The Hope for America is on Standing Rock

fullsizerender-2Last Thursday I had the honor of traveling to the Standing Rock reservation with seven other colleagues from the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church to stand in solidarity with the people of the Standing Rock Sioux. We heard the call for clergy to come from Father John Floberg of the Episcopal Church on Standing Rock, and so we came. When we arrived at the gym for training, I was floored by the sea of clergy from all over the country. They were hoping for 100. Over 500 showed up. Something was happening here. We learned the action we would take the next day, and then we heard from various members of the community who shared their heart with us. The gratitude for our mere presence was overwhelming as one elder shared that she had dreams and visions that we would come, and she knew we would, but she just didn’t when.

The next morning we woke up, donned our various garments identifying as clergy and headed over to Oceti Sakowin Camp. The sun was peaking over the hills, smoke from theimg_7454 fires warming the campers gently graced the crisp air, and peace like I’ve rarely if ever felt- a peace that you might say surpasses understanding- dwelt among it all. We gathered around the sacred fire where we were to meet (500+ people gathering around a fire is no small feat!), and began. Tribal leaders welcomed us, explained a little about the camp, and again expressed their sincerest gratitude for our presence. Then Father John took the microphone and led us through a ceremony wherein we burned the Doctrine of Discovery, followed by each denomination present repudiating it.

After the repudiation, we were smudged (no idea if I’m saying that right), we marched to the bridge which was the scene of some violence a week earlier. Our original plan, which Father John had worked out with authorities in advance, was to cross that bridge and img_7469march to the scene of Dakota Access Pipeline work, but when we arrived at the bridge, it became clear that this would not happen. I don’t know why, and I don’t know who’s decision it was, but members of the tribe stood at attention on the other side of the bridge with police vehicles about 50 yards behind them, prohibiting us from crossing. We then gathered in a circle to offer prayers and pass the peace (also no small feat with 500+ people!), and then we were essentially done. We walked back to the camp, and prepared to head home.

As we walked back to the camp, numerous people shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said, “thank you for coming here. It means so much”. It occurred to me then, that though we didn’t “do” much, we did what the tribe needed us to do, which was simply to show up and say “we’re with you.” Sometimes the call is merely to show up. One young man who appeared to have just come from what I can only describe as the front lines, shook my hand and said “thank you, you have no idea how much it means to us that you’re here”. I looked back at him and said, “It’s the least we could do. We’re with you. Stay strong, and don’t get weary”. He said, “I will stay strong. I love my people, and I love this land, and I will die protecting them if I have to.”

At that moment I realized just how much what I feel I can only describe as “White America” does not understand what’s happening here. It may have seemed merely like a nice symbol to burn a 500+ year old document, but the reason we needed to do that is that, like it or not, we are still living into that document today. It’s alive. By decree of the Pope, that document gives us the “right” take lands we have “discovered”. As those machines tear up these sacred lands, which we took from the people of Standing Rock, gave back to them, then took them back again, the Doctrine of Discovery lives. As I looked into that young man’s eyes I realized that this is not a protest against oil; this is battle for national security. These are not protestors; they are soldiers fighting for the very survival and well being of their people. And, friends, as extreme and as uncomfortable as this may sound, we- our “great nation”- are the imperial force literally ploughing our way to further domination of native peoples. This is a reality to which we need to wake up.

But these soldiers I met are not like any soldiers I’ve ever met. They carry no weapons. img_7479They are, as the sign outside the camp says, unarmed. They desire that no one or no thing die or be injured. They are there to protect and to pray. And they are met with more familiar soldiers to me; ones with riot gear, guns and pepper spray. And while our president, our media, and our nation focus on an election for our next president, the “Manifest Destiny” we all read in our history books in high school lives in our very midst. And just like 227 years ago when we elected our first president, we, as a nation, don’t seem to care. Every four years we elect a president, and to some degree we put the hope of our nation into the hands of whomever is elected.

What I witnessed on Thursday is that the hope for America is not in Washington and it is not on your ballot. The hope for America is on Standing Rock. On this small reservation straddling the North and South Dakota border, in an area too hard to get to for the media to cover, is a people guided by a sense of peace, community, simplicity, and love. Their idea of being “great” is not rooted in being number one, but in living in communion with each other and the land. Their idea of being “stronger” is not in being some kind powerful savior to the world, but in serving one another and the land. As a Polynesian clergy person said,”I look to my brothers and sisters of Standing Rock, because it is them who have become the moral compass of this country”. While our president, for whom I voted twice, and who vowed to protect the people of Standing Rock paid some lip service but largely remains silent, the people of Standing Rock are fighting not only for themselves, but for what is truly in the best interests of this nation and the world.

In Genesis 2 God breathes the breath of life into Adam, and then gives Adam a job. It is a job that God quickly realizes he cannot do alone, so he makes for him his opposite to share in the work. That is he makes for him someone who is not like him but who has what he doesn’t have to do this important work. And that important work is to “till” and to “keep” this Garden of Life. Another way to translate these words “till” and “keep” is to “serve and protect” the Garden of Life. There in North Dakota stand a band of soldiers wearing badges that read “to serve and protect”, who are not serving and protecting the Garden of Life, but who are serving and protecting machines tearing up the earth to lay down on an oil pipeline. Meanwhile, the people of Standing Rock come unarmed, willing to literally give their lives to serve and protect the Garden of Life. Friends, the hope for this nation about which we are all very afraid, is- just as it often is- in an unsuspecting place. The hope for America is not in Washington nor on your ballot. The hope for America is on Standing Rock.

Adam & Eve: Who’s Leading Whom?

img_6479-001-e1378168705770So this Sunday the Narrative Lectionary began with Genesis 2-3. And for the purposes of where the lectionary is going, I felt the message for Sunday needed to focus on the reality of a broken world and our job as God’s people to be laborers for restoration and healing of that broken world. But the more I read this story- this very familiar story- the more something stood out to me that I felt I needed to say but which I did not have time to preach. It was an entirely different sermon. In order to give the Narrative Lectionary focus, the Genesis reading for this year skips over the creation of Eve, not because she doesn’t matter, but that it is in another year when we focus on the relationship between her and Adam. But something hit me about this relationship that I felt warranted words now, and that is this:

Despite many traditional interpretations of this passage in relation to male-female dynamics, Eve is the stronger of these two central characters. For centuries this passage has been twisted to blame what we call “the fall” on Eve, and it is has been twisted to name Eve as subordinate to Adam. It is from perversions of this text that we have shamefully referred to women as “the weaker sex”. What I found fascinating about that in my reading of it this week is that if there is one who is weaker, it’s Adam, and Eve is not so subtly, but clearly, the leader. Let’s look at it…

The story begins with Adam all alone. God makes him from the dirt and he is referred to as “the man”. He gets the name Adam because the Hebrew word for “man” is “adahm”. So right off the bat even his name is generalized and in this sense not particularly strong. It doesn’t mean “warrior” or “worker” or “leader” or anything like that- just “man”. But God does give Adam a job, which is to “till and to keep” the garden. That means he is to serve it and he is to protect it. It’s his to take care of. Then God gives Adam some instructions: “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Genesis 2:16–17 NRSV).

