Facebook is great. I’ve moved around a lot in my life and Facebook has let me keep in touch with people from all of the places where I’ve lived. I really appreciate this because I’m pretty bad at staying in touch otherwise.
Because of the places I’ve worked and the experiences I’ve had, I tend to live along the whole political spectrum on Facebook. My newsfeed is full of what some would consider to be the politically liberal and ultra-liberal. It is also full of the conservative and ultra-conservative. This means that whenever an issue arises in the country, I’m fortunate to get nearly every perspective on it.
I’m honest when I use the word “fortunate” because I appreciate all of my friends and the perspectives that they bring to the conversation. I don’t always agree with all of them (liberal or conservative) but I appreciate hearing various perspectives and opinions.
One thing has become more and more apparent over the last few years and it distresses me greatly. It is the fact that in every disagreement that takes place anymore everyone is making the exact same argument.
What? (You might be asking yourself this question right now) If everyone is making the same argument how can there be disagreements? Doesn’t that mean that everyone should be getting along? While that would be awesome, unfortunately that’s not what’s actually going on.
The only way that would work is if people were making these arguments based on facts or some sort of well reasoned logic. As far as I can tell all of that kind of reasoning flew out the window a long time ago. Unfortunately now the only argument that is being made is “I’m right and you’re an idiot.”
Let me clarify that slightly. You’re not an idiot if you agree with me or others who agree with me. You’re only an idiot if you hold any position different than mine. It doesn’t matter the basis for your position, how reasonable your position might be, or even how many people hold the same position. All that matters is that it is different than mine and that therefore makes you an idiot for holding the position.
I’ve seen this from those who would be considered politically conservative and I’ve seen it from those who would be considered politically liberal. It doesn’t matter what end of the spectrum you’re on, I’ve seen it in the statuses that are posted and the links that are shared.
The reason this distresses me is that it is bad. Bad for you, bad for me, bad for relationships between people, bad for America and bad for society in general. It’s bad because being able to take that position means that we’re excused from the requirement of forming a well-reasoned argument for why we hold our position. It also frees us from the critical thinking skills necessary to understand why someone might hold an opposing position.
Critical thinking is a skill that’s value cannot be overestimated. Critical thinking is what allows us to function in a world with so many competing philosophies and viewpoints. Critical thinking is what helps us evaluate our own position based on everything we know and form a well-reasoned argument in support of that position. Critical thinking is also what allows us to step outside of ourselves for a moment to attempt to understand the position held by someone who you know to be quite reasonable, loving, and caring in real life. (I mean why would you have a FB friends list full of jerks? There was something that brought you together as friends.)
Once critical thinking is lost, all is lost. I don’t mean to sound like an alarmist, but if there is no critical thinking then we devolve into a society where all that matters is who can shout the loudest. It doesn’t matter whether or not they’re right or even if they can make a good argument, all that matters is if they can yell the loudest and shame their opponents into submission. This sounds neither pleasant nor civilized.
So if you’ve reached this point, thanks. Thanks for reading and thanks for being interested in this. Please try to find ways to use critical thinking in your daily life and encourage others to use it too. Think about your position on something, really think about it. Have you thought about it from every angle? Why does someone take a position different than yours? If you’re wondering, find someone and ask. Then just listen. Don’t argue, don’t insult, and don’t walk away. Listen to what they have to say and try to actually understand them.
Do you know what is neat about critical thinking? You don’t actually have to agree with the person who has a different position than you do. Another neat thing is that critical thinking allows you to be respectful. There is so little respect in the “I’m right and you’re an idiot” philosophy to life. Respect is a key foundation to conversation and conversation sometimes leads to changes in a person’s position.
If you believe so strongly in your position about something then you probably want others to hold the same position. The only way that this might happen is if you’re able to have respectful conversations. Leading with “I’m right and you’re an idiot” will pretty much shut down any prospect of respectful conversations.
So try. Try to be respectful. Try to critically think about your position and the position of others. Avoid a knee jerk reaction combined with the ease of Facebook posting to skip either of these steps. We can make things better, but it takes a commitment and one person at a time to step up and show respect.
Maybe you're familiar with how the "call process" works. Maybe you're not. We've reached that time of the year again when the seminary sends the concluding class out into the real world to finally put into practice all the things that they've been taught during their four years at the seminary.
Here's a quick overview of the process:
If you have any questions or if anything is unclear please feel free to ask.
**There are 35 districts within the LCMS which represents over 6,000 congregations and over 2 million people
I wrote this on the evening of November 1, 2010 after receiving a phone call from my dad informing me that my grandfather had died somewhat unexpectedly. It is something I'm reminded of on every "All Saints Day".
