Archive for category Christian Civility

Tearing Others Down is Easy; Say Something Nice Instead

By Mitch Carnell Nay 30, 2019 -Ethicsdaily.com

Every one of these privileged students wrote from a negative viewpoint. One or two did contrast positive speech and negative speech. The verbal abuse these young people have already experienced is heartbreaking.

Parents, teachers and coaches should be about the business of inspiring these students as opposed to tearing them down.

I know how hard it can be to always say the right thing. My grown son has made me painfully aware of the times when I failed to make the right remark.

When he cleaned his room as a child and waited for my approval, I tried to be honest and yet encouraging. “You’re getting there. It’s looking better.”

What he heard was so different. “You failed. It’s not good enough. You’re so messy.”

I never uttered one of those statements, but those are the ones he heard.

Forty-five years later, those words are still there and no matter how sorry I am or how much I try to explain, they are still in his nervous system and color our relationship.

I am proud of my son and all that he has accomplished in spite of my poorly chosen words.

How many other words did I say with good intentions but that hurt instead?

I carry deep within me words that were spoken to me with good intentions 75 years ago. I can still recite them.

When I let my guard down, they surface and contribute to a feeling of worthlessness – of never being good enough. My father confided to me things that were said to him years earlier that, even at his advanced age, still carried a barb. Words once spoken never die.

He did not know how to pay a compliment even when he was very pleased with some event or success.

Norman Vincent Peale is one of my heroes; however, he was ridiculed as being “religious light.”

His successor, Arthur Caliandro, became a friend, but this remarkable man was painted with the same negative brush.

When we first celebrated Say Something Nice Sunday (the first Sunday in June), the editor of the Florida Baptist newsletter wrote a front-page editorial referring to it as “Gospel Free Sunday.”

According to him, we were watering down the gospel. Does his Bible not record that Jesus said, “You are the light of the world?”

In her recent book, “Call It Grace,” Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, recounts in painful detail the verbal abuse she received from her mother.

This brilliant theologian still carries those wounds into one of the most respected religious positions in the world.

In contrast, she received uplifting words of encouragement from her famous father, but he could not erase what had been done.

Unfortunately, I know how to verbally slice you up, and I am good at it. I was a member of a successful debate team in college and taught debate as a faculty member.

I am sorry to say I have used those skills all too often. I am trying to get as good in demonstrating and teaching a better, more productive way of communicating. It isn’t easy.

Being positive is a challenge. Being negative is easy. People expect and accept negative criticism, but they are suspicious of positive comments. They are silently asking, “What does he want?”

As this year’s “Say Something Nice Day” approaches (June 2), I hope you’ll think back to those people who encouraged you. Think of those who said the right things. Think of the verbal gifts they gave you.

Then, bring their remarks into the present. Speak them aloud. Use these images to replace those of people who put you down and belittled your efforts.

There is wonderful Scripture that supports this practice: “From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely and all that is worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8)

Mitch Carnell

Mitch Carnell is a member of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina. He is the author of “Our Father: Discovering Family.” His writings can also be found at MitchCarnell.com.

Tags: , , ,

Women as Pastoral Leaders Render a Different Vision of God

Tags: , , ,

Whose ‘principles of faith’ are being manifested on Trump’s watch?

 

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney declared at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast this week that faith drives the Trump administration’s policy proposals, arguing that “the principles of our faith (are) being manifest” under the president’s watch. My shock threshold is high, but I reeled when I read Mulvaney’s remarks. As a Christian and a theologian, I believe the torrent of hateful words, brinkmanship executive orders, racist dog whistles, sexist behavior, malignant deceit and national idolatry are uneasily linked with anything we might call Christian.

Yet President Donald J. Trump’s popularity with evangelical Christians persists, and to their delight, he consistently says things out loud that they think but – with a few notable Baptist pastors among the exceptions – are too self-protective to say.

“When Trump mused that he could not remember ever asking forgiveness for anything, he basically forfeited any claim to Christian identity.”

Last month, Pew Research Center found that Trump had a 69 percent approval rating among white evangelical Protestants, compared to around 40 percent among all Americans. This is astonishing. Indeed, the willingness of Trump’s base to overlook the absence of a moral compass, much less Christian values and practice, only seems to grow with each passing month. With Trump’s judicial appointments and a flurry of policy changes and legislative proposals, moral traditionalists see their ends-justifies-the-means long game coming into view. For this, they will put up with reckless leadership that cares little for an authentic Christian theological vision for life.

In one sense, I concur with Mulvaney’s statement. The “principles of faith” that drive the Trump administration and its Republican sycophants in Congress are, indeed, manifest. But the principles on my list are different.

