Why I argue on Facebook

I am reading Love Your Enemies by Arthur C. Brooks. It is the first book I have read by a person on the conservative right that I can get excited about. Read it, especially if you are a liberal.

The subtitle is “How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt”. I wish Brooks were sitting with me on my back porch as I read so I could throw out my ideas. I throw them out anyway even though he is not here. Sometimes I bring them onto Facebook or into my blog where at least someone is listening. I hope to do some writing about his ideas. Actually I have, though not in reference to Brooks’ book.

The title of this blog is “My Thoughts on Peace”. It was inspired by Peace Pilgrim, a woman who walked across the United States on foot carrying only a tooth brush, a comb, a pencil and pad of paper, stamps and envelopes, and two documents: a message to the United Nations and another to the United States Congress. As she traveled, she stopped and spoke wherever she was invited and she collected signatures for her documents. This is what she did for peace. I use my blog to share a message of peace.

My belief in peace is grounded in my Christian faith. Jesus’ words are my foundation, just as they were for Peace. I am not alone in my convictions. Quakers are pacifists, for example. Among their ranks have been conscientious objectors and people who served as medics in the military because they believed in the cause of their country but cannot support killing.

Quakers also believe in equality. They have been beheaded for refusing to bow down to the king because, in their belief, the king is just another equal human being with a job to do. Their basic belief is that we are all equally children of a loving God which forms the bases of their non-violence as well. They believe that there is “that of God” in everyone.

Simplicity is another of their values. I aspire to simplicity to the point of annoyance to friends and family. It is okay. I annoy myself, as well.

I try to promote peace here on my blog but also in other media such as Facebook. If I read an attack by a person with my own political views upon someone with an opposing view, I attack the attack. Everyone has a right, even a responsibility, to express their opinion about issues. We all see things from a different perspective and as we talk and listen, we become more aware of the limitations of our own perspective. At the same time, we are influencing another. But this exchange can only happen in a spirit of mutuality. When we attack another or attack their group, we put up walls instead of tearing them down. We accomplish nothing except contempt and broken relationships.

Mothers Day began when a woman in America took a stand for peace, Julia Ward Howe, who served as a nurse during the Civil War. She wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation” calling all mothers to work toward world peace. Ann Jarvice, another Civil War activist, organized “Mother’s Friendship Day” to foster reconciliation between Union and Confederate soldiers. The work of these and other women led to the official declaration by Congress establishing Mother’s Day as a national holiday.

Over the years, Mother’s Day has been redirected to honor mothers, but I have not forgotten its origins. I have chosen to unite myself with its original intent: to promote peace in the world.

I think Arthur Brooks’ book Love Your Enemies will go far in promoting peace, especially in our own nation. His principles can help families and sectors of our society find peace, as well. I am delighted to share the book with you. I am delighted to be hearing his words from a conservative. It really pokes a hole in the demonizing that comes from the political left. Good! A step toward peace!

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Parenting Styles and Outcomes

A conversation I had with a friend recently led to my searching through my old parenting files from my teaching days. We were talking about teen rebellion and I said out of my distorted memory that when kids rebel against their parents, they will tend to choose a lifestyle, religious or political expression that is the opposite of the one their parents lived or attempted to teach them. They do that, I said, because they know it will hurt their parents.

My friend agreed with me, but noted that these rebellious teens tended to choose lifestyles and belief systems that were left-leaning. I  tried to say that he was wrong.”If the parents a teen is rebelling against is liberal, they will choose a conservative path,” I said.

Even as I spoke, I knew I was wrong. But something wasn’t jelling quite right. I should have been right, but when I revisited my my old lesson plans, I had to admit that I’d been wrong. But I realized we were comparing apples to oranges.

I once taught a class on parenting styles using a video series that I borrowed from a local Lutheran church, “Active Christian Parenting”. I remember liking it so much because it showed real-life scenarios that typified specific child behaviors and parents modeling the various ways that they can handle these behaviors. It was non-judgmental toward parents and children and very positive. What I learned as I reviews the lesson plan is that different parenting styles tend to result in different outcomes in children, not all of them rebellion.

When I taught the class, I gave the parents an article “Our Parents, Ourselves: Echoes of the Past” published by Child Magazine, Dec./Jan/1991. As I read it I realized what I was recalling, a bit distorted as I said above. Author, Dr. Lawrence Kutner, licensed consulting psychologist and columnist, suggests that new parents will find themselves repeating the words and behaviors of their parents even though they believed their parent manner of raising was wrong, even harmful. On the other hand, he writes, “Parents may choose a certain style or approach to raising children because it’s different, even completely opposite from what (their) parents did. But this can be very difficult,” he adds, “…because we don’t have a strong model of what we should do with our kids, only one of what we shouldn’t.” I know I chose this article because it rang true for me. I tried to use modern parenting styles while constantly finding myself repeating the parenting behaviors of my mother.I know this resulted in mixed messages for my children.

