Tag Archives: anxiety

Starbucks, The President & The Stories We Tell Ourselves

nonresponsibilityI think we (the Church) wish it were true – that Starbucks was taking aim at all Christians everywhere and at the Church in North America in particular.  But, I don’t think it is.  Somewhere along the line, we took a non-issue and made it an issue. And gave Starbucks all kinds of free advertising along the way!

I think Starbucks is focused – on making money.  A lot of money.  They do this by selling coffee.  Lots of coffee.  Served in cups.  This year they are red cups, with their green logo on them.  Red and Green.  Ever since I was little, when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, red and green have been the colors of Christmas.  But, I don’t think Starbucks cares so much about that as they do about making money.  

They are a business.  And as long as they are in business someone’s prayer, “Give us today, our daily bread” is being answered – all over the world, literally.

But as a Church, I think we wish it was true. The story that they are out to destroy Christmas.  I think we want it to be true because it feeds two postures we’ve grown fond of lately.

First, it allows us to tell ourselves that we are victims.  Victims of persecution.  Victims because Christmas is being taken away from us. If the US Post Office and Starbucks don’t say “Merry Christmas” when we are shipping gifts or buying coffee, then it isn’t really Christmas is it? Being victims allows us to piss and moan about how bad the world is – and how good we are in comparison, of course.

Ultimately, though, I think we like to take the posture of being victims because then we don’t have to confront the consumerism in our Christmas.  If we complain about how bad Starbucks is, the government is, somebody else is, we don’t have to face the reality that we are spending $4.00 or more on a cup of coffee when the rest of the world makes less than that a day.  We don’t have to confront the huge amounts of money we spend buying, wrapping, shipping and throwing away presents all in the name of Jesus.

But that moves me to reason number two.  I think we want to believe it is true, and take on the posture of victim, so we can also take on a posture of non-responsibility.

Yes, you read that right.  We, as The Church, actually prefer non-responsibility (not irresponsibility) over responsibility. If we are the victims, then someone, in this case Starbucks, HAS to be responsible for this mess.  Someone, or something, we can blame for the whole mess.  If it is up to someone else to make sure Christmas is celebrated, then I don’t have to take responsibility for living out the Gospel in my own life.  Our thinking is something like this: Well, if President Obama hadn’t declared December to be National Muslim Awareness Month, then I would share the Gospel with my friends, family and co-workers. But, now I can’t. Why bother… 

Our posture of non-responsibility allows us to blame and shift responsibility. In this posture we don’t have to confront our selfishness, the ways we’ve tied consumerism to the Gospel, our lack of love for others, our in ability to get along, how we haven’t raised our kids to love Jesus, etc.

I think we, the church, have grown to love controversy and our pseudo-persecution in the U.S. because it allows us to divert our attention away from the transformation needed within ourselves and the Church.  I think we have grown to love controversy because it allows us to be victims without responsibility and that lets us be lazy.

But I also think that we, the church, don’t have to be this way.  That in reality, deep down inside, we don’t want to be this way.  We want to live into the kind of life Paul ascribes to Timothy.  We want to have an enormous impact on our cities, culture and world.  We want to see Jesus do some really cool things in and through us.

But we can’t, not when we take on the postures of victim and non-responsibility.

We’re Asking The Wrong Questions


I will confess that on Friday, June 26, when the Supreme Court issued a decision constitutionally securing the right for same-sex marriage in all 50 states, I wasn’t sure how I felt. I’m still not sure all that I am feeling.  To be honest it is taking some time to sort through it all.

And not because of same-sex marriage.  And yet, because of it…  🙂

The reason there is this place in me that feels uncertain is this:  We still don’t know how to dialogue. And because we don’t know how to dialogue, we are asking the wrong kinds of questions and making polarizing statements. On both sides.

Social media was flooded, of course. Both heralding the SCOTUS decision and condemning it, everybody was taking sides, it seemed.  And, I think that is part of the problem – the taking of sides. But it’s what we do when we are anxious.  And even the LGBT community and supporters were anxious, even if it was in a highly celebratory way.

And so most of us asked the same question in two different ways – as if life is a coin and there are only two sides.  Version one of the question is something like this, “Do you support the SCOTUS decision? Will you perform a same-sex marriage?”  Version two of the question is something like this, “Do you support a Biblical understanding of marriage? You wouldn’t do a same-sex marriage would you?

Said differently, they are the same question, “Are you on my side? Do you agree with me?”  

