Tuesday, October 25, 2016

People do not want you to be honest with them...

People never come out and say, "Lie to me," but when you think about it, you know you've gotten in hot water over telling people what you think.  It happens more often than we'd like to admit, but calling it "like you see it" is usually controversial.

As much as we hate to be lied to, the reality is, most people can't stand it when you are honest with them.  No, I'm not talking about discussing financial transactions or answering questions surrounding your personal accountability.  I'm talking about circumstances like the advice you offer, voicing your opinion, and sharing what you really think about the person you are talking to.

Without trying to sound too cynical, people often don't want to hear truthful statements, and even more often, they aren't able to handle them.  I've seen this resistance to our honesty played out in many different settings.

Leaders "at the top" are notorious for surrounding themselves with people who shield them from negative information, this can be true anywhere, in church leadership meetings, in construction leadership forums, all the way to just sitting around with friends.  People struggle with hearing the truth.  Whether you are talking "politics" or discussing current events, not everyone wants to hear what's on your mind.

Does this mean we should just tell people what they "want" to hear?  How can we maintain our integrity and still be able to communicate with people who tend to "shoot the messenger?"
Here are some steps we can take that can help us communicate respectfully, openly, and with honesty:

Ask for permission to be honest.
That sounds a bit derogatory, but it's necessary to building healthy relationships.
You don't say, "Please give me permission..." but you certainly ask questions like, "Do you really want to know...?"

Ask more questions while offering less answers.
People like to share their views, more than they care about what you think anyway.
Asking, "Have you thought about...?" instead of just blabbing what's obvious can help facilitate more meaningful conversations too.

Ask others how they see the situation or their views on the subject, and wait for them to ask your opinion.  Sometimes, believe it or not, people not only don't want your honesty, they don't want to hear from you.

Leave room for future conversations on the subject with a phrase like, "I should give this more thought before I answer."  This not only builds a little anticipation, it also lets people know you are more thoughtful than reactive.

Ask if you need to, or if you can clarify what you mean.  Sometimes people don't question your opinions half as much as they question your intentions.  Providing deeper explanations can increase understanding, and that always helps you to get your point across.

So, the next time you think about sharing an unsolicited piece of advice or simply saying what's on your mind, slow down and remember not everyone is ready to hear you out.  Not yet.  It's better to be asked what you think, than it is to say what you think and have people overreact to the truth.  

Friday, October 21, 2016

Should public schools teach Islamic history?

Today's religion column in the Kingsport Timesnews

In the minds of most of the people I know, when it comes to Islam, it’s either a confusing or it’s an unsettling religion. Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Muslims have become a centerpiece of the American conversation. For example, you can’t watch a Presidential debate or the daily news without a reference being made about some Islamic-subset.

Presently, it’s impossible to ignore the Islamic world, and, the influence of Islam on the world-stage is undeniable. Islamic mathematicians shaped Algebra as we know it and major medical advances were made by Islamic scholars during the Medieval area. One of the greatest games ever, Chess, was popularized and changed forever by Islam. From its bloody origins, even up to this day, Islam has played a major role in shaping history.

Therefore, I was shocked when I heard that some people are more comfortable allowing teachers to talk in middle school classrooms about smoking pot and using condoms, than they are with our schools teaching the history of Islam. It’s hard to fathom why it’s being proposed we remove a major portion of the Islamic historical studies from the seventh grade Social Studies curriculum.

Middle school, don’t forget, is also the phase of life when we trust our kids to learn about marijuana, meth, binge-drinking, all sorts of contraceptives and intercourse in the classroom -- it’s the time when our children are led through DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and Sex Ed. I guess no one is too concerned that these two programs might stimulate impressionable minds towards..., unwanted actions?

It seems like the paranoia surrounding the Islamic middle school curriculum rests on the illogical notion that as our young adults are exposed to historical teachings about Islam, they might become overly interested in Islam and somehow wind up indoctrinated into Islam. Should we also remove the history of the Holocaust to avoid sparking potential interest in students becoming Neo-Nazis? Will our young people become racists when they learn about the march on Birmingham?