As soon as God gives these instructions (which seem simple enough), the very next thing that happens is God says, “It is not good for man to be alone”, or “it is not good for Adam to be alone”. God gives Adam the instructions and immediately upon doing so it’s as though God says, “oh, boy- he’s got no shot. He needs help.” And it’s here that God says, “I will make him a helper as his partner.” (Genesis 2:18 NRSV). And it is from here that we get a woman, whom Adam will later name Eve, which at its root doesn’t mean the generalized “woman”, but means “life” (a relatively strong name, if you ask me).

Here’s the problem: “Helper as his partner” is a terrible translation. It makes it sound as though Eve is a child holding the nuts and bolts while dad fixes something. It makes her sound like an assistant to the one really doing the work, but if we look at the context, we see that Adam can’t actually do the work at all without her. He needs her. She’s not a “helper”, but she is necessary and active participant. The Hebrew phrase literally translates to “helping opposite”, or as the NET Bible notes, she is “an indispensable companion”. It speaks to a mutuality of relationship. It speaks to the idea that Eve has what Adam doesn’t and which Adam desperately needs and vice-versa. The woman is given a name rooted in the word for “life” because without her Adam (and with him, humanity) dies. She is not secondary or subordinate- she is essential.

But there’s more: It’s from here that the story moves toward that crafty serpent coming in and tempting them to eat the forbidden fruit. Traditionally Eve has taken the brunt of the blame for The Fall because she is the initial one to give in to temptation, and because of that, the story is twisted to make her subordinate. We treat this story as though Adam is some great leader who delegates the task of fruit gathering to Eve, and she fails. But this not all what happens. Just look closely at what happens here…

The serpent comes in and goes directly to Eve. He doesn’t even bother with Adam. I don’t know about you, but I always thought the serpent went to Eve because Adam was off doing something else. But that’s not the case at all. Verse 6 tells us “he was with her”. So the serpent slinks in, doesn’t even bother with Adam and goes directly to Eve. Is this because Eve is the weak one? No. If that were the case, Adam would’ve stepped in and said “not so fast, Mr. Snake!” But he doesn’t. He’s there, but he’s so inconsequential to the narrative that we don’t even notice him. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that the serpent goes to the decision maker, which is Eve. And, she gives in to the temptation. She takes the fruit which God commanded not to take (and even adds to the commandment by stating that they are not even to touch it). She eats and then “she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6 NRSV).

Let’s think about this for a second. First of all, the serpent bypasses Adam. He doesn’t even deal with him. The serpent goes to straight to the decision maker. Also buried in this is the fact that Adam is the only one to whom the command is given firsthand. God gives Adam the dietary instructions before Eve is even created. So Adam is the first-hand keeper of the command, while Eve presumably hears it second-hand from Adam. Yet Eve is still the decision maker. She hands the fruit to Adam who is utterly oblivious to anything that’s going on. While Eve is working hard to till and keep the garden of life, working to fend off the temptation of the serpent, Adam is off catching a Pidgey playing Pokemon Go. It is from there that humanity “falls”, and then God gives these curses to the serpent, to Adam, and to Eve.

My point is this. Do not let anyone use this passage to pass on sexist, misogynist declarations about humanity and gender roles. When it comes down to it, what is really happening Genesis 2-3 is God is establishing an equality between the sexes. Eve is the “indispensable companion” to Adam and Adam is the “indispensable companion” to Eve. Or, to put it another way, Life is meant for humanity, and humanity is meant for life. They balance, complete and fulfill one another.

But if there is an inequality between the sexes in Gneiss 2-3, it is certainly not in favor of men. the man (Adam) is a non-factor in this story. Eve is the leader. Putting her in a subordinate position because she is the one that gave in to the serpent initially is like a third string quarterback putting the starting quarterback in a subordinate position because it is the starter who threw a game losing interception on the final drive. Adam isn’t even in the game. He’s on the sidelines with a clipboard and a headset… learning. Like I said, this story is (I believe) about equality, but if it is not, it is about dudes like me being utterly lost, confused, and wholly dependent on women for any chance at survival.

I’m thankful for all those women who’ve led me in my life. First my mom, and then so many others. I’ve said for years now, if you don’t think women can lead, let me introduce you to… and then I can go on with the many women who’ve led, taught, shaped, and mentored me. As I look at this foundational story, I also say, “if you don’t think women can lead, just look Eve.” Yes, she gave in to the temptation, but we all do and we have the benefit of history and still can’t resist that fruit. Though she gave in, Eve is still the leader in the story. So all you women and girls out there, don’t let any one, and in particular church folks, hold you back. God’s been expecting leadership out of you since the beginning. You get out there, assert yourself with your Creator-endowed strength, courage, and leadership, and lead me home.

Has Confirmation Lost Its Way?

Schoolchildren bored in a classroom, during lesson.

Confirmation is a beautiful and right idea, but I wonder if it has lost its way in the United Methodist Church. At its very root it is about confirming one’s baptism. When you’re a baby, your parents put white clothes on you (probably), and bring you to a church where you stand awkwardly before some pastor who asks you a series of very odd (almost Harry Potter like) questions. Then they hand you to the pastor who holds you near what one child in my congregation affectionally referred to as a “baptism bucket”, and proceeds to pour, drip or drizzle water on you and says something to the effect of “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. Then people dote on you for a little while and you go and have brunch. That’s it. Done. Whether you like it or not, at this moment you become a connected to the community of faith and the community of faith becomes connected to you by committing to raise you as a disciple of Jesus. You have no choice in this matter what so ever. And it’s beautiful. It says, among other things, “God is working in you, and you belong here” before you even realize that you do. You have no say in the matter.

That is, until some point in your early adolescent days. You’re trying to figure out who you are, who your friends are, and what this world is all about, and suddenly this thing called “confirmation” pops up. Depending on the church it’s a 1, 2, or 3 year program designed to help you “confirm” your baptism. That is, it is now time for you to have some choice in the matter. Do you want to be a member of this community of faith? More often than not, the answer is yes.
So at some time in the Spring (and these days more and more in the Fall), upon finishing the confirmation class, however long it is, you head back to church, all dressed up. This time without your parents you stand independently before a pastor (sometimes even the same 2944861-hogwartspastor), and that pastor asks you the same Hogwartsian questions your parents were asked when they dragged you in there in that white outfit you wore only that one time in your life: “Do you, Harry Potter, renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness in this world…” and so on and so forth. You say “I do” and “I will” and such and such, and then the pastor and some other folk (depends on the church) put their hands on you, say some words, and, boom, you’re confirmed. Check! Then you never go to church again.