The title of this note is "Funny the Way it Is". Now if you are a Dave Matthews fan you may recognize that as the title of a song off their most recent album Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King. It is a song about the highs and lows that can occur simultaneously throughout life. It was the first thing that came to my mind tonight as I was pondering today's events.
Historically in the Church November 1st has been set aside as All Saints Day. This is a day to commemorate all of the saints who have gone before us. Now when we talk about saints we're not talking about those select few who have gone through the multi-year process to be officially recognized by the Pope as being "worthy" to be called a saint. Instead we are talking about all of God's redeemed people who have been saved by Christ's death on the cross and adopted as children of God through the washing of Holy Baptism. God's redeeming work makes us all saints.
"Funny the way it is" that on this day where we commemorate those who have gone before us, the appointed Psalm for All Saints Day is Psalm 150 (ESV) which reads:
1 Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! 2 Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! 3 Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! 4 Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! 5 Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! 6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!
Now that seems like a strange choice for a day that is used to remember our loved ones who have died in the faith. It definitely wasn't what I was expecting. It seemed even more odd considering that late this afternoon I received a phone call from my dad telling me that my Grandpa Schlund had died suddenly just moments before. Now Grandpa had been moved into hospice care so his death was not completely unexpected, however the doctor had given him about 6 months to live so we weren't expecting it quite this soon. He had just celebrated a birthday last week and I had spoken to him on the phone and told him that my brother Andy and I were planning on joining him and the family for Thanksgiving in a few weeks. He sounded really good and was really excited that Andy and I were coming to visit.
As I read the Psalm tonight, I thought, "That's a whole lot of praising that the Psalmist tells us to do which comes at a time where praise may not be the first thing on my mind" -- the world definitely wouldn't expect a whole lot of praise in this situation. But then I thought of all of the things that we had to praise God for today and every day. We can praise him that Grandpa didn't have to suffer to the point of death, we can praise him for sending his son Jesus into the world to redeem the world, we can praise him for adopting each of us, Grandpa included, into his family and claiming us through baptism, we can praise him for the impact that Grandpa had on many other people around him, and we can praise God for the countless blessings that he bestows on us each and every day.
Now on a day like today which is set up to remember the Saints who have gone before us we must be careful that our focus remains in the right place. Hebrews 12:1-2 reminds us about the "great cloud of witnesses" that surrounds us, but goes on to remind us to continue "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our Faith". It is not the witnesses that God has placed around us that we should exalt and praise but the one to whom they witness -- Jesus himself. While Grandpa was a great witness of the faith that he had, our hope and our comfort doesn't come from him being a witness. No, our hope and comfort comes from the source of grandpa's faith and the one he was witnessing about -- Jesus Christ. Without Christ's suffering and death on the cross in full atonement for our sins and his subsequent resurrection from the dead where he overcame sin, death and the power of the devil, we would have no hope, but thanks be to God that he overcame all of that and secured for us life eternally with Him in Heaven.
Finally, we must remember Paul's words in 1 Thessalonians 4 that remind us how the Christian mourns at the death of a loved one -- not as one who has no hope, but as those who celebrate the joy of the resurrection and cling to the hope of everlasting life!
1 Thessalonians 4:13-20 (ESV)
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
"Funny the way it is" that we have much to praise the Lord about on this seemingly sad and mournful day, just like the Psalmist said we would!
Rest and peace -- two things that seem to be lacking in our lives. Our readings this week tell us where we can find rest and peace that won't fail!
Old Testament: Zechariah 9:9–12
Epistle: Romans 7:14–25a
Gospel: Matthew 11:25–30
God doesn't always work in the ways that we think he is going to. This week we see a showdown between a false prophet and a real prophet of God. Paul tells us why the law isn't such a bad thing after all. And Jesus has some radical words about conflict because of him.
Old Testament: Jeremiah 28:5--9
Epistle Reading: Romans 7:1--13
Gospel: Matthew 10:34--42
LCMS Congregation Locator: http://locator.lcms.org/search.asp
And now for something completely different….it is arts and crafts time. As you probably know if you’ve looked at my blog before, I generally write about theological topics. My intention was always to write about other things, but I haven’t really kept up with that very well.
Today that is changing. (At least for a day) I’ve always enjoyed doing arts and crafts. It is probably due to my mom being a teacher and using those kinds of projects to keep my brothers and I entertained when we were kids. I’ve always wished that I was more artistic, but I do enjoy trying.
A couple of weeks ago someone gave me a couple of spools, balls, I’m not sure what you call them, of yarn. They just happened to be in the colors of my alma matar, the University of Nebraska - Kearney. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the blue and gold yarn, but I figured I’d eventually find some project.
