March (Link) Madness

Before we begin: Here’s a helpful graphic that’s been circulating the interwebs lately in a few permutations.  We can quibble over exact coordinates of different points, but it’s a good starting place.  Please share with your hyper-partisan and/or cluelessly naive friends and relatives to encourage open and honest dialogue.  Fight Fake news. Know who is reputable.

Now, by theme.  Many of these broader topics bleed into each other, so I’ve tried to organize the individual articles within the headings such that they form a sort of continuum both within and between categories.

Science (jokey to serious)

Science’s Love Affair with The Lord of the Rings (Julie Beck, The Atlantic, 13 May 2015): Two of my favorite things–science and LOTR–in one article.

An Ice-Age Squirrel Found by Gulag Prisoners Gets Its Scientific Due (Sarah Jang, The Atlantic, 2 March 2017): All my next favorite things–Russian literature, rigorous science, and cute fuzzy animals.

Trump’s Hair Inspires Name for Newly Discovered Moth Species (Alejandro Lazo, The Wall Street Journal, 20 January 2017): More on taxonomy.  Scientists may be stereotyped as geeky introverts in birkenstocks and  un-ironed shirts, but they can get pretty fiesty when they need to (c.f. the social media handles for Alt National Parks, NASA, EPA, etc.)

 To Catch Prey, Frogs Turn To Sticky Spit (Madeline K. Sofia, NPR, 31 January 2017): This is almost as cool as when they figured out how cats drink.  (“Almost”, because I like cats more than frogs.  Nothing against the research, of course).

I’m not a doctor, but I play one on my CV (Adam Ruben, Science, 18 January 2017): I work in basic research lab in a clinical department at a major university hospital, and this is the constant frustration of the PhDs.  All of us–including the people with PhDs–refer to “real doctors” and “fake doctors” and everyone knows what we mean.  On a more serious note, I’ve heard plenty of women with PhDs introduce themselves as “Doctor Abc Xyz” in rooms full of mostly men–in situations where none of the men introduce themselves as Doctor Anything–presumably in attempt to get people to respect them a little more, even subconsciously.  The glass ceiling is a lot higher than it used to be, but it’s still there.

I’m a doctor who wants to treat addiction, but the rules won’t let me (Douglas Jacobs, The Washington Post, 18 January 2017): Exhibit #78915483, Why Evidence-Based Practice is Really Really Important.

Vaccines Work. Here Are the Facts. (Maki Naro, The Nib, 15 December 2014): This longform informational webcomic has been floating around for a couple years, but lately it’s received a new wave of attention due to comments made by the current president and his campaign staff/administration.  This one is also worth sharing with your honestly vaccine-skeptical or vaccine-uncertain (but probably not vaccine-hating) acquaintances, friends, and family.  It’s written at an understandable level for the lay public, but doesn’t come across as condescending or demeaning to people for having fears or concerns.  This been one of my biggest quabbles with the scientific/medical community in the whole anti-vaxxer fiasco: poor science communication!  Metaphorically SHOUTING at people, calling them stupid, dismissing their views, or even appealing to authority without explaining why doesn’t help.  I understand that after 4 years of college, 4-8 years of grad/med school, and possibly 2-7 years of postdoc/fellowship, it’s hard to accept being questioned about a field in which you are literally an expert by all conventional standards.  But to a worried parent who’s afraid that a vaccine will cause their child to have [bad disease terrible side effect big scary words ahh run away], it’s not just degrees that matter: it’s also personal experience, perceived trustworthiness, and relatability.  This is why mommy blogs have so much power to persuade.

How Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Distorted Vaccine Science (Seth Mnookin, Scientific American/STAT, 10-11 January 2017): On the other hand, there are also a lot of people appealing to authority and using it in complete opposition to evidence-based practice, all too often successfully.

