sends me letters with puppies and kittens on the stationery. She’s become my substitute grandmother. It’s been a wonderful thing.

From “A Happier New Year,” by Lauren Jackson, The New York Times, January 1, 2023 (photo from Times Square on 12/31/22 by Andres Kudacki/Associated Press)

A new year

Clarence Jordan (pronounced JER den), 1912-1969, biblical scholar and agent of social change, gave us a “Cotton Patch” version of Hebrews 11:1 in the New Testament: Now faith is the turning of dreams into deeds. It is betting your life on the unseen realities.

My 2023 question is: “How can I make a difference?” My 8-syllable 2023 prayer is: Abba-Amma: Lebh Shomea. This is an inclusive version of Jesus’ Aramaic-language name for the Deity (Abba, or “Daddy”), coupled with a Hebrew-language yearning for a “listening heart/mind.” This Aramaic/Hebrew combo is shorter than my “briar patch” English prayer: Father-Mother: Give your servant a listening heart-mind.

I believe this short prayer will help me discover the unfolding answer(s) to my question. May you find how (and where) to turn your 2023 dreams into action.

From “What Did Solomon Pray For?“, by Rick Hamlin, Guideposts (based on the story in 1 Kings 3)

Taking Fox seriously

In the early days, the Fox News Channel declared themselves “fair and balanced.” I still cling to that expectation, even if Fox no longer strives for that goal. I’m not a regular viewer, though sometimes I record Fox to get their take on a news event and I get plenty of exposure through its ubiquitous presence of Fox in fast food restaurants.

A few months ago, while in Tennessee to visit a hospitalized relative, I was eating breakfast at a Comfort Inn. The TV was tuned to Fox. My ideological filter was activated, just as it is when I view MSNBC or CNBC. If “objective” news coverage is no longer a realistic goal, then “fair and balanced” remains a good expectation.

One of my 2023 projects is to become more familiar with Tucker Carlson in case we ever bump into each other at McDonald’s. I would enjoy engaging him about what it means to be a true conservative, my view of which was shaped by William Buckley, George Will, Bill Kristol, David Brooks, Charlie Sykes, et al. I don’t view Carlson, Sean Hannity, Marjorie Taylor Greene or Donald Trump as conservative.

It’s a worthwhile conversation. A good place to start is his book, Ship of Fools.

From “From colonialism to Putin: what did Tucker Carlson defend in 2022?“, by Adam Gabbatt, The Guardian, December 28, 2022

Consider the source

Elise Jordan’s October focus group conversation with Pittsburgh-area voters included an interesting comment by one of the folks about his sources of information. In my final years as a church staff person, I became increasingly aware that conversations with parishioners tended to be heavily shaped by their choice for TV or Internet news.

My two most recent posts (about Joyce Vance) reveals that she is one of several voices that help shape my understanding of current events. Others include Barbara McQuade, Chuck Rosenberg, Neal Katyal, Admiral James Stavridis, Ambassador Richard Haass, Ambassador William Taylor, and Eddie Glaude, Jr., to name a few.

Today, much of our information comes from a plethora of unvetted, sometimes anonymous sources on the Internet, supplied by individuals and organizations, including propaganda from various governments. Who and what are your information sources?

From “Trump voters in focus group say he couldn’t have stopped Jan 6 violence,” by Elise Jordan, Morning Joe, MSNBC, October 24, 2022.

Markers for the Big Picture

The week began with a challenging thought by Brian McLaren in the form of a daily meditation from the Center for Action and Contemplation, “Courage to Ask the Question.” This came out of a 2-hour “Future of Christianity” summit of CAC faculty, with 3,000 online viewers. Excerpts from McLaren’s daily meditation:

Our question that brings us together today is the question of the future of Christianity. 

Avoiding unrealistic optimism or cynical pessimism, McLaren finds hope by viewing Christianity as an ever-evolving movement:

Christianity’s actual history is a story of change and adaptation. We Christians have repeatedly adapted our message, methods, and mission to the contours of our time. What might happen if we understand the core Christian ethos as creative, constructive, and forward-leaning—as an “organizing religion” that challenges all institutions (including its own) to learn, grow, and mature toward a deepening, enduring vision of reconciliation with God, self, neighbor, enemy, and creation?

(See also McLaren’s 2016 book, The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian.)

From the “Future of Christianity” summit of CAC faculty, August 23, 2022, available via YouTube. This link also provides information about CAC. You can subscribe to CAC’s YouTube videos, a treasure of free video resources.