Monthly Archives: December 2015

Tolerance and Diversity…then and now

I read an article from a local newspaper yesterday about a small public elementary school that had been pressured to eliminate all mentions of Christmas from the school environment.  This school had created a “12 days of Christmas” event where students would do silly things like dress as an elf, or wear an ugly Christmas sweater.  Yet after just a couple of days, a few parents of a few students got upset and cried out they were offended and that it wasn’t right.  Though the article didn’t make specific mention of anything religious, specifically Christianity, it had those undertones with comments like, “the school can’t single out those that don’t share the same beliefs, etc.”  I will admit, at first I just brushed it off as another example of how PC we have become as a society, but then it really started to eat away at me and I re-read the article and started seeing a bigger picture of what was happening.

What specifically set me off, if you will, is a comment a reader made on social media about how the school was a public place and religion had no place there, and how we should be promoting diversity and tolerance as early as possible.  That was the only way we would improve society.  First reaction – defend my faith.  I am a Christ follower.  I don’t try to hide it.  It’s who I am, and it’s what I have chosen for my life.  I am proud to say that I have “bought in” and that is what I base my entire belief system on – the finished work of Christ.  But then I decided to tone it down a little and reply to this comment from the “stories” perspective.  This story never made mention of a 12 days of Christian Beliefs event, but yet, 12 days of Christmas.   To my knowledge, there was no “religious” themed days.  I don’t remember ever reading in the old or new testament anything about ugly sweaters or Christmas elves.  So, I looked and thought about those last couple words – diversity and tolerance.

America is a nation founded on tolerance and diversity.  Just look at the ancestral backgrounds we have that make up the very fabric of our nation.  Our founding fathers were very specific about creating a foundation of freedom from just about everything and in building that foundation they created a culture of patriotism and love of country.  People flocked to this country for opportunity and embraced the “free” culture by becoming Americans.  They were proud to identify as a people of this great nation of diversity and freedom.  Most people groups were not discriminated against, yet embraced, because we didn’t have one “main” group of citizens.  They maintained their sense of culture and background, but didn’t expect everyone around them to be like-minded and share the same views.  When it came to a “society” they were American.  Diversity then was about being from a different background but coming together and loving the fact that you were all American.  Many people fought over numerous conflicts to maintain that status.  We became the greatest nation on earth because our citizens loved our country, were proud to be called American and were proud of how we could live together in peace and harmony.  We were tolerant of each other’s personal views, it’s what made us who we were.  It was easier to be tolerant, because in the end we were all American.

Fast forward to today.  The now isn’t so pretty.  We are divided and judgmental.  We are easily offended.  We have become a nation that has forgotten how special this country really is.  Today’s definition of tolerance and diversity is that no one is allowed to have an opinion that makes you feel bad.  If you don’t agree with everyone’s point of view you are a bigot and racist and intolerant judge.  Today, diversity means having no background, no pride, and no point of view.  Today, we are so worried about hurting someone’s feelings that we have stopped requiring our citizens to embrace American value and patriotism.  We fall over ourselves to make sure no one has to become American as if that would require them to forget where they come from.  Our tolerance now means that we aren’t allowed to have values if there is even one person that doesn’t agree.  Rather than agree to disagree and continue to live peacefully next to each other, we race to see who can be the most accepting of every other point of view, by supporting it 100%.  Today, it’s more important to cater to the one or two people who shout, you have hurt my feelings,  than it is to support the majority.  In our attempt to spread tolerance and diversity, we have only created deep divides and the most intolerant society we have ever known.

As a Christian, this has become a very troubling place.  The world seizes the opportunity capitalize on my belief system.  They know that I am taught to love everyone, and judge no one.  They run with that concept and throw it in my face every time I dare to speak out about another lifestyle, or belief system.  Every time I disagree, I am slammed as not being Christian.  The world keeps telling my kids to be tolerant and to celebrate diversity, but their background is forbidden.  The world shows my kids that tolerance is for everyone else, just not them.  It is very hard to teach our young people about tolerance when you go out of your way to “oppress” them because of their belief system.  Somewhere along the way we forgot what diversity is, and how it works in America.  Today, it’s just lip service.  A term that makes you sound warm and fuzzy when really, the meaning behind it is condemnation if you don’t agree with everyone else.

This post, really didn’t have a “point” to be made at the end, just a moment to speak my mind about how we have changed.  I don’t think we are growing or becoming more progressive as a nation.  While it is PC to be accepting of everyone else around you and to keep quiet if you have a differing opinion, it is eroding away at the fabric that holds us together.  I heard and have always held to the quote, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”  In a time when our country needs to pull together and be one voice and one mind – American, we have gone out of our way to weaken our nation and have lost sight of what made us great.