What can the anti-vaccination movement teach us about improving the public’s understanding of science? (Jeanne Garbarino, PLoS, 5 January 2017): At the risk of harping too much on the importance of science communication, “At the risk of oversimplifying the issues related to vaccine hesitancy and rejection, people’s decision’s for themselves and their children might have less to do with the message, and more about how — and in what context — the message is delivered…While it may feel counterintuitive, perhaps we should stop trying to win arguments using the traditional academic approach, with data, error bars, and p-values, as these risk strengthening the emotional appeal of anti-evidence, anti-scientific viewpoints. Instead, we can present data-based conclusions in compelling and effective ways, keeping in mind the connections and disconnections between human emotion and rationality.”  For specific tips on effective ways to talk about (note: not debate) vaccines or other issues of evidence-based practice, see The Debunking Handbook.  For hear some thoughts from someone whose career is dedicated to science communication, give this episode of The Prism podcast a listen.

The Rise and Fall of a Shrimp Biologist (David Scholnick, Scientific American, 9 January 2017): “I guess the moral of my story is that when you mix science and politics, it can be just as cliquey as high school, and if you disrupt the social order, you had better be ready for some lowbrow playground antics.”

How Trump’s refugee ban hurts health care in places that voted for him (Alvin Chang, Vox, 6 March 2017): And the saga of the red state/blue state paradox continues…

Home

The Story Behind TIME’s Year-Long Multimedia Project ‘Finding Home’ (Kira Pollack, photography by Lynsey Addario, Time, 19 December 2016): “Lynsey is a powerhouse—a fierce journalist with a fiery passion to tell the truth about the great injustices of the world. Lynsey is known as a brave war photographer, and has received accolades for her front-line reporting, but day in and day out, she has documented the lives of some of the most voiceless women in the world.”

A Yazidi Refugee, Stranded at the Airport by Trump (Kirk W. Johnson, The New Yorker, 28 January 2017): This wasn’t okay on January 28.  It’s not okay today.  It won’t be okay tomorrow, or the next day, or any time in the next four or eight years, or ever.  Don’t let what was crazy and absurd and wrong yesterday become part of the new norm in the future.  Don’t let it become just another political issue that us regular folks can’t do much about.

Facebook post by Samuel Director (28 January 2017): Thank you for taking a stand, even though, sadly, it puts you at risk of derision and criticism in some Christian communities.  <rant> Unlike another post I recently saw by a pastor of MISSIONS (i.e., the person in charge of reaching out to and caring for people who are not like us) of a church I used to attend basically arguing that Trump’s ban wasn’t that bad at all and didn’t contradict Christian principles of hospitality, love for the other, and generosity to the cast down of society because 1) all the verses in the Old Testament about taking care of widows/orphans/foreigners don’t apply to modern America and 2) if they did, we should take care of them in their own countries but sure as hell not here.  My response was somewhere between a muffled yell and a groan of “don’t confuse exegesis and eisegesis, have you forgotten everything you learnt in seminary??”  </rant>

The Lawyers Showed Up (Dahlia Lithwick, Slate, 28 January 2017): I’m about as far from a pollyanna as you can get, but at the very least, where there’s a shadow there’s a light.  For all my snide comments about the profession of lawyers, there’s some good ones out there.

Strangers in Their Own Land: The ‘Deep Story’ of Trump Supporters (Shankar Vedantam, NPR, 24 January 2017): Although my opinion on the current administration is probably quite clear by now, this can’t be a one-sided conversation.  People want to come to the US to find home, but there are also people born here who don’t feel at home anymore.  This doesn’t negate the rights of the first group or dismiss the conversation; in fact, it should elevate the dialogue.  And before the liberal-leaning crowd points out that “not feeling at home” is very different from “fleeing from ISIS”, I know.  That’s the point, and also why you should read this article/listen to the podcast.

Meet Me in the Middle

Psychology’s Favorite Tool for Measuring Racism Isn’t Up to the Job (Jesse Singal, New York Magazine, 11 January 2017): I’ve been skeptical of IATs since I first learned about them in Intro Psych.  This article does a good job of articulating some of the problems with the test itself and also of conclusions drawn from data amassed from the test.  From personal experience, back in Psych 100, it seemed like it wouldn’t be too hard to “trick” the test, so I took one on the internet and found that indeed, it wasn’t too hard to skew consciously.  Could this then have the effect of double-tricking the test?  Yup.

