Stop admiring your heroes and start emulating them!

martin luther king stop admiring your heroes and start emulating them

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Contempt for the process of becoming great

Many in our society mock the geeky kid singing in the glee club, but revere that same kid when he grows up to be Steven Tyler or Carrie Underwood. Then the former mockers may well claim to be their “biggest fans.”

Similarly, people often mock those who advocate peace, justice, non-violence, and global oneness, dismissing them as soft, impractical, or liberal. That is, until these soft, impractical, and liberal people end up becoming the Martin Luther King Jrs, the Malala Yousafzais, the Jimmy Carters (the statesman, not the president), and the Gandhis of the world. Then they are venerated and honored as the best of the best. Everyone wants to embrace them as their own.

This illustrates both our hypocrisy and lack of understanding of the growth process. We consistently mock the kittens but revere the cats. We idolize those who have arrived, but disregard those who are starting out on that same journey. It’s cool to be a rock star, but it’s uncool to actually learn about music. It’s cool to be a global force for peace in adulthood, but uncool to adopt the values of, say, a Martin Luther King Jr. before one actually becomes famous for those values.

Absolving ourselves from responsibility to be great

In taking these shallow attitudes, we distance ourselves from the great peacemakers of the world, excusing ourselves from ever becoming like them. We say, “I’m no Martin Luther King, Jr.” True as that may be, every person can begin to embrace the universal values King embraced, right from wherever they currently are. Over time those values, lived out consistently, will inevitably bear fruit. But we are distracted. Or spoiled. Or weak-willed. Or fearful. Or ignorant. Or simply unwilling to live for any cause greater than ourselves (though, of course, we deeply admire those who are willing).

Having thus distanced ourselves from living the way the great peacemakers lived, and from responsibility to actually adopt their values, not simply to admire them, we then go about criticizing our leaders, as if we are victims. But our leaders arise out of the same fearful, selfish soup as the rest of us. Yes, it is too bad more of them are not more principled, but it’s far more tragic that we expect our leaders to have already have a depth of character most us don’t even aspire to have. It is either worth having or it isn’t. If it’s worth having, then we ourselves are the hypocrites when we fail to adopt the values that will, inevitably, make us into the towering characters we expect others to be.

Moving beyond admiration to emulation

No, not everyone is meant to be a famous peacemaker, like MLK, Jimmy Carter, or Malala, and that is not the point. Either world-changers are world-changers or they are not. If they are, that comes from their values, principles, and character. If we revere these people, we have a responsibility to become that which we revere, which means going past admiring those qualities in others to developing them in ourselves. This means we must respect and nurture the “kittens,” those among us who may not be famous but who are building these values into their lives and may someday emerge as local, national, and/or global voices for peace.  We should never discourage them, dismiss them as impractical, or reject them because we do not like their politics. We are dense, indeed, if we do not understand that the politics of the world’s true peacemakers, are direct reflections of their deeply cultivated characters.

Question: How are you intentionally setting out to become like the people you most admire? Let me know in the comments section!

Reflections on God and Gays, and Much More

reflections on god and gays

As expected, my recent post about the Duck Dynasty issue has had tons of readers, a lot of Facebook shares, and sparked incredible debate/dialogue, especially where it appeared on Facebook. If you do not follow my writer page there, I hope you will sign on and join in the conversation! The post below is an edited version of something I just posted on Facebook that I think stands alone as a unique statement on my views not only of homosexuality, but -- more important -- of the relationship between God and all of us.

Note: All scripture links were added after I finished the post, not as I wrote it. My worldview is deeply rooted in the Bible's ancient wisdom, and I wanted to provide these links for all who are interested.

I have gone from thinking about this issue of God and gays theologically to thinking about it relationally (though I think the best theological thinking IS relational thinking). If one of my daughters announced she was gay, it would change NOTHING. NOTHING AT ALL. I certainly would not hope for her salvation, at least not any more than anyone else’s, because I believe that if I love my daughters so deeply, God must love them infinitely more, and since my daughters are safe in my care, they must be infinitely safer in God’s. I think the reason Jesus commanded love is precisely because of the way loves biases us so strongly in favor of people, puts us so firmly in their corner and on their side, no matter what.

When I do think of this issue theologically, I see it as something that is evolving culturally, and that that is by no means a bad thing. The Bible pretty much endorses slavery, and for years many used scripture to resist racial equality, but at some point the church began to understand that there simply is no good argument in favor of this terrible thing, regardless of what the Bible seemed to be saying. Yes, even in the face of the Bible’s seeming endorsement of slavery, we can confidently pronounce it a great evil — indeed one of the greatest, because it so fundamentally stands against the spirit of what it means to be human. In the same way, the church will view homosexuality differently in the years to come, and that has already begun. I realize this statement will inflame some people, but anyone who cannot see this is simply not fairly considering past history, current events, and how we know things like this march forward, with the conservative faction dragging their feet but eventually coming along nonetheless.

This simply is the road the church is on and there is no stemming that tide. I say this despite the fact that in some ways my own faith tradition is trying to do exactly that.

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My two cents on the Duck Dynasty guy’s comments about gays


Duck Dynasty guy's comments about gays

Photo uncredited, but found at

Before you read this post, you might want to check out a previous post on this site. If you don't read that first, and your comments on this post reveal as much, I reserve the right to ignore you.

Yeah. I’m that guy — the guy who frustrates a lot of church people because I’m apparently too liberal on this issue. Having said that, I think it’s ridiculous that Phil Robertson’s comments on homosexuality are being blown up as big as they are, and I especially think GLAAD is out of line. [Read original story here.]

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to death of the hysteria surrounding this issue. Both the far-left PC monitors and the “Christian” reactionaries need to chill. (The quotes around the word Christian reveal my discomfort with how this is usually handled in the Christian community.)