Dr. Ronald Levant, professor of counseling psychology and author of Between Father and Child, sees this choice of an opposite parenting style as a form of rebellion. He says that he recalled his father as being extremely strict and overbearing and promised himself he would never act that way toward his own children. As a result, he says, he abdicated some of his responsibilities as a parent. “I bounced too far in the other direction…I should have forgiven my father for his limitations. That way, I wouldn’t have seen discipline as inherently destructive.”

I hope you can see the source of my assumption about rebellion in the context of how we choose to parent. But what I was trying to tell my friend was not about parenting in particular. It was about lifestyle. He had witnessed a young man totally rejecting his parents by choosing to drink and party. It seemed he was seeking a lifestyle strictly for the shock power. “Active Christian Parenting” teaches more clearly how kids react when raised in certain households.

The series suggests three types of parenting: The Permissive Approach, the Democratic Approach, and the Autocratic or Punitive Approach. Here is a summary of each:

Permissive Approach:
* Parents’ Beliefs: Children will cooperate  when they understand that cooperation is the      right thing to do. My job is to serve my children and keep them happy. Consequences  that upset my children cannot be effective.
* Power and Control are in the hands of the children.
* Problem-solving Process: Problem solving by persuasion. In a Win-lose situation,              children always win. Parents do most of the problem solving.
*What Children Learn: “Rules are for others, not me. I do as I wish.” Parents serve children. They are responsible for solving children’s problems. They tend to grow up dependent, disrespectful  and self-centered.
*How Children Respond: They test limits, challenge and defy rules and authority, ignore and tune out words, and wear down their parents with words.

Autocratic or Punitive Approach:
*Parents’ Belief: If it doesn’t hurt, the child won’t learn. Children won’t respect your rules unless they fear your methods. It’s my job to control my children. It’s my job to solve my children’s problems.
*Power and control are in the hands of the parents.
*Problem-solving Process: Problem solving by force, adversarial, In a Win-Lose situation, the parent wins. Parents do all the problem solving and make all the decisions. The parents direct and control the process.
*What Children Learn: Parents are Responsible for Solving Children’s Problems. Hurtful methods of communication are problem solving.
*How Children Respond: Anger, stubbornness, Revenge and rebellion or withdrawal and fearful submission.

Dr. Levant’s story is one of his choosing a permissive approach in reaction to his father’s punitive approach. But one can clearly see that either approach has its pitfalls. When people complain about children of today, they will say that, lacking discipline, they tend to have an attitude of privilege and entitlement. They don’t know how to work thinking the world owes them a living. I hear employers complain ll the time about the lack of work ethic among today’s youth. These folks tend to recall the punitive style of their parents and insist that this was far better.

But punitive parenting has its pitfalls. If parents are too severe, their children are apt to rebel  or even take revenge. Studies show that some choose another route. They go into their adult lives looking for someone to serve as surrogate parents who will to tell them what to do. During my years as a youth minister, I learned that these kids were the ones most vulnerable to being taken in by cults where they found leaders to tell them how to think and act.

The course offered a third parenting style that they say works much better than the other two. Here is what it looks like:

The Democratic Approach:
* Parents’ beliefs: Children are capable of solving problems on their own. Children should be given choices and allowed to learn from the consequences of those choices. Encouragement is an effective way to motivate cooperation.
* Power and Control: Children are given only as much power and control as they can handle responsibly.
* Problem-solving process: Cooperative, Win-win, based on mutual respect. Children are active participants in the problem-solving process.
* What Children Learn: Responsibility, cooperation, independence, respect for rules and authority, and self-control.
* How Children Respond: More cooperative, less testing of limits. They learn to resolve problems on their own. They regard their parents’ words seriously.

No one is a perfect parent. The reality is that few of us come into the role fully prepared. We try different things and many parents will shift gears after they begin to see that what they are doing isn’t working with their kids. This is one reason older kids might accuse their parents of being more strict on them than on their younger siblings. Parents are learning as they go.

To complicate matters, couples raised in different households will often use different styles with their children. This can cause behaviors like children playing one parent against the other to get what they want.

Clearly a more democratic approach is better, but kids are resilient. Unless parents are extreme, most children will survive to face the same issues their parents had to deal with when they decided to have kids.

