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Smile – Speak – Respect

According to the CDC I am no longer a senior citizen. I am an elder. Likewise I am no longer a father I am a parent. The CDC should know that I am proud of being Suzanne’s and Michael’s father. The CDC is correct in emphasizing how we talk to and about each other. A critical article about this report was reprinted from by The Week Magazine in its September 10/September17, 2021 issue. The article by Tiana Lowe is wrong headed.

In his sermon at the French Huguenot Church in Charleston on September 5, 2021, The Rev. Phil Bryant emphasized the power of words. “Words can hurt. Words can heal. Words can challenge. Words can direct what we do. In all the ways we interact with one another, our words are the most powerful. Words can kill.”

In support of the last statement, Bryant quotes Chaplain David Sparks at Dover Air Force Base, who has comforted so many families over the past 20 years, because a family member has sacrificed her or his life after the 9/11 attack. “I am aware — this is very spiritual — I am aware that there are — there have been multiple times when I did not have the preparation for a particular moment when words came up out of me that were not my own. And I said them. And once in a while, it was — for the first time — I heard it the first time when it came around in my own ear. And where in the world did that come from? And those are very holy moments for me.”

Every report states that our culture has become meaner, Part of the blame for this regression is rooted in how we talk to and about each other. Because I disagree with you does not mean that I hate you or think that you are a lesser person. It simply means that you and I see an issue differently. I love my sister and she would walk through hot coals barefoot for me, but we have different ideas about politics, church music and biscuits.  We grew up together with the same parents, but we look at the world differently.

I do not know why we have grown meaner as a culture; however, I do know how to lessen the impact of the meanness. Smile at the people you meet. Say something nice to each person. Treat each person you meet with respect. That’s it. Try it for yourself.

  1. Smile at each person you meet.
  2. Say something nice to each person you meet.
  3. Show respect for each person you meet.

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How Simple Acts Can Counter Meanness

by Mitch Carnell | Aug 30, 2021 | Feature-, Opinion

“Hurry up,” an agitated man in the cafeteria checkout line kept mumbling.
My friend Bob, a very gentle soul, turned to him and said, “Take it easy. You’ll live longer.”
I thought they were friends and that this was friendly banter. Instead, the man followed him into the parking lot and wanted to fight.
“Why have we become so mean?” I wondered.
This topic is discussed frequently in the mainstream media and on social media. Numerous reasons are put forward.
Take your pick on the causes: the pandemic, wearing a mask, isolation, loss of paychecks, loss of identity, loss of control, conspiracy theories, the list could go on.
I readily admit that I do not know precisely what is contributing to this mean behavior; however, I do know how to lessen the severity of the problem and return us to our more genial demeanor.
The solution is simple, and everyone can participate.
Smile at people and speak to them in a friendly manner. If you are not ready to practice both, then just smile at those you meet.
My late wife suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. She no longer could speak, but her smile was enough to carry me through the darkest day.
Yes, I missed her cheerful words, but her smile lit my world. It drove the dark clouds away and put me in a much better place.
Try it. You have nothing to lose. A smile has wonderful powers. It can drive the blues away and sweeten the sourest disposition.
When you are ready, take the next step. Add a simple greeting. “Hello. I’m glad to see you,” or “How have you been?” or, “Hi, my name is…”
When I was the CEO of a non-profit agency, the president of the board of directors endeared himself to everyone. He never made you fumble for his name. “Hello, I’m John Smith,” he greeted you with an outstretched hand and a smile.
In many Christian churches, the service includes passing the peace. Other congregations practice extending the right hand of fellowship.
Both practices are rooted in Scripture. Both convey a message of peace and welcome. A handshake carries the same message.
The Say Something Nice Day (June 1) and Say Something Nice Sunday (the first Sunday in June) movements share the same motives to break down barriers and create a friendlier environment.
I like to speak to everyone I encounter. My children, when they became teenagers, were embarrassed by my behavior. They chastised me, “Daddy, do you know that person? Then, why did you speak to them?”
My answer, “Why not? Why not acknowledge another human being?”
Every person we meet is struggling with something. We do not know the anguish of the people we pass.
Some are suffering from deep wounds or are enduring hurts from long ago. Some have just lost a job or a spouse.
The simple action of a smile or greeting can change their day. As my mother often said, “Son, be nice.”
It is within our power to change things one interaction at a time. We can behave in such a way that others want to be around us.
No sermon is required. Our behavior is sermon enough.
We may not always know the right words to say or be in the mood to speak to others. If this is the case, just smile.
There may be a few who will ignore or ridicule you but smile anyway.

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“Jesus Is Truth,” Thomas Tells Chautauqua Audience – Mary Lee Talbot

Chautauqua Daily – July 30, 2021

“My mentor, Michael Charles Leff, said people are looking for a universal definition of the
truth. People want truth to be true at all times, in all places. Truth should be solid, faithful in all cases,” said the Rev. Frank A. Thomas. “In-stead, what we live is preferred truth.”

