Magnolia trees The Danny Sims Blog

Here are my occasional insights, stories, conversations, perspectives, ideas, reflections, theological musings. And whatever else I might post.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Kavanaugh, Blasey Ford, and Facebook

From time to time I convince myself Facebook posts don’t matter much. And the arguing on Facebook makes me kinda crazy.

But when a grieving friend tells me someone we love has passed, or a friend announces their daughter’s engagement, or the birth of a child, or some other personal celebration or concern, I’m glad I belong to this network of people who share information about life and keep in touch. It’s why I stay on Facebook, even after I vow I’m gone.

And like you, I read friends who post their thoughts about politics or culture, some of which I agree with and some of which I do not. I embrace well written and heartfelt thoughts, whether I agree, and do my best to ignore poorly written, often mean-spirited thoughts.

Facebook is a good place to keep up with friends (real ones) and others. It is often not a good place to debate social change or culture shift. The trouble is not in our first amendment right to free speech. The trouble is people type cruel, coldblooded comments, often to persons they do not know.

So, when people began sharing their harsh judgements about SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser Christine Blasey Ford, it was for many Facebook at its worst. These moments invite the lesser angels of our nature front and center.

Dr. Ford, like my son, is an alumna of Pepperdine University. Like my father, she is a former professor at the same school. Reading with empathy what she disclosed in her letter to US Senator, Dianne Feinstein of California, it is clear something terrible happened to her many years ago. Or at least it is clear she believes something terrible happened to her many years ago. And that ought to be enough to give you pause. It would if it were your wife or daughter. It ought to be more than enough to engender sensitivity and concern.

Of course, there is much to consider.

Politics is involved. Good grief. The US Senate is not who I would want to adjudicate this sensitive and painful conversation.

There is a lapse of 35 years. In a perfect world Dr. Ford would have spoken with someone (her parents, a friend, a counselor…) who could have addressed this 35 years ago. But the fact that she did not does not make it unhappen. It does not mean we should not care and are free to blast away on social media.

It is possible this event happened but it was not Brett Kavanaugh who sexually assaulted her during a house party. Dr. Ford does not recall the time or place it occurred. She does not know how she arrived or how she got home. I think lost details would not be uncommon for someone who remembers a traumatic event years later. Is it possible it was not Kavanaugh that night? Was it him? We can't know for sure.

If this is true, how could Kavanaugh continue to serve as  Federal Judge? Forget SCOTUS, he should be impeached if he won't resign. And what about Senator Feinstein? Dr. Ford wrote her that letter and also personally spoke with her in July. She should have been forthright and not waited until day before the announced vote to confirm Kavanaugh. She should be ashamed. Again, politics drives so much of this conversation and there is so little room for shame when politics and power make their demands.

But politics should not be the yardstick by which you measure your personal engagement. To be the kind of human who contributes to the world in a positive manner, you and I have a responsibility to be thoughtful and caring, first.

Thought and care. We don’t always find that in Washington. Or on Facebook, where I'll share this blog post and debate again its value.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Don’t Dismiss Likeability

Texan friends: I’m dipping my toe into the dangerous deep end of the political pool this morning. Against my better judgement, here goes.

My baseline thought is this: Ted Cruz is only well-liked by ideologues. Beto is well liked by pretty much everyone (here's a link to a snapshot of Beto’s likeability).

If you’re thinking “ideology first,” you’ll vote a certain way, no matter what. But what if more and more Texans are leaning “likeability” this election?

If voters go “likeability first,” Ted Cruz is in trouble. I think they are and I think he is.

Beto is not just Wendy Davis version 2.0, a likeable candidate who will turn out to be otherwise and fade. Cruz continues to compare Beto to Wendy. But what if the comparison voters care most about is is Cruz and Beto?

Plus, we should ask, “are we sure Trump supporters will show up strong for Cruz?” Think on that for a moment.

To the ideology first Cruz folks:

List ten reasons why you disagree with Beto. I might very well agree with you on nine.
Comment and argue. Even in ALL IDEOLOGICAL CAPS!!!

But don’t dismiss this growing likeability momentum. If you do it will be at your own peril.
Or at the peril of Ted Cruz.

NOTE: I originally posted this on my Facebook page. I pulled it after 68 comments in just two hours, time some of which (thankfully not all) were mean-spirited name calling. Which, ironically, makes my point, no?

Thursday, August 09, 2018

A (longer than usual) thought for today

There are many problems with cherry picking scriptures or proof-texting. 

One that is obvious is the people who originally would’ve had one scripture, would not have had another scripture. When Paul wrote a letter to one church, that church would not have a letter he wrote to another church (it should be said that neither church would’ve thought of Paul’s letters as "scripture"). So in cherry picking scripture we are doing something with the Bible that is a relatively recent phenomenon. Though some Jews did it with the Law (think Pharisees), the vast majority of faith seeking people would not have been able to proof-text.

But the much larger problem with proof texting, to my eye, is how it easily misses the point and makes assumptions about the heart of God.

For example, you can proof-text murder, deceit, jealousy, and a variety of other issues and easily make the case that Joseph’s brothers were in the wrong when they sold him into slavery and told their father he had been killed. Unquestionably, they were in the wrong! Yet years later, in Egypt, Joseph himself interprets all of that very differently and tells his brothers to not be concerned, that what they intended for harm, God intended for good. 

In other words, God is in the background doing things that we do not understand in real time. Joseph’s case may not be the best example, because his brothers’ sins are so egregious. Yet even then God is at work.

What about points where Christians have often disagreed? Divorce? Adultery? Mixed racial marriages? Slavery? LGBTQ? Final judgement? Church polity? Does Sunday or Wednesday night church count?

