Define the terms, and then …

Define the terms.

I met the father of our church’s new worship leader last weekend, visiting from out of town. As we chatted for a few minutes, I mentioned that I write a blog. “What about?” he asked. “Issues of the day, and my faith, mostly,” I said.

“Define the terms,” he said.

I knew exactly what he meant.

It’s why I don’t often engage in your conversations, preferring to carefully avoid most of those terms.

Love.

Hate.

Inclusion.

Discrimination.

Racism.

Believe.

Faith.

Freedom.

Addiction.

The economy.

Right vs. wrong.

Rights.

This list is hardly exhaustive.

Every one of these words means different things to different people. That’s why Facebook memes are so inflammatory. You post something to make a point, and someone else interprets it entirely differently.

Even worse, most of you have no intention of discussing the issue, but only in preaching to your choir.

A poll

Case in point:

“Do you think Trump is a racist? Simple yes or no.”

Depends who you ask.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

No. No. No. No.

Never the twain shall meet in this online poll currently making the rounds. Neither side has any intention of discussing the issue.

“Intelligent discussion” is an oxymoron.

Love, hate

What is “love?”

That word has a myriad of definitions and meanings. Each of us defines it slightly differently, from our own perspective.

Indeed, we define all these hot-button words from our own perspective.

“Hate.” Is there really as much hate out there as we say there is?

What is hate, anyway?

Some of you define “hate” as any stance different than yours. I’m not exaggerating.

How do you expect to get along with anyone while throwing that word around? You’ve marginalized yourself.

The economy

Is “the economy” doing great? Depends who you ask.

If the stock market is your indicator, then yes. If finding a good job that pays the bills is your indicator, then no. There are lots of jobs out there, but many of them are outsourced or lower-paying service jobs, with fewer well-paying manufacturing and management careers than there used to be. We don’t like to talk about that.

Inclusion, discrimination

“Inclusion.” Oooh, there’s a good word. Of course all should be welcome just about anywhere. But that’s not what inclusion means in today’s America. A certain sector of society has taken over that word, and politicized it.

Even inclusive people exclude those who don’t think like they do.

Let that sink in (I don’t like this phrase, but it fits here).

“Discrimination” is another often misunderstood word. I’m a member of AARP, and I get emails and Facebook posts almost daily talking about “age discrimination.”

When I say discrimination, that’s not what most of you think about, is it? But it’s very real. I switched jobs several times in my 50s, and I’m sure I experienced age discrimination to some degree while job searching.

Most of you put “discrimination” and “racism” in the same sentence. And you should. Because racism is very real as well.

But again, what is it? To those of you who have experienced racism: Do you have any interest at all in ending it? I’m serious. Because I’m a white male, I’m often guilty by association.

Many white males are racist. I am not defending them. But if you look down on me only because of the color of my skin, you’re racist too. By definition. I can change my attitude, but I cannot change the color of my skin.

Can we have an intelligent discussion about that?

Probably not, because there’s another issue at work here besides defining the terms.

Getting personal

I’ll explain this by quoting an article in the Aug. 20 edition of the (Elyria, Ohio) Chronicle-Telegram. The Avon Lake City Council was prepared to enact a law increasing the penalties for drivers passing a stopped school bus – until a resident, who’s also an attorney, objected, calling the local law unconstitutional. He claimed it was an attempt to supersede state law.

Well, OK. The attorney has a right to say that.

A city councilman didn’t think so. He said the local law had been reviewed by Avon Lake’s law director, then added, “I’m sure everyone is very familiar with his reputation,” referring to the attorney.

The attorney responded, “That’s a personal attack on me. I want him sanctioned. Discipline him, chair – or don’t you have the guts?”

Then this: (The attorney) spoke out several times at Monday’s meeting, talking over council members to the point police officers were called to keep the meeting civil. Following the meeting he was escorted out of Council chambers by police.

That’s the problem with civil discourse today. We can’t discuss issues without getting personal. Neither side can.

We must stick to the issues, and agree to disagree at times. There are ways to oppose a law without name-calling.

Rights

Perhaps we need to tone down the social rhetoric in public, and focus on issues of real government (federal, state and local):

  • Paying for and improving public schools.
  • Maintaining roads and bridges.
  • Balancing the budget.
  • Ensuring trash pickup.
  • Improving water quality, both in our homes and in our lakes and rivers.

These issues get lost behind abortion, gay rights, women’s rights, gun rights and other rights.

Right?

Who decides what rights are right?

Are certain issues topics of right vs. wrong? Which ones?

We answer that question differently, so we aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on much these days.

Here’s a thought. Let parents teach their children whatever social values they choose. In school, all children matter – because all children belong there. Teach them reading, writing and arithmetic.

Can we start with that?

Can we set up an educational system where every child has a chance to succeed, no matter who he or she is or what their background is?

It can be done, if all of us start with that question.

Believe

“Believe.”