Thomas preached at the 9 a.m. Thursday worship service in the Amphitheater. His sermon title was “What is Truth?” The Scripture reading was John 18:33-38a.
Truth, as described by Leff, lives at the macro level. Thomas told the congregation, “We have the audacity to live our preferred truth at our specific, personal level. What
is our personal truth? It is living in a way that is different from universal truth; it is the truth we speak.”
The founding documents of the United States say that “all men are created equal,” but the nation has lived a preferred truth — that not everyone is equal, Thomas said.

Thomas told the story of Jesus’ arrest and his trials before Annas, Caiaphas and Pilate. Pilate wanted the Jewish leaders to try Jesus by their own law, but they reminded him that they did not have the power to execute Jesus. When Pilate asked Jesus directly, “Are you the King of
the Jews?” Jesus asked him, “Is this your own idea or did others tell you this?” Jesus asserted that his kingdom wasnot of this world, and Pilate replied, “So you are a king.”
“You have said it,” answered Jesus. Jesus said the reason he came into the world was to
testify to the truth. Pilate then asked his famous question: “What is truth?” Pilate could find no fault in Jesus, and wanted to let him go — but the community leaders would
not allow him to do so. Thomas asked the congregation, “What holds everything
together? What can you bet your life on? What gives you hope for your whole life?” This is the question of a baby crying for its bottle, young people feeling the power of a first kiss, a single person looking for a life partner, people facing infertility, cancer and death, he said.
In these situations, Thomas said, people do not speak ex cathedra, from the chair of truth, but from their preferred truth.

“This is a dangerous thing to say in a post-truth era. What we live is our preferred truth; what we speak is aspirational,” Thomas said. He illustrated this idea with the book How to Slowly Kill
Yourself and Others in America, a collection of essays by Kiese Laymon. One night, Laymon was having dinner with a friend who told him that he was the kind of person he claimed to
despise. The friend spoke the truth to Laymon — that he mangled the possibility of radical friendship with others. Laymon defended himself to his friend. However, when Laymon got home, he realized for the first time that he had been slowly killing himself and others close to him — by killing the love he was offered, and killing his body with his lifestyle. “He was living his preferred truth when his family was
screaming that he was running into disaster,” Thomas said. “We are all more like the people we despise than we would like to admit.” He told the congregation, “We use the lens of preferred
truth, and if we accept it, then we block the truth. If we believe that white skin and culture is more valuable than Black skin and culture, we block the truth. We say that Black people liked slavery and block the truth. We say that we Christianized Black people and block the truth. We made up the boogeyman of critical race theory and blocked the truth. We blot out the truth.” Thomas said that someone he loved broke his heart, because she kept trying to tell him the truth but he
could not hear. “She had to scream in pain,” he said. “She was saying my behavior was killing her. While I was preaching the love and mercy of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone,
my lifestyle was killing her.” He continued, “There is universal truth, but we live our
preferred truth in our behavior. It is only when we face our fear that we come upon the true truth. I had been killing people that I loved with my lifestyle. If I can’t face that
truth, how will I face Pilate’s question?” Thomas searched in many places to find truth: as a
philosophy major, a scholar of Afrocentric life, in seminary, in the church, in counseling. “I could find degrees of truth, but not rest for my soul.” As a child, Thomas lived in a neighborhood that was
experiencing white flight. An elderly woman, Mrs. Earl, did not leave the neighborhood, but taught Sunday school to the Black children. “The church had a gym, and in order to play basketball,
you had to go to Sunday school,” Thomas said, “She gave me my first Bible, and she said, ‘Truth is a person and his name is Jesus.’ Truth is a person and his name is Jesus.
Jesus is truth, not preferred truth.” Thomas continued, “She gave me the ability to face the
truths I was running from. Like Pilate, I examined Jesus thoroughly, and I have lived with him for almost 50 years. I find no fault in Jesus. Amen.”

The Rev. Paul Womack presided. The Rev. Steven Sim mons, a retired teacher of preaching and homiletics at the Moravian Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, read the Scripture. The prelude was “Alla breve,” from Trio Sonatain C, by Johann Joachim Quantz, performed by the Motet
Consort: Barbara Hois, flute; Debbie Grohman, clarinet; and Willie La Favor, piano. Members of the Motet Choir sang “Come My Way,” with music by Harold Friedell and words by George Herbert. Joshua Stafford, who holds the Jared Jacob sen Chair for the Organist and is director of sacred music, played an improvisation for the postlude. The Geraldine M. and Frank E. McElree Jr. Chaplaincy Fund and the John William Tyrrell Endowment for Religion provide support for this week’s services and chap

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Voter Suppression Laws Spit on the Grave of John Lewis

John Lewis, the late U.S. Representative from Georgia, once said, “The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democracy.”

