Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Trayvon Martin, Job and the Grace of Silence

11 When Job’s three friends heard about all this disaster that had happened to him, they came, each one from his home—Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuah, and Zophar from Naamah. They agreed to come so they could console and comfort him. 12 When they looked up from a distance and didn’t recognize him, they wept loudly. Each one tore his garment and scattered dust above his head toward the sky. 13 They sat with Job on the ground seven days and seven nights, not speaking a word to him, for they saw that he was in excruciating pain.
-Job 2:11-13 (Common English Bible)
Maybe I'm just becoming a cold-hearted troll, but it's become harder for me to get so easily riled up about things like I used to. I don't feel the need to always have to "speak out" all the time about things.

That wasn't always the case.  More often than not, I would be out saying something about anything.  I would frequently blog about whatever was the injustice and just get my words out.

Somewhere along the way, I decided to not make immediate judgements- to just speak out.  I have a lot more questions than I do answers and because of this, I am less willing to just speak my mind.

The recent tragedy concerning Trayvon Martin has a lot of people talking. There's a lot that one could talk about here: racism, the role of young black males in American society, gun control or lack thereof and so on.  I know that it's common for pastors and even moreso for black pastors to speak out on events like this, but I'm still holding my tounge, unwilling to somehow speak to the moment.

The reason I don't at this point is because there is so much that is unknown in this case.  We have a lot of pieces of what happened between Martin and his alleged shooter, George Zimmerman, but we don't really have a clear story.  While many may think otherwise, the details of this case are still being learned.  What seems so obvious might not be. Blogger Doug Mataconis has some notes that sometimes the rush to judgement has had tragic results:

There may be more evidence out there that has not been made public, which is the primary reason why making judgments based only on what’s in the media is a mistake. Sadly, because the police work here was pretty shoddy, there is likely some crucial forensic evidence (such as pictures of Zimmerman immediately after the incident, the clothing he wore that night, results of blood work for drugs and alcohol on Zimmerman, and physical (blood) evidence that was on Zimmerman after fighting with Martin) that prosecutors are never going to have access to, and that’s unfortunate. Perhaps there’s enough here to get an indictment, and my guess is that if the State’s Attorney who has been appointed by Governor Rick Scott to take over this case wants to get an indictment for Manslaughter or 2nd Degree Murder she will get it. But that’s where we should leave things, in the hands of the legal system.

There is a disturbing tendency in high profile criminal cases for the public, egged on by the constant media coverage and the incessant drone of the talking heads, to rush to judgment long before it’s warranted. We saw it happen in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case only to see those charges dismissed when the accuser’s credibility collapsed like a house of cards. We saw it happen in with Richard Jewell, who was hounded, tried, and convicted, by the media of the Centennial Park bombing in Atlanta in 1996 only to be completely cleared of all charges. It happened to former Reagan Administration Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan, who was charged on multiple racketeering counts only to be acquitted, at which point he famously asked “Where do I go to get my reputation back?” It happened to the parents of Jon Benet Ramsey, who spent years being accused int he public of their daughters brutal rape and murder even though the evidence linking them to the crime was as flimsy as possible. It’s happened to people who aren’t famous too, of course. Just ask Cory Maye or Cameron Todd Willingham. Of course, Willingham might not answer because Texas executed him for a crime he didn’t commit.

But the thing is, we want to try to make the events fit our own templates to further our own agendas.  We try to hunt and look for whatever shred of evidence about silly things like Trayvon smoking marijuana and use that to paint him as some crazy thug.  We want to use some words said during a 911 call to paint Zimmerman as soon kind of suburban klansman.  For some reason, we don't want to simply wait and see what the facts bear out.  No, we already have the "facts" and are ready to fashion stories based on whatever spin we can get from those facts.

There is a small part of me that would like to talk about how it is to be black man in America and how people can view you as a threat even when you're not.  But for some reason, I just don't feel like adding more words to the cacophony.  I don't know if my words are going to make a difference and frankly, I don't know-we don't know the whole story yet.

The Bible tells of the story of Job, a man who was afflicted with tragedy upon tragedy.  He lost his fortune and his children.  When his friends heard of what happened, they came over and tore their clothes in a sign of mourning and sat with Job in silence.  Later on, Job's friends start to talk and it might have been better had they kept quiet.  Their words were not helping Job.  More and more, they blamed Job for what happened-trying in their own way to spin what happened to a conclusion that was satisfying to them.  Job later rebuked his friends for not helping him when he so needed help.

There will be time for judgement later.  For me, right now, what I feel is sadness that a young life was ended too soon, another man's life will change forever, and that a nation doesn't know how to talk and listen to each other.  For me, now is the time for mourning and silence- not grandstanding.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


One of the things that kind of comes with the odd package that is me, is that I have a hard time focusing on things.  I space out a lot of the time, finding it hard to focus on the task at hand.  I seem overstimulated, not able to really filter things out.  This leads to me spending a lot of time just kind of flitting from one thing to another, my brain afire with ideas, thoughts and feelings.

I finding out that my inability to focus is probably part and parcel of me being autistic.  A fellow autistic blogger shares how her brain works and it reminds me of my own way of thinking.

If someone sees how I work, they might think I'm just wasting time.  But what they don't see is that I am being flooded with information and really don't have  way to tune it out.

I've been trying to use medication to help and it has helped a little bit, but the manic nature of my mind is still there and will always be there. 

If you're wondering how I am able to get to sleep with such a manic mind...well, that's another story.

Friday, March 02, 2012

How I Get Autism, Fears and Church Planting in One Post

I am not a good leader.

This is not some confession of being guilty of some terrible sin, it's more of a judgement- I'm not a good leader.  The people skills that others have, I don't have- at least not naturally.  Being someone with Aspergers means having to learn how interact with people, something that is not innate in my inner most being.

And yet, somehow I ended up as a pastor and even more ironic I ended up as Associate Pastor in a congregation, meaning I have to deal with people and well, be a leader.

But I'm still not good one.  Or to put it another way, I'm not a natural leader.

A few months ago, I was asked to fill in as leader for the a New Church Ministry Team in the Christian Church in the Upper Midwest, a regional body of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  As you all know, I'm passionate about church planting and wanted to be a part of this team, though I wasn't crazy about leading it for obvious reasons.  Remember how I said the church start I planted was a spectacular failure?  Well, part of the reason for its failure was that I wasn't a good people person, the type of guy that is good at striking up relationships, the type of person that a new church plant needs.  You need someone who is charismatic and compelling, two adjectives that DO NOT describe yours truly. 

Anyway, it turns out you need those skills to lead a group as much as a new church.  Now I have some other skills that can make a good leader: determination and discipline, skills that tend to be amplified by my Aspergers.  I may not be able to persuade you, but I don't give up either.

So, I've been trying to chat with folks and see if they would be interested in joining the team.  I've set up a Facebook page and sent out a whole bunch of information on new churches to help spur interest in church planting and hoping for someone to say they would be a part of the team.

So far, the results have been kind of "eh."

This brings up fears of not being persuasive enough.  But it also brings up fears of something else: that no one is interested in planting new churches.

As much as Mainline Protestants fret over its decline, I also don't see a whole lot of passion into finding new ways to share the good news.  Denominations have started church planting initiatives trying to get folks in the pews interested, and in many ways they are met with a collective shrug.  We'd love to see our numbers rise, but we aren't that willing to invest in the work needed to do that.

But I maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe I'm just getting discouraged too soon.  I want to believe that there are folks out there that want to find new ways to share the Gospel and who want to share that with others.  And maybe God can used a charasmatic-impared pastor to do that work in the world.

I'd like to believe that.