Tag Archives: civil discourse

Beyond Holy Week

While I was on my spring blogging break, I checked the feed during Holy Week to discover the internet was in shambles.  

window bride

window bride

Lines were drawn in the sands across America. The days leading up to Easter saw pundits throw off their gloves to strangle each other in hand-to-hand combat. Facebook profiles hemorrhaged red equal signs matched by a flow of crosses. Twitter burned with the carnage of our civil discourse about gay marriage.

People ridiculed the Bible and took cheap shots at my faith. Folks in some religious circles seemed to suggest Christians just sit this one out. Political strategists advocated surrender, declaring the issue a lost cause in a zero-sum game. Do we want to be right or win elections? 

Scant little was said about how we might address the actual issue: Can we as a nation find a way to extend legal protections to long-term, monogamous gay couples while at the same time protect the religious liberty of those whose faith prohibits homosexuality? I could have missed it, but I haven’t heard much from either side about an equal-but-different, civil-union-type solution.

Maybe we don’t want a solution as much as we want a fight and a Supreme Court verdict like Roe v. Wade. Forty years later, we all know how well that settled the abortion debate.

My sweet father-in-law served two terms as a county commissioner. During his first campaign in 2000, we discussed Roe v. Wade. He expressed to me the frustration of pro-life Christians who felt blindsided by the 1973 Supreme Court ruling. “It happened,” he said, “and we did nothing.”

I naively thought this marked his generation’s legacy with silence and inaction. After Holy Week this year, I think I understand a little more of how he feels.

Proponents of gay marriage think they’re right and that this is a question of equality. If you express a different opinion, you’re labeled a bigot. On the other hand, many Christians think gay marriage is a threat to First Amendment freedoms and that this as a question of religious liberty. If our federal government “redefines” marriage to legally include both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, where does that leave the church? Where does that leave religious schools and institutions?

Will there be exceptions? Or will the state cross the line and require all churches to perform same-sex marriages, hire homosexual staff, and censor the first chapter of Romans or face prosecution for discrimination and hate crimes? Think it could never happen? Private sector examples like Hobby Lobby, Sweet Cakes Bakery, and Arlene’s Flowers show how eagerly religious liberty is being challenged. Is this too a zero-sum game?

The tidal wave of little equal signs and crosses on Facebook and the tumult of mainstream media bias during Holy Week chilled the dialogue of regular citizens. This debate has instilled fear in people to voice their convictions.

But bullying the opposition into silence isn’t progress.

rick warren quote

image from Pure Purpose on Facebook

Some of us are straight. Some of us are gay. All of us defy GodWe’re all guilty; that’s why we’re all in need of Christ. No one is in a position to condemn. But what does it say about my faith if I’m scared silent to speak what I believe?

EstherShadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and Daniel are in the Bible for a reason. So is the account of Jesus before Pilate. There is Truth that stands alone and isn’t relative to our whims, preferences, culture, courts, or circumstances. 

flag in Reagan National

flag in Reagan National

I disagree with the idea that engaging in the political process and conversation means you’ve traded faith in Christ for faith in government. God has blessed American believers the gifts of freedom of speech and religion, among the many other gifts of our Constitution. We are called to be good stewards of those gifts as much as we are called to be good stewards of all the resources God has given us. Use it or lose it.

No one enjoys being the object of ridicule, spite, and retaliation. We hope bullying doesn’t happen and we answer it with grace as best we can when it does. Christ promised that people would hate Christians the same way they hated Him. In all this, God is sovereign; His plans will be accomplished.

Americans may never unanimously agree on social issues like gay marriage and abortion. But I hold out hope we can find ways to live alongside each other in peace, with respect for our different beliefs, and under the protection of our Constitution. 

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. John 18:36-38 NIV

How are you processing the events of Holy Week?

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Reader’s Choice ’12: The Politics of Friendship

Eric Bostic may very well take over the city of Charlotte one day.

Eric Bostic

Eric Bostic (right) with his brothers Malcolm and Derek

I went to school with Eric. One thing I remember about him is that he always—always—had a beautiful, friendly smile on his face. Still does to this day.

Eric owns a merchant services company and his wife recently opened a medical supply business. Before that, Eric served as a Ranger and Green Beret. He knows the cost of freedom firsthand. He recognizes how important it is for a self-governed people to express their viewpoints. 

Eric’s Reader’s Choice is:

 The Politics of Friendship

seesaw

click to read The Politics of Friendship

readers choice

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Filed under America, family & friends

The Politics of Friendship

It’s mid-October. The leaves are changing. The frost is on the pumpkin. And Americans are sick of politics. 

seesaw

seesaw

That’s understandable. We’re in the heat of a presidential election. The airwaves are filled with negative ads. Conflict permeates the country.

Within this microcosm of months leading up to the 2012 election, I co-founded a public forum to discuss the issues with Lisen Stromberg, a writer who usually disagrees with me. Am I a pundit? Hardly.

I’m just an American citizen who discovered she, like every other American citizen, has a voice with which to speak about issues that matter to her.

