Gun Control and Meaningful Discussions

wolvesIf you expect me to get into the fray on Gun Control and the 2nd Amendment from a biblical basis here on ABF, allow me to disabuse you of that notion forthwith. I do that in other places and definitely have my biases, but this post is not about who is right and who is wrong in that particular discussion. Rather, the thing that impresses me the most as I watch people on both sides of the issue is how both sides talk past each other so much and how much caricature and misunderstanding goes on.

In this particular issue, among Christians I see those who believe in gun control often saying  that those who are 2nd Amendment supporters are more interested in their guns than about the Great Commission or Jesus’ admonition to love. In return, the gun rights folks call the gun control proponents sheep and communists who hate the Constitution and freedom.

Why the rancor? It is because each has their own particular worldview, and that worldview colors the issue to such an extent that they can’t really comprehend the other side. They are so convinced that they are right that they are convinced that anyone who doesn’t see the issue their way is clearly non compos mentis. Because they are so set, there is really no way to dialog about the issue with others of a different stripe.

This is why, in my opinion, so many issues have become so polarizing and so emotional in America today. Social media and the 24-hour news cycle have made expressing unprocessed emotions and ideas much easier and much farther reaching. For instance, I know people with 2,000 friends on Facebook. 20 years ago if they wanted to express an opinion to that many people it would have taken a significant investment in mailing letters or making phone calls. In that time my friend could have cooled off and thought through their ideas before publication. Now, though, with a couple of presses of their smartphone they put it out there for the world to see and share and comment on.

What’s the answer? In my opinion, it starts with having a meaningful clash. (this is a known topic in logic and debate and is not original to me, but I can’t find a good link…) A meaningful clash can only come when both sides of a discussion begin with areas of agreement and from there move on to areas of disagreement. If we do not start with areas of agreement we talk past each other and can’t have a meaningful discussion.

Perhaps an example can help. Let’s say that Bob, an atheist, believes that same sex marriage should be legal. Jim, on the other hand, believes that since the Bible forbids same-sex relations that it should be illegal. Bob does not believe that the Bible should be normative for relationships today. If Jim argues that God said same sex marriage is wrong so it is wrong, then he and Bob aren’t starting from areas of agreement and therefore they can’t have a meaningful clash.

This issue of gun control and the 2nd Amendment is the same. Gun rights advocates are arguing that modern sporting rifles protect the people against tyrannical government. Gun control advocates are arguing that assault rifles kill and maim and have no place in society. See how they talk past each other? There can be no meaningful clash of ideas because there are no meaningful areas of agreement.

But are there? Yes, there are. In this issue, for instance, we can agree that our main concern is safety. Both the NRA and Mayors Against Illegal Guns are interested in safety! They are interested in protecting the American people, and that is laudable and good. Now certainly they disagree on the best approach to accomplish that goal, but the goal is the same! Certainly the people arguing for gun control say that their goal is safe kids in schools and homes and malls. Gun rights advocates say that their desire to own guns is to keep their own family safe and to protect the republic from despotism. See how the desire is the same, just from a different angle?

How much better would this debate be if Wayne LaPierre would meet with President Obama and Ted Nugent and Michael Bloomberg and tell them all how grateful he is that they are concerned with the safety of our nation. Imagine how little rancor there would be if they listened to why they feel the way they do and affirmed their common desire for safety for our nation and its people. I have 4 kids in public schools, and regardless of what side I am on, my goal is for them to get a good education in a free and safe environment! That’s the same goal as everyone else in this discussion.

Take the singular issue away and the idea remains. In the church, take gender issues in ministry. What if we began from the common ground that we all want to honor God and help people use their spiritual giftedness in God-honoring ways? In society, what if we re-framed the immigration debate by realizing that our goal is to keep our nation free and prosperous, with liberty and justice for all? What if we began the abortion debate by realizing that our desire is to honor the foundational American governing principle of the sovereignty of a person over themselves? (and yes, this is an area of agreement…more another day perhaps)

So before having a debate on gun rights, find the place of agreement. In the gun control debate, it’s the safety, security, and prosperity of our nation. Gun control advocates think that the best way to accomplish that is to limit access to firearms to prevent Sandy Hook from reoccurring. Gun rights advocates think that the best way to accomplish that is by allowing more good guys to have tools available and on-hand to combat bad guys when events occur. It’s the method, not the goal, that is different, so instead of hurling invectives across the impassable chasm between us it seems to be a far better method to get on the same side of the chasm and make the problem the enemy rather than the people who are looking for solutions to the problem!