So for now, all I can do as the father of my children is instill in them a deep sense of moral values that, not surprisingly, are very closely aligned with the teachings of the Bible.  I will teach them to be tolerant, but not easily swayed and turned.  I will teach them to approach conflict with love in their heart and to look for opportunities to share what makes them who they are with anyone that is willing to listen.  I will teach them that diversity is a beautiful thing and that it’s how God intended this world to be.  At the same time they will learn to respect diversity, but not be lost in it.  They are who they are.  It’s who God created them to be.  He doesn’t make mistakes.  He has called them to love Him above anything else, and then love their neighbor.

God, today, I thank you for the ability to call this country my home.  I am so richly blessed to have been born an American.  I thank you that you have provided for me as a young child, parents that instilled a love of God and country and I am blessed that it shaped who I am today.  I pray for this country that we will all turn to you and that we will all find a sense of pride and love for America.  I pray that we will learn to live side by side, even when we don’t agree, and that we will raise up a generation that has substance and pride.  I thank you for my family and for how you have helped me shape them and lead them.  I pray that you will continue to walk with each of us as we strive to honor you with our life.  In Christ I pray – Amen.

Leave it all behind

“I have what you need…but you keep on searching”

“I’ve done all the work, but you keep on working”

“You’re running on empty and can’t seem to find the remedy…just come to the well”

Just a few of the lyrics from a popular Casting Crowns song – Come to the Well.  I listen to that song almost every morning, it’s on my running playlist for the gym.  Not really the “pump-you-up” type of tune, but very special to me.  I struggle, more often than I care to admit, with trying to “work” my way into God’s grace.  What can I do?  Who can be?  When the reality of this life is that God’s grace is sufficient and He has done all the work already.  He simply asks us to fill ourselves with Him.  Do what I do, and you’ll be doing right.  That’s the message, yet it seems like a foreign language to me sometimes.  When I get into that rut of trying to do it all my way, on my own without any “filling from the word” I ultimately end up in a place where it’s dark, my soul seems empty and I am sinning more than I’m living.

So how do we avoid that rut, how do we avoid running back to the same broken wells that offer no real hope and can never fill our soul the way that a “right relationship with God” can?  I think the answer to that question is two-fold.

First, most sinful thought and behavior is hidden.  No one wants to air their dirty laundry.  Think about that for a moment.  What if our browsing history, or even worse, all our thoughts for the day were displayed on a billboard on the main highway?  I know I would be mortified.  I think most people would, especially those that have fallen into that repetitive cycle of habitual sin.  So what is the cure for that?  Live each day as if that is exactly what is going to happen.  Live your life so that what is put on that billboard isn’t so terrifying and humiliating.  Even better, place your focus on God’s word and his plan and use that billboard to sing his praises.

That leads to the next point.  What are we filling our heart and mind with?  I heard a message once about starving our spirit.  Basically, we have to treat our inward being as living and breathing just like our physical outward being.  If we don’t eat or quench our thirst, we would surely shrivel up and cease to exist.  The same is true of our inward being…our soul.  The best diet for our soul is none other than Gods’s word.  He even tells us to store up his word in our heart so that we can keep from sinning against him. (Psalm 119:11).  That’s like taking a snack with you to keep “full” throughout the day.  When we are daily feasting on God’s word, we will be filled with his presence and desires.  Will the sinful temptation still be there?  Sure it will, but we have a much better chance of walking away from it and keeping our focus on Christ when we aren’t spiritually starving.
Habitual sin and habitually putting God on the back burner are dangerous things.  When a sin becomes so common place that you stop feeling guilty about it or even worse, begin to justify it, it is a deep rooted path for Satan to tear away at your entire life and all those in it.  Leave it all behind and walk in the light of God’s word.  It is in our relationship with God and His word that we will find victory over our sinful nature.

Lord, today I come to you broken and afraid of the sin patter in my life.  I have often spoken these words only to find myself unable to walk away and do what I know is right. Forgive me for forgetting what you have made simple and clear – your word.  I pray that today I would fill my soul with your truths and that I would make that my habitual pattern to feast on your word and focus on your glory.  In Christ I pray, Amen.

Psalms 19:12-13 (NLT) – Cleanse me from these hidden faults.  Keep your servant from deliberate sins!  Don’t let them control me.