We Are All Afraid in the #UMC. Great. Can We Move On Yet?

Everywhere I look and read there is some element of fear that is being described. For instance in the conversation around the inclusion of LGBT Christians in the UMC, each side claims the other side is fearful. One side says that the other is fearful of change. Another side says the other is fearful of being out of step with culture. One side says the other is fearful of a slippery slope. Another side says the the other is fearful of embracing the full authority of scripture. Everyone says the other side is afraid.

In some circles you may hear that everyone is afraid and even go a step farther in sharing what they are afraid of. Owning what we are each afraid of is cathartic, but it does not seem to produce much fruit. In fact, talking about fear seems to only amplify the fear that may not even be out there! 

Instead of talking about our fears, can we just take at the starting point that we all are afraid? Can we move the conversation around LGBT inclusion from "what are you afraid" of to something like "what do you value"?

My son is four years old and he says he is afraid of the dark. However, in addition to being afraid of the dark he is also fearful of deep water and caves. At night I can give him a flashlight. I can ensure he stays in the shallow end and in the suburbs it is not difficult to avoid caves. The "thing behind the thing" around my son's fear of the dark, deep water or rocky crevasses is that he values being able to see clearly. Now if you listen to my son talk about what he is afraid of you will miss the underlying value that informs (drives) his behavior. 

Likewise in the Church. When we spend time listening to the fears of another person, this is a pastoral action and it is important. However, if we are only listening to fears we can miss the underlying value that drives those fears. 

The final point I want to elevate when talking about fears is that it is easy to dismiss the other person as not having legitimate fears. When we hear the fears of others and then speak to our own fears we often discount our partners fears as being less important as our fears. Playing the game of who has the most legitimate fear is a relational earthquake that shakes foundations, rupture relationship and crumbles bridges.

Rather than talking about fears, can we talk about values? Can progressives and traditionalists see that our values are aligned? Talking about values shifts the conversation from what arrests our actions to what can we do to live out these shared values? 

We Are All Afraid. Okay. Can We Move On Yet?

#UMCGC and the Good, Fast, Cheap Triangle

The Good, Fast, Cheap triangle looks like this:

You can only pick 2

You can only pick 2

Everyone at the General Conference (GC) desires it to be good, fast and cheap. The fact of the matter is, that is not possible not just for the GC but for all of life. So within the proceedings of the GC, there are camps that are established based upon some underlying values. While we can debate the values, I would submit that these three values (good, fast, cheap) are just as good as any to understand what seemed to happen today at the first day of the General Conference. The reality is that with these three values, you can only have up to two at any one time. 

At the GC, there are those who value this to be cheap and fast. The reality is that we would have a conference of low quality because decisions would be driven by speed and low cost. It would be a race to the bottom, like when we thought the Ford Pinto was a good idea.

There are those who desire the GC to be fast and good, but that is expensive. And that is an attractive way to operate. This is why the fastest cars on the market are also among the most expensive. 

There are those who desire the GC to be cheap and good and that really takes time to create. It is like rebuilding a car that you bought for $300 from the junkyard. You can rebuild it and make it high quality, but it will take a lot of time.

Of the parings, it seems that it is the third group (the one that takes the most time) is the least desirable paring among the bulk of GC delegates. So that leaves the expensive option or the less quality option camps to come to an agreement. 

As I heard the debate today, it dawned upon me that this tension between these three values may be just as valid of a reason to the gridlock we have found ourselves in. We want all three but can only have two. The question that I think about as I compose this reflection at 11pm is what two does God value? 


Rent, Stream, Experience - New Values and the Church (1 of 3)

Before you read this, make sure you have read part one

While the Christian faith has much to speak to in the value of renting, you may be wondering what does the Christian faith have to say about the value of streaming? Streaming is very new technology and what could a 2,000 year old tradition have to say to this new thing?

At the core, streaming is an expression of justice. When you stream something you still may not own it (see the value of stewardship/renting in previous post), but you have access to it. Universal and fair access is the realm of justice. Christians have cried foul when there has been limited access to a common good. For instance, when John Wesley saw that the grain in his day was being channeled toward producing alcohol and not food, he called for a boycott on alcohol until everyone was fed. The access to food was being restricted to those who had more money because the demand was so high.

The value of streaming carries with it a lot of things, but one of the things that it carries is universal access. This is why you see things like net neutrality fights and smartphone proliferation in the developing world. This is why when a nation (or company) restricts access to internet services there is a outcry. While streaming may invoke in most of us a technology that allows us to binge watch T.V. shows or allows us to hear a song without owning the physical record, streaming also carries with it a component of fair access or as it is someitmes called - justice.


Rent, Stream, Experience - New Values and the Church (1 of 3)

Recently Leslie Bradshaw shared about changing values in American culture. The tweetable line is that younger generations are affecting other generations toward "rent, stream, and experience." (You may want to take just a moment and read this little article to get the background.)

Personally, I resonate with these three values. Aside from the obvious definitions of rent, stream experience, I would submit there are connections to Christianity. And perhaps, if we get our stuff together, Christianity can help cultivate these values because these values overlap with Christian values.

First of all: rent.  Renting means not owning, which is exactly the point of Christians' understanding of stewardship. You and I do not own anything even if we bought it. Everything belongs to God and we all are just borrowing or renting it from God. Christians talk about your very breath (pneuma in Greek or ruha in Hebrew) belongs to God. We are born and the pneuma/ruha (which also means spirit) of God enters into us and animates our bodies. When we die that pneuma/ruha (breath/spirit) returns to the source - God. This idea that God owns all things is true not just for our breath but also for things like money, land, and even life itself. 

While it may be difficult in the "American dream", moving from owning to renting is not a difficult value leap for the Christian.