A BIG Transition

Yesterday I noted that every living thing changes. That’s true of families just like it is of organizations. Laura and I announced a fairly major family change on my Facebook last week and it’s generated enough questions to warrant a more thorough explanation.

What was the major family change? Well, since our oldest daughter was 4 years old, we’ve been a homeschooling family. She graduates from high school this month, and we’ve had all four of our kids at home for school for over a decade. But next month our oldest will enroll in college full time, our son will enroll in the local middle school and our youngest daughters will head to the local elementary school.

If you don’t care why, then thanks for reading and I would appreciate your prayers as we transition. 🙂

If you do care, allow me to explain. I explain not to justify but just to offer insight into our process and our priorities. If it helps you assess your process and priorities, no matter your schooling decisions for your kids, then I am excited for that.

We have been enthusiastic but not militant homeschoolers for a long time. For us, it has always boiled down to the truth that we wanted Christ in our curriculum, we wanted the kids to be able to learn without peer pressure, and we wanted them to be able to work at a pace that was good for them. But we also always said that we would re-evaluate every child every year. And this fall, as we evaluated our family and our kids, we decided that the best education and experience that they could get would be in a public school. There are several reasons for that.

Number one, we felt that it was best for our kids at this time. Jesus said, “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16, ESV) We have worked hard to help our kids stand firm in Christ and know Him. They are “as innocent as doves.” But what they aren’t is as wise as serpents, and it’s time in our eyes for them to get a little of that exposure. Plus, our son wants to play football in high school and our girls want to learn musical instruments. 🙂 They can do that from home as well, but this is far easier and probably better for them.

Second, and I don’t say this lightly, my amazing and talented and beautiful and incredible wife was diagnosed with clinical depression this fall. Now, I tell you that simply to brag on my wife a bit for being strong enough to come forward, find hope in Christ and seek healing. That takes incredible guts and also takes real concentration and focused effort.

Go read the link above from WebMD and ask yourself if you could be successful as a teacher while dealing with that. I know I couldn’t be.

Third, given the first two we looked at our kids and felt that our homeschool was just not being as successful as we want it to be. It wasn’t structured enough for our needs, and the kids weren’t getting the education we want them to with teachers who are excited about their subject and teaching in general.

Finally, Laura wants to pursue her dream of being a midwife. That will take time and effort to go to school, and she feels like she serves Christ when she is in the birthing community. I want to encourage that and so do our kids.

So to help our whole family serve Christ more fully, we decided the best thing for us right now is for the kids to go to public school. We’re excited for our kids to love on their schoolmates in Christ, to be a light to their teachers, and to get involved more fully and missionally in our community. We’re excited to support Laura as she seeks healing from severe depression and to affirm her calling and gifting. We’re confident that this is what is best for our kids at this time. And it’s not a permanent decision, as we will assess this summer how the spring went and see if we want to stay on this course or make another change for the following year.

I hope you do the same. I hope you look at life right now and ask yourself if what you’re doing helps you serve the Lord, or if you need to make a change. And I pray that this might help you have the courage to change if you need to.

 

Recalibration Needed

It’s been FOREVER since I posted a thought on ABF.  It’s been a month of transitions, and just by way of explanation I thought I would post the text of an email I sent our church family this week. Hopefully this explains some of my absence from the blog, and gives you some insight into where I am in life right now.  I would love your prayers and your thoughts on how to get even better.

““For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? ” (Luke 9:25)

Hi everyone!
 
Just a quick update from me and some clarification.  I feel like I may have been misleading the past couple of weeks and wanted to make sure that I am communicating well.
 
I think that I may have put across the idea that we are not doing very well as a family.  Allow me to say, that is not the case at all!  In fact, I would say that now we are doing better than we ever have.  What the realization over the past month has taught us is that we were spread way, way too thin.  Between my many activities, the kids participating in lots of different stuff, and Laura’s many duties we were so thin that you could see right through us.  And that meant that we didn’t have the time to be together and love one another well.  It meant that we were always rushing to one place or another with no time to just enjoy one another.  It meant that the house was always a mess and that Laura felt like she couldn’t keep up with all of the demands of school work for the kids, house work, her doula clients (which is a huge passion of hers), AND be successful as a follower of Christ and wife and mother.  She realized it, but I was experiencing the same without really realizing it. (she’s always been more self-aware than I am)  And we all finally came to the realization that there were a lot of tasks and activities that are good in themselves, but in the end took us away from who we want to be.  So the past few weeks have been our attempt to clear out the stuff that matters least so that we can focus on the stuff that matters most.  To us, what matters most is that we love God and each other, and we are trying to do that more effectively.  And I think that God is using that in great ways, and with our “margins” and boundaries on our time re-established we are really having fun as a family.  In fact, I think that we are as joyful as we have been in a long, long time.
 