Last week on one of the local morning shows they were interviewing a woman who was sharing fun projects to do with the kids this summer using stuff you might have around the house. One of the projects caught my eye and was the perfect way to use the yarn. I found it to be a nice, relaxing project that even allows you to take out a little stress with a hammer.
The neat thing about this project is that the sky is the limit in terms of what you can create. You control the size of the wood, the pattern, and the colors. If you can imagine it then you can probably create it. It is also an easy project to do while you're watching TV or a movie.
1) Decide on a design. Like I said, I started simple. I had the blue and gold yarn which were the colors of UNK so I knew my design would be something to do with the school. I figured the letters were an easy first try at doing this. Print your design off. Each letter fit on a single piece of paper in portrait orientation.
2) Cut your board to the size that you want to work with. I cut 2’ off the board that I bought. The nice thing about the 1x6x8 board is that it is easily cut with a handsaw. You don’t need any power tools for this project.
3) Spray paint the board with whatever color(s) you’ve chosen. The spray paint I bought was fast drying and was dry and ready to go in about 10 minutes.
4) Align your patter on the board after it has finished drying.
5) Add at least four nails to hold the pattern in place so it doesn’t move while you’re adding the other nails.
6) Add as many more nails as you need to complete the pattern. Remember that you’ll be wrapping the yarn around the nails so you’ll want to leave a little space to get in-between them. The number of nails isn’t really important and can be a way to add your own touch to whatever you’re designing.
7) Once you’ve added all of the nails you can rip the pattern off.
8) Use your yarn to wrap around the nails. You can do whatever kind of pattern that you want. You can put an edge on it, create a pattern from side to side, be creative! Don't be afraid to unwrap it if you don't like how it looks and try again. I did that a couple times.
I decided to go pretty simple for my first try and I think it turned out well. My next attempt will be a yellow board with blue yarn in the shape of a Loper head.
If you try this, post a picture and let me know what you do.
This week we move into the second half of the church year and see the theme of trust weave it's way through our readings!
This week the spirit is poured out on 70 Elders tasked with assisting Moses as the Israelites journey through the wilderness. The apostles recieve the Holy Spirit with tongues of fire on their heads, and Jesus speaks of the Spirit which is yet to come.
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This week's readings:
Old Testament: Numbers 11:24–30
2nd Reading: Acts 2:1–21
Gospel Reading: John 7:37–39
This week Paul takes a trip to Athens and teaches the Greek philosophers about the "unknown god" for which they have an altar. Peter tells us to be prepared to suffer on account of our faith and to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that we have in us. He reminds us that in the same way that Noah and his family were saved through the ark, we too are saved by our baptisms that connect us to Christ's death and resurrection. Finally, in John, we hear Jesus give us a promise that the Father would send the Holy Spirit.
This week's readings:
1st Reading: Acts 17:16-31
Epistle Reading: 1 Peter 3:13--22
Gospel Reading: John 14:15--21
Next week's readings:
First Reading: Acts 1:12-26
Epistle Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-19, 5:6-11
Gospel Reading: John 17:1-11
Send in your questions:
This past week served as a great reminder that people will find any reason they can to argue. It doesn't matter if the issues are significant or simple, there just seems to be something inside of us that likes to argue. It doesn't matter whether it is in friendships, our families, our communities, or even in our churches, no place is immune to arguing.
I was a little worked up this week about an argument that I observed taking place online. I normally don't get too worked up about such things but I thought this one was so absurd from all sides that I became a bit agitated.
Fortunately Jon Stewart was around this week to remind us all that ridiculous arguments aren't really that uncommon and that we will really find any reason to argue that we can.
Apparently some 4th graders were studying how the government operates. This is a great thing. Coming from a political science background in college I would recommend everyone spending some time learning about how your government operates. So they partnered with a senator to propose a bill that would make yogurt the official snack of the state of New York. That seems pretty benign, right? It isn't related to any major social or political policy so it shouldn't take much time to get this through.
It turns out that they spent 50 minutes debating this bill. That is 10 minutes less than an hour and probably 47 minutes longer than they should have spent on it. Anyway, you just have to watch the video clip above to get the full sense of what happened.
Now I'd be remiss if I didn't make some theological connection to this conversation. Why do we do this? Why do we argue so much? It is because we are naturally focused on ourselves. Our natural inclination is to focus on ourselves and our own needs and desires and not on those of others. This is problematic when you get 2 or more people together. When people get together there has to be some external motivation to get them to work together instead of arguing. A lot of times this is simply transactional. What can I get from the other person? Knowledge, friendship, love, a job? The list is endless.
Maybe there is another way. In fact, I would guarantee there is another way. For that we flip to Philippians 2 where I'll leave you with this quote:
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
I think it is something worth keeping in mind!
My name is Tom. I'm fascinated by the ways that people, ideas, current events and theology interact with each other.