How the FBI Is Hobbled by Religious Illiteracy (Emma Green, The Atlantic, 26 February 2017): Getting a PhD in [xyz religion] studies is useless you say?  Think again.  Clearly, the FBI needs more of such people.  My favorite line of the article: “Although he loves Judaism, actual Jews are a problem.”  Also, moderately related, one of the weirdest things to me about the rising anti-nonwhite (and often anti-non”Christian”) sentiment in the country lately is that it’s being directed at both Jews and Muslims.  I know intellectually that historically both have been targets of bigotry by both Catholic and Protestant Christianity, but the attacks, sometimes physical, on both Muslim and Jewish people and places of worship or gathering has struck me as strangely ironic and tragic.

Why Conservatives Mistrust Even Modest Efforts at Gun Control (David A. Graham, The Atlantic,  2 October 2015): I know that firearm violence and accidents amount to what is effectively a huge public health crisis.  I know that a lot fewer people would be dead if we had no guns or even fewer guns.  I know that in some states guns are much too easy to get, even for many conservative-leaning folks.  But I also am deeply appreciative of the culture of the rural west, which has bled into many people’s (rural or western or not) protectiveness of their ability to own and use firearms.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate well to the legislative halls of urban state capitals or the bench of the Supreme Court, much less thirty second sound bytes on cable news (liberal or conservative).  I don’t know what the answer is other than that as with most things, it’s probably somewhere in the middle.

These Pro-Lifers Are Headed to the Women’s March on Washington (Emma Green, The Atlantic, 16 January 2017): Can we please just converge to the ideal that less abortion is better in general but also that banning it/doing everything but banning it doesn’t actually make it be less.  I think most people–both on the left and on the right–could agree that we would want the fewest women possible to be in the position that they feel like/think/know they need an abortion, but for the ones who do make that decision, it should be safe and accessible (presumably, by being legal).  Minimize need –> minimize abortion.  Everyone is happier and more morally satisfied.  Aka, evidence-based practice.  And so we circle back to our first them of the day.  WE CAN DO BETTER, FOLKS.

Light

When Metal Goes Acoustic: Disturbed On Covering Simon & Garfunkel (Weekend Edition Sunday, NPR, 15 January 2017): Since a lot of the links are pretty heavy, this is a little lighter.  As light as Disturbed can be, anyways.  Fun fact: David Draiman trained as a hazan (like a cantor in Jewish synagogues) and also almost went to law school.  He also has had some pretty interesting interactions with skinhead fans who don’t realize he’s Jewish–perhaps the epitome of “meet me in the middle”.

Orlando

I was actually thinking about deleting this blog this week, but I wanted to put this somewhere so I guess the deleting will have to wait at least a bit…

TL;DR: I dunno, I guess the last paragraph?  Most of which I didn’t actually write? 

I debated whether or not I wanted to post this for quite a while.  In some ways I wrote more for my own processing than for others.  A lot of people have said a lot of things already; I don’t want to regurgitate what’s already been said (and likely more eloquently), yet I want to say something.  Then again, there’s nothing new under the sun…

I see three main issues portrayed: 1) guns, 2) terrorism under the name of Islam, 3) prejudice against LGBT+ people under the name of religion.  It’s a false trichotomy to portray the tragedy as a consequence of only one or another of these things, but because I’m a good Presbyterian and an IS(N?)TJ, lists are how I understand the world.  Other than mentioning them above, I’m not going to spend any time discussing the first two items.  They’re barrels of monkeys that merit entire posts of their own, but ignoring them completely would be a glaring omission.  And so I’m choosing to stop here, except to say, be good to each other, folks.

49 people were murdered on Sunday.  That’s only 8 people fewer than were in my graduating class in high school.  4 fewer than can be on an NFL team’s active roster.  Each of those people had a story, and many of those people’s stories happened to include identifying as part of the LGBT community.