If we can’t expose our middle schoolers to the history of Islam, what’s next, do we remove this history from our high schoolers as well? At what point do we begin to trust our students with this history? Most seventh graders have smartphones with which they can access plenty of questionable materials online. I’m not sure how this type of censorship will help our young people stay current with the rest of the Country’s educational system or help them to understand one of the greatest threats to global stability?

Could this proposal end up handicapping our students?

Make no mistake about it, Islam is dangerous. But what’s even more dangerous is having a generation of uneducated young adults ill-equipped to face the 21st Century world they live in. In the 1950’s, understanding Islam better could possibly have helped reduce the blistering turmoil which the Middle East continues to endure. It’s certainly no less important today to understand Islam, considering our current milieu.

If you really want to quell the reach of Islam, stop their funding and quit buying oil from Islamic regimes. Also, we need to be more active in the spreading of the Christian faith.

The majority of American converts to Islam today are funded by our tax dollars. No, these converts aren’t being led into the Muslim faith by studying the Quran in middle school. It’s within the walls of our prison system that many people become Muslims. Sadly, Islamic chaplains are able to reach an angry and captive audience, on your dime.

Our young people need to be educated about the history of Islam if they want to take part in educated conversations surrounding one of the most talked about subgroups on the daily news. Kids need to see the differences in Islam and other world religions and they need to comprehend that Islam is concerned with only one goal, world domination. But, shielding our youth from the history of this movement only keeps them ignorant -- unenlightened minds are powerless to make educated decisions.

The Bible never endorses ignoring evil, or false teachers, which I think describes Islam well. Instead, the Bible has instructions to confront these difficulties head on, such as, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ...” (2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV)

Our young people need to begin as soon as possible learning about the Muslim culture and its heritage if they are to understand how deal with the threat it poses. It’s senseless for young adults to enter high school not knowing what Ramadan is, or to remain ignorant to why Islam is divided between Sunni and Shiites. How do you keep the integrity of a middle school history curriculum and neglect the Crusades or the Ottoman Empire?

In the end, to remove the study of Islam risks disabling the framework for understanding the dividing line between the East and the West, and therefore our young people won’t be able to process world events as well. I get it, people are frightened by Islam. Still, yet another way for me to put this: If you are led by fear, you aren’t being led by faith.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Since when was America a Theocracy?

Dear Christian Americans, please stop looking to the government to fix the world we live in. That stance is unbiblical and unfounded.  Dear American Secularists, please quit pretending you don't worship politicians, either.  

There are too many people already confused over the actual meaning of the separation of Church & State, so I guess I shouldn't be so surprised by how many people see the Presidency as a Messiahship position.  And, in our infatuation with the political superpowers, we all have turned a blind-eye the embarrassing & illegal shenanigans these snake-oil salespeople engage in.

When I say America is a Theocracy, that's not to say we as a nation submit to a/any God, or that we we are ruled by a Deity.  Instead, I'm saying politics is now our national religion.  We are looking for salvation from our government.  We think that the next president will either usher in the Promised Land or Armageddon, depending on if our chosen one is elected or exiled...

As a nation, we've placed too must trust and too much hope and too much faith in our politics, we are in an unhealthy state of mind.  Christians are especially guilty of this, much to our shame.  The mental gymnastics that believers take to justify the actions any politician, simply leaves me flabbergasted.

Christians seemingly haven't read their Bibles or their history books when it comes to politics.  Rome wasn't built in a day, and it wasn't build by the efforts of Christian voters.  Rome was very hostile and very accommodating all at once.  There's a paradox in how the Church spread under the oppression of an Empire that allowed conquered native peoples to worship how they wanted as long as their faith didn't interfere with Rome's agenda.

The Apostle Paul instructs the church in Rome to submit to the Government in Romans chapter 13:1 f.f., and claims God instilled these rulers.  This was while Nero ruled, the same Nero who castrated the young man Sporus, married Sporus, and consummated his marriage in public.  Paul was silent on the debauchery that Rome was infected with, and again, he commends his audience to respect the power of that government.  How could this be?

Because Paul knew his true citizenship wasn't that of a Roman citizen, a right and privilege he claimed, but it was not a point of personal identity for him.  "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20 ESV)