Believe what? Everyone believes something. Everyone believes lots of things. We believe the sun will come up tomorrow, for example.

What do you believe in? Why?

Let’s talk. Not argue or curse, but actually talk.

Which requires two listening ears. By both of us.

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Quick to judge, except for the third group

Black Hebrew Israelites are in the news after a January 18 video showed members of an unidentified sect interacting with students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

 

White Catholic teenagers and a Native American have received the lion’s share of publicity from Friday’s confrontation by the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

But a third group participated as well.

Indeed, the third group started the whole thing.

Social media has blown up with the dispute between MAGA hat-wearing teens, in town for the pro-life March for Life, and Nathan Phillips, in town for the Indigenous Peoples March the same day.

Social media rushed to judgment about the motives of both sides, and missed badly, as we know now.

I’m impressed that no violence took place. Dancing, drum music, stares, chants, vulgar words and invading of personal space all did occur. But no one from any of the groups crossed the line into physical violence.

If anything positive happened there, it’s probably that.

The instigators?

But who is the third group in this scenario, the one in the background, apparently, but the ones who taunted both the Native Americans and then the young Catholic students?

They call themselves Black Hebrew Israelites.

The “Israelites” were quoting Bible passages claiming that they are the true descendants of Israel. On a nearly two-hour video that has gone viral, they said Native Americans don’t know God. They told the students when they first arrived on the scene that white people are not descendants of Israel and therefore are not God’s chosen people – only people of color are. At that point, the students walked away, if only temporarily.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3EC1_gcr34&feature=youtu.be

In the words of the New York Times:

Interviews and additional video footage suggest that an explosive convergence of race, religion and ideological beliefs — against a national backdrop of political tension — set the stage for the viral moment. Early video excerpts from the encounter obscured the larger context, inflaming outrage.

Leading up to the encounter on Friday, a rally for Native Americans and other Indigenous people was wrapping up. Dozens of students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, who had been in Washington for the anti-abortion March for Life rally, were standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, many of them white and wearing apparel bearing the slogan of President Trump.

There were also black men who identified themselves as Hebrew Israelites, preaching their beliefs and shouting racially combative comments at the Native Americans and the students, according to witnesses and video on social media.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/20/us/nathan-phillips-covington.html?module=inline

In a statement on Sunday, Nick Sandmann, the boy in the initial video, argued that the Hebrew Israelites instigated the incident and that his classmates “wanted to drown out the hateful comments that were being shouted at us.”

The Black Hebrew Israelites, meanwhile, have said that they are being used as a scapegoat for the students’ behavior.

Vox offered this on the background of the group:

The Black Hebrew Israelites are an offshoot of a broader religious movement scholars often call Black Israelism, which dates back to slavery and Reconstruction, if not earlier.

Writing for the Washington Post, journalist Sam Kestenbaum explains that Black Israelism is “a complex American religious movement” whose various sects are loosely bound by a belief that “African Americans are the literal descendants of the Israelites of the Bible and have been severed from their true heritage.”

https://www.vox.com/identities/2019/1/22/18193352/black-hebrew-israelites-covington-catholic-phillips-maga

The Black Hebrew Israelites

The Gospel Coalition lists nine attributes of the group:

  1. Black Hebrew Israelites (also called African Hebrew Israelites, Black Jews, Black Hebrews, Black Israelites, or Hebrew Israelites) is an umbrella term for various religious sects and congregations that believe that people of color, usually African Americans, are descendants of a lost tribe of ancient Israelites.
  2. From the 17th to 20th century, African-Americans’ identification with Judaism was informed, as Edith Bruder and Tudor Parfitt say, “by the social and political orientations of black people in the United States and was often embedded in response to discrimination.” But in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, certain African Americans began not only to identify spiritually with the ancient Israelites but also to claim they were their direct physical descendants. This led to the creation of several factions of Black Hebrew Israelites (hereafter BHIs) that spread across America, and later to Africa and Israel.
  3. BHI groups do not align themselves with Judaism. Instead, as Jacob S. Dorman explains, they “creatively manipulate traditions and ideas gleaned from a wide range of sources: Holiness/Pentecostal Christianity, the British Anglo-Israelite movement, Freemasonry, Mind Power, Theosophy, Judaism, the occult, and African American Christianity’s deep association with the Hebrews of the Old Testament.”
  4. BHI groups tend to define an Israelite as a descendant of the biblical patriarch Jacob, a “Hebrew Israelite” as the modern descendants of the ancient Israelites, and a Jew as a person who practices the religion of Judaism. Many BHI groups do not consider Jews to be true descendants of “Hebrew Israelites.” However, they also do not consider all people of color to be part of the “lost tribe” either. As one BHI website explains, “Israel is just one black nation that exist among many. The Egyptians, Canaanites, Ethiopians, babyloians etc [sic] were black skinned but they were not Israelites. . . . To say all black skinned people are Israelites is like saying all Asians are Chinese, or All Europeans are French.” BHIs also believe that the trans-Atlantic slave trade was prophesied in Deuteronomy 28:68(rapper Kendrick Lamar makes reference to this belief in his lyric, “And Deuteronomy say that we all been cursed”), which accounts for why so many “Hebrew Israelites” are found in America.
  5. While there are some common beliefs shared by BHIs, the groups themselves vary widely in their connection to Judaism and Christianity. In a 1973 article for Christianity Today, historian James Tinney suggestedthe classification of the organizations into three groups:
  • Black Jews, who maintain a Christological perspective and adopt Jewish rituals.
  • Black Hebrews, who are more traditional in their practice of Judaism.
  • Black Israelites, who are most nationalistic and furthest from traditional Judaism.
  1. Many BHI organizations around today sprang up in the late 19th century and early part of the 20th century or are offshoots of those original groups.
  2. Many BHIs who include elements of Christianity affirm the King James Version (1611) of the Bible as their only rule of faith and practice, D.A. Horton says. Some groups accept some books of the New Covenant (New Testament), yet many reject Paul’s writings on the idea they were used often by white masters during the American slavery years, Horton adds.
  3. Most, if not all, BHI groups deny the Trinity and the deity of Christ. As one BHI congregation explains, “We believe that there is a distinction between God and Jesus of Nazareth. In particular, we believe that God is THESupreme Being in the universe and that Jesus was merely a human being; a noteworthy prophet (see St. Matthew 21:11), but a human being nonetheless.” [emphasis in original]
  4. The public interaction with BHI groups usually occurs in large cities, where more radical members often stand on streets and sidewalks, debating and berating passers-by.