Almost half (48%) of people who identify as LGB in the US also identify as Christian, according to a 2015 Pew survey (http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/chapter-4-the-shifting-religious-identity-of-demographic-groups/#religious-composition-by-sexual-orientation).  Although this is substantially less than the straight or overall populations, which usually poll around 70%, it also appears to be substantially more than the Jesus-vs.-The-Gays scenario that the media/popular culture, and some Christian groups, would have us believe.  These 48% are our brothers and sisters.  And, though perhaps not theologically, so are the other 52%.

A 2013 Pew survey (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/06/13/a-survey-of-lgbt-americans/#religion; the 2015 survey may also include this question, but I’m having trouble navigating their website…) asked about how people perceived religions’ (un)friendliness towards LGBT people.  Not surprisingly, the Church did not fare well.  This likely explains at least some of the ~20% difference between the religious composition of the general population and the LGB community.

As Rachel Held Evans wrote on her Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/rachelheldevans.page/posts/10153956026774442), “Many [Christian] leaders have publicly grieved the massacre and called for Christians to ‘simply love’ the LGBT community in this hour of need…which is good; that’s the right thing to do. But what I’m hearing from my Christian LGBT friends in particular is that these calls to grieve and love ring a bit hollow when coming from pastors and church leaders who have never spoken out about hate and violence directed against LGBT people before or who have spent years perpetuating the very misinformation, stereotypes, and theology that hurt LGBT people every day.”

Sentiment matters.  49 people died violently in one night; that shakes our worldview, our framework of security, our ideal of freedom of religion, belief, and expression.  And yet, around 11,000 people ages 15-34, the age group most affected by the shooting, commit suicide in the US every year (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_02.pdf).  Being LGBT has been shown repeatedly to increase the risk of suicide attempts drastically: anywhere from 2 to 4 times greater (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss60e0606.pdf).  Taking the conservative estimate of doubling the rate, and assuming that between 3 and 10% of the population identifies as LGBT (from the 2013 Pew survey; we’ll take the average, 6.5%, since more younger people identify as LGBT), that rounds out to be around 1,400 lives lost every year in the young LGBT community.  This is not to trivialize the loss of 49 people in one day—indeed, this shocks and horrifies us for good reason—but to point out an ongoing problem.  Is this the fault of the Church?  Of culture?  Of being LGBT?  No, no, and no.  Suicide is sometimes conceptualized as a blameless tragedy, in that it takes a complex collection of events and actions and environments and genetics and thoughts and feelings to proceed.  But it can be stopped.  And for those of us who aren’t doctors/social workers/counselors /public health advocates, one of the most important roles we have in preventing injury or death, whether self-inflicted and externally perpetrated, is how we treat other people, implicitly and explicitly.

Sentiment matters.  The motives of the shooter are yet to be uncovered, and it’s likely we’ll never fully untangle them.  Although a mass-murderer isn’t created by culture alone, it would seem that culture can have a normalizing role in prejudice and hatred, hatred that can, it seems, infect even those it affects.  Throwaway derogatory comments can seem harmless in the moment; indeed, perhaps they are—in the moment.  But the prevailing atmosphere may have greater effect than we realize.  The same way “rape culture” is impugned for normalizing the boys-will-be-boys attitude that seems to have led to the highly-criticized sentence in the recent Stanford case, perhaps prejudice, bigotry, and even violence against groups with whom we disagree, dislike, or merely see as different from ourselves is normalized through our everyday attitudes, words, and actions.

If we claim to belong to the Church, we are held to the highest standard in this regard—even if we think the other party is wrong.  Just as our love for someone does not excuse us from confronting tough problems, personally wrestling with a theological or moral issue cannot excuse us from loving, fully and not hollowly, those with whom we disagree.  As Julie Rodgers wrote on her blog this week (http://julie-rodgers.com/?p=16473), “You do not have to support same-sex marriage to fight for safety and protection for human beings made in the image of God. Your solidarity will not be taken as theological agreement, and it’s hard for me to understand how grieving the death of 50 beautiful people can feel complicated for a Christian. It’s always right to grieve with those who are grieving.”