Notice I didn’t say I discovered my opinions. I wrote about controversial topics like Food, Inc., Roe v. Wade, and Chick-fil-A before the election stage was set. My views have been formed by my beliefs, experiences, and observations. Same as yours have been. I simply began to voice my views more formally and in good faith that civil discourse would rule the day.

My sharing has been met with applause in some camps and disdain in others. There have been retweets and hate tweets. I’ve been unfriended and blocked. I’ve picked up a subscriber or two along the way.

Funny thing is, all this posting and dialoguing takes place outside the context of real life.

My closest friends see me as a person, not a 600-word opinion. We don’t hold identical beliefs. Do I love them any less? Of course not. What kind of friend would I be if I did? Two of my best friends don’t even read my blogs. Another nearly stopped reading once she realized we see things oh-so differently.

These women humble me and keep me real.

Perhaps I am the neighbor who offered a coat and waited with her for the fire truck when her preschoolers locked her out of the house in the snow. I am the postpartum disaster who fell asleep on her living room couch while she rocked my infant son. I am the wardrobe coach who commandeered the dressing room as we shopped for clothes for her to wear when she returned to work. Or the lady who lunched beside her and spoke freely of losing loved ones to disease. Or the nomad who lost her spaghetti colander in the move.

At the end of the day, at then end of the election, regardless of who wins or loses the White House, we will all be left with each other. Does that mean we stop voicing our opinions? Stop talking about issues in order to preserve the peace?

My late friend Alex would say yes. Why let politics get in the way of friendship?

Silence is certainly a strategy. But as my husband told me, your friends love you for who you are. You are free to speak with respect and without fear in their presence and they in yours.

They love you none the less.

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. Proverbs 17:17 NLT

One Thing Remains by Kristian Stanfill. Reminds me of true unfailing love.

Is it better not to speak to preserve the peace or to speak trusting your friendships will hold fast?

 

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Filed under America, family & friends, women's studies

Are You Smarter Than a Broadcast Journalist?

If you’re reading this, I know at least two things about you. First, you can read. Second, you have internet access.

i support the liberal agenda

as seen at Target

Another thing I know is that you’re smart. Very smart.

You can think for yourself. You don’t need someone to tell you what the definition of “is” is. You don’t want to be introduced to more spin-doctored phraseology, conspiracy theories, and opinions, all paraded as facts on network, radio, and 24-hour cable news.

Whether liberal or conservative, you know what you believe and what’s important to you. Sadly, you realize your values and experiences are insignificant to the experts in the media.

You may, like the majority of Americans, distrust the media.

Last month, Gallup reported 60 percent of Americans say they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. That’s a new record high. And more perceive media bias to be liberal than conservative.

Now before you media mavens get your AP Stylebooks in an uproar, let me state I believe there are good, talented, honest journalists out there who do their best to be true to the craft. They respect the intelligence of their readers enough to go to the extra trouble of checking their biases at the door.

Back in the day when I was in journalism school, the powers that be insisted the media was unbiased. Today the powers that be not only admit media bias exists, they embrace it. The pendulum has swung from denial to excess. Consider this from a story in Mashable last month about the loosening of journalists’ social media etiquette :

“If you asked me two years ago, I would [have] said, ‘No, a journalist should not have an opinion on Twitter,’ ” said Niketa Patel, social media product manager for CNNMoney. But now her thinking has changed. “We are humans, too. We do have opinions. I think as long as you’re not controversial about it, or you’re not overly trying to make a statement, then I think it’s OK…to have somewhat of an opinion,” she said.

For Liz Heron, social media director at The Wall Street Journal, journalists are at their best on social media when they offer analysis and context instead of just the straight story.

i heart mitt

as seen at Target

What? Who said we want journalists to offer anything but the straight story? Are we more concerned with the reporter’s need to express his or her personal narrative than with the audience’s need for facts?

That’s not news reporting. That’s opinion-editorial. That’s creative nonfiction. That’s celebrity in the making. That’s personal blogging!

If you’re still reading this (God love you), I know you care about our country and the upcoming election. You’re concerned. You may even be afraid.

You want to be informed, watch the debates, that sort of thing. But politics can get so mean-spirited and ugly. When you try to keep up with the election news, you end up more discouraged.

Take heart. Embrace your power as a media literate citizen. 

Watch the presidential debate tomorrow night. But watch in a forum free of the biased reporting and analysis that often passes for journalism these days.

large American flag

Old Glory

C-SPAN will air the debates without interruption. Watch the first debate tomorrow live at 9 p.m. EST or re-aired at 11:30 p.m., 2 a.m., 4 a.m., and 5:30 a.m. Or watch it livestreaming online at C-SPAN’s Campaign 2012 Debate Hub.

PBS is another good option. Both C-SPAN and PBS offer analysis before and after the debates, but you’re less likely to see superstar journalists talk over the coverage or break in to narrate like we saw on other channels during the conventions.

Watch the debates free of outside opinion, so you have a chance to form the one opinion that matters first—your own.

He changes times and seasons;
He deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning. Daniel 2:21 NIV

More new music today: The Wallflowers and Reboot the Mission from their album Glad All Over available in stores today. How’s that for timing?

Do you believe media bias exists? What are your plans for watching the debates?