I guarantee you we can proof-text both sides of any argument you’d like to make using that list. And there are more lists than even Facebook can handle.

Proof-texting deconstructs our willingness to believe God can do things that we do not understand. It is as if we are quoting chapter and verse to tell God what he can and cannot do. 

Of course we view it as not directed at God, but rather we are telling people what they can and cannot do. 

I certainly seek the Scriptures’ wisdom. I read it and meditate on it daily. I do not believe scripture is intended to condemn people or be the source book for proof-text debates. Nor should scripture ever narrow the possibilities of a God who can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Muslims, Immigrants, and Gays Get What?

Jesus tells a story:

A group of people worked all day for an agreed upon wage. Then some others worked half a day, doing the same job, but earned that same wage. Still others worked only a sort while and, turns out, they also got the same pay.

Those who worked all day complained about this. The boss said, “Get over it.”

Then Jesus said, “The last are first and the first are last.”

At least two big problems unfold in this story. First, so many Christians won’t admit it, but they consider themselves working for pay. They do enough good, avoid enough bad and they get a big paycheck.

Jesus doesn’t tell the story this way because that’s how God sees things. He tells it that way because this is how humans see things and he wants us to see things more as God sees them. The story exposes how ridiculous and condescending the "I’m a top earner" mindset is. Be joyful and love God with no strings attached, just as God has loved you.

But a second problem is even worse. Deep down these worked-all-day-and-earn-your-wage people don’t want those persons they consider to be on the outside (think Muslims) or lesser in status (think immigrant) or of a particular sin (think LGBTQ), to “be paid” at all. They, literally and easily, tell other human beings they can go to hell, even if the boss says “go to the front of the line.”

No? Ask a Muslim or an illegal immigrant or a gay person if they think of an open smile and an invitation to share in God’s goodness when they think of American Christians.

Note: watch for comments about a narrow path, or how only Jesus is the way or how people must repent. Why would being open, kind, and inviting to anyone suggest otherwise? I have found (some) Christians might use references like that as code language to remind us they’ve been working all day and are first in line.

The older I get the more I regret ever having thought of myself as an all day kind of guy. More and more I find myself hanging out with joyful people who are just now (re)discovering God.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Border Crisis: 2018 Looks a lot Like 2014

Here is a post from SATURDAY, JULY 19, 2014, after i returned from Mcallen while with global samaritan.

Note the paragraph about politicians... As true now as it was then.

The Border Crisis - What I've Learned and What I Think

After delivering some supplies to McAllen, Texas and visiting with some people there, here are some things I learned & some things I think:

I learned…

Most of the people coming across the Texas-Mexico border are from Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador. They are coming because they are fleeing violence, they are poor and hope they can make a better life in the U.S., they have family here and want to join them, and/or they believe if they can get inside the U.S. they will be able to stay.

Some of the border crossers are criminals, some are innocent children, and some have been victims of rape and other crimes along the way to the U.S.

All these people are crossing the U.S. border illegally.

Some people are helping the border crossers. This help is about their human need, not their legal status. They are giving them water, food, clothes, prayer and a safe place to rest no matter if they are to be deported or continue their trip further into the U.S.

I think… 

The causes of this crisis are complex and the problems (illegal alien, immigration, or refugee status and response) won’t be fixed anytime soon.

It is possible (important) to set aside your frustration (anger?) over the illegal border crossings and look for ways to help meet the basic needs of these human beings. For the Christian, doing this will help place the actions of Jesus above the inaction of government officials or politicians.

The politics of this crisis are toxic. The politicians involved tend to work against one another. Only patient and genuine collaboration will solve these problems. But cooperation is lost among politicians these days. We need leaders not politicians.

People who take Jesus seriously have to answer for His words: “Whatever you did (or did not do) for one of the least of these, you did (or did not do) for me”.

Helping the border crossers is not going to solve the border crisis. But helping border crossers is not promoting the border crisis. No one is traveling three weeks across the Mexico desert to get a shower, a free change of clothes, water bottles, prayer and a hug.

The complex causes for the crisis and solutions to all the problems are beyond our control. Providing for basic human needs and giving short-term help is simple and easily within our reach.

Fewer lives will be in jeopardy (or lost) making the trip from Central America if our government leaders will work to change the perception that if you cross the U.S. border you’ll be able to stay.

If these people are indeed refugees (I believe many are) the U.S. government simply must make the causes and sustainable solutions to a refugee crisis in our neighborhood a priority in conversation and action. Now.

Some (many? most?) of the people up in arms about the border crossers are descendants of people who took land from native Americans and gained other land in wars for independence. Of course we are not responsible for that. And we can’t go back and change history. But healthy perspective can go a long way in changing the future.

Monday, June 18, 2018

This is God, if You Want to Know

If you want to know God, identify with the hopes and loneliness of people, so much so that you would do something wild and world changing to show how you love and accept them.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father’s Day in Dallas

Top ten things about this Father’s Day:

TEN: Being with both my adult children (and their mom) after law school and grad school.

NINE:  Brunch with both my adult children (and their mom) in Oak Cliff at Pink Magnolia.

EIGHT: Going to The Sixth Floor Museum with both my adult children (and their mom) instead of a movie.

SEVEN: Hearing both my adult children (and their mom) still laugh at my jokes. And at me.

SIX: Being with both my adult children (and their mom), the people who have known me most and forgiven me most and loved me most.

FIVE: Posing for a selfie with both my adult children (and their mom), looking north at downtown Dallas.

FOUR: Discussing justice and things that matter with both my adult children (and their mom).

THREE: Laughing with both my adult children (and their mom) as we talk about our fathers and grandfathers.

TWO: Loving deeply both my adult children (and their mom).

ONE: Knowing I am deeply loved by both my adult children (and their mom).