My recent brush with the Law


You know that sinking feeling you get when you look in your rear-view mirror and see a police car with lights flashing?  And you heard the siren before you saw it?  And then the next feeling is supposed to be relief because you pull to the side and the police car zooms on past?

Well, I got the first of those feelings without the second a couple of weeks ago, when I got my first speeding ticket in quite a few years.

No doubt I was guilty. 30 in a 20. I hadn’t noticed the change, thought I was keeping up with traffic; you know the drill.

So I pulled over, put the car in Park, put my hands on the steering wheel, and waited.

We had a fine conversation. I kept hoping that I might be let off with a warning. Might have, except it was in a school zone.  I guess I want no tolerance in a school zone. Maybe even more than I want a citation.

I can’t say I have been stopped a lot of times.  I also can’t say that I have always thought that stopping me and writing me a citation was really the best thing to do.  So, I rolled a stop sign, but there was NO ONE else on the road! Oh, yeah, except that parked police car down the street….

For all the times I’ve been stopped, maybe ten over the 35+ years I have been driving, I have always been treated well.

Judging from ONLY my own experience, I cannot make any sense of the challenges our society currently faces over policing.

On the other hand, there are too many stories, and too many incidents, for me to believe that there is not a problem.

But I am absolutely convinced of this: the problem is not the police, and the problem is not one particular race or class of people. The problem is us; the problem is in and with all of us, and until we can all admit that, I do not expect the problem will get any better.

And I don’t know anyone who wants things to keep going like they are. I don’t believe there is anyone who wants things to keep going like they are. But when, and how, are we going to get past the fear and hashtags that frame all of this?

Who is willing to stop vilifying the other, WHOEVER the “other” might be?

I am going to try. Wouldn’t you agree it is worth a try?

If it is worth a try, would you also agree that it has to start with ME trying, and YOU trying, not waiting around for THEM to try?

That’s from my recent brush with the Law. May your next brush with the law be at least as smooth as mine.


What we can (must?) learn from the Bloods and Crips.

On this day, April 28, in 1992, the Bloods and the Crips, rival gangs in Los Angeles, declared a truce.

This was the day before the riots started in response to the not guilty verdict in the trial of police accused of beating Rodney King.

This is not written about what is happening now in Baltimore, or these days around the country. This post is not about police violence or the violence in communities that leads to police violence.

This post is about peace. Or at least truce.  The Bloods and the Crips can lay down their arms, their hatred, their distrust, their contradictory narratives of who is a fault or who is right and who is wrong.

They could stop fighting each other. They could, and did, stop killing each other.

It makes me wonder. Ooh, it makes me wonder.

Can Tea Partiers and Progressives stop fighting each other?

Can Republicans and Democrats stop fighting each other?

Can Sunni and Shia stop fighting each other?

Can evangelical Christians and progressive Christians stop fighting each other?

Can opposing factions in The United Methodist Church stop fighting each other?

Let’s see if we can learn this simple lesson from history: that on April 28, 1992, the Bloods and the Crips stopped fighting.

One Day

This picture shouted at me, “How can this kind of thing happen?!”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014, in Gaza

My next thought was something like this: The last time the US saw that much smoke, fire, explosion, devastation all on one day, we grounded ALL air traffic for several days. We mourned as a nation – mourned seriously enough that Republicans and Democrats actually stopped hitting each other for a few months.

They stopping hitting each other long enough, in fact, to pass the Patriot Act, which, in my opinion, bargained away individual privacy for the promise never to let this kind of thing happen again.

In Gaza, on the other hand, they apparently call such devastation ‘Tuesday.’

Why can we care so deeply about this kind of thing when it affects, or threatens to affect us, but move on glibly from day to day when it happens on the other side of the globe.

My heart is heavy today for the Israelis and Palestinians who are caught in the middle of a fight between people in power.

It shouldn’t matter whether this kind of thing happens to us or near us or 10,000 miles away.

One day, we believe, God will indeed sort all these things out.  Jesus taught us to pray, among other things, for “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  One day we will reach this.

Since we pray this, some of us every day, let’s consider what we might do to hasten that day. I believe we move in the direction of that one day as you and I start to live as though we pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

One day.

bin Laden is dead; terrorism isn’t

At the risk of alienating many of my fellow Americans, I’ve had another thought regarding the death of Osama bin Laden.  Actually, this struck me yesterday, but I’ve put off putting it into words until now.

Several pieces I’ve read since yesterday have referred to the expectation that, though bin Laden is dead, we don’t expect Al Quaida to simply close up shop.  Leader, mastermind, moneyman though he may have been, no one reasonably expects Sunday’s mission to make the world safe.  At this point, I’m not even sure I buy Obama’s declaration that the world is safer.

In working with at-risk youth, our ministry uses a particular teaching regarding de-escalation of potential violent situations.  It is called the assisting process.  I won’t put you through all the details of it (though perhaps I should another time), but, for now, will bring up just one point in the process.

When one has gotten the potentially violent person to a place of stablility and willingness to talk, the question one puts to them is “What do you want?”  “What do you really want?”

I have no doubt this works with heated situations between individuals.  I believe this strongly enough I thin kit would be worth trying between nations and organizations.

What does Al Quaida want?  What do other terrorist organizations want?

Our answer to this question, especially immediately following September 11, 2001, was that they want to inflict pain and suffering on us.

We made their actions all about us.  Mighty self-centered of us to assume it’s all about us, don’t you think?

Please understand; I’m not saying that the solution to terrorism is for civil folk to simply give them whatever they want.  Neither, however, is the solution to attribute motives to them from only our limited perspective.

Let’s face it; no one likes not being listened to.  No one appreciates not having a voice.  Some people would do almost anything to be heard.

Terrorism is not dead.  The world is not safe. It might get just a bit safer if we all commit ourselves to actually listening to others.

Yeah, he’s dead.

Our alarm is a gentle voice of NPR set to go off at 6:30 every morning.  Today, this is the time at which we learned Osama Bin Laden had been killed.

Being in the midst of more important tasks, I didn’t listen long to the reporting. (I had a dishwasher to empty and then getting ready for a run)  Thus it wasn’t until later that I heard of all the excitement – people chanting “U S A” at a baseball game as the announcement scrolled, for instance. There were, in fact, many reports of partying in response to the news.

I was saddened at the news; I am even more saddened at the partying.

I get that bin Laden was the leader of Al Quaeda, which was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, as well as many other terrorist actions, but I don’t want to be excited about anyone’s death.

Not even bin Laden’s.

Another reason I’m not really in the partying mood over bin Laden’s apparent demise is that I doubt this means an end to terrorism, much less actual peace.  Violence as repayment for violence rarely brings an end to violence.

And so it continues.  We remember today the impromptu parties that broke out in some places around the globe immediately following 9/11.  How many of us, as we remember those parties today, are thinking, “well, look who’s partying now!”?  Do we really think this means it is over?

May we consider what kinds of things might be done to move us closer to actual peace.

Memorial Day 2009

I would like to join the chorus of remembrance today of those who have given their lives in the context of taking the lives of others.

I find I must do so in the context of the One who gave his life refusing to take any others down, in the interest of taking all others up with himself.

“For those whom the Son sets free are free indeed”