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/9-things-you-should-know-about-black-hebrew-israelites/

Did we learn anything?

Three very diverse groups clashed at the Lincoln Memorial, but because all three profess to be peaceful, they restrained themselves from violence. Social media overlooked this, too.

Perhaps the lack of violence is the second-greatest lesson from the confrontation. Yes, we were far too quick to judge, especially the Catholic teens. We weren’t fair to Nathan Phillips. And we’ve virtually ignored the third group.

All three groups have a right to exist – indeed, to thrive – in this country. Discussion leads to truth. Perhaps we can agree to disagree on some issues.

I saw where President Trump invited the Catholic teens to the White House. He should have invited the other two groups to the White House as well.

Trump is the president of all three groups, whether he realizes it or not. (I don’t think he does.)

Trump is the president of all three groups, whether each group realizes it or not. (I don’t think they all do.)

Did we as a nation learn anything this week?

Law and freedom: Can we have both?

I roll through stop signs if there’s no traffic.

I fudged deadlines all the time as a copy editor to get the latest news in the paper.

I jog in the rain, or in snow with 15-degree temperatures (not this year yet, though).

And yet:

I get at least eight hours of sleep every night.

I’ve never received a speeding ticket.

When I’m scheduled to be somewhere, I always show up early.

So, who am I?

I’m a rule-breaker. But I learn the rules first, so I know which ones I can break. And when.

Two plus two equals …

I came down with pneumonia as a college student, so I don’t have the stamina that most of you do. If I don’t get enough sleep, I get sick.

If I break rules, there are consequences. That’s one consequence I don’t want. So I go to bed early every night.

I drive with common sense. I’ve written blogs on this before. Safety is paramount; I drive the speed limit or slightly above, weather conditions permitting. I fudge the law only when it’s safe, and my eyes are wide open. (But I’ll stop at a red light, even if there is no other traffic in sight.)

I married a math expert. Two plus two is always four to her. I’m a journalist at heart. Two plus two could have multiple meanings. Two apples plus two oranges equals four pieces of fruit, but you still have only two apples.

Are you counting fruit, or apples?

… safety …

This is the source of today’s political divide. We don’t know what we’re counting.

One side is all about laws.

The other side is all about humanity.

What happens when law and humanity clash?

We get a government shutdown.

Laws serve a crucial purpose. They give us structure and order. The trash truck comes every Friday. Our City Council signs a contract with the trash hauler to do that. My tax dollars pay for it. That’s the way government works.

Here’s a better example, actually. My tax dollars also help pay for the local police department. Its primary job is to keep the residents of our city, including me, safe. The City Council, the county, the state and the federal governments all pass laws intended to keep us safe. Opioids and illegal drugs hurt people. Thieves and robbers hurt people. Drivers who weave in and out of traffic and/or run red lights risk causing a collision and hurting people.

Laws protect us, and police and the court system defend the right to live without fear for our lives. That’s the goal, anyway.

… or freedom …

But are laws themselves ever oppressive?

Once upon a time, women were not legally allowed to vote. Other laws enforced slavery. It took time, far too much time, before those injustices were legally corrected.

Today’s hottest debate is over illegal immigrants trying to enter this country through Mexico. Immigrants have been doing this for decades, and I’ve read that in recent years the immigration rate has actually declined.