One clear principle is xenophobia, fearing and reviling the stranger, which is a stark contradiction of a prominent biblical theme. Welcoming the stranger is a way of remembering God’s providence in the life of an insignificant people; it is also a way of being enriched by holy presence. A corollary principle regularly manifested is racism, as we witnessed when Trump referred to nations where persons of color predominate with an epithet.

Immigration policies reflect both of these principles. Honoring every person as created after God’s likeness, bearing the image of God, is absent from the insulting rhetoric employed and actions taken.

Egregious in its impact, another principle is protecting the rich at the expense of the poor. The Bible’s prophetic literature and the ministry and teachings of Jesus accent justice for the poor and warn of judgment upon the rich who will be “sent away empty.” Current tax law is a windfall for those who least need it. The widows and orphans of our day are ground underfoot in wage disparity, lack of educational privilege and shrinking access to varied health and social services.

“Perhaps the most glaring of the principles I find to be antithetical to Christian theology is the arrogation of power to one individual.”

Similarly, the attempts to marginalize sexual minorities are growing. LGBTQ rights are in the cross-hairs, and for the foreseeable future case after case will wind its way through the appellate system on the way to the Supreme Court. A conservative majority will be predisposed to beat back recent gains as this central issue draws untoward attention in the current culture war. Clearly the New Testament makes space in the reign of God for non-traditional expressions of human sexuality, as the story of the Ethiopian eunuch attests.

Incessant saber-rattling and projected military growth ignore the biblical admonition to “be at peace with all, so far as it depends upon you” (Romans 12:18). Threats to bomb nations into oblivion go far beyond national security; these bellicose words are more about presidential swagger. Even the attempts at negotiation with other nations are so full of ego that every encounter is a win-lose drama rather than a genuine pursuit of common ground. Further, the “America first” quest arises from a distorted doctrine of exceptionalism, which includes claiming divine preference for national interests.

Policies that roll back environmental protection also defy God’s directive to humanity to care for this creation as God’s own representatives. Demonstrating an incomprehensible, dismissive attitude toward the consensus of climate scientists worldwide and the dire warnings from the United Nations and other international bodies – namely, that environmental disaster looms unless radical action is taken in the next two decades – this administration is accelerating its support of destructive practices. The unwillingness to curtail pollution of the atmosphere, to participate in global environmental accords or to prevent rampant oil and gas drilling and fracking, are having a deleterious effect. These profligate actions are tantamount to humanizing the eschaton, i.e., bringing about the destruction of the earth.

Perhaps the most glaring of the principles I find to be antithetical to Christian theology is the arrogation of power to one individual. While in humility Christ Jesus gave power away, the current president presumes to be the final arbiter on most matters of governance in our system of democracy. With Caesar-like imperiousness, this administration claims a kind of sovereignty that eschews bowing the knee to any higher authority.

When Trump mused that he could not remember ever asking forgiveness for anything, he basically forfeited any claim to Christian identity. The very heart of authentic faith is knowing the gap between what God’s righteousness calls us to do and what we actually do. Forgiveness is that shattering experience that acknowledges our sinfulness and the grace of God that draws us near.

Mercy, justice and humility are the marks of authentic Christianity. I see none of these in the principles of faith by which the president of the United States operates. Indeed, the only thing worse than the failure or refusal of people of faith to see this reality is to remain silent.

*Rev.Dr. Molly Marshall spoke twice at the Hamrick Lectureship at First Baptist Church of Charleston. She is a congregation favorite.

 

 

Tags: , , ,

Resurrection

President Macron of France has committed to restoring Notre Dame Cathedral in five years. That may or may not be possible. Either way it demonstrates a belief in the possibility of resurrection. This terrible fire coming at the start of holy week is a vivid illustration that resurrection is always possible.

Carol and I were two of the 13,000,000 tourists who visited the cathedral in 2002. We stayed too long and our tour group went on without us. I will keep the image of that magnificent structure in my mind forever. Getting lost is part of life’s journey or perhaps it’s just another avenue for growth.

John Carney, the late executive of the Columbia South Carolina Speech and Hearing Center gave me a print of his painting of the Cathedral’s famed North Rose Window which he did from a photograph. He painted the window after he lost most of his eye sight. The people in the art department of the University of South Carolina designed and erected an extraordinary lighting system on pulleys that allowed him to continue to paint. John’s zeal for life was resurrected by an act of kindness. I gaze at that painting several times a day as I descend the stairs from my office. The print reminds me of the great joy we felt in visiting the cathedral and equally of a great friendship.

As my friend, Dr. Monty Knight, says, “I don’t know what happened at the resurrection of Jesus, but whatever it was changed the world.” Resurrection is real. It is all around us. Our earth is in constant renewal and so are we.

Tags: , , ,