And likewise, the Lieutenant Governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints—a bastion of modern conservatism and orthodoxy if there ever was one—said this at a vigil on Monday (I highly encourage reading the entire speech; besides being rhetorically interesting, the words need to be heard https://www.ksl.com/index.php?sid=40209267&nid=148&title=lt-gov-cox-speaks-at-vigil-for-orlando-my-heart-has-changed): “How did you feel when you heard that 49 people had been gunned down by a self-proclaimed terrorist? That’s the easy question. Here is the hard one: Did that feeling change when you found out the shooting was at a gay bar at 2 a.m. in the morning? If that feeling changed, then we are doing something wrong.”

The shooting in Orlando is not a philosophical conundrum for politicians and pastors and pundits to toss around like a football.  Nor is it a stone to hurl at people with whom you disagree(—and it is largely on this point that I hesitated to post this: in some ways, it seems to waver between a reflection, an appeal, and a bludgeon).  It is a human tragedy.  In light of everything that is being done and said, remember that we are people talking to and about and arguing with and about other people.  If you find yourself thinking angrily/bitterly/condescendingly/disgustedly to yourself, “The gays are [scornful descriptor],” remember that someone somewhere is probably thinking, “The Christians are [scornful descriptor]”—and vice versa.  (…or if you’re thinking “The Muslims/atheists/Mexicans/gun owners/Democrats/Republicans/ whatever-group-that-isn’t-like-me are [scornful descriptor].”  We’re all someone else to someone else, and whenever we point a finger there are three pointing back at ourselves.)  Remember that on the other side of your thought or word or action—negative or positive—there is another person, receiving, listening, or perhaps just observing.

“You Didn’t Have to Go”

An acquaintance from high school took his own life last weekend.  I can’t claim to have known him well, but when you go to a small school, you kind of know everybody.  I don’t really have words to understand what happened, and even if I did, I’m not sure I’d share them here: it’s not mine to tell.

But there are a few things I can say.  In a society where “I’m so depressed” is tossed around as loosely as Peyton Manning’s passes this season, it’s easy to forget that depression can be a life-threatening illness: its estimated mortality rate is as high as 15%, though likely somewhat lower depending on what definition of “depression” is used.  Statistics aside, think about that again: Depression can be fatal.

Popular culture would have us believe depression is constant sadness, never-ending crying, or just a persistent case of the Eeyores.  This is true for some people, some times. Earlier this week, a friend from high school wrote a beautifully conceived and executed Facebook post reflecting on this loss and on depression and mental illness in general.  He described depression as when “you stop participating in your life”–that’s probably as accurate a description as I’ve ever heard.  But depression is a shape-shifter.  It has many presentations, even for one person, within one episode–and that can make it hard to catch.

My boss told me one time that if I ever started to feel excessively guilty or worthless, or if I started to wonder what it would be like to be dead, to see a psychiatrist immediately.  I would add to that if you start doubting yourself (not just your judgment or choices–yourself) in ways you wouldn’t normally, or if you find yourself mysteriously unable to do anything, seek help.  Recognizing depression is important in its own right–self-awareness is a beautiful thing–but it’s also a necessary step in getting help, which I would argue is the greater value in the path to getting better.  It doesn’t have to be a psychiatrist or psychologist, at least not right away.  A friend, a family member, a teacher, a clergyperson if you’re religious, even a coworker or boss.  Someone cares and someone will care.  As my mother would remind me, it’s safer not to travel alone.

For those who are called upon to help: first and foremost, listen.  It can be uncomfortable.  It can be confusing.  It can be scary, especially if the person is actively suicidal.  But listen.  Don’t try to fix: leave that to the psychiatrist or psychologist later on.  Seek help yourself, in the stead of the other person, if you need to.  Be present.  Stay present.  Love.  And listen.

