Monday, July 6, 2015

What's the Score?

image used under Creative Commons license, courtesy of
en.wikipedia.org, photo by Joel Solomon
The title fits because of several things.  First, when I juggled things around to post about the shootings in Charleston, SC, I apparently tossed one of the items I was juggling high enough that it didn't come back down on July 6, 2015. What's the score on that one?

That mistake left room for this post to cover a couple of interesting topics, one of which is a joy to talk about.  The other, not so much.  Let's start with the fun one and go from there.

The picture to the left is from the 2012 Summer Olympics.  But, by now, you should recognize the two ladies with the flag.  That's Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd, both essential parts of the 2015 US women's soccer team, winners of the women's World Cup.  Congratulations to all the ladies on the team!  It was a spectacular win and it got me thinking about the lessons they have for the church.  Because there is some sound Biblical principles that were displayed on the road to that win.

One of the sports writers said of yesterday's game that one team came prepared.  To a point, he may be right.  But I saw something else in play.  I'm sure, like anyone else with a goal and a hunger for that goal, that the team was well prepared.  Since I don't have cable, I only saw several of their games and highlights of the rest.  There were some things that stood out, even with that incomplete viewing.

First, yes, there was a hunger.  But, maybe more importantly, they knew there was a team and they trusted in something greater than themselves.  Think about those two things in relation to your faith.

The women on that team had assigned positions and functions.  And success depended on maintaining teamwork.  We never saw someone from one side of the field going to the other unless they were already involved in handling the ball and were the most likely to keep the opponents at bay.  There were some spectacular individual plays that could easily lead to swollen egos.  But everything each team member said publicly highlighted the team, not themselves.  It's very much like a military combat team.  The team has training and preparation both in how they should function together and as individuals.  Each member depends on the rest of the team and those above them to keep them safe.  Sound familiar?

We sing songs about being the army of the Lord.  That says we trust those above us and we rely on the rest of the team.  We relish our training because we know it will help us get through the attacks. We live in our unity, despite denominational differences, because we have a love and respect for all our brothers and sisters in Christ.  At least that's encompassed in what we sing, but is that our reality?  Perhaps we still need to learn from 11 ladies who kick a ball around.

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We ended the first part with what might be considered "a downer", seeking some reflection on what we really believe and how we respond to what we say we believe.  The second part isn't quite so gentle.

Since the shootings in Charleston, there have been seven black churches burned.  Like most of America, I learned details when the mainstream media finally discussed it after the seventh church was destroyed.  As more information came out, it was reported that several of the churches were torched, while others were not.  Could there have been misdiagnosis of the causes?  Sure.  But there's no proof of that, at this point.

My own involvement came with viewing a tweet, followed by one of the postings of a graphic comparing coverage of the destruction of a Baltimore CVS (during the recent rioting) to the lack of coverage of the burning of those seven churches.  They're not equal events.  The CVS ransacking was only one of the pharmacies targeted and the looters were very specific in the prescription painkillers they stole.  The police commissioner noted that enough was stolen to keep Baltimore high for a year and direct the users right to the gangs' heroin businesses when the painkillers ran out.

Baltimore was a mass riot that included the potential of harming some portion of the population with addiction.  It was a riot that deprived neighborhoods that could least afford the loss of businesses and stores.  The seven churches were not all proven to be arson.  The ones that are were most likely started by a very small lunatic fringe.  No, I'm not going to be politically correct in describing that one.  And note that there were serious injuries in the Baltimore riots, but no people in the seven churches at the time of the fires.

Maybe more importantly, coverage of the seven churches was delayed.  There are some who were already suggesting that was some sort of conspiracy.  But think with me on this one.  Our society seems to be growing more ready to respond to situations with verbal and physical confrontation, whether the people confronted are involved or not.  Look at Ferguson, Baltimore, and the confrontations over gay marriage.  As an editor, would you be ready to roll out the story of those churches without knowing most of the facts?  They'd be liable to some degree if more rioting ensued and it started from misinformation in the media.  So, I understand the delay.

The tweet I mentioned was from an African American poet I'd had previous conversations with.  He tweeted that he wasn't seeing any comment from Christians about the seven church fires.  That was at a time when many of us were just hearing about them and there was little information.  Most of us know well enough to stay quiet till we're relatively sure we have enough facts.  The result of not having restraint can be disastrous.

I was quite sure the poet was already envisioning some anti-black conspiracy.  I had someone else suggest that it was a sign of anti-Christian sentiment.  Either or both could be true.  But I don't see that we have enough information to start publicly ranting about either possibility.  There's a reason the Bible says to let our words on earth be few.  And there's an old saying about someone being thought a fool because of their silence, but removing all doubt by opening their mouth.  Whether we're Christian or not, we should consider our words carefully.

That consideration should include where your information comes from.  Back in the day, I've worked for both newspapers and broadcasters.  There are two things you learn very quickly on that side of the fence.  One is that not all sources are equal.  Just because someone or some media outlet says something doesn't make it right.  So, if I don't know you well enough to be sure how well you vet your sources of information or I question the info you have, I'm going to ask where you got that info.  Then I'll decide for myself whether it's valid or not.  The other thing I learned is that I don't know either everything or every source.  So, again, I'm going to check out your sources.  They might be better than mine.

Finally, let's go back to the US women's soccer team and some of the lessons that can be learned there.  I trust those over me (God), I trust the training I get with His Word, and my priorities are set by the Bible, not some questionable earthly source.  The Book is a much better source for everything than opinions and hearsay.  And the Bible tells me that every problem between men isn't a race issue or an envy issue or a greed issue, but a heart issue that begins with an improper or nonexistent relationship with God.  If we get that right, everything else will fall into place.

What's the score?  And how's your heart, today?

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