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Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

Ok, so there’s this thing going on in the NFL, a gesture of disapprobation for something some players view as a national problem.  The phenomenon is actually in other sports, too.  I’ve seen it in the WNBA, and heard quotes from an NBA player in support of the right to protest.  It takes the form of kneeling during the national anthem or standing with arms linked as an expression of solidarity for a cause.  The cause, as I understand it, is racial equality and justice, with the related concern of police brutality.  And a lot of fans don’t appreciate these protests.  I have observed several reasons that people object.  First, people object to the means of the protest, that it is not showing traditional honor to the United States during the national anthem.  Second, they believe the context, sports/entertainment should be free from political statements (but usually these same people want the political statement of the national anthem being played and honored to remain).  Third, they disagree with the cause for which the players are protesting – not necessarily that they don’t believe it is an important principle, but because they don’t believe the problem is as pervasive as some consider it to be.

 

On some level, I agree with each of these reasons to oppose what these athletes are doing.  However, I have some concerns with the ways people like me are responding.  These concerns are what this post is about.

 

There are three instances I have in mind, which I have encountered this week, that are at the top of my list of reasons to be concerned.  I don’t feel comfortable repeating the language used in these responses, so I will summarize them.  President Trump used profanity to describe people who, as he and many others perceive it, disrespect the national anthem, flag, and country by protesting in this way.  A caller to a talk radio program suggested that those who want to “take a knee” should get a knee, in a way that would cause them pain or injury.  A Facebook post “liked” by a friend used a few different curse words to curse the athletes who were kneeling during the national anthem.  This Facebook user also specifically identified one athlete and hoped he would, in the course of the game, have to be taken off the field on a stretcher.  To this I say, Whoa.  Some people are doing things we don’t agree with and don’t like.  Since when is the correct response to use profanity to describe or curse them?  It is morally inferior to wish violence on peaceful protesters.  There isn’t a lot more to say.  I can’t believe this isn’t obvious common decency.  I can’t believe the people who agree with me are wishing violence on those we disagree with.

 

While I’m on the subject of peaceful protesting, let me make my next point.  A lot of people whose views I mostly share on the subject of race in America are concerned at the escalating violence committed by the malcontents, however legitimate their grievances.  It has been pointed out that Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t burn buildings, overturn cars, or get into street fights with the white supremacists and segregationists he was campaigning against.  There are peaceful ways of raising awareness for your cause, and pursuing the changes you believe are necessary.  I find it disheartening that when a movement arises that is peacefully trying to draw attention to the same issues, it is squashed with as much indignation (and, as mentioned above, threat of force) as the violent movements are.  Let me just say, that while I don’t advocate violence, I know history and humanity well enough to recognize that when people feel desperate, like there is no other way to be heard, they tend to resort to violence.  Should we really be silencing their peaceful statements?

 

On the other hand, at this point, the NFL players who have been protesting ought to recognize that their message has been lost in their method.  Whatever their actual reasons for kneeling, and whatever cause they hoped to highlight, the only thing people who didn’t already know and agree with them are getting from their protests now is a provoking perception that these people hate America.  And honestly, however unintended, the way their actions are being received was not unforeseeable.  I understand that it feels a little like giving in, but as one commentator mentioned, a real protest doesn’t plan to go on forever; it has goals and engages in a process.  So I believe that now, at the very least, they should switch methods.

 

Let’s talk, for a minute, though, about how unfair it is to assign motives to people, in direct disregard for their testimonies about their own motives.  I can think of a lot of more disrespectful actions one could take if they intended to communicate the disrespect ascribed to them.  I have not seen any of these players spitting in veterans’ faces or stomping on the flag.  I have not heard a single athlete say that what they are protesting is the United States’ stand for freedom, nor that they are protesting the soldiers who have served to protect those freedoms they enjoy.  To consistently characterize their protest as against these things is pretty dishonest and egocentric (that is, behaving as though our own perceptions are the most valid).  Let’s not be angry about what they’re not even saying.

 

That said, if their method offends you because of its unintended belittling of things you hold dear, I have a couple of recommendations.  I suggest you recognize that these people are not injuring you, nor encouraging others to do so.  They’re not preventing anyone else from showing honor to the anthem or flag.  If you wanted, you could change the channel and not even see whether they’re kneeling or not.  You could calmly and humbly admit to them that the effect their actions has on your feelings is to irritate you. (This is known as an “I statement”.  It defuses tension because it comes across as less judgmental and more open to their side of the matter, while still inviting them to show consideration to you.)  In that case, rather than believing that all things that irritate us should be forced to go away, you could attempt to engage those with whom you disagree (a little tricky with celebrities, I admit) in respectful dialogue in order to persuade them of your way of thinking.  I advocate for this because one of the great things about people is that they can change.  Even if they haven’t shown an inclination to change, God can change them.  Or, we might be surprised and change a bit ourselves.

 

Another option is to suggest alternative methods of getting the word out or taking a conscientious stand.  This could be challenging.  I’ve tried to consider how I would abstain from showing an honor I don’t believe is presently justified, without being disrespectful?  What if the cause was something nearer to my heart than that which we’re discussing?  If some current and distressing aspect of the USA (abortion, international aggression, government mandating immorality, [insert your pet concern here]) was the most prominent thing to me, so eclipsing the things I value and honor in America besides (sacrificial soldiers and officers, unique freedoms, Christian history, etc.) that I could not in good conscience risk communicating that I’m showing honor for the dishonorable things about our country, yet I still want to respect those things that I sincerely value – how would I act during the national anthem?  I saw a player this weekend, who was participating in the kneeling, but who still placed his hand over his heart.  Is that a good way to communicate both?  Or would it fail to satisfy the outrage many are feeling?  Is it necessary to hold a press conference ahead of time to explain the complex motives informing the decision?  Anyway, I personally am not offended by their method, so it is not for me to say what tactics would be less offensive.  I’d love to hear feedback on this question if you have constructive ideas!

 

Aside from how to handle the expectation of honoring our country before each game, there are some more obvious alternatives for using the platform they have as professional sports stars to engage the public on behalf of their communities and the causes that are they prioritize: They can use social media.  They can call press conferences.  They can organize events.  They can donate to organizations.  They can serve in their communities.  They can meet with influential people who disagree with them, and start a dialogue.

 

When this topic resurfaced this week (months after Colin Kaepernick initiated his kneeling protests), one thing I thought of was the historical abolitionists.  They incorporated their causes into their private businesses.  In an industry that didn’t have much to do with slavery directly, the Wedgwood company wanted to be involved in