But we now have a president who wants to cut off the illegal immigrants’ entry into this country completely. Illegal, by definition, means they are breaking a law.

But are the immigration laws of this country fair? And are illegal immigrants as evil as Republicans make them out to be?

The answer to the first question must be decided by Congress and the president. The second question? A resounding, “no.”

… or both?

Illegal immigrants are not an organized band of terrorists seeking to destroy American life, as Al-Qaeda was on Sept. 11, 2001. They are mostly women and children fleeing their native countries because their lives are in jeopardy there. Gang wars and violence have destroyed the culture of Honduras and other Central American societies. These women and children have seen relatives and friends die, and face death and/or poverty themselves.

Americans cannot comprehend this. No one in my community is seeking my life.

Why is it so wrong for such people to seek a place to live where they don’t have to fear death every day?

If crime and terrorism are the reasons why, well, those issues are already here. News flash. Illegal immigrants aren’t going to change society much at all.

My wife and I met a 77-year-old woman on Christmas Day while delivering meals to several families in town. She has custody of her two teenage great-grandchildren, because no one else in her family wants them. The teens’ mother is a drug addict and can’t be around her children. The 16-year-old girl has anger issues and screams at the top of her lungs, forcing neighbors to call the police sometimes. The great-grandmother does what she can to keep her fragile family together. They rent a one-bedroom house – which isn’t legal since the teens are a boy and girl. So the boy gets the bedroom and the girl and great-grandma sleep on mattresses in the living room.

They’ve been in this house only a short time, and likely won’t stay long if they can find a place with more bedrooms.

When children move that often, it’s not surprising that they have trouble keeping up in school.

Building a border wall won’t help this family.

We need laws, certainly. We need security, of course. The wall might appease some politicians, but it won’t do much – if anything – to improve security in this country.

Can we pass laws to improve security that actually work? Do our immigration laws assist apples and oranges together, or are we defending the apples and trying to remove the oranges?

What is the fruit of our labor?

Do two and two always equal four, or is there another possible answer?

Our country is full of oranges as well as apples.

Can we enjoy the flavors that both bring to this country?

Is there a way to get creative and keep the law at the same time?

A litmus test for evangelicals that shouldn’t be

Honduran migrants cross the U.S. border wall to San Diego from Tijuana, Mexico, on Dec. 16, 2018, before turning themselves in to U.S. border patrol agents, standing at the top. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

President Trump, along with Republican and Democratic U.S. representatives, have forgotten that immigrants, legal and especially illegal, are human beings. They have turned the immigration issue into a political football.

They threaten a partial U.S. shutdown later this week over whether to pay for Trump’s border wall with Mexico (which, by the way, during his presidential campaign Trump promised that Mexico would pay for). Trump wants $5 billion for it. Democrats are offering $1.6 billion for border security.

Those numbers are peanuts compared with the trillion-plus-dollar budget that Congress oversees.

The stalemate has nothing to do with dollars and budgets.

It’s all about the politics.

Worse, for many Americans, it’s become a litmus test of evangelical Christianity. Many outspoken proponents of the border wall are evangelicals who support Trump’s for-the-most-part conservative social agenda.

https://www.vox.com/2018/10/26/17989084/christopher-maloney-in-god-we-trump-evangelicals-trump

Many staunch opponents are “social justice” Democrats who see the immigrants’ “caravan” in Mexico, heading for the U.S. border, as displaced Latin Americans fleeing poverty and, especially, violence in their home countries.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/fleeing-poverty-and-violence-central-american-women-explain-why-they-join-caravans-1543947664

I am an evangelical Christian who supports the Democrats on this issue.

Why?

Because Jesus would.

The kingdom of God has feet

Jesus’ primary mission on Earth was to introduce us to the “kingdom of God.” He offered us a personal, one-on-one relationship with his Father. In the Old Testament, God came and went, offering support to specific individuals for specific events or short periods of time. In the Gospels, Jesus said God would come and remain with us at all times, not come and go as he did previously.

To do that, Jesus did not require us to get our act together spiritually or socially before we could let God into our hearts full-time. No. God met – and still meets – us right where we are.

In other words, Jesus Christ was – and still is – the “social justice” God as well as the “evangelical” God.

Very few Christians understand this, even though the message is obvious throughout the New Testament.

Jesus called several fishermen as his first disciples (Matthew 4:18-22). Not exactly upperclassmen. He also hand-picked a hated tax collector (Luke 5:27-28), who left a lucrative job to follow a charismatic leader and his band of nomads. His other disciples were not exactly household names or community leaders when Jesus called them (Mark 3:13-19).

Jesus the social activist

Once he had his chosen twelve, Jesus did some surprising things. He visited Samaria, which no self-respecting Jew would have done, and talked with a woman who had been married five times (John 4:1-42). He acknowledged her past but didn’t condemn her for it.

Same with a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). And a mentally disturbed caveman (Mark 5:1-20). And an inquisitive political leader who met him at night because he didn’t want to be noticed (John 3:1-21).