So that said, we cleared those margins not to get away from our church family; just the opposite, really! We want to spend more time together with you.  We want to have our family in Christ in our home, and grow closer with the people who matter most to us.  Yeah, that is primarily Laura and me keeping our marriage strong and healthy (which it is!), and helping our kids love God and love people.  This is why you’ll see us head out camping more, why James and I bought dirt bikes recently so we can do that as a father and son, and just being home more.  It’s brought back joy in my life in fixing stuff around the house, because I have the time to do so and because it is fun again to make something work correctly.  I have room in my mind for it!  It is also building healthy, transparent, growing relationships with our church family.  So look for that in our lives in the coming weeks and months as we focus on the things that matter the most to us.
 
All that to say, the Correia family is doing great.  We are through the “holy moley, we need to change some stuff” time and into cementing those changes to have some room in our schedules and in our hearts and heads to really just be present where we are.  So, please don’t think that we are in a dire straight or coming apart at the seams.  In fact, I think that we are more whole than we ever have been, and it’s been lots of fun to be in our home listening to laughter and talking and getting involved in what matters to our kids. (Laura told me last night that while she and James were cooking enchiladas he told her ALL about the Star Wars Lego world he has built, and all the characters and cities and everything that are in it…I know you’re jealous!)  I want to publicly thank Pastor Mike for being so instrumental in helping us make some of these realizations as a family, and continuing to help us relate effectively and communicate our hearts to one another honestly and clearly.
 
What does that mean for you? 
 
Keep loving us as a family.  We value transparency and authenticity, so we are just living life with you.  Don’t wonder what’s going on or worry that you’re intruding.  We’ll say so if we need space.  And don’t worry you’ll say the wrong thing or that you can’t just have small talk with us.  That’s what we want! Help us enjoy life a little by having lunch with us after church; we might forget to ask, so come ask us!  Let us get involved in helping you find those boundaries as well and make the main thing the main thing in your life.  Talk to us about the little things…we love that stuff.
 
Thanks again for being an amazing church family, where the pastor can just be a regular guy who occasionally needs to recalibrate.  It’s good to be healthier.

Good or Great?

It’s an interesting week in my life, as God has taught me a major lesson in priorities and selfishness.  I feel like I can relate to Archippus, who was reminded by Paul the Apostle:

Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” (Colossians 4:17)

Allow me to back up.  If you know me, you know that I am a gun nut.  I just dig firearms.  I love to shoot and love to hunt.  Some guys like cars, some are into computers, some play lots of sports. (I do all of that to various degrees, too…)  But for me, shooting is it.  I am good at it, I enjoy it, and it is stress-relieving.  It’s not any more expensive than golf and there is less beer involved. Smile

So a couple of months ago a friend encouraged me to send in an audition email to the producers of Top Shot.  I am a big fan of the show, so I went ahead and sent their producers a casting email just for fun.  I got a call from their producers!  After a 20-minute phone interview they asked me to make a casting video for them; this is what we made. (hat tip to Lowman Photography for the amazing video)

After the video was submitted, Laura and I started really praying in earnest about it.  It wasn’t a slam dunk that I would be cast, of course, but there was a real chance that I could be chosen I think.  (I have friends who have worked in the industry and they liked my chances)  The hitch: the production schedule.  Filming for the show is August 3rd-September 15th, during which time the cast is sequestered.  They go live in Southern California and have no contact with friends and family for 6 weeks. 

That was a pretty steep price to pay.  I was asking my wife to let me have 6 weeks of no contact with her; same with my kids.  I was asking my church to allow me to basically take a sabbatical of 6 weeks and our two other pastors to pick up the slack.  I was asking both schools I teach at part time (ACU and Phoenix Seminary) to let me take about 4 weeks at the beginning of the fall semester off or maybe replace me for a semester.

So I did what I always do when things are not clear: I started praying, and started talking to my mentors.  I talked to the man who led me to Christ, Keith, who is a wonderful mentor and friend.  His advice was that this is a great, national opportunity to preach the gospel but if Laura wasn’t fully on board I should let it go.  I talked to several other people about it too.  We decided just to let the process take its course and hey, if they said no then fine.