I’ve been leading and co-leading confirmation programs for 19 years. I’ve done it in a variety of forms, and in every one, for various reasons, there’s something missing. Something really important. Something, perhaps, more important than anything else. And something with which I’ve been wrestling for 19 years. This will be my 20th confirmation/baptism class and it’s time for me to rethink this whole thing.

Confirmation, remember, is about confirming your baptism- confirming what was said for you on your behalf when you could not speak or choose for yourself (which is why it is logically absurd to baptize a student and then immediately confirm them. A student who chooses to be baptized does not need to be confirmed, and it sends a bad theological and liturgical IMG_5945message when we do. Phew- got that off my chest- feel better now). So if confirmation is about confirming your baptism, it follows, then, that confirmation is about baptism. It is about the same thing baptism is about. And in the United Methodist Church (as I understand it, anyway- I’m no UMC theology and polity expert) one of the, if not the, primary components to baptism is the joining and committing to the community of faith. The baptismal candidate commits to being a full participant in the community of faith’s method (there’s a reason we’re “methodists”) of discipleship, and the community of faith commits to growing and nurturing that candidate in her discipleship. This is why we UMC pastors are discouraged from doing private baptisms. It’s about participation in the community. The community needs to be there!

Because baptism is about being a full participant in the community of faith, so is confirmation. And here’s where our problem is. What do we do?

We set up a wholly separate program for a specific age group wherein they rarely participate in the life of the community because all they have time for in their busy schedule is the wholly separate program that we set up. And the reason we do that is that there is so much we need to teach our students about the faith so that they can participate in it. Now let’s think about for a minute:

First, why would we expect our students to be full participants in the community of faith, when the very program we’ve designed to help them do that mostly separates them from the community of the faith and has an end date? We may have expectations that they participate in worship, and we may have a mentor of some kind for them, but those are generally secondary to being a part of that class we set up. Why are we surprised when our confirmands “disappear” after confirmation? We separated them from the community in the very program that’s supposed to teach them about being a part of the community!

Second, just think on this again: We set up a 1-3 year program to teach our students what it means to be a participant in the community of faith. Just let that in: We need to set up a separate program to teach our students what it means to be a disciple in a denomination whose very mission statement is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world”. What has happened to the church that we are not already doing this? We shouldn’t need to teach our students this. They should already be doing it!

Our confirmation programs usually consist of things like teaching our students about the Bible, what it is, what is not, how it’s structured, etc. We teach them about the Trinity. We teach them about Jesus more in depth (short changing the Holy Spirit, per usual). We teach them about the early church, we teach them about God’s love, God’s forgiveness, and God’s grace.

What are we doing that we’re not doing this in our ministry to children and youth to the extent that we need to set up a separate program from our regular ministries for our teenagers to do it? And we do so by holding a certificate hostage that their parents desperately want/need on their students’ graduation open house table. At risk of hurting some feelings (I just think we need to name the problem), I believe that the fact that we need a separate class to teach our young people what it means to be a disciple is an indictment on the church’s abject failure to live out its mission with young people. We shouldn’t need a separate class from their regular large and small gathered communities to teach young people about being a disciple. We should just make disciples. We need to do a better of job calling our people of all ages to a life of prayer, searching the scriptures, the Lord’s Supper, and acts of service all in the context of the large gathered community and (no “or”) small gathered communities.

What this means for our teenagers is that our youth groups and our worship contexts should be enough to teach them what it means to be a full participant in the community of faith. And those programs (and, yes, worship is a program too) should be enough because they should be disciple forming programs. What our confirmation “programs” should be is the calling of a deep commitment to these methods of discipleship that are centered on prayer, searching the scriptures, the Lord’s Supper, and acts of service in large and small gathered communities. It should be a 1,2 or 3 year commitment to discipleship in the community of faith, but not its own program that ends after 1, 2 or 3 years. We should be calling them to a commitment to our respective ongoing discipleship processes.

And hear this: This is not on our youth ministers, children’s ministers, and Sunday school teachers. This is on pastors like me. It is our job to set up methods of discipleship that enable the entire community- including our students- to become full participants in AAEAAQAAAAAAAATPAAAAJDNlMDIwMTg0LThjODgtNGMyNi04YWZlLWZkMDMyMjE5NzVhMwthe community. But when our worship services are done in a language that alienates them, and when we don’t make room for them in leadership, and when we demand that our youth pastor “grow the program” through mere fun and games and glitz and glamour, we fail to implement adequate discipleship methods for our young people. We need “entry points”, but we fail to disciple our young people when their weekly core gathering lacks discipleship methods. I would rather my youth group be small and make disciples, than be the hot spot in town for teenagers to play foosball (that being said, there’s nothing wrong with foosball in a youth room!). Furthermore, the reason we need “entry points” into youth ministry is that we as pastors too often fall short of discipling their parents that we hang our hopes on our children’s and youth ministers to draw and reach new families. The entry point to the church should not be children and youth ministry. It should be parents bringing their kids with them because a friend, neighbor or family member has come so alive in their own spirituality through the ministry of the church that they can’t shut up about it and invite them.

So that’s what we’re thinking about at Aldersgate UMC this year. Our namesake makes a claim for us that we want to be a place where hearts are strangely warmed. That is, we want to be a place of spiritual vitality, and as Methodists, we believe there is a method to spiritual vitality. So for confirmation, we are going to call our young people to our discipleship process. We are going to call them to commit to their youth group, which will be a place of prayer, searching the scriptures, and acts of service. And we call them to participate in and lead worship, which will be a place of prayer, searching the scriptures and the Lord’s supper. And as they approach confirmation Sunday, we will call them away for one weekend retreat to tie it all together and call them to reflect on whether this life is a life they want to commit to for the rest of their lives. And then when confirmation Sunday comes, those who so choose and have been baptized before will kneel, we will lay hands on them, and we will celebrate their commitment to being a disciple of Jesus as set forth for them by their parents having them baptized. And those who have not been baptized, will kneel and will likewise simply be baptized (and not confirmed because their baptism will be their confirmation!).

There’s risk in it. What if they don’t choose to be confirmed? Well, that should be the caseunspecified
in any confirmation system. And what if there are too many distractions on Wednesday to adequately teach them the core tenets of the faith? Well, when Jesus told us to go and make disciples he didn’t say “teach them everything I’ve commanded”, but he said “teach them to obey everything I’ve commanded.”Jesus didn’t teach students in a classroom. He apprenticed disciples in the world. I don’t know if it will work, but if I’m honest, I don’t think what we’ve been doing has been working.