He healed numerous disabled people, including several who were blind and others who had physical deformities (read the gospel of Luke, for example).

All of these folks were outcasts. Yet Jesus met them right where they were, healing them and encouraging them to “go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

Jesus the leader

Jesus also interacted with the religious and political leaders of his day, who were the Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees (Mark 12:13-40). Those religious leaders also were the local political leaders, serving the oppressive Roman government in return for keeping the peace in their communities.

They tweaked Jewish laws and customs to keep themselves in Rome’s good graces, picking and choosing Scriptures to fit their agendas.

To put it mildly, Jesus didn’t like that. He called them blind guides and hypocrites (Matthew 23:13-36).

Jesus didn’t attack the Pharisees and Sadducees on a political level, but on a spiritual level. On politics, he said: “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17)

On Palm Sunday, the crowd thought they were hailing a political king who was entering Jerusalem to overthrow the hated Roman government (Matthew 21:8-11). When Jesus didn’t do that, they deserted him – and crucified Him.

What does all this have to do with immigration?

Jesus the servant

For people outside the church, Jesus was compassionate and gave them the benefit of the doubt every time. For people inside the church, Jesus spoke harshly for their judgment and hard-hearted attitudes, because they knew the Scriptures and should have known better how to treat people (including Jesus Christ himself).

If Jesus walked across the United States in the flesh today, he would give us the same message. We still haven’t learned it.

Immigrants need us. They are fleeing for their lives, often with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

In contrast, many Americans are richer than we think we are. Globally, if your wealth (assets minus debts) is in the $100,000 to $1 million range, you are among the 7.3 percent of the world’s population that has about 40 percent of the world’s wealth. If your wealth equals only $3,210, you are wealthier than half of the people across this planet.

https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-richest-people-in-the-world-20160121-story.html

Our response

What are we afraid of? That we might lose political influence?

Blacks, Hispanics and other minority groups already are gaining influence in this country. So are women. Are we truly worried about immigrants who have nothing materially, but who just might have the gifts, talents and work ethic we need to make this country run?

Is there not room for all?

I recently attended a conference in Chicago on urban ministry. One speaker pointed out that white Americans will not get involved in any project or event unless they lead it. That means whites will not allow any minority individuals to lead whatever they are involved in.

Whoa. That’s an eye-opener.

Are we afraid that a minority person might actually have leadership skills? As white people, are we not willing to submit ourselves to a black, Latino and/or female supervisor or other type of leader?

In the words of a decades-old slogan, what would Jesus do?

Jesus’ response

Jesus hand-picked a group of outcasts and under-the-radar people to train as the leaders of his future church. (If you read the book of Acts, there are women and couples who are leaders in the early church, as well as the more well-known Paul, Peter and James.)

No one is an outcast in Jesus’ eyes. Not disabled people. Not mentally disturbed people. Certainly not immigrants.

In a dispute between outcasts and church leaders, Jesus sided with the outcasts every time.

The “unchurched” often understood Jesus better than the church folks did. They certainly connected with him in a more real way.

We forget this at our own peril.

Heroes are hard to find

hero

1aa mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability

ban illustrious warrior

ca person admired for achievements and noble qualities

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hero

 

Using 1c as the definition for a real (as opposed to mythological or legendary) hero, who are your heroes? Who do you admire for achievements and noble qualities?

Do you aspire to become like him or her, or them?

I don’t have any heroes. Never have.

Perhaps that’s my cynical journalistic attitude showing forth. Perhaps it’s my Christian faith taking center stage.

Probably both.

Easy to find flaws

No one is perfect. Everyone is flawed. (I know my own flaws very well, at least most of them, so I’m not pointing any fingers outward that aren’t pointing even sharper at myself.)

It’s easy in today’s America to focus on flaws and not on “achievements and noble qualities.”

  • President Trump has plenty of both, depending who you ask, and a thick skin required of all presidents to push his agenda despite opposition.
  • Pick an athlete who is a role model, any athlete in any sport, and it’s not hard to find skeletons in his or her closet. Same with actors and actresses, or anyone else in the entertainment industry. And musicians. And politicians. And church leaders. And … Sigh.
  • Bill Cosby had a wonderful career, but his reputation is now destroyed. Bill Hybels, a respected evangelical leader in the Chicago area for decades, just had his reputation tainted by charges of sexual harassment. (What is it with men named Bill? Not a good trend.)

No one is immune.

If I were to become a high-profile public figure for some reason, you’d find a skeleton in my closet too. Real or imagined. Perhaps real to you, but not to me. (Just ask the current U.S. Supreme Court nominee; I won’t be surprised if this is the end result.)

I aspire to be like …

Who is worthy of hero status?

Anyone?

It’s politically correct these days to revere U.S. military veterans as heroes. We give them standing ovations all the time.

Do we emulate them? Or, do we clap politely and then forget about them as we move on with our daily lives?

