Good News and Better News … May 16th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News Appomattox 2

On Sunday morning, I had the privilege, honor, joy and excitement to be with the congregation at the Memorial United Methodist Church in Appomattox, Virginia.

One hundred fifty-one years, one month and one day earlier, on April 9th, 1865, just three miles down the road, Robert E. Lee surrendered the 28,000 remaining soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant, thus, for all intents and purposes, ending the Civil War.

I admire Lee for that.

Good News Appomattox 1I don’t agree with all the things that he did or set out to achieve, but I am greatly impressed by the fact that Robert recognized when the cause he was pursuing had taken a sharp left turn–and rather than being an expression of states’ rights, had become the oppression of the black race.

He could have continued to fight, hiding in the mountains and the forests which permeate Dixieland, and probably prolonged the conflict for months or even years.

He brought it to an end.

He surrendered.

He had the wisdom to know there’s a time to attack and a time to surrender.

So many lovely human beings I met on Sunday at Memorial United Methodist. Story after story, human feeling after feeling–each one deeper in its expression.

Pastored by a fellow named Russell, who seems to have discovered the correct balance of humanity and leadership, the folks have come to the same impasse as Robert E. Lee.Good News Appomattox 3

Surrounded by a religious community which continues to believe it can force its convictions on others who do not share in the faith, these people at Memorial are at a crucial crossroads.

For I will tell you, as Christians, it is time for us to surrender before we become as irrational as the extremist Muslims.

And the terms of the surrender are very easy:

“I will no longer use the Bible to attack other people.”

Instead, I will use it to help me become a better person. I will use it for encouragement. I will use it for beautiful language at a wedding or funeral. I will use it to remind me of my need for the goodness of God. But I will never use it again to attack other people.

The war between the state of human beings in this country needs to stop. There is no sign that the Republicans and Democrats will cease fighting.

No, it falls the lot of intelligent, Jesus-loving people to step in and surrender.

  • We need to live.
  • We need to learn.
  • And we need to love.

Good News Appomattox 4We need to live our lives to the fullness that we understand.

We need to learn whatever else comes from the heart of God and the truth of knowledge.

And in the meantime, we need to love without fear of it being insufficient to the need.

That’s the good news.

The better news? If more than living, learning and loving is necessary, we’re all screwed.

 

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Right or Privilege … May 2, 2013

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Model THis name was Henry Ford.

He was one of the early innovators in the gasoline combustible engine, which was referred to as the “horseless carriage.” We now call them cars.

Of course, at one time he had a prototype of such a vehicle and needed to test drive it to see how it worked in a world which was not suited for such activity. There were no paved roads, and on the dusty highways were horses and pedestrians instead of smoky engines from experimental automobiles. So you can imagine, at first he was an annoyance, or even a laughing-stock.

I wonder what his approach was. Did Henry Ford feel he had a right to the roads because he was smart, clever or entitled? Or did he feel it was a privilege to use the roads since they were normally occupied by horses and people?

Another interesting thing about that invention is that it quickly gained popularity–but it also created immense problems. So even though most of us insist that we have a right to drive a car, it was obvious from the first that those rights had to be curtailed for the common good.

For instance, everybody had to drive on the right-hand side or we would run into each other. Roads had to be paved, which meant there had to be taxes. It was agreed that a license was needed to prove that one was actually able to drive one of the contraptions. Tags were put on the vehicles to both identify them and garner some revenue for the state. Policemen issued tickets to those drivers who would not follow the rules and inhibited others from having a safe journey. When you add toll roads, seat belts, safety checks, car insurance and emissions onto the list, what started out as a “right of passage” is now presented as a cautious privilege.

Yet no one objects to this. The addition of demanding seat belts has lessened the death toll on the highways. The careful scrutiny for alcohol-drinking drivers is keeping us from killing off innocents.

So is driving a right–or a privilege?

Let me give you a definition of what I think a right is. You have the right to do almost anything you want if you can answer this question: “Can I do this without hurting anyone else?”

If the answer is “no” you don’t have the right. I don’t care if the Constitution tells you that you do–the Constitution will eventually have to change for the common good.

Here is the definition of a privilege: “Can I do this without hurting myself?”

So you see, driving is not even a privilege. We are not permitted to sit in our vehicles without a restraint because in doing that, we could kill ourselves.

No, driving is an opportunity. And what is an opportunity? “Can I do this with necessary boundaries?”

So as we assess the issues of our day–be it abortion, immigration, gun rights, gay marriage, terrorism or even political gridlock–we need to ask ourselves if we’re dealing with a right, a privilege or an opportunity. Democracy allots for all three–BUT puts restrictions on privileges and opportunities.

Does a woman have a right to an abortion? Go back to the definition: can this be done without hurting anyone else?

Do I have a right to own a gun? Back to the issue of right, privilege or opportunity.

As you can see, when you remove arguments about morality and replace them with more civil discussions of whether in a Republic such as the United States, we are entitled to some aspect of our lives as a right, privilege or opportunity, it puts things in perspective. Of course, there will still be variances of opinion, but if we’re going to make all of our future plans in this country based upon codes of morality or spiritual ethics, we will be at each other’s throats incessantly. There has to be a different yard stick.

Is this thing we are contemplating a right (can I do this without hurting anyone else?) a privilege (can I do this without hurting myself?) or an opportunity (can I do this with necessary boundaries)?

It is a doorway to the kind of compromise that can be grounded in common sense instead of shady backroom deals.

 

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