Phil simply stated his (ignorant) opinion. People may not like it, but he didn’t smear the gay community, and in fact framed his comments specifically as his own personal opinion.

A&E has certainly milked this family for all they are worth (rewarding the family very handsomely, of course), exploiting every second of whatever-it-is people see in this show (I have never watched it.) The show is what it is because of the people it features — their lives, quirks, and — of course — their particular way of living out their faith. Though there are few things I have in common with Phil Robertson, I support his right to continue to do what this whole family does that has made the show famous, which is simply to be who they are — hillbillies. Which is not to suggest A&E does not have the right to fire him if they choose, as hypocritical as that would be.

It seems GLAAD could hardly be more hyperbolic and wrong in their statement:

“Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe,” GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz said in a statement. “He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans – and Americans – who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil’s decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families.”

It is far from the case that Christians are united in approval of homosexuality, which Cruz implies when he says Robertson’s beliefs fly in the face of what “true” Christians believe. If you wish to be enlightened on how varying are the views on this topic among people who consider themselves “true” Christians, check this out.

As for the “lies” Mr. Cruz refers to, those would be what, precisely? Phil Robertson’s personal opinion, which he claims to be nothing more? Calling this a lie would be like saying I’m a liar for expressing my preference for thin crust pizza over thick crust. It’s simply my opinion. If you call me a liar for saying it, then you reveal your control issue, not any issue on my part. Cruz’s statement comes from the height of political correctness. Even Robertson’s more distasteful comments are not “lies,” since there is no reason to believe Robertson intended to deceive anyone. In fact, what is most disturbing about Robertson’s comments is that he is not lying at all. He actually believes this stuff.

Furthermore, Mr. Cruz is obfuscating. The gay community itself, for years, has pushed for gay marriage on the grounds that even if you don’t believe it’s okay to be gay, at least you should grant people their civil rights. Now that gay marriage is moving forward across the country, Cruz tries to connect support of same-sex marriage with a “true” Christian view. It is perfectly legitimate for a Christian to support same sex marriage for legal and civil rights reasons, despite believing homosexuality is sin. I have been pushing Christians for a long time to do exactly this, drawing a line between what one believes personally and the way a pluralistic society should function. Regardless of one’s personal beliefs on the issue of homosexuality, people should have a legal right to marry someone they love. Period. On this there should be no argument.

Would I have said what Mr. Robertson said? Nope. Do I believe what Mr. Robertson believes? Well, to the extent that I decidedly prefer women, I suppose so, but that’s where the similarity ends. Do I agree with his theology? I do not. But A&E should know exactly what it’s getting with this family by now and suspending him is hypocritical. It’s clearly a PC, hot-button issue and that’s exactly what bothers me. This overreaction suggests we’re now at a point where it’s not okay simply to live and let live, but the mere opinions of some people are now trying to be punished and suppressed. I think that’s a shame. Phil Robertson can believe what he wants to, and no one will ever be the worse for it.

To be honest, I don’t like some of the company this opinion puts me in, but so be it. And for the record, I do find Robertson’s comparisons of homosexuality to bestiality and terrorism revolting, not to mention fantastically ignorant. It’s the kind of stuff I’d expect a hillbilly to say.

Oh, yeah…

How I Suffer and Keep Trusting God

suffer and keep trusting god -- man behind fabric wall

Someone struggling with serious health problems wrote to me today and said, “Dave, some of the stuff you’ve faced with your MS is horrific. How in the world do you keep trusting God and believing he loves you?” What a great question. With her permission I have reprinted my answer, below, because I wonder if it might be helpful to others.

Question: I just don’t understand how you and God can have a relationship when you are suffering from such a depressing, debilitating disease. I want you to know I do not in any way pity you. I do not disrespect you as a person by drawing attention to your illness. But how do you hold onto this relationship when you suffer so much? I just can’t wrap my head around that. And by asking that question I feel so much like what people would describe as a “baby” Christian who is still caught up in why bad things happen to good people but I’m so tired of pretending I’m a grown up Christian. I want to know how you reconcile that. And I want to also add that I feel so sad that you have to go through what you go through. I hope in no way that you feel I am minimizing or trivializing your suffering by asking such an immature question.

Answer: I’m so glad you have someone of whom you can ask that question. I had no one. Unfortunately I’m not sure I have anything to say that will be that helpful. I’ll try, though. BTW, my illness is as much a feature of my life by now as the fact that I am bald, or a writer, or a pastor. It’s the most routine thing in the world for me to talk about. Don’t worry about asking.

Maybe the best answer to your question is that I have already tried the other options.

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What is Righteousness?

heart with plant growing out of it -- what is righteousness

Yesterday one of Wildwind‘s small group leaders texted me asking if I wouldn’t mind explaining the Biblical understanding of righteousness. He said the word had, for him and his group members, a bit of a negative connotation. I’m not sure why this is, other than possibly its legalistic undertone and associations (conscious or not) with self-righteousness. He said the best they were understanding it, it was God’s standard of what is right and wrong. I emailed him an answer that, of course, was more like a personalized sermon so, rather than let it go to waste, I thought I’d post it here for anyone who is interested. If you view God as someone who is ready to punish you, or who demands behavioral perfection from you, I encourage you to read this.

Okay, big theological question here. You’ve pretty much got it, but let me nuance it a little bit. Check out this verse in these two translations:

Matthew 5:20 (NIV)
20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:20 (MSG)
20 Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won’t know the first thing about entering the kingdom.

I would encourage you to read the verse in context. Jesus is talking, really, about the impossibility of meeting God’s standard of righteousness. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were impeccable in matters of right living. NO ONE could surpass them, and everyone knew it. So what’s the catch? What is righteousness, then?  

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