Many active-duty personnel find themselves in harm’s way across the world, and for that we do thank them, very sincerely. Back home, their families move every few years, meaning the spouses and children don’t get much of a chance to gain deep friendships and connect with the community where they live. Military families know this going in, but still it’s hard and the divorce rate is very high.

That’s not a lifestyle most of us aspire to.

This time of year, we cheer on our favorite football teams on Saturdays (college) and Sundays (professional). We cheer raucously when our team does well, and boo lustily when our team plays poorly.

Sometimes we do both in the same game.

The latest hero here in Cleveland is Baker Mayfield, who led the Browns to their first victory since December 2016. We see him as the franchise’s savior.

Until he has a bad stretch, when we will run him out of town and seek another quarterback to latch on to with unrealistic expectations.

That’s how we treat our heroes.

Don’t treat me like that

Not only do I not have any heroes like that, I don’t want to be one. Just leave me alone.

But life doesn’t work that way, does it?

Every one of us is being watched and evaluated. No exceptions.

Parents are heroes to their young children.

Our co-workers are eyeing us, with admiration or disgust, or with something in between. We are watching them too.

We evaluate teachers, police officers, other drivers on the road, those with an opinion on social media, the waitress at our favorite restaurant …

Who can pass such an inspection?

Anyone?

It starts with respect. I write about this all the time.

 

respect

transitive verb

1ato consider worthy of high regard: esteem

bto refrain from interfering with: please respect their privacy

2to have reference to: concern

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/respect

 

Heroes are outsiders we emulate. Respect most often is given to people we know personally who earn it. We rarely respect public figures. And if we do, we easily take it away. See Bill Cosby.

It takes time to earn respect, and to give it. Most of us aren’t willing to spend that time.

Instead, we judge who and what we don’t know well. We have surface knowledge, so we think we’re experts.

We don’t know what we don’t know.

Even worse, we don’t care.

Two sides to every story

Instead of emulating possible heroes, we judge them and put them down, trying to elevate ourselves above them and failing miserably. We don’t respect anyone.

I’ll ask again: Who do you aspire to be like?

Who are your heroes?

If I said Jesus, you’d probably laugh. Because you likely have no idea who the real Jesus is.

The Jesus of the Bible isn’t anything like the vast majority of Christians portray Him. Many people reject Jesus for that reason. Instead of searching for the real Jesus, we assume we know, just like we assume we know all the facts about Judge Cavanaugh before any hearings or investigations have taken place.

Our pre-conceived notions prevent us from uncovering truth.

The real Jesus was not a white man with blond hair and a soft complexion who always voted Republican. He was crucified, which means he angered some people enough that they killed him. And he was Middle Eastern.

Do we know that? Do we care? Or do we judge Him based on what others say about Him, instead of doing our own research?

Is Jesus a worthy hero?

Do I really aspire to be crucified? Am I willing to defend truth that far?

Is LeBron James a worthy hero? To the children in Akron whom he’s promised a free college education, yes. To many Cavaliers fans, he was a hero but no longer is because he’s taken his talents to Los Angeles.

As with anyone, there’s two sides. Depends who you ask.

Many people have hero-like qualities, but a true hero?

I’m still searching.

Immigration not open to all

As the immigration debate rages, with emotions running high, with children separated from their parents at the border, with illegal and legal immigrants often lumped together in the same discussion, with nationalism (build the wall) vs. we all were immigrants at one time (unless we are native Americans by definition) …

I ask myself:

Is the process for legal immigration really that difficult? Are the border clashes really necessary?

The answers are: It depends. And yes, probably.

For those trying to enter illegally, the process is complicated, if not impossible.

Immigrants who are educated and/or have family members already legally here have a much easier time entering the United States.

Everyone who plans to live here must have a valid reason for doing so. Future citizenship often is one of those reasons.

According to usa.gov, the citizenship process requires time and effort:

https://www.usa.gov/become-us-citizen

U.S. Citizenship through Naturalization

Becoming a citizen through naturalization is a process in which a non-U.S. citizen voluntarily becomes an American citizen. U.S. citizens owe their allegiance to the United States and are entitled to its protection and to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens.

Review this visual overview (PDF, Download Adobe Reader) about the general naturalization process.

To become a U.S. citizen, you must:

  • Have had a Permanent Resident (Green) Card for at least five years, or for at least three years if you’re filing as the spouse of a U.S. citizen
    • If you apply for naturalization less than six months before your Permanent Resident Card expires, or do not apply for naturalization until your card has already expired, you must renew your card.
    • You can apply for naturalization before you receive your new Green Card, but you’ll need to submit a photocopy of the receipt of your Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, when you receive it.
  • Meet certain eligibility requirements including being
    • At least 18 years old at the time of filing
    • Able to read, write, and speak basic English
    • A person of good moral character
  • Go through the ten step naturalization process which includes
    • Determining your eligibility to become an American citizen
    • Preparing and submitting form N-400, the application for naturalization
  • Taking the U.S. Naturalization Test and having a personal interview

Helpful Resources For Citizenship

Take the United States Naturalization Test

One of the requirements in the naturalization process is taking the United States Naturalization Test.

