#WalkUpNotOut Is Not Victim-Blaming or Mere Niceness. It’s the Gospel.

darkhandHaving spent five years teaching in the public school system, I have many thoughts on bullying.

I’ve learned that what I consider a light tease towards a person I don’t know too well, but actually kinda like, may instead be salt in an unseen wound.

I’ve learned that what some call bullying may be only a blink-of-an-eye pattern that happens twice and strains the classic definitions, but should be resoundingly educated against regardless of what label it falls under.

I’ve learned that despite those definitions, some bullying does have the stronger individual on the receiving end. Nobody is impregnable.

I’ve learned that bullying doesn’t just come from one-parent kids on the wrong side of the tracks, but from children of popular and powerful families as well.

But most of all, I’ve learned that kindness is not just niceness. In this world where we get ten negative comments to every positive one, a kind word is water in the desert. Some people out there would give their next meal for one.

So when Rachel Held Evans last week took aim at the viral anti-bullying campaign #WalkUpNotOut, intended to replace school walkouts with acts of kindness towards unknown peers, you can imagine I rolled my eyes.

rachel

This tweet misses the point in so many ways that it could be a kicker for the Seahawks.

Evans’ voice is joined by the usual left-wing cacophony about how treating people well won’t end school shootings. That’s a classic example of a “straw man” – an argument nobody was making, erected in the hasty fear that it might crowd out their preferred solutions. It also forgets that plenty of people blame the shooter for his actions, not the victims. Now Rachel has this tweet out there, copied by itself into meme form, without the benefit of her later clarifications, looking like she dismisses outreach as “being nicer”. I doubt she actually does, but…hard lesson of social media there, Mrs. Evans.

I do agree that violence will never completely cease this side of the mirror dimly. We fight it, we pray against it, we make laws against it (and argue which ones to pass), we avoid it ourselves, and that’s all proper and urgent. Yet only heaven will bring order and peace.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing whatever is within our reach. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have as many hoses on this fire as possible. #WalkUpNotOut has the nice distinction of being something we can control, right here, right now.

Most of all, however, we should walk up to people because…it’s the Gospel.

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Does Jesus Command Us to “Be Ourselves”?

ourselves

“Be yourself”.

It’s the rallying cry of our generation. Be true to our personalities. Stay in our natural grooves. Stick to our comfort zones. Whatever you’d like to call it. We trade this mantra like a recipe, a handy formula for success in personal interactions, handling of money, dating, choice of college major, what have you. Feels pretty affirming.

At first.

A year or two ago, I remember a time I was myself. I made a joke at someone else’s expense. It was an outgrowth of my teasing sense of humor, and it wasn’t taken well. I apologized, but you can bet that “myself” didn’t look so appealing to me in hindsight, which is always 20/20.

Just how much sin do we keep under the umbrella of “being ourselves”?

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Two Dates

dateIn what seems to me sometimes like a cosmic joke, a person’s life is often boiled down to a sequence of numbers – two dates with a dash between them.

The first is the date of our birth. Its arrival every year is an occasion for joy, for gifts, or perhaps just a little extra attention. We’re familiar with it. We write it on official documents. It’s a friend to us, right down to the whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing – the further we get, the worse we feel.

The other, the day of our death, is unknown to us. It lurks in the future, possibly fifty years from now, possibly this very day. We will, by definition, never write it down. By the time it’s known, we can do nothing about it. It evokes loss, shadow, looking back and evaluating, the arranging of one’s affairs and moving on.

At least it does for “the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

But this last week, a friend of mine passed (expected), and the words used to describe her passing were, “She met Jesus!”

Immediate jealousy.

My friend escaped. She got out. She finally leaped beyond the reach of this world’s grime and reached Jesus.

And it hit me:

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What the New England Patriots and Satan Have in Common

bradyNote: This post’s first half is tongue-in-cheek, folks. If we can’t have a sense of humor in the comments section, I’ll be throwing penalty flags on you. Because heaven knows they won’t be thrown on the Patriots.

I personally suspect that it might be amongst the lowest-rated Super Bowls in NFL history. I’m writing this several hours before kickoff, so I don’t know if this prediction is true as you’re reading this. But it’s my guess.

And not just because of this year’s well-intended but broad and self-defeating player protests, though that’s part of it.

No, it’s because it’s the Patriots.

Again.

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The Gospel is the answer. There is no other.

daybreak-over-lake-michigan-at-point-beach-wisconsinThere’s a dangerous idea floating around.

It’s the idea that the world’s darkness can be overcome by anything but the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We seek spot welds, individual solutions to individual problems. The solution to racism is equality. The solution to poverty is charity. The solution to terrorism is…whatever your favorite politician is hawking. A different flavor soup for each symptom. John Lennon would have you believe that love is a key for every lock.

I’m not here to debate the validity of any of these. There’s something to each. Many seem to have the words of Jesus behind them, if you argue your case well enough.

But the scattershot approach is dangerous. It’s dangerous because the days are short, our energies precious, and false solutions are sucking them up. We have to see the problem through God’s eyes. And he’s got a much different take on what’s generating this mess.

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Easter Eggs in the Christmas Story

When it comes to storytelling, the writers of Lost have nothing on our Lord. He weaves hints, parallels, symbolism, foreshadowings, and callbacks throughout his narrative with the skill of a master. So exciting.

I have no words. Just watch.

Christmas is Bigger Than Your Opinion Of It

catIt was during a December that my family fell apart.

I do appreciate that the blow had enough grace to wait until the 27th before coming out of nowhere, but is there really ever a “good time” for such things to happen?

Anything that’s ever harmed family tends to feel highlighted, called out, by the approach of Christmas. The season has a way of reminding you of what you’ve lost (or never had to begin with). I know what it’s like to rely on the charity and love of non-family during the holidays (for which I’m very grateful), to struggle with the emotions, to feel left out of the joy because you’re dealing with things that (it seems like) nobody else is.

So I’m the last person to tell anyone to “just get over it and celebrate”.

That’s not my approach at all. The Bible defends, even celebrates, our grace-given ability to honestly approach the throne of God with our pain, fear, and disappointment. Psalms is full of it. Jeremiah vents to God even though he knows exactly why God is inflicting his nation. Even Jesus does not try to hide his sweat and blood from his Father. He cares about our hearts. He has big shoulders. He will always listen to our tears.

BUT.

But.

Sometimes, I think, there are days when a swift kick in my own butt really is warranted.

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