“…this has got to stop!“
I was in Denver with my 27-year-old son last week when I saw the news of what was unfolding in Charlottesville. Live and in color and enough to weary my soul. We were staying in a hotel downtown just 1/2 block away from the U.S Federal Courthouse where the Taylor Swift ‘groping’ trial was in its 4th day. TV cameras in Denver. TV cameras in Charlottesville. Both events important. Both events worthy of reporting. Both events have subsided. For now. And trust these events are far more than just distracting life interruptions. “When is all this crap gonna stop?” a friend asked. “Why is it that people with good intentions, who do good productive work, have to stop and respond to stupid stuff like this?” Pay $1 for an ass grab, an obvious selfish act vs. pay with your life for a young woman with love of neighbor and a passion for justice seeking to help one crowd quiet another’s acts of selfishness. My friend is misinformed. It is important. And my friend is right. This has got to stop, but it won’t if we stop talking about it.
Should I care that a Denver DJ had to pay $1 for copping a feel of a famous country singer of whom I know little of either? Frankly, yes. My 27-year-old son is depending on me to. As are my grandsons. Should I care that an organized crowd of neo-nazi haters gather in a quiet college town to intentionally bring disruption to the daily life there and point attention to themselves? I better. My son, 2 two brothers and 2 sisters and my grandchildren are counting on it. And just for the record… their mother and I are counting on them. Yes, this has got to stop. But, this an old story that has turned a page with a new chapter with new players and new faces and will happen again in spite of all our collective efforts. It’s the diminishing factor that I’m looking for. That ass grabbing and hate mongering will become less and less. And, in time, finally disappear. Yes, this has got to stop. So, please, do not stop talking about it.
I work with men. Men of all ages. Men as old as my late father, men my own age and men the same ages as my sons. But, when I see the young men gathered together, like I did in Charlottesville, spewing hate and coaxing a scuffle, I come to one conclusion… “there’s lots of work left to be done! Lots!” America is still not the ‘kinder, gentler nation,’ the country with “a thousand points of light” former president George H.W. Bush hoped for. Some seem to think their difference of opinions make them better than others and others are not equal to them. My Bible and the U.S. Constitution say otherwise.
Why is this important? Working with men? Simple. It’s an inclusive thing. Men just don’t hang out with men. They have parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, both male and female, a spouse, children and grandchildren. Men’s ministry is not exclusive. Men are everywhere. They relate to everyone. They were on both sides of the street in Charlottesville and in both ends of the jury box in Denver. The things that men do impact everyone. For the good and the evil. Impact is impact. And what I know now that I wasn’t fully tuned into when I was as young as my sons is that the impact lingers. For the good and for evil. So, I’m all for advancing the good and helping diminish the evil. And I also know I can’t do this alone.
As a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and as an advocate for Lutheran Men in Mission, I must state clearly… I’m not THE voice of the ELCA. I am A voice. I’m not THE voice of LMM, but I am A voice and where I come from your voice… my voice counts. So, let me point you to a few of my favorite quotes from another voice… Martin Luther… as this is stuff that falls into the category of ‘working out our salvation with fear and trembling‘ (Philippians 2:12)…
“God does not need your good works; but your neighbor does.”
What good work is done when one man grabs the buttocks of another woman? None. Selfish pleasure reigns. Superiority seeks its place. In Denver, humility cost a dollar plus a reputation. And what good work comes about when young men take over city streets bringing disruption and fear to local residents? How would anyone refer to this as ‘supremacy?’ Inferiority? Yes. Oppression turned inside out? Absolutely, as these actions were leveled in full disregard of neighbors. As a Lutheran pastor, a husband and father, as a friend and brother I abhor such behavior. So, maybe my friend was right. It is an unnecessary distraction from the good and productive things I could be doing. But, writing this is a good and productive thing, too, I hope, even though I’d rather be doing something else.
To take that further… Luther went on…
“Each one ought to live, speak, act, hear, suffer, and die in love and service for another.”
Wow. Doesn’t sound like the Denver and Charlottesville stories. In fact, let me say it like my old mentor, Art Haimerl, said in Sunday messages often… “You discover who you are as you give your life away in love.” Pretty cool, huh? Pretty biblical, too! Or like what is written in the Didache’, the earliest handbook for Christians…
“There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways.”
A great difference.
In Luther’s day he would say (my paraphrase) “be the butcher, the baker or the candlestick maker…” all worthy occupations which give back to the community and bolsters the lives of those around you… doing work that is necessary and helpful… so, I take that to mean in this day and time… “don’t be the bank robber, the pimp or the drug dealer…” for it is in this kind of work that life is sucked out of those closest to you… actions that lead to death. So, in like manner… don’t be an uninvited ass grabber and don’t go taking over people’s streets because you think it’s a good thing. Yes, this has got to stop. Will it? Perhaps. One man at a time, I like to say… and no man left behind.
And another way Luther pointed to…
“A Christian is the most free lord of all, subject to none; and a Christian is the most dutiful servant of all, subject to everyone.”