To prepare for the naturalization test, check out these resources:

Certificates of Citizenship and Naturalization

Certificates of Citizenship and Naturalization are proof of your U.S. citizenship.

Get a Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization

Apply for a Certificate of Citizenship if you were born abroad to U.S. citizen parents and they did not obtain a Consular Report of Birth Abroad for you before you turned 18.

Foreign nationals receive a Certificate of Naturalization when they become American citizens. Get certified copies of a Certificate of Naturalization.

 

How hard is it to become a U.S. citizen? Here are three answers to that question from quora.com, an online question-and-answer site:

https://www.quora.com/How-hard-is-it-to-become-a-US-Citizen

Overview

Once you are a permanent resident, then becoming a U.S. citizen is surprisingly straightforward and painless.  It’s getting an immigration visa and permanent residency that’s the hard part.

How difficult that is depends a lot on who you are and where you are from.  If you have money or skills, getting the U.S. visas and permanent residency is not difficult.  If you have neither, it can be impossible.

Joseph Wang, Chief Scientist, Bitquant Research

First, become a permanent resident

This depends largely on how difficult it is for you to first become a permanent resident (i.e., get a green card).  If you’re highly educated and can find work with a sponsoring company, you can expect to attain citizenship in just over five years after becoming a permanent resident.  If you marry a citizen, you can apply for a green card and then attain citizenship in only three years.

However, if you are less educated or cannot find work with a sponsoring company, there’s often no obvious path to becoming a permanent resident.  In the worst case you have little education and no way of getting a sponsoring employer.  In this case, the choice is to either stay out or enter/stay illegally.

The process is … quite tedious and drawn out.  The most difficult part is finding an employer who is willing to work with a candidate throughout the entire process.  The employer will incur substantial costs which serves as a deterrent for many.  Add onto this government-imposed limits on the number of green cards granted per year and you get an immigration system that is tricky to navigate for even those that best equipped to do so.

Christopher Pinchak, permanent resident from the land up north

Several options

Becoming a U.S. citizen is certainly a process, but that doesn’t mean it’s unattainable. There are several moving parts that will influence the best strategy for each individual to obtain citizenship. Let’s break down the core ways that you can become a U.S. citizen.

  • Green Card

If you select the Green Card option, then there are basic requirements you must meet. You have to be at least 18 years old and had your Green Card for at least 5 years.

  • Marry a U.S. Citizen

To qualify under this arrangement, your spouse must have lived in the U.S. for at least 3 years and you must be a Green Card holder for at least 3 years. Additionally, you have to indicate that you have been living as a married couple during this time.

  • Spouse of U.S. Citizen Employed Abroad

If your spouse lives and works in the U.S., but you are employed abroad, you may be able to gain citizenship. There is not minimum time requirement you must meet as a Green Card holder, but you have to prove that you will immediately depart from your abroad location once naturalization occurs.

  • Join the Military

Current military members or certain veterans may be eligible for citizenship due to their service to the country. There is a residency requirement for at least 30 months out of 5 years unless you were stationed abroad due to your military service.

  • Automatic Citizenship Through Birth

The requirements are that both parents were U.S. citizens at the time of your birth and your parents were married at the time of birth, and at least one parent lived in the U.S., or its territories, or both, prior to your birth. If you were born after November 14, 1986, one parent must be a U.S. citizen at the time of birth and your parents were married at the time of birth.

Many people feel incredibly overwhelmed by the citizenship process. It’s lengthy, tedious, and at times discouraging if you don’t have proper resources to guide you.

Raad Ahmed, Founder of LawTrades

These discussions help me understand why Mexicans and others are trying to enter our country illegally. They likely don’t have family members already here, and they don’t appear to have an employer sponsoring them.

According to news reports, many are trying to escape unsafe living conditions at home. They see the United States as a place of refuge.

I’m sure the issue is much more complex than this. Why arrest farm workers already here, people who are trying to contribute to society and working at jobs that tax-paying Americans won’t do?

Is there a way to expand the immigration process to allow for these types of people to enter the United States legally?

How many illegal immigrants want to arrive just to claim welfare benefits? (How many U.S. citizens play that game as well, legally?) Those type of illegal immigrants may get the publicity, but are they a majority?

Make the process easier

Citizenship rules require immigrants to know basic English, among other things. Can our schools, colleges and universities offer this to those who need it? Perhaps community colleges are a great place to teach English as a second language. Many schools already offer this, but perhaps those programs should be expanded.

My point: Can we make the citizenship process easier for those who truly want to become contributing members of our society? Can we enable, encourage, support, assist, offer a hand up (not a hand out) to those who need it?

The United States has 300 million people. There’s room for more here, I’m sure.