I believe the questions we are asking are designed to put people into a box (for or against), on a volatile issue, outside of the context of relationship.  They are the wrong questions because they create enmity not dialog. They force us into agree/disagree thinking and talking resulting in I like you / I don’t like you behavior. They keep us stuck in a way of dealing with a part of our reality that has been in place for decades and clearly hasn’t worked.

Jesus describes a way of being in Matthew 5:43-48 where we engage in actively loving those we are in conflict with that requires personal connection, face to face interaction, where we develop a genuine love for the others in our lives.  And because we really love the person in front of us, we want to listen.  We want to really hear what she has to say. We want to understand his thinking and values.

But!  Some will say that the most loving thing we can do is sometimes tell someone they are wrong.  And, that’s true.  Imagine with me, though, that because of my love for my children, all I ever did was tell them what I thought they shouldn’t do in order to keep them safe.  Everyday, from birth til they leave the nest, all they hear is what they shouldn’t do.  No genuine “I love you’s.” No listening deeply to their frustrations or pains.  No just walking alongside them through life.  Jus day after day tell them what I think they shouldn’t do…  I wonder if when they leave the home they would say they felt deeply loved…?

What if both gays and those who aren’t in favor of a homosexual lifestyle, were to begin to have a different conversation.  What if we moved away from throwing one-liners over the wall at a nameless third person stereotype and began to develop deep meaningful relationships with one another.

I wonder if we would treat each other differently?  

I wonder if the world might see Jesus more clearly?

I wonder if we would begin practicing the wholeness we can have in Christ?

Can we have a different conversation with different questions?

Martin, Zimmerman & the Gospel

Racial-unitySo I am a little slow…

It has been over a week since the Zimmerman Verdict. Everyone  who has had something to say has mostly said it.  Some have said it really well.

There is no reason for me to rehash all that has, or hasn’t, been said.  However, I am really present to this question:  In our culture today, with elevated levels of anxiety and the resulting group-thinking that is leading to deeper and deeper division, how do we move forward in a way that is healthy, brings deep healing and honors one another?

I have a deep conviction that the way forward is paved by people who are learning to love in such a way that deep listening becomes a way of being. This way forward is led by people, not government, institutions or judicial systems; but by people who are being transformed (romans 12:2) and living differently.

It is clear that our nations continues to struggle with racial prejudice and injustice – that there are white people who have deeply felt negative feelings about anyone of color; and that there are people of color who have deeply felt negative feelings about anyone who is white. And, of course, there are any number of variations!

When we define love in a way that says, nobody wins unless everybody wins, and define a win as being able to clearly define oneself and be deeply understood, we then begin to step away from the win-lose way of listening and being with one another. When we begin to listen to understand rather than to fight, we begin to love.  It doesn’t mean we have to agree!  But love calls us to listen deeply when we don’t agree.

One of the best thinkers I know is the brilliant Bill Lamar ( http://www.faithandleadership.com/people-news/writers/william-h-lamar-iv). I met him while doing some work around issues of leadership at Duke.  More than the wisdom regarding leadership, what I recieved most from Bill was the gift of his capacity to listen deeply to me around areas we didn’t see eye to eye on!

Somebody has to start!

And it might as well be me (and you?). In Romans 5:10 Paul says, “When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him…”  In human history, God made the first move, and has continued to invite us into that move of redemption. The point, tho, is this – God made the move when there was still enmity and hostility.  God went first.  What would it look like for God’s people to join him in going first?

What would it look like for you to sit down and have conversation with some whose experience is different than yours because of their race, ask them what their experiences have been like, and listen to them deeply? I think this would be really hard to do.  I also deeply believe these are the kinds of conversations God is calling us to have.

The first totally loving thing Jesus did as a fully alive and fully human person, was ask Mary and Joseph to do something really really hard.

Right.  Not only was Mary asked to risk stoning and take on the pregnancy of a child that would not be her future husband’s, and not only was Joseph asked to move forward in the wedding plans and to be the earthly father of a child that would not be his; but they were both asked to love and parent a child who is fully “other” than they. He would be called the Son of God. He would be (and was and is) fully human, but he would not be the usual Jewish boy.  This call to do something hard is also a the most loving thing God could will and do for Joseph and Mary.  If we believe 1 John 4:8 to be true, then EVERYTHING God does is a loving act of his will – even this.

Even calling us to do the hard thing of loving those who are not quite like we are…