“Contemplation, normally regarded as a private pursuit, needs communal support.  We are most likely to risk its vulnerabilities and be faithful to its implications when we are embedded in a community that both evokes and witnesses our truth—a rare form of community in which we learn to ‘be alone together,’ to support one another on a solitary journey.  We practice being present to others without being invasive or evasive—neither trying to ‘fix’ them with advice nor turning away when they share something distressing.” (Parker Palmer)

“You can flip the switch by standing at a safe distance, on the threshold, and simply reaching in the door, but to enter the dark you actually have to step inside.  That may be real love, right there.  The willingness to be present, knowing there isn’t a damn thing you can do to fix anything.” (Kristin Richard Armstrong)

“Because our lives are hidden with Christ in God, we do not know the effects of even the smallest acts of love.” (Aaron Kheriaty)

Finally, a couple years ago, I put the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in my phone.  You never know when someone might need it, and you don’t want to be fumbling around on the internet in a moment of crisis.  You also don’t know if that someone might be you.  My friend who wrote the post I referenced above also recommended this, so I will do the same.  It only takes a moment–a moment now could be invaluable at some moment in the future.  Here’s the number: 1-800-273-8255.

I don’t mean to overdramatize this.  Drama aside, I don’t think I can overemphasize how important these things are.  The title of this post also came from my friend’s Facebook post.  And so I will close:

Please don’t go.

Holy Week

My favorite season in the liturgical calendar has slowing shifted from Advent to Holy Week.  Obviously, neither makes sense except in light of the other, but Holy Week reminds me more and more of my complete dependence on God’s grace.  This year has proved that more than ever, in addition to the fact that currently I’m in a period of uncertainty in several areas of my life.  I thought I’d share three short verses (parts of verses, really) that I read in the past couple weeks:

With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles” (2 Chronicles 31:8)

The eye of their God was on the[m]” (Ezra 5:5)

The good hand of my God was upon me” (Nehemiah 2:8)

God With Us

I went to midnight Christmas (Eve) service at a local church last night.  The message was titled “God With Us.”  During the service, they played a videographic showing a list of times God is with us: when we first cry, when we scrape our knee, when we first fall in love, when we have our first heartbreak, when we’re on the mountaintops, when we feel like we’re drowning.  It was nice, but I was a little frustrated, frustrated because especially this fall there have been days and weeks and perhaps months that God did not feel with me.  Nights that I felt alone, alone with my thoughts and my pain and my so-called inner demons.  And I know that so many people experience pain so much greater that it isn’t fair for me to complain, but at the same time it’s also not entirely fair to invalidate one person’s experience just because someone else’s is more extreme.

And then I realized, God was there.  While I struggled to interact with the world, my odd behavior confusing a number of people, He was there.  As I curled myself into a ball in my friend’s embrace, wondering if this juxtaposition of chaos and emptiness in my mind was a foretaste of what Hell was like, He was there, even as I told them, “I don’t know where God is anymore.”  He was there in the people who asked me if I was doing okay, even if I didn’t quite tell the truth.  He was there in my friend who walked with me into the darkness for hours into the night, forgoing sleep and sanity and personal comfort for the disturbed (and probably disturbing) confusion of my mind and soul.  Last night, I realized that this was more than just them being a good friend: this was God, acting through another person, reaching more tangibly into my life than I could have imagined.

And so I’ll leave you with the words of three others, relevant to my experience, and I think also relevant to this Christmas day.

“Meredith Grey: Cristina, I know you that don’t want to talk about it. But I’m here, so I just want to stay on the phone with you until you want to hang up. I’m here. I’m here.” ~Shonda Rhimes, Grey’s Anatomy

“Contemplation, normally regarded as a private pursuit, needs communal support. We are most likely to risk its vulnerabilities and be faithful to its implications when we are embedded in a community that both evokes and witnesses our truth—a rare form of community in which we learn to ‘be alone together,’ to support one another on a solitary journey. We practice being present to others without being invasive or evasive—neither trying to ‘fix’ them with advice nor turning away when they share something distressing.” ~Parker Palmer

“You can flip the switch by standing at a safe distance, on the threshold, and simply reaching in the door, but to enter the dark you actually have to step inside.  That may be real love, right there.  The willingness to be present, knowing there isn’t a damn thing you can do to fix anything.” ~Kristin Richard Armstrong

Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with thy God.

