It’s good to be back! I thoroughly enjoyed my two weeks away on vacation, and I’ve heard many great things about all that took place at Crestwood while I was gone. I was able to truly rest and relax while I was away, knowing the church was in such capable hands. My biggest regret is not getting any of the ice cream at the Ice Cream Social! But don’t worry, I ate PLENTY of ice cream while on vacation.
A lot happened while I was gone. These past two weeks have been interesting and disturbing ones in our world. It started in the early hours of Friday, July 20, when a man entered a crowded movie theater in Aurora, CO, and opened fire, killing and wounding dozens of people. That tragedy was bracketed by the shooting on Sunday in Oak Brook, WI, at a Sikh temple. Details about both shootings are continuing to emerge as we try to understand these senseless acts of violence.
In between those two horrific events, the world’s attention has been focused on London for the 2012 Olympic Games. What a contrast! In between events marked by hatred and violence, we are celebrating our diversity and the spirit of competition, while reveling in the variety of human interest stories that are being created during the games. We’ve all probably heard of Michael Phelps and LeBron James, but now we know the names of Gabby Douglas and Oscar Pistorius. In the midst of everything in this world which divides us, it was hopeful to see people of all races and religions come together for this spectacle.
Speaking of things that divide us, the hottest debate these past two weeks has been, “Chicken sandwich or no chicken sandwich?” Statements by Chick-Fila’s owner about the company’s stance on marriage sparked a furious debate about who’s right, who’s wrong, and whether or not we should support businesses that don’t believe what we believe.
I’m not going to dive into that cesspool of conflict, other than to say that if we dug deeply enough, we could probably find something about EVERY business we patronize with which we would disagree. But we are free to believe what we want, shop where we want, and get our waffles fries from whom we want. As my friend and former Crestwood intern Erin Smallwood Wathen wrote so eloquently on her blog, “If we’re all going to be free, we can’t all be right.”
There’s a thread running through all of these events that I find troubling, and that is the growing inability to deal with conflictual, incendiary issues with civility and respect. This is especially concerning as we move closer to our national election, because we all know the decibel level is only going to increase as candidates try to out-shout each other and rake the muck in their opponents’ camp, all in the name of winning.
This concern was most evident in the Chick-Fila story. Several of my friends on Facebook took their stances, and the language they used (either in support of Chick-fila or against them) was vitriolic and hateful. That only mirrored what was going on nationally. Any attempts to try and introduce reason or tolerance to the conversation were met with name-calling and accusations of supporting “the other side.”
This issue also played an indirect role in both of the public shootings, which immediately stirred up once again the debate over issues like gun control, mental illness, and violence in movies and music. These debates are not bad to have; in fact, they are needed if we are going to make any progress on these important issues. But too often the participants seem more interested in proving themselves right than listening to what the other person has to say. That’s not a conversation; that’s a competition.
That’s the double-edged sword the Olympics bring to the table. Are we able to embrace our diversity and the people from other countries while simultaneously trying to beat the snot out of them in water polo and beach volleyball? Can we temper our competitiveness with the realization that, in the big picture of things, we’re all on the same team?
Yes, a lot happened while I was gone. It’s good to be back. Now, let’s continue the work of figuring out what it means to be a Christian in this world, and how we can live that out each and every day. It’s not easy, that’s for sure. But these past two weeks have proven once again how much the world needs to hear our voice.