The United States is different than other countries. We are newer than most, not much more than 200 years old. Some nations in Europe and Asia have been around for thousands of years. Most Americans are immigrants.

We can’t compare our brief history with the lengthy past that other nations enjoy.

We are our brother’s keeper.

I wish we lived that way – in our daily lives, in addition to our overall status as a nation.

Then, needy people wouldn’t have to break laws to get in, and people with a conscience wouldn’t have to break laws to try to keep them here.

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.

Jesus, in Matthew 7:1-2

News, sports and weather

To start the new year, a little of this and that:

Browns in stable condition

The Detroit Lions fired head coach Jim Caldwell this week, as did the Chicago Bears with John Fox. Caldwell went 36-28 in four years in Detroit; Fox, 14-34 in three years in Chicago. Both had success in previous head coaching gigs.

Since I’ve lived in Michigan and west of Chicago, I have friends who root for those teams.

Those NFL teams are still searching for new head coaches.

They can’t have Hue Jackson. He’s taken.

Hue Jackson

Jackson, of the 0-16 (and 1-31 two-year record) Cleveland Browns, is coming back for a third year, according to owner Jimmy Haslam.

Those of us in the Cleveland area are scratching our heads.

And with no consensus No. 1 pick in the college ranks this year, the Browns are sure to bungle that, too.

Perhaps best to avoid talk radio this off-season. Could get ugly.

Of course, one win next year – or, gasp, two – would be a marked improvement.

Hey, the Browns have more stability right now than the Lions or Bears do. That counts for something, right?

Cold not cool

I wrote on this blog last week that I enjoy the up-north outdoors year-round. Yeah, right. See if I write that again any time soon.

freezing

This week, we’re having single-digit highs and below-zero wind chills – in the daytime. No outdoor exercise for me at the moment. Like everyone else around here, I’m just trying to stay warm.

We moved to Northeast Ohio four years ago this week during a polar vortex, when temps were even colder than they are today. It was so frigid, the diesel moving truck couldn’t start, so our move was delayed a day.

A slight thaw would be nice.

It’s expected early next week. Something to look forward to.

No guardrails

old fall river road

We visited Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colo., last September, before winter weather forced park officials to close the Old Fall River Road. The 11-mile dirt road up the mountain – with no guardrails and plenty of drop-offs, along with a 15 mph speed limit – was a fun drive. (Guardrails would spoil the view.)

I bottomed out the rental car in a pothole only once.

The drive down the other side of the mountain on a paved highway was much smoother, literally.

Make the drive in the morning, because afternoon thunderstorms frequently and suddenly pop up. We heard one up there as we were on our way down the mountain.

The Rocky Mountains are beautiful. We certainly don’t have anything like that here in the Midwest.

All talk, no action

Neither President Donald Trump nor North Korea leader Kim Jong-un has a “nuclear button” on his desk. Kim isn’t ready yet, and Trump doesn’t have the authority to declare nuclear war on his own.

But Kim has finally met a world leader who speaks his language.

Trump’s tweets make me cringe, since he frequently talks against his own policy and subverts the efforts of his own negotiators. Trump, however, was elected in large part because of his foreign policy stances. He’s tired of seeing the United States pushed around and dis-respected on the world stage.

Kim and similar leaders don’t follow diplomatic rules. The U.S. can sign all the treaties it wants and we can talk until we’re blue in the face, and Kim won’t care. Whether he signs a treaty or not is irrelevant. He’s building his nuclear arsenal regardless.

Trump understands that, and is acting accordingly. About time.

Neither side will flinch, and neither side will pull the trigger. They both know what’s at stake. Finally, a stand-off on equal terms.

Kim is 33. Trump is 71. We’ll see how this plays out long-term.

Who’s No. 1?

spartans logo

My Michigan State Spartans men’s basketball team is ranked No. 1 in the country this week. That’s nice, but it doesn’t matter, really.

Basketball crowns its champions (men and women) through a tournament. It can do that because the games aren’t physically brutal like football is, which is why the football playoff system will rage forever with no final solution that pleases everybody.

The Spartans can’t beat Duke, so I wouldn’t make them the favorites to win the national title.

It could happen, though. Perhaps this is the year.

I’m ready for March Madness already.

Suffering with Jesus

I’m reading through Romans with some friends. The next lesson includes this:

“ – if, in fact, we suffer with him (Jesus) so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”

Romans 8:17-18

bible

Do I suffer with Jesus? The apostle Paul, who wrote that, was shipwrecked, beaten, stoned, jailed and given lashes because he was a Jesus follower.

I can’t relate.

Many Christians today do suffer like that. Some are killed for their faith. Not in the United States, but in other places.

Does suffering include things besides physical pain?

I don’t suffer physically. Emotionally, do I?

How much are emotional wounds self-inflicted? That doesn’t count as suffering, not really.

All of us die eventually, and some of us suffer more than others through that process. That’s not what these Bible verses are talking about, either.

Suffer with him.

Should I? Do I?

Food for thought.