Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Speak No Evil II: The True Challenge of the Donald Sterling Story

In a strange way, I think I'm writing this just so that, 20 years from now, if the Lord tarries, I can remember what I really felt at this moment with respect to this story.

My Initial Reaction to the Recording...

I was really confused.  Sterling seemed so insecure.  It was clear in my mind that he didn't actually have a personal issue with any black person and I didn't think that he had an issue with Magic Johnson.  But he seemed totally engrossed with the "he-say she-say"game that some circle of acquaintances or friends were playing with him.  He didn't want his lady-friend to be "broadcasting" the fact that she was with black people or other minorities.  On the face of it, it seemed totally prejudicial in a mean-spirited way against blacks.

But this was also, in my mind, confirmation of the noetic effects of the Fall.  This is the phrase used to explain the intellectual diminishment of mankind as a result of sin.  In other words, sin makes us stupid.  We simply don't think well due to the dominance of sin in our lives.  If God is the ultimate reality, and sin is rebellion against God, then it makes sense that sin is a rejection of what's real.  How is this Sterling situation related to the noetic effects of sin?  Easy: Sterling thinks its okay to BE with an ethnically minority woman but condemns her for being SEEN with an ethnic minority man.  Hence, sin makes us stupid.

My Initial Reaction to all the Initial Reactions...

To be honest, I was just hoping that no one would make a complete buffoon of themselves.  Generally, I got my wish.  I was happy that nothing was said that took the focus away from a serious investigation or made the outcry against Sterling's comments more a story than the comments themselves.  However, I was almost certain that the NBA would try to skate past this for a few weeks and release a statement or official findings after the Finals.  I had no idea that Commissioner Silver would be rendering/announcing a decision this soon.

My Thoughts on the Decision...

Not too surprising that they came down on Sterling so heavily.  I was, however, intrigued at the apparent power of the commissioner.  How do you ban the owner from coming to see his own team play?  Of course, I have no knowledge at all about the nature of contracts and agreements that owners have with the league.  The scope of it was surprising but the moral indignation wasn't.

It's easy to condemn statements that are racially-charged and hurtful.  As a 40-year old, I can respect the fact that many in an earlier generation, perhaps Mr. Sterling's generation, are still amazed by the changes that have made this kind of talk so heinous in our day.  I guess that 40+ years ago, this might not have made the news.  But certainly since I became an adult, this is basically the America that I know:  Ignorance in the form of racial hatred and/or prejudice is simply not condoned.  I don't know another America than this one.  So really, I don't think it's time to congratulate ourselves or have more talk about a "Post-Racial America", and all that jazz.  Condemning what is worthy of condemnation is not a laudable act; it's a necessary one.  Here's the real challenge...

The Real Challenge...

"...the measure by which you judge will be used against you..."

In the context of the above verse of Scripture, Jesus is warning against hypocritical judgement.  In other words, we have no right to judge others when we are guilty of the same things ourselves.  If anyone is willing to make horrible comments in private but wants to be seen as wholesome individuals in public, how are we any different from Mr. Sterling?

How many of us are really willing to be judged by the content of what we thought were private conversations?  Isn't that what the collective nation just did?  A man with what I consider immoral and inhumane perspectives spoke his mind with someone who he obviously thought would keep a confidence.  And yet, that whole conversation spilled out--literally all over the world.  Dear Reader, I wonder what you'd be feeling if your worst private conversation was made public?

What if everyone, everywhere, at all times was being recorded?  What if our every word became part of a transcript somewhere for someone to scrutinize and judge?  Matthew 12:36 says,

"I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

In the end, we don't have to worry about multi-media condemning us, our own words will do the job for us if we are careless.  In conclusion, the real challenge is not our judgement of Mr. Sterling, but whether we will judge ourselves righteously in the realm of our own words and what those thoughts communicate about our hearts and our desperate need for a Savior to deliver us from the righteous punishment we deserve.  

Oh Lord, help us to consider our ways that we might walk and talk uprightly before YOU...

Friday, April 11, 2014

Child's Play

As I mentioned in another blog post, being a relatively new father brings new insights into my faith.  Reflections on my daughters as they learn and grow often cause me to consider some of my own childish ways.  Noting their dependence upon their mother and me is a daily reminder of my own need for God's protection and provision.  It's rare that those reminders/reflections don't pop up daily.  This post is about one such lesson.

Months ago, Jael began to master the alphabet.  It's been fun listening to her try to pronounce certain letters like "F", "H", and "X".  And who knew that "W" had 7 syllables?  Of course, at age 2, it's really cute.  As time progressed, she displayed more and more mastery and naturally, made her parents quite proud.  One day, I heard her behind me shouting out "DEEE!  DEEE!" over and over.  I looked over and saw her pointing downward by the glass sliding door.  As I walked over to see what she was pointing at, I saw the picture below.

Naturally, I laughed.  Everything my daughter does that isn't directly related to disobedience is a reason to dote on her.  How do I explain that door mats are no more the letter "D" than the old Twin Towers are the number "11"?  So, I did the only thing I could think to do: celebrate my daughter's recognition of the shape of a "D" and I kept it moving.  But the observation stuck with me.

My darling daughter, cute as can be, was utterly ignorant of the purpose for which this "D" was made.  The fact that it was on the floor by the door did not give her a single context clue.  Instead of asking what it was, she simply super-imposed her own idea based on her very limited frame of reference, vocabulary, and knowledge.

In other words, my daughter could pass for almost any "Word of Faith" preacher.

When reading the Bible, many persons make the same kinds of mistakes that my daughter made.  Classic examples from my own experience as a campus minister and Sunday School teacher:

1)  Jesus is at the Cross and says, to His mother Mary, "Woman, behold your son.", then turning to the Apostle John says, "Son, behold your mother."  The passage goes on to say that "from that time, the disciple took her into his home. My student's interpretation:  Jesus wanted John and Mary to hook-up and get married.  My student's rationale: "Why else would he take her into his home?"

2)  The Bible says that God "made man in His own image" and also that He "breathed" into man and he became a living being.  So a student got the idea that Adam looked exactly like God and since God's spirit was in Adam, he had the power of God.  You'd think Creflo Dollar and Joseph Smith were visiting my classroom.  That would be awkward.

The failure to comprehend certain cultural norms in a narrative or laziness which prevents us from discovering the ancient Semitic understanding of a given word can easily lead to the danger of imposing our own thoughts and opinions on a Bible passage.  When one reads Scripture without a serious attempt to understand the intent of the author, the most likely way the original audience would have heard, the Bible becomes a wax nose, mere clay in the hands of the reader.  Whether done in arrogance or ignorance, the great danger and sin is this:  it is we who are to be molded by God through the Holy Scriptures, not the other way around  He is the Potter, we are the clay.

The invitation to become like children to enter the Kingdom of God is not an invitation to immaturity or inventive imaginations concerning His word.  Handling the Sword of the Spirit is not child's play.