And so I wonder… I wonder if those students who stick with the commitment to engage in the community of faith, just might stick around after confirmation Sunday. Because “confirmation” will not have ended, because discipleship will not have ended. I don’t know if it will work. But it might. So let’s stop isolating confirmation. And let’s do our busy families a favor but setting up simple but meaningful methods of discipleship for all age groups, and in so doing, let’s get back to being who we say we are: Methodists. Define the method, then call everyone to it, and celebrate those who find renewed vitality through it. There is no need for anything else.

 

Something is Wrong.

justice-387213_960_720Last night I turned on the “news” to get caught up on happenings in the world and in particular the Alton Sterling story (I put “news” quotes because that’s where what’s on the TV belongs these days). My heart sank as I watched reports on yet another black man shot and killed by law enforcement. It was only moments later when I began to see reports about the Philando Castile shooting in Falcon Heights. Grief, sorrow and quite honestly depression sank in. I woke up this morning and it did feel like a new day. The sorrow continues. I don’t know what to do anymore. Something is wrong in our culture and we seem to be utterly unwilling to address it.

I, myself, have been pretty quiet about it, because I think this is really complicated stuff. I will continue to hold that being a law enforcement officer is a difficult, dangerous, and frightening job. We can’t ignore that, and I think very few actually are ignoring it. But what else is true, and which we seem to be unable to confess, is that being a black male in this culture is just as, if not more, difficult, dangerous, and scary. For some reason we are unable and unwilling to admit this.

Story after story after story of black men being killed by police officers have come our way, and every time we find a reason to defend to the killing, all the while the stats continue to prove that something is out of balance. The image we use for justice is a scale, and we do so, because these scales speak to balance. If justice is out of balance, there is no justice. The reality that we must let in (and by “we” I mean primarily suburban white America) is that something is out of balance, and if we truly want justice, something will have to change to tip the scales.

Like I said, I don’t know what to do anymore. All I know to do is write and speak, but I just don’t think that’s enough anymore. This problem is bigger than story and rhetoric. We have a problem in our judicial and law enforcement systems, and we will not get anywhere until we come to grips with that. This does not mean that our judicial and law enforcement systems are entirely and wholly bad or evil, but it does mean that there is a problem. And it’s not a new problem. It goes way back. My first awakening to it was the Rodney King case, but it goes even further back than that. It’s been buried for a long time, but suddenly these things called smart phones are exposing it, and yet we still turn away and blindly defend the establishment.

For the third time, I don’t know what to do. But one cry I have heard from the black community is a plea for people in the white community to speak up. So this is me, a white guy, asking all of us to step back, take a look at the numbers and simply confess that something is out of balance and that we need to do something about it. We have to stop this “yeah, but…” response, and we have to start to listen to the cries. We have to stop picking apart the details of every story and begin to look at the big picture of out of balance scales of justice. We have to stop using an out of balance judicial system to tell us what justice is. That’s like using a broken speedometer to prove I’m not speeding. Something is wrong, and we have to look at it.

Truthfully, I think the embedded racism in our culture that we want to deny is exposed in our refusal to admit that there’s a problem, that the scales of justice are out of balance. I implore all of us to wonder and reflect on why we are so unwilling to admit this. Try to put down the defenses and simply wonder, reflect, and if you are of the praying persuasion, pray about it.

Something is wrong. It just is. So let’s stop denying and let’s start listening. Just start with that, and see where it takes you. We must listen to and hear the cries.

#ItsTime (To Do Away With “I Think So”)

aircraft-537963_960_720It’s been a whirlwind of a month for the United Methodist Church. Our General Conference convened and adjourned and nothing changed in regards to our position on matters of human sexuality. Our position remains as one that excludes the LGBTQ community from full inclusion in our denomination, but this leaves many of our churches in a curious position.

From my experience at least in our conference, most of our local churches do not have clarity on where they stand on matters of human sexuality. They know that the denomination has been debating it for decades, and they know that the culture in which they exist is seeing significant shifts, and the combination of the two has created a lack of clarity for many local churches. From my experience we have largely avoided talking about and coming to any clarity on matters of human sexuality because doing so may “blow up the church”. But what if the church is already crashing?

As the future of the UMC is uncertain, I, an appointed clergy person charged with shepherding a local congregation am left asking, “but what about my church?” As I was watching General Conference proceedings a couple weeks ago my 13 year old son asked me what I was watching. I told what it was and what they were debating and his response was “they’re arguing about that? That’s dumb.” He then asked me if his gay friends were welcome and safe in our church. The best answer I could give him, “I think so.”

In the span of 40 years of debate, another 2-4 isn’t much, but to a 13 year old, it’s an entire season of life. Today’s teenagers are living in a world where a certain degree of inclusion is assumed in most institutions, and I think our local churches owe the LGBTQ community the truth about where we stand. Sure, the denomination is in some limbo, but the local church doesn’t have to be. Local churches have been in a holding pattern, waiting for the denomination to tell us where to land, and our planes are running out of gas, or perhaps already have and we’re coasting on fumes. We’ve got to land somewhere soon.

I believe a lack of clarity on matters of human sexuality is symptomatic of a lack of theological, missiological, and ecclesial identity in the local church, and that lack of clarity impacts our ability to grow in spiritual vitality and reach new people. We cannot wait 2-4 years to gain clarity on which new people we will reach and how we will reach them. These matters of human sexuality are not an isolated issue. Our view of Scripture, our ecclesiology, and our entire ways of being the gathered and scattered community are wrapped up in them, and because of that, we simply cannot wait to start to have the crucial conversations about where we’re at as local congregations.

How we do that? I’m not an entirely sure, and I know I need wisdom in how to do so, but what I am certain about is that I believe in the power of the local church above all else. Our conferences and our denomination are only as strong as the local church that makes them up, and the local church is getting lost in the debate. So we can debate General Conference proceedings, and we can argue in our Annual Conferences about all kinds of global and national issues all day long, but until the local church gains clarity about who it is, it will not rise to renewed vitality and the trajectory the denomination as a whole has been on for decades will not change.

Yes, the denomination will still have limits placed on us as clergy in what we can and cannot do, but I believe we must step into what can do. It’s scary waters for me. I don’t want to blow up my church! I love my church! I really do. I’m one lucky guy to be appointed where I am. But I’m tired of circling, and I’m not sure how much longer we can do it. I am beginning to believe that we as pastors of local churches need to step into those scary waters. Let’s take the lead in bringing some of our own clarity. Is it possible that this what our bishops appointed us to do anyway? What are we waiting for? We may not be able to get all the answers, but we can get more than we have now.

