How to Stop Losing Friends Over Politics: Six things to do, starting now

“There is always the danger that those who think alike should gravitate together into ‘coteries’ where they will henceforth encounter opposition only in the emasculated form of rumor that the outsiders say thus and thus. The absent are easily refuted, complacent dogmatism thrives, and differences of opinion are embittered by group hostility. Each group hears not the best, but the worst, that the other groups can say.”
― C.S. Lewis

“Anyone familiar with party systems has seen the disgust one party member is apt to show toward another whom he may really know nothing about other than that he is one of ‘the enemies.’ He cannot afford to know much about the person, for then he risks finding some redeeming feature in his enemy, and this is unacceptable. Any redemption for the enemy is a failure for propaganda which seeks separation between individuals; communion is defeat.”
― Daniel Schwindt

These are difficult and divided times. It seems like everything is political, and our thoughts and actions about them are determined by which camp we’re in. Wearing masks is political. Getting vaccinated is political. Standing during the national anthem is political. Many actors and celebrities are political, losing roles because of their views. Many churches are political.

Being “political” is one thing. Having views about issues that matter is important. But we’re taking it further. We’re not just political, we’re partisan, which is different … and dangerous. When I say “partisan” I’m referring to the mindset described in the quotes by Lewis and Schwindt above. Partisan is when we over-identify with our group, to the extent that we get blind to its failures and inconsistencies, and demonize those in “the other group.” Being political is normal and healthy … being partisan is abnormal and dangerous.

I can’t tell you how many people I know who’ve lost friends — and been alienated from family members — over political differences. The most visible recent example of this is Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger getting a scathing letter from his family — calling him an “embarassment to us and to God,” and accusing him of joining “the devil’s army” — after breaking with fellow Republicans to vote for the impeachment of Donald Trump. I suspect Thanksgiving Dinner might be a little awkward at the Kinzinger household this year.

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“Sir, Please Step Back From the Computer”

Have you noticed how much of our lives are being shaped by the barrage of news and social media we encounter? Especially lately! I’ve written about this in the past, but right now, there’s another element that we need to think about: we’re not just weary, we’re traumatized. Daily news about COVID19, the stress of lockdowns and job losses, horrific footage of police brutality, mass protests, riots, and looting … all of this has become a form of trauma for many of us.

In March, when news about COVID19 was exploding, and states were first issuing “stay at home” orders, I spent hours reading articles, surfing social media, and watching news videos, trying to understand what was going on. Then, weeks later, when the George Floyd murder and subsequent protests and riots happened, I had the same experience. I told myself I was doing this so I could preach and teach others, and also help lead our church in its response to these events.

But something else was going on too: my overdosing on news was like when you drive past a horrific car accident, and you find yourself unable to look away. We’re drawn to terrible stuff, and some part of us overrides our own good judgement and makes us look.

But here’s what I know: these kinds of events are traumatizing to many of us. We feel heightened levels of sadness, anger, and anxiety about what we are seeing and experiencing. A phrase I’ve heard people using over and over in the past few months is: “I can’t believe this is happening.”

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Report on Teaching in Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand … population 9.7 million

Recently, my wife Charlene and I traveled to Thailand, teaching about addiction, recovery, self-care, and healthy leadership. We flew out of Minneapolis on February 25, and got back home on March 14. What a trip it was! Since we’ve asked for people’s prayers and contributions to support this trip — and many of you stepped up to provide this — I want to give you report of what happened, what it was like, and what we learned.

The Leadup … questions about COVID-19

In the days leading up to our trip, news about the spread of the COVID-19 virus beyond China were starting to be heard. We wrestled about whether or not to cancel the trip and the events there. I was hesitant to do so for a variety of reasons. One important reason was that we had already put this trip off once (we were originally scheduled to go in 2019, but felt at that time it was too early in my ministry at Bethel Church to take a trip like this).

As you can imagine, the days leading up to our departure were full of preparations, packing, and tying up loose ends with church responsibilities. I was also checking in daily with our Thai host, evaluating the current state of virus concerns in Thailand (Are workshop participants still planning to attend? Should we cancel? etc.). Through prayer and conversations with our YWAM host, we made the decision to proceed with our trip as planned.

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