I’m not sure what to think about the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson–not only because I’m ignorant of the legal system but also because I don’t have all the facts (and quite frankly, I don’t think anyone–not even Wilson himself–does or ever will).  But St. Louis has slowly become my second city over the past two and a half years, and so in that respect, I’m sort of obligated to have an opinion.  After all, what are the dinner guests going to ask me about at Thanksgiving after they’ve finished peppering me with questions regarding my classes?  Ferguson, of course.

Beyond having an opinion about the situation–beyond the rhetoric and the talking heads and the angry voices–I care about the situation because I am human.  Just like Michael Brown.  Like Darren Wilson.  Like each of the twelve jurors.  Like the protestors.  Like the innocent citizens whose businesses and livelihoods were damaged by rioters.  Yes, even like the looters.  And by caring, I choose to listen.  Not just to hear the shouting and breaking glass and cable news headlines, but to listen to people’s stories and hearts and lives–when I agree, when I disagree, and when I don’t know.

Most important, I believe we are called “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8).  I don’t think anyone knows or every will know what true justice is in this situation, much less how to implement it.  But even when justice and mercy seem fundamentally opposed, as they do to so many right now, we must both search within ourselves and look to our God to bring justice and to show mercy to our neighbors.  Because when Jesus called us to be a light to the world, He didn’t mean for us to light Molotov cocktails (metaphorically or literally).

For some further insights from people more mature and better educated than myself, see this article on Christianity today and this sermon from a local St. Louis church (audio link near bottom of page).  Edit: NFL player Benjamin Watson posted this extended Facebook status, which is also worth reading.

I Guess I’m an Adult Now, Or Something Like That

When I was touring colleges my junior year of high school, I was, amusingly enough, offered a kids’ menu at lunch and a wine menu at dinner within the same day.  That sort of epitomizes the past three to four years of my existence: am I a kid, or am I grown up?  I suspect I will continue to feel that way at least until I finish school.  I suppose I’m not really a kid anymore, but at the same time, I’m still a little weirded out when people treat me as an adult (Since when am I “ma’am”?  And since when do adults introduce themselves to me by their first names?).

Over last Christmas break I had coffee with a lady I know from church–well, two churches, to be precise.  We both went to the same church before I switched during senior year; when I came back from college over one of the breaks last year, it turned out that their family had also changed to the same church that I attend.  She’s always seemed like a really nice person with a solid family, but I hadn’t really had the chance to talk to her outside the obligatory “hello” during the passing of the peace or brief interactions while we were both helping with VBS at our old church.

I’m glad we had the conversation we did, in part because I felt that it further justified my leaving our old church.  (I have never regretted that decision, but it’s always nice to know that someone else agrees.)  Mostly, though, I just enjoy talking to adults, who, unsurprisingly, are rather in short supply while in college.  It was interesting, though, because I felt like she took interest in me as a young person, but also treated me with some level of respect that I’m not used to receiving from adults.  The majority of my adult friends knew me as coaches/teachers, or knew me when I was (at least legally) still a kid, or have kids my age, or know my mother well, and therefore still see me as a kid–which, by the way, is totally fine with me, because that’s how I see myself.  In this case, I (and my mother) have only known this person for about three or four years in a distinctly hello-how-are-you sort of way and her kids are significantly younger than me, so in a weird sense, I think these factors may influence how she sees me.  Honestly, I’m just stabbing at the wind and quite possibly reading into  things too much, though it’s still an interesting thought.

All this leads me to the question: What does it mean to be grown up?  Not to live at home?  That disqualifies a lot of people who have “moved back in”.  To be done with college?  A lot of grad students I know think of themselves as “kids”.  To work full time at a “real” job?  To have kids?  To be completely done with your education?  To be able to rent a car?  Do some people never grow up?  If so, is that good, bad, or neither?  I don’t know.

A quite prescient remark from my school's Yik Yak feed.

A quite prescient remark from my school’s Yik Yak feed.