The time for clarity at the local church level is now. “I think so” is no longer an acceptable response. I do not want to advocate for polarizing us further, but I do believe that churches that have clarity on matters of human sexuality (like our Reconciling congregations) are a step ahead of the rest of us. They know who they are. There’s no question about who is called to be a participant in God’s mission. And the same goes for our more conservative congregations. They know who they are, and if my 13 year old son asks them if his gay friends are welcome and safe there, he will get a much more clear answer than “I think so.”

My Journey to No (4 Years Later)

brick-wall1In 2012 I wrote the following post leading up to the marriage amendment vote in the Minnesota election. What I didn’t know when I wrote this was that about 18 months after writing it, I would be co-officiating the marriage ceremony for the couple referenced in this post- one of my most powerful moments as a pastor. I will never forget the moment when the couple signed that license, and the Episcopalian priest with whom I shared the ceremony held up that license in the same way that Michael Jordan pumped his fist after a clutch jumper in game one of 1997 NBA Finals.

Well here we are, four years later and my denomination still opposes such a marriage. Today the General Conference will convene in Portland, Oregon, and, among other things, there will debate about the United Method Church’s stance policies regarding LGBTQI marriage, ordination and other matters. I am hopeful, but not anticipating, that something will change, for, as I said to the couple referred to in the following post when Minnesota eventually did legalize gay marriage, “we made it legal; now we gotta make it holy.” Well, it already is holy; we just haven’t realized it yet. Come, Holy Spirit, come.

With that, some of it is maybe not how I would say it today (we’re all on a journey), but here’s what I wrote in 2012:

Let me begin by saying that this is a story about my journey. It reflects my journey, my thoughts, and who I am. It is not a reflection of, nor do I claim to speak for, my denomination, my annual conference or  the local community to which I am appointed. This is where I am. My purpose in writing this is mostly for me. There is an aching inside of me to say something in order to, one, get it down “on paper” for my own good, but I do also feel compelled share my thoughts. I am not trying to persuade anyone, as much as I feel a need to “come clean” with my thoughts, which differ from earlier thinking about which I was public in my past. Out of fear of losing theological respect for some whom I love dearly, I have merely hinted at my thoughts lately but have yet to come right out to say them. To my current congregation, let me also just say that it is okay to disagree with me. Your views, voice, and opinions are no less valid than mine. Let’s look at this, talk about it, and maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. That being said, here is “My Journey to No”.

I was brought up to be a good agnostic, and I mean that in the best sense of the term. I was brought up to be very careful not to subscribe to any dogma of any degree; to question everything, think critically, and be comfortable with the idea that when it comes to things spiritual in particular, none of us really “know”. We are all, to some degree, agnostics. This does not mean, however, that I was brought up in a context void of values, morals and even truths. Prejudice of any kind was not allowed in my home. Respect for “neighbor” in the most literal and most broad senses of the term, no matter who they happened to be or what they happened to believe, was an expectation. And an adherence to the rules and laws of my context was expected. That is, I was to go to school and do my best, obey the law to fullest extent, and honor and respect the rules of the home (curfew, chores, etc.). Beyond that, I was largely free to think for myself. I appreciated this upbringing.

Because of this upbringing and the predominate thinking in South Minneapolis, I grew up very open to any form of law abiding religion, sexuality, and lifestyle. While I indeed held these beliefs, as a teenager I cared more about sports and movies than I did about who was elected and what might be on a ballot. But then something happened. Somehow, what I believe now to be, the Spirit of God got a hold of me, and I became enamored with the Bible and with the person of Jesus Christ. After much resistance, I found myself at 17 years old literally on my knees choosing to live my life in the character and nature of Christ. But not even knowing my way around a Bible, I needed guidance. And I found guidance in a community of faith that loved me well, but also had a certain dogma about it that left little room for varying opinions and perspectives; a stark contrast to my upbringing. This forced me to begin thinking through social, political and religious issues more. I remember, as though it happened yesterday, driving near Park Ave UMC in South Minneapolis with my youth pastor asking him the tough questions about why homosexuality was a sin. The crux of the answer I received then, and which I received from most of my Christian leaders was this: “The Bible is pretty clear, whether we like it or not”.

The more I grew in my faith and the more I studied the Bible in this context, the more it appeared to be true. This was something I was just going to have to learn to accept. Overtime, I wrestled greatly internally while becoming cognitively convinced that homosexuality is indeed a sin and a lifestyle which is “incompatible with Christian teaching” (as the United Methodist Book of discipline states). It was also clear, however, that as Christians, we are called to love. So the old adage, “hate the sin, love the sinner” became the crux of my belief, although I always hated the trite, condescending phrase.

Since then I have shifted, and today I, like you, am faced with a question on our ballot asking for a “yes” or “no” vote on whether our state’s constitution should embrace a biblically rooted definition of what marriage is. Even though the Minnesota ballot will be specific to a constitutional amendment defining marriage, at its roots, this is a biblical issue. The frustrating thing for many people in our culture is that they don’t care what the Bible says, and, quite honestly, why should they? It would be grossly unconstitutional to tell them they have to care, so I hear and feel they’re frustration with this whole thing. But for many people in our culture today, the words of the Bible are still very important, myself included. What’s tricky about this is that while the Bible should not be banned from the marketplace of ideas that inform legislation, the Bible should not be the litmus test for legislation either. “The Bible tells me so” is good thinking when we are talking about church politics and legislation, but by itself it is dangerous thinking when talking about matters of the state. The rationale behind a constitutional definition of marriage (or any matter of the state) must go beyond “the Bible tells me so”. When talking about matters of the state, I believe the Bible (as well as sacred texts from any number of other faiths) should have a seat at the table, but none of them at the head. What makes America great, is that all sources of ideas are welcome, but none takes ultimate authority.