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Spiritual Experiences and Change

I am reading How God Changes Your Brain by Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman. A fun aside is that I bought it second hand at the Friends’ of the Library book shop not far from my home. After bringing it home I was delighted to see that it had once been owned by a member of the Contemplative Body to which I belong. I am pleased that I will be able to share my reflection with my friend.

The authors share their findings after researching various types of religious experiences that people reported having. Some people said that they felt that “their religious experiences were not adequately addressed by religions in which they were raised. and so they turned away from them to engage in more individualized pursuits.” This is true of my own experience.

“America,” they write, “is gradually becoming less religious but more spiritual and …the quality that governs this shift is influenced by the use of spiritual practices that integrate meditation and prayer into one’s daily life.” This makes me feel hopeful.

Lest one thinks this is shift is simply a superficial fad, here are some things shared by those who talk about their spiritual experiences:

60 percent felt that their family relationships improved as a result of their spiritual experiences.

53 percent felt that their health was enhanced.

76 percent said they now felt less fear about death.

63 percent said that their spiritual experience was more real than their normal experience of reality. Some of these feeling dissipated over time and then, only 46 percent said that the feeling lingered.

Many felt a sense of oneness with others: “I…felt an openness, positive feeling, gratitude, unconditional regard, etc. for all things and people. As though I encountered the Golden Rule, love of neighbor as myself, concretely within this moment.”

 

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“Win Bigly”

I am approximately 1/3 of the way through Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter by Scott Adams. I knew after the introduction that I would have to comment in my blog on this strange book, but I hardly know where to begin. The book is about President Donald Trump, whom Adams sees as a Master Persuader. I don’t disagree with his assessment. I am just not sure what to think about the value of being a master persuader in the first place. I know that I myself am not among the persuaded.

Most of the books I read are about how to live well, not in a material sense, but spiritually. I seek to be a better version of myself every day and I appreciate those writers who help me do that. I find living on the earth difficult at times and appreciate when others can lift me up to a place where I see Light about me instead of darkness. Light is about Goodness. Goodness in others inspires me to live the goodness in me. When I see goodness in myself and in others it is like looking into the Face of the Very Enthusiastic Creator who exclaimed “Good! Very Good!” when he rested from His work.

Win Bigly has nothing to do with goodness. As I said, the author’s intention is to show that our current president, Donald Trump, is a Master Persuader. The direction of the persuasion seems irrelevant.

The ability to influence others is a gift given to some by the Creator. Gifts can be used for good or for evil. The way it is used may not matter to Scott Adams, but it does to me. I am learning a lot in Win Bigly, but I am not sure what I am learning is what Adams intends.

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Politics and a Higher View

I am reading a book by one of my favorite writers, Parker Palmer. Like many of the books I have visited lately, On the Brink of Everything, deals with getting old. It is a collection of some of his writings over the years, including articles, speeches and poetry. Through these, he brings his message to the world almost as a last testament. As a writer, I understand exactly what he is doing. My book, The Memorial of Jesus, is less about Jesus and more about what I want to pass on to my loved ones and to the world.

This morning I read two pieces Palmer wrote after the last national election: “What’s an Angry Quaker to Do?” and “The Soul of a Patriot”. I have been hesitant to write my thoughts about the current president or about what is happening in congress. This is because I view politics as an enlarged view of what goes on within each of us or in the relationships we have each day. I have this idea, perhaps an illusion, that if we only understood the battle that goes on within, we would understand the other battles that go on in families and communities throughout the world.

I find myself not able to  avoid all political discussion, however. There are certain issues that come up on Facebook that are so  important to me that have to jump into the discussion. My intention has not been so much to debate issues but to present a deeper view or, as the Eagle flies, a higher one. I like to assume the good intentions in those who take views different than my own. I know and love conservatives and see their innate goodness. I may question their knowledge but I never question their intentions.

The higher view I try to project is this: our national problem is not that we see things differently. Our national problem is that our differences are degenerating into self-righteousness, hatred, fear and violence. I believe that if Satan is real and has a mission in this earthly realm, it is to divide us. Because of this, my attack when I engage in political discourse, is against words that divide such as name-calling, judgment, and stereotyping. Jesus’ words about loving our enemies, forgiveness and our oneness come flying at me when I hear them. The more we contribute to the divide, the more distant is the Kingdom that Jesus came to establish.