For most of his life, Lewis got into “good trouble,” advocating for the voting rights of millions of Americans.

During the height of Jim Crow, Lewis and his fellow Freedom Riders traveled through the south, registering Black voters and pressuring the Johnson Administration to pass a voting rights bill.

Because of their determination and sacrifices, such as being beaten on Bloody Sunday near the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, millions of new voters were able to cast their ballots when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed.

Empowering citizens to exercise their voting rights is foundational in maintaining a healthy and vibrant democracy. However, the United States has often struggled with the notion that every citizen should have the right to exercise their vote.

Voting rights have been a contentious battle between freedom and oppression. Here is a brief history:

1789: The U.S. Constitution granted states the power to set voting parameters, most often setting white male property owners as the only citizens allowed to cast a vote.

1820s: Most states dropped the requirement for property ownership but maintained white male tax-paying dominance.

1828: Maryland is the last state to remove religious restrictions for voters, giving voting rights to Jews.

1867: All native-born Americans were granted citizenship but not the right to vote. The exception was Native Americans who were not granted citizenship until 1887.

1867-1870: The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents states from denying citizens the right to vote on the basis of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Quickly following, however, Southern states passed Jim Crow laws, hindering African Americans and poor white citizens from voting through poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses and other restrictions. Under Jim Crow, only 3% of Blacks were registered to vote in the south.

1910-1920: By the incredible advocacy of women and a number of states enacting voting rights for women, the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920 provided women voting rights. However, Black women remained impeded from voting.

1924: Native Americans were granted voting rights through the Indian Citizenship Act, even though some states kept them from voting until 1948.

1965: For the entire time under Jim Crow, African American advocates fought and sacrificed for voting rights. The Voting Rights of 1965 helped correct discriminating laws and practices.

1965-2020: A number of states have attempted to make it more difficult to vote by implementing voter ID laws, reducing funding for polling places, limiting mail-in and absentee voting, and restricting early voting.

2021: Thirty-three states are actively considering legislation limiting opportunities for citizens to exercise their right to vote. For example, Georgia and Iowa recently passed legislation making it more difficult to vote. These laws will have a direct effect on lower-income citizens and minority communities.

In Iowa, early voting was reduced from 29 days to 20 days. Iowans will also have less time to cast their ballots on election day, as polls will now close an entire hour earlier. This decision could hinder thousands of voters who work overtime or run late from picking children up at daycare or dropping them off at evening activities. Other restrictions make it more difficult to cast an absentee ballot.

In Georgia, the bill will reduce the availability of absentee voting, restricting it to voters who are 65 and older, who have a physical disability or who will be out of town. Voter ID components of the law will make it a requirement to provide a driver’s license number, state ID number or other identification.

Voting rights advocates in Georgia point out how the bill unfairly targets Black communities, especially efforts by Black churches in their “Souls to the Polls” Sundays.  Black churches have been working hard to get their communities to engage and participate in elections. By eliminating Sunday voting, the law will pretty much kill the program as designed and intended.

Proponents of such legislation argue that they are only attempting to keep the integrity of elections intact. These lawmakers continue to express concern about 2020 voting irregularities, even though such allegations have been declared unfounded numerous times by election officials and courts.

Critics point out that the laws unfairly target minority and lower-income communities in an attempt to reduce voter turnout. By limiting access and placing more stringent requirements to vote, many Black leaders fear a return to Jim Crow standards of voting requirements.

Voting laws that target Black communities and discourage Black turnout spit on the grave of John Lewis and many others who spent their lives working to ensure future generations would not fear Jim Crow and voter suppression. They dreamed of the day when every Black citizen could feel their vote was welcomed and respected.

Unfortunately, there are those who still hold to the philosophy of the late political strategist Paul Weyrich who honestly and infamously declared, “They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote.”

“Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now,” he said. “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

Put simply, those whose goal is only to retain power and control make it harder to vote. Those whose goal is to ensure every citizen can have their voice heard through the ballot box make it easier to vote. The latter can be done securely.

If there were one sign to gauge the health of our democracy, then we need not look any further than voting rights.

The United States has always been at its best when the country provides voting rights to more citizens and empowers them to exercise that right. We are a healthier democracy and a more perfect union when more citizens are involved and engaged.

As people of good faith, we must remember the life, words and legacy of John Lewis. We must get in the way of injustices by stepping up and speaking out.

Lewis reminded us, “Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society. Why? Because human beings are the most dynamic link to the divine on this planet.”

Therefore, let the Beloved Community continue to do the work of the Lord within this world. Let us make certain the most vulnerable, the poor, the sick, the marginalized and the oppressed are represented and heard.

In a democratic republic like the United States, that means advocating for the voting rights of all citizens and giving more citizens the opportunity to vote.

Mitch Randall headshot

CEO of Good Faith Media.

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