That being said, this amendment is forcing Christians throughout the state to wrestle with their biblical definitions of marriage. And those definitions should factor into your vote. YOUR vote. But I would challenge Christians to think for a minute about what you are doing when the only rationale for a constitutional amendment is The Bible. This is okay in church world. But our state is not church world. You have to accept that for those who don’t subscribe to the Bible’s ideas as we do, its definition of marriage (whatever it may be) means nothing to them. I have heard people say that without this amendment one judge could have the power to impose gay marriage on me. This makes no sense. One judge could have the power to determine whether gay marriage is legal or not, but no one will ever force you to enter into a gay marriage, nor can any one force you to officiate one. As clergy, we already reserve the right not to marry a couple if we don’t want to. And our polities already have limits on marriage that the state does not. My denomination requires premarital counseling. The state does not. So no one is taking anything from you nor forcing anything upon you. On the flip side, however, something is already denied GLBT persons, and this amendment would only make that denial stronger. The only people who have anything to lose here are those in the GLBT community. If this amendment does not pass, the GLBT community still loses, they just lose less. The only imposition that can come out of this is a biblical interpretation being imposed upon those who don’t subscribe to it [cue Thomas Jefferson rolling over in his grave]. Even if I agree with this as a biblical definition of marriage (more on that later), I still would vote “no” on this amendment, because I believe it to be unconstitutional to impose a biblical idea on some one who does not believe that the Bible is nothing more than ink on paper. I am not saying that biblical ideology has no seat at the table. It does, but it must be balanced with all the other seats at the table as well. Were there a rationale for voting “yes” beyond one specific biblical ideology, I might listen to it, but I have yet to hear one, nor do I believe a viable one exists.

While I shifted on the legal and civic aspects of this amendment, the truth is, I have shifted biblically as well. And this was the hardest shift of all for me, but also the most important and formational one. I fear that with what I am about to say, I will lose credibility with many people I hold dear, but I have come to a point where it must be said. While one can biblically defend not just banning gay marriage but believing homosexuality to be a lifestyle “incompatible with Christian teaching”, I have come see that there is also biblical support on the contrary. I am not a theologian or a scholar, but I am a man deeply influenced by The Bible and the power of the Holy Spirit within it. And like I said, this is my journey, not THE journey. So I am going to forgo a well argued biblical treatise on this. There are plenty of books and sermons out there that would do, and have done, a much a better job of that than I. What I want to do is explain how I look at this biblically in the context of what I believe to be the work of the Spirit of God in my life.

It comes down to the deep dark secret that many Christians are afraid to admit, but cannot be denied: The Bible is messy. More specifically, it is messy because we treat it as a “manual for life” or as “basic instructions before leaving earth”. If we read it this way, we are in deep trouble because it will contradict itself. The Bible is not “a manual for life”. Manuals get thrown in a drawer and are only taken out when there is a problem. The Bible is the story of God and God’s people, and it is a messy story. A really good, complicated, beautiful, messy story, that stays not in a drawer, but on a shelf and, like any good story, is read over and over and over. This does not mean that the Bible is fictional and therefore meaningless, but it means that we must be very careful how we use it. It is in its messiness that I have come to see that it can be used to defend either end of just about any debate. So what I have found myself doing over the last 5-7 years is stepping back and asking myself, “what’s the big story here?” And I have come to see that, as a Christian, the heart of the big story is in the Gospels. And when I look at the life of Jesus, I see a man whose work and ministry was centered around breaking the Kingdom of God wide open. He is constantly bringing those who are on the outside to the inside, and cunningly forcing those who are on the inside to self select to the outside. At the story’s peak, Jesus breaks the concept of outside and inside down completely, as he dies and the curtain around the Holy of Holies tears in two. The walls have come down. This does not mean that any and all behavior is now acceptable. But it does mean that the Spirit of God is now boldly accessible to all, and therefore all are invited into a life immersed in (that is baptized in) the Spirit of God.

In the big story, Jesus then ascends to heaven and soon leaves us, as he promised, the power of the Holy Spirit, which comes upon the disciples in two different stories (John 20 and Acts 2). As I understand it, the mark of a Christian, then, is evidenced by those who appear to be living “by the spirit”. So what does that mean? To live “by the spirit” means that the fruit of your life will be the fruit of the Spirit, which we know to be “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity (or goodness in some translations), faithfulness, gentleness and self control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Therefore it follows that when you see those attributes in a person naturally flow out of who that person is, from a Christian perspective, you are seeing the work of the Spirit in that person’s life. For a long time I believed that a gay person could not fully be a Christian. They might claim it, but I believed there was something at the core of their identity keeping them from the fullness of the Spirit in their lives. This, of course, then begged the question, “so what happens if you see the fruit of the spirit in a gay person or any person deemed an outsider?” When we step back from Levitical law and look at Gospel fruit, we begin to see the work of the spirit in places we never thought it existed. And that’s what I saw.

This is not a “and then I met a gay person” story. I’ve known, interacted with and been friends with gay people for as long as I can remember, and I have counseled students who were gay as well. So it’s not as though it took meeting a gay person to form me in this way. But it was through a gay couple in my life, among a whole host of other things, that the Spirit of God formed me. An old friend came out many years ago, and while this did not necessarily surprise me, it did force me to think more deeply about how I would respond. I remember telling him that I loved him, but that I just disagreed with this lifestyle choice. I did not see then just how hurtful and impossible those words likely were as I do now. How this person and his partner stayed friends with me, I will never know. Furthermore, how they continued to love me, I will never know. As the years rolled on, what I began to see pouring out of this couple, not just toward me, but in every facet of their lives was a deep and authentic faith that produced the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. They are all there. Yet in me I saw judgement, anxiety, and fear. They returned my hate and judgement with love and acceptance, the most Christ-like thing a person could do. It was not a well crafted treatise, article or sermon that changed me (although they did play roles), but the authentic, fearless and undeserving love of a friend. We cannot ignore the significance of the fruit of the spirit in those we place on the spiritual margins of our faith.

The Bible says a lot of things, and is a messy book, but its big story is a beautiful one. It is a God doing what it takes to be reconciled to God’s creation. All of it. And this reconciliation is not a mental ascent to a doctrine. Jesus said, “you will know them by their fruit”, not by what they say, how they do church, what they do or don’t do on Saturday night, or whom they love. It’s time to tear down the walls and embrace a welcoming God. It’s been God’s agenda from the very beginning. And so on november 6th, I will be voting “no”, because I want my Christ-like friends to one day be able to enjoy the same benefits and rights as a married person that I do, and even more so, I want them to enjoy the same beauty and holiness in a Christian ceremony that I enjoyed 15 years ago. Many of you will, no doubt, come to me with compelling biblical arguments opposing my views, and that’s ok. I get it. I’m sure my hermeneutic is flawed, my exegesis is lacking, my eschatology is incomplete, and my Christology is low, but this is what’s in me. Me, a Bible-loving, Christ-seeking, hopefully Kingdom-expanding man, trying to do his best to authentically embody the character and nature of Christ in the way he lives. So, yes, I will be voting “no”, and what I have said above is why.