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From Heart to Head to Heart Again

“We all came into this world gifted with innocence, but gradually, as we became more intelligent, we lost our innocence. We were born with silence, and as we grew up, we lost the silence and were filled with words. We lived in our hearts, and as time passed, we moved into our heads. Now the reversal of this journey is enlightenment. It is the journey from head to heart, from words, back to silence; getting back to our innocence in spite of our intelligence.”

Reading Richard Rohr’s profound words this morning gives me a way to put pattern to my life. I can sit down, sink into my chair, and say that all that happened to me and all that I did for good or for bad makes sense. It was all about waking up…again. It was about going home, as Dorothy realized before she clicked her heels together.

At 74, I know home is near. In fact, much of me is already there. Yesterday I did an embarrassing thing but by the time my head hit the pillow last night, I was smiling. I find that when things don’t go my way, I change my decision about how I want things to go. Like a child I may resist, but eventually settle into the decision of the loving Parent who holds my hand. It works well for me. It is so much easier than resisting what is.

Other mystics would use different words than Rohr’s. Some talk about the False Self or Ego as that which sabotages the innocence of the child. They call the True Self that person the child was born to be. All teach about shaking off or diminishing the Ego’s control over us and freeing the True Self. The process is the plot of the world’s classic novels and the life stories of our most beloved heroes.

I find words helpful. I like to grapple with intellectual concepts and think I know something.. But I know that even this is a function of the ego self. I will not be free of the false self until my true self separates from my body in death. Meanwhile I am grateful for the consciousness of this ongoing battle. The fight is almost over, so I don’t fret when ego self gets an upper hand and I enjoy the serenity when my true self is free to flit about like the butterfly out of its cocoon.

 

 

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When a Legislator Puts Her Foot in Her Mouth

Wow, U.S. Representative from Minnesota Ilhan Omar really got herself into trouble. Some might accuse her of having a big mouth. I think one lesson to be learned is that when someone takes on a public office, their freedom of speech is put on hold. I think this is probably a good thing. When one gains the power of office, including the power to influence people’s thinking, one needs to be cautious.

One of the human characteristics that drives me crazy is when someone hears a statement about one person in a group they assume that it applies to everyone in that group. This is what happens to statements about Muslims. Omar should understand this. Even if what she said is true, she must realize that those who are already anti-Semitic will fly with it. This is why those in leadership have to be careful about their words. It is one thing to talk about a particular criminal act by an organization such a lobbying group. It is another to make general statements about their over-all activities or intentions. She did the latter.

There is another issue here that is more important to me than people putting their feet in their mouths. It is the issue of what it means for the United States to have allies in the world. I have been to Israel and stayed behind the wall built to contain the Palestinian people. There I heard many stories about abuses against innocent people simply because they were Palestinian. Our group witnessed abuses by Israeli police against teenage boys who were doing nothing but heading off to school. The room I occupied at St. George’s College overlooked the parking lot where Palestinians had to leave their cars and walk through the gate into Israeli territory to bus or take a cab to their jobs. I have also read extensively about the history of Zionism and how it led to the establishment of Israel as a nation over the objection of those occupying the land at the time.

In short, I think the solution of Israel to build a wall around the Palestinian district of Israel is appalling. It is akin to us building a wall around a Chicago neighborhood because of the gang violence there and condemn the innocent families that live there to suffer the punishment that should be aimed at those who actually do the violent acts. I get steamy thinking about what Israel is doing to the Palestinians.

But Israel is our ally. We pledged to defend them when they need it. We help them out in numerous ways. We share Intelligence for mutual protections. We do the same with other allies but our bond with Israel seems especially strong. I won’t get into why this is true because that isn’t related the point I want to make. My point is this: does being an ally with another nation mean that we have to put a stamp of approval on all of their actions or on their policies? We establish sanctions against human life abuses in the countries we consider our enemies, yet we turn our eyes away when these are done by our allies. I compare it to friendship. Those with whom I have a deep friendship, if they see me doing something harmful to myself or others, would tell me. I in turn would be honest with them. We have not been honest, it appears to me, with Israel. They have been oppressing the Palestinian people and it is wrong.

Having said all this, I appreciate that slapping an ally on the hands should not necessarily be done in public. I like to think that our leaders who deal with foreign relations hold high American values in all situation and call out human abuses when they see them…behind closed doors. But we need to be firm and at least not support abusive actions, even establishing some sanctions. I think what Ilhan Omar needs to learn is the power of her new office to influence people including the power to reinforce preexisting prejudices. But, while surrendering the right to speak her mind in all situations, she is now in a position to effect change that she didn’t have before. I hope she listens to the wisdom of those who have already learned the lesson of when to speak and when to keep your thoughts to yourself.

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