After awhile of not hearing, I finally sent a follow-up email to the producers asking if I had been eliminated to just put the idea to rest.  I didn’t want it hanging around if I were out of the running!  He emailed me back and said that I was still “in the running,” and that was when I really had to make a decision.  That email, telling me I was still in, didn’t fill me with excitement or joy; instead I felt a sinking feeling because I still had to decide if I could ask everyone to go out of their way for me.

But more than anything the advice of the man I call my “hunting mentor,” Norm, rang in my ears.  Norm reminded me that I have a very unique calling and opportunity.  He reminded me that I get the unique privilege to be a shepherd and to serve people with the message of Christ.  And that got me thinking about underlying motives.  It got me thinking about why I wanted to be a contestant on Top Shot.  It’s because it is a cool show and the contestants get to participate in some awesome marksmanship contests. 

So, at the core of it, I was asking everyone around me to sacrifice a bunch so that I could go play with guns for six weeks.  Now, how much does that sound like what Jesus says?

“And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?’” (Luke 9:23–25)

 
Yeah, not much.  Sounds pretty selfish to me.
 
So Laura and I prayed.  And Wednesday I sent the producers an email asking them to take me out of consideration.  They were disappointed, but understood.  Someone else will take my place for sure!
 
I don’t post this to toot my own horn, but just to let you, dear readers, in on my thought process.  As Paul tells us, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. ” (1 Corinthians 6:12) It would be “lawful” for me to go, but even if profitable for me it wouldn’t be for my wife, my kids, and my church. (okay, if I won the $100,000 grand prize it would be…but there are no guarantees there for sure) 
 
So God reminded me that I needed to focus on the great rather than the good and the fun.  That I needed to die to self a little and think of those around me.  After a few early days this week of self-focus about this, He has reminded me again to put others ahead of my pleasure and seek the kingdom of God. 
 
How about you?  How is God leading you to put aside ambition and self-interest in His cause?  How is God changing your priorities and habits to be more like Him?

The Big Picture

Chennai Marathon 2010photo © 2010 Simply CVR | more info (via: Wylio)

Sometimes I have to remember that the big picture is more important than today.  That can be hard when the demands of today are right in my face and I want to be successful at every task and every challenge, but that’s just not how life works.

I am struggling through a lesson in “keeping the big picture in mind” in my marathon training.  I (finally!!!) went for a run in my Vibrams on Thursday after owning them for a couple of months.  It was SO fun, and it was only two miles right?  Wrong.  I stressed a joint in my right foot pretty hard, and made that foot awfully sore.  I went to the chiropractor and got it adjusted, and he told me a couple of things:

  1. I need to ice it twice a day.
  2. I can’t run my planned long run on Saturday; I had 20 miles on my goal sheet for this week and he said it ain’t happening.
  3. I need to take a couple of days off and rest it so that it won’t bother me long term and impact my ability to complete my first marathon in June.

“Remember,” Dr. Kevin told me, “your goal is the marathon in June, not 20 miles on Saturday.  Rest now to succeed then.”  I know he is right, so even though I would LIKE to take a run today, I can tell that my foot needs one more day of rest before getting out for a run.  So I will listen, even if (a big) part of me wants to get out for a run today.


I see Jesus practice something similar in Luke 4:1-13.  The temptations that He faced were real; the temptation to doubt the provision of God, the protection of God, and the plan of God were far more significant for Him than for us.  But Jesus wouldn’t take the bait.  He never let today, with its struggles and challenges and needs, get in the way of the bigger, more significant goal of glorifying the Father by fulfilling His plan in Jesus’ life.  He was focused on the larger, more significant goal rather than the minor, in-His-face goal.

I see this in myself too often spiritually too.  I put the urgent in front of the important.  I put time for sermon prep in my schedule but too often get too busy to spend time in significant prayer or non-prep Bible reading.  I prioritize mentorship but often not being mentored or just hanging with my wife and kids doing family stuff.  I too often put the intermediate goals (a good sermon, a smooth transition at church, a belt in kenpo) ahead of the big goals (glorifying God in my family life and ministry and self-defense).  And as I take a day off to rest, my foot reminds me that in those areas too I need to keep the bigger goals in mind and plan today with the end in mind.

How about you?  Where have you let the goals of today and the tyranny of the urgent get in the way of the bigger picture?  Are you focused on the big picture and setting goals appropriately, or are the minor battles and ideas of today so important that you have lost sight of the reason you are living to begin with?  And (maybe most importantly for me) can you mentally and emotionally allow what might look like a setback to be a reminder and a re-commitment to the more important objectives you’re chasing?