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Could It Be We Agree?

Since when did it become impossible to discuss politics and religion? Why is it so difficult?

American flag of handprints

one nation, under God, indivisible

Last week I told you about Finding (Un)Common Ground, the new site I’ve launched with writer Lisen Stromberg. We’re publishing side-by-side opinion posts about controversial, potentially divisive topics. We’re not experts; we’re simply moms who would really like to be able to discuss issues with civility. We believe others would like to be able to do the same.

Lisen’s the West Coast liberal and I’m the Southern/Heartland conservative. As expected, we did not agree in our first round of posts last week concerning the terrorist attacks against our embassies in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen.

This week, however, in our second round of posts, something strange happened.

We agreed. Well, sort of.

We weren’t in perfect sync with each other on the responses from Google and the Obama administration regarding the film Innocence of Muslims. That showed up in the comments. But we did agree on one thing: the freedom of speech is a right that must be upheld.

Wow.

blue field of handprints on flag

with liberty and justice for all

I’d say a liberal and a conservative agreeing on the importance of the First Amendment is reason for hope in this brutal election season. It may be rare that Lisen and I agree on anything, but what a great place to begin.

I promise not to blog here every time we post something there. I’ll try to let you know when new posts are up so you can click over to read them if you want.

Yesterday Lisen and I were thrilled that BlogHer syndicated our story. Read both sides in An Uncommon Meeting Sparks Civil Dialogue, Launches New Site.

Is civil dialogue possible? We’re game give it a fighting chance.

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14 NIV

Keep Your Eyes Open, my love. By NeedtoBreathe. I know the fight is on the way when the sides have been chosen. 

Please visit the BlogHer post, share or comment if you like our concept, and have an uncommonly good weekend!

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Filed under America, blogging, writing & reading

An Uncommon Meeting

Syndicated on BlogHer.com

This post was syndicated by BlogHer on 9.20.12 and featured in the BlogHer Conferences Newsletter on 10.3.12.

I wanted to eat my breakfast.

welcome to blogher '12

welcome to BlogHer ’12

“Okay, everyone,” said Lisa Stone from the stage. “It’s time for Speed Dating.”

Imagine a hotel convention room filled with thousands of women. Not just ordinary women. Blogger women.

That morning, I was late to the BlogHer conference welcome breakfast hosted by co-founders Elisa Camahort Page and Lisa Stone. I was hungry. I wanted to eat.

“Form two big circles around the outside of the room.”

“I hate ice breakers,” I said to myself as I inhaled scrambled eggs. “I hate speed dating.”

“There’s room over on this side. Let’s go, ladies!”

Then it occurred to me. “You bought the ticket. Now get up and speed date!”

I joined the outside circle that faced the inside circle. For the next 20 minutes, the circles moved around each other. And I met fabulous bloggers.

Bloggers who blog about food and family and carpet and cities. Bloggers with beautiful business cards and creative names. Bonbon Break. The Downtown Project. The Succulent Wife.

Our hostesses issued the one-minute warning, and my mind returned to the bacon abandoned on my plate. “Hang on, breakfast. I’m coming!”

I had time to meet one, last blogger.

A gorgeous, vibrant blonde from California introduced herself to me. “Hi, I’m Lisen Stromberg,” she said. “You look so familiar. Where have I seen you?”

“Hi, I’m Aimee Whetstine,” I said and shook hands with her. “I was syndicated on BlogHer this week. You may have seen my face there.”

“What was the article?” said Lisen.

I braced myself. “I wrote the Chick-fil-A post.”

lisen and aimee

Lisen and Aimee

Have you ever witnessed a cat and a dog face off for the first time?

We tried to make small talk about our blogs, but we kept coming back to the issue at hand. I couldn’t understand why civil unions weren’t enough. Lisen couldn’t understand why my church didn’t approve of gay marriage. Back and forth it went. Each of us holding our positions with dignity and without screaming.

There was another blogger waiting to speak to Lisen. As I said goodbye and turned to go, I looked down at Lisen’s business card in my hand.

The moment of truth fell like the sunlight through clouds.

“You know,” I said as I turned back to face her. “We should do something together. We should write about this.”

Lisen’s eyes met mine. Was she thinking the same thing?

“Yes, we should,” she said.

“It would be good for my readers,” I said, “and for yours too, I think.”

“Yes, it would.” she said.

Today Lisen and I set out to create a forum of civil dialogue about the issues that matter. We’re launching a neutral, shared website called Finding (Un)Common Ground.

We’ll regularly post our views on hot topics and invite you to dialogue and share your thoughts. All comments and perspectives are welcomed, provided they are expressed within the bounds of civility.

Today we’re posting about the events this week in Libya and Egypt. I hope you’ll visit, share, and comment.

Civil discourse must be achieved if we are to find understanding and solutions within the issues that divide us and our country.

Please join the dialogue at Finding (Un)Common Ground.

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord:
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.” Isaiah 1:18 ESV

Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. You say tom-ay-to, I say tom-ah-to…

You are invited to read
Finding (Un)Common Ground.
Follow us on Twitter @uncommonground1
and 
on Facebook, too!

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