In closing, as we go to the polls on November 6th, let’s all, especially those people called “methodists” remember these great words, above all else:

“I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them, one, to vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy; Two, to speak no evil of the person they voted against; and three, to take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side” -John Wesley, October 6, 1774

Sometimes It Snows In April: An Ode to Our Sweet Prince

13010614_10208942482101403_1588018010296067225_nIt’s all been said, I suppose, but it’s one those times where not quite everybody’s said it, so this is my turn. Prince died on Thursday. It doesn’t seem real. It’s one of those, “where were you when…” moments. I was sitting in class, and my undiagnosed adult ADD was getting the best of me as someone was talking about the Gospel of John, and I opened up Twitter and saw some initial tweets coming out of TMZ. I actually looked up at the date on my computer to make sure it wasn’t April Fools day. It wasn’t. This was no joke. The more deeply I dug I discovered it was real. That last 20 minutes of class I was in a fog (sorry, Dr. Lewis). Class dismissed and I got into my car to head to my weekly Bible Study at Parkshore in St. Louis Park. It was raining, and every station I had programmed in my car was playing “Purple Rain”. 96.3 should have been playing the Twins game, but they interrupted it to take this moment. I balled the whole way to the Bible Study in shock and disbelief.

Over the last few days, I’ve been a mess. I didn’t know Prince meant this much to me. I feel a little bit like a poser, but these feelings are not fabricated and are undeniable. I was never a deep fan, but I was always a fan. I seem to remember being at a neighbor’s house with my older brother and an early Prince album was playing. I don’t remember the music, but I remember people talking about him, and there was always this tinge of pride with him because, as Minneapolis kids, he was ours. As I grew older I clearly remember getting the Purple Rain soundtrack and playing it over and over, particularly its title track. That song taught me the way in which music can move beyond just a good jam and to something transcendent.

There’s so much that could be said, but I think, for me what it comes down to is this: What struck me about the response to Prince’s death was the way in which all my classmates with whom I came of age kind of came out of the woodwork. Prince indeed crosses generations and ages, but it seems to me that there is something particular that he did for those of us who grew up in Minneapolis in the 70s and 80s. He brought us together.

There were varying opinions on music growing up, as there are in any age: We all had thoughts on Michael Jackson, and Madonna, and Duran and Duran, and Bon Jovi, and many others. Some of us were more inclined to classic rock (like me). Some of us grabbed on to hip hop and rap. Some of us were part of the New Wave.  Some of us got into hair bands. “Hot funk, cool punk, even if it’s old junk”, we all had our preferences and opinions. But everybody- everybody- loved Prince. Prince was our common ground.

When A Prince song came on at a school dance, everybody got out there and everybody loved it. There were a lot of musicians, bands, and pop stars that marked our generation, but at least for us Minneapolis kids, Prince was, in a very real way the one that brought us together. From “Little Red Corvette” to “Cream” he was with us all along. As we ventured into adulthood he remained. He was ours and we were his. We all had our favorites (mine being Billy Joel, of course), and for some it indeed was Prince, but regardless of your favorite, he was the constant.

Mayor Betsy Hodges said it well: “His music brought untold joy to people all over the world. But in Minneapolis, it is different. It is harder here. Prince was a child of our city…” In a very real way, for those of who grew up in Minneapolis in the 70s and 80s, Thursday was the day the music died. Thanks for all it, Prince. And to those who actually knew him and called him dear, may the grace, peace, and comfort the spirit meet you in your grief.

We laughed, we bathed, were lived underneath the purple rain, but sometimes it snows in April. 

 

On Sunday in worship we made our attempt at Purple Rain as our postlude:

The Untold Story of CHS Field

If you know me at all, you know I love baseball. And it’s quite possible that I may love a good ballpark more than the sport they host. So when the St. Paul Saints announced that a new ballpark was in the works for them in downtown St. Paul, I was excited. Midway Stadium was fine, I guess, but it was pretty blah. The only thing truly charming about it was the train. “Train.” Beyond that, the Saints have always done a bang up job of creating a light hearted fun vibe for their fans- the kind of vibe “town ball” should have. But a quaint park downtown? Now we’re talkin’.

One thing I’m learning in my life, however, is that there are usually two sides to every story. As ballpark fans like me celebrate the likes of CHS field, we are often blind to the other story. A friend and colleague of mine told that story, and I’m glad she did. DeAnne Parks is an artist whose work I love and whose character I love even more. She is passionate, honest, wildly imaginative, and full of grace and love for all of God’s creation. She wrote these words about her view of CHS Field. I’ll still enjoy the ballpark, but I will never forget that it came at a cost- as everything does. And go check out DeAnne’s work here and check her out at the St. Paul Art Crawl  April 22, 23 and 24!

Here’s her story:

10Flightof_Imagination

An Artist’s View of Lowertown

When I moved my studio into the Jax Building in March of 2000, Lowertown was a little sketchy. Artists and homeless people were the only ones that wandered in this forgotten corner of St Paul. You could get coffee and soup at The Black Dog and Goldens. Christos and a Leeann Chin were open for lunch on weekdays in the mostly boarded up Union Depot. Generally though, Lowertown felt pretty deserted on evenings and weekends.

“Crunch, scratch, crunch” was a common sound coming from the alley under my studio window. A steady stream of street people would rummage through the alley dumpster for cans. When I would hear them flattening the cans on the cobblestone surface, I’d look out the window to watch them and say a quick prayer over them. The red brick buildings that make the alley are over 100 years old. Black painted words are still visible that say things like stocks, carriages and harnesses. I’d imagine what horses hooves might sound like echoing off the brick walls. I did finally hear that sound years later as the mounted police clip clopped up the alley, allowing their horses to grow accustomed to the new light rail trains. By this time, the cobblestones had been removed or paved over during the building of The Farmers Market Lofts.

The Farmer’s Market is one of the things that hasn’t changed much in the last 16 years. On Saturday mornings from May to October, I swing open my large single pane windows so I can hear the music. Bluegrass, Old Time, Folk and sometimes Irish, the musicians make Saturdays my favorite day to work. Around noon, I take a break to wander the market choosing fresh, local vegetables and drinking in the brightly colored flowers. The smell of Rocky’s brat cart always lures me over for a cheddar brat with extra kraut. I pull up a curb and visit with Tacoumba while I eat. He’s making and selling art and holding court at the corner of Broadway and Prince, the “Mayor of Lowertown”.

I have great memories of Saturdays at the market. I once saw a homeless family with a young, scruffy little mutt. They were holding up posters the kids had made that read, “Please give our dog a home”. I still have that dog. He’s 13 now and the best free sample I ever got.

I’m moving out of my studio. I’ll miss the market. I’ll miss the view of the word “Factory” out my window. I already miss the can collectors, they’ve stopped coming around. Urban hipsters who mostly, but not always, clean up after the dogs they walk in the alley have replaced them. I often have to close my windows on Saturday mornings now because of the noise. Large, well dressed wedding parties and graduating seniors line up to have their portraits taken in the alley under my window. The old brick and rusty metal doors of the Jax provide a great backdrop. Light Rail Transit, the refurbished Union Depot and CHS Field have led to the building of restaurants, lofts and condos in the once vacant warehouses. My building, which has held artists studios, Books for Africa and a classical ballet studio for over 30 years, will now be part of the gentrification of Lowertown.

I’m preparing for my 33rd consecutive and final St Paul Art Crawl in Jax studio 306. Immediately following, all of the artists must vacate the premises. It will be gutted and turned into upscale lofts as will the 262 Building across the street. I’m grateful for the 16 years I got to spend in this studio, the artist community I was able to be part of and the conversations I had with the homeless of Lowertown. My life is richer for it. I have loved standing in the big north windows looking into the alley and I’m sure I’ll miss it more than I can imagine, but the view has changed.

-DeAnne Parks | www.artdeanne.com

 

 

 

“Not My People. Just… People.”

CeKlmp7WIAAEhC2Welp, I suppose I am Belgian. I mean I am, but culturally, I actually have no clue what it means to be Belgian, and, furthermore, I am probably more Norwegian than anything else (maybe German? I don’t even know). Regardless, I have this strange last name, which most people think is French, but it is actually distinctly Belgian. And because of that, we Baudhuin types do tend to think of ourselves as Belgian above anything else. It’s why I call myself the “Belgian Friar” and it’s why my grandfather at one point had a front license plate that read “The Belgian King”. One day I hope to make the pilgrimage there as my brother did a couple years ago.

When I heard of the attacks in Brussels on Tuesday, my heart hurt. Because of this way in which I identify myself, it felt like an attack on my homeland. When attacks like that happen in areas where you have some connection you really feel it. On one hand, this is not a good thing, because we really should feel it when it happens anywhere, and it happens “anywhere” all the time. We just rarely notice it when it’s not in “the west”, or when it’s not “my people”, or “our friends”. But on the other hand, this is a good thing, because it does wake us up to painful realities of a hurting world.

And that’s what hit me on Tuesday. I heard of the attacks and immediately began to dig more deeply into social media to find out more. These were “my people” so I dug in expecting to see images of “my people”. To my surprise what happened was “Belgium” disappeared for me and instead of seeing “my people” I just saw people. Humans. Terrified, hurting humans- each distinct in their own identity and story, but all connected by virtue of being humans on this earth together.

And then I was struck by what my brother said about it on social media. Having gone to Brussels a couple years ago and falling in love with it (which I believe he would have regardless of our lineage) he had some heart felt things to say about the city and his attachment to it. And then he said this: “Please stop the violence and the bullshit.”

And that’s it for me, I guess. I think that sums up my feelings, and my prayers. I don’t know if this is what my brother meant, but what I took out of that is how I feel, which is the violence is painful, and it needs to stop and stop now, but what also needs to go away is all the bullshit that comes after and around it- the political posturing, the hateful speech towards certain kinds of people, the divisive talk, the increasing of hate and retaliatory violence, and so on. I don’t know how, but my heart longs for all of it to stop: the violence and the bullshit.

If ever I needed Easter, this may be it. I need the belief that somewhere, somehow beneath the dirt, beautiful things are stirring. God bless the world- no exceptions.

Share the Road

share-the-road-signIt’s that time of year again. The cyclists are out. And, wow, were we out in force on Saturday. The Greenway headed west between Beltline and Blake (I think it’s still technically the Greenway at this point, anyway) was like 35W at 4:30 on a Tuesday. I’ve never said “on your left” more times in seven minutes in my life. But, yes, it’s that time of year again. Cyclists are all over the place breeding anger and frustration in motorists across the Metro. And let’s be honest, we cyclists have been known to lose our cool, shake our fists in rage and throw out of few gestures as well. But here’s the deal. We’ve got to share the road, friends. All of us. Cyclists and motorists alike.

To all you non-cycling motorists out there: You have to remember that we cyclists we have a right to be there. We just do. So quit yelling, honking, swerving, and (shout out to the lovely rednecks in the big pickup on Minnetonka Blvd near Plymouth Rd last summer) throwing plastic bottles at us. If you don’t like us there, go talk to your legislator. And good luck. The cycling lobby in this town has them so wrapped around their finger, your efforts to ban us from the roads will go nowhere. So we have a right to be there. And you know what? When the speed limit on the parkways is 25mph, and the path is posted at 10mph, and I average 18, but often cruise for a couple miles at a time in excess of 25mph (depending on wind), I’m going to ride on the road. At those speeds it is simply not safe to be on a path with casual riders, kids, dogs, and rollerbladers (roller-blading is still a thing?). So, yeah, I’m going to be on the road, and you need to share it. More often than not, waiting for a safe passage will slow you down from where you’re going by no more than a minute (and don’t throw the “same road, same rules” line at me- y’all roll through stop signs at higher speeds than we do, you shift lanes without looking or signaling, you speed, etc. so you’re not following the rules either). So, motorists, just relax, slow down, wait for safe passage, and give us three feet.

To all my fellow beloved cyclists: We’re not off the hook. Sharing the road goes both ways. It means sharing the road, not hijacking it. The reality is that though we have a right to be on the road, so do the cars. So when you’re on the road, do the right thing (see what I did there?). Slow down enough to get as far to the right as you can and do so in a way that you can hold a steady line and kindly wave the car passed you, letting them know that you know they’re there, and that you know they want to pass you. No, there isn’t anything in the law that says we have to do this, but it’s the respectable thing to do. It will kill your average that much and you don’t need the KOM that badly. And, besides, despite what certain organizations in this town seem to be intimating, cars- even the big honkin’ SUVs we environmentally friendly cyclists love to stand in righteous indignation towards- have a right to be there. So just relax, slow down, prepare for safe passage and, yes, share the road. We, too, have to share it. Let’s be reasonable. Also, cyclists: You know how we feel about cars when we’re on the road? That’s how pedestrians feel about us when we’re on the path, so be careful.

I say all this because as a cyclist and a motorist (and an occasional runner) I am fatigued of the fight. And furthermore (and here’s the real point) I’m fatigued of our culture’s inability to get along in anything. This motorist-cyclist battle is a mere manifestation of a greater issue of the increasingly anxious and angry world in which we live where instead of learning to get along, we create barriers to keep from killing each other. So we spend endless dollars building more and more bike paths and lanes in a city that already leads the nation in bike friendliness, and the reason we do is none other than we don’t know how to be adults and get along.  We do not a shortage of bike lanes in this town. We have a shortage of patience. All of us. We’re all in such a hurry, and we’re all so hyper-obsessed with “my rights” and with being “right”, that we’ve lost all sense of how to compromise and find ways to get along. So, everybody, beyond just the cycling-motorist war, let’s all just relax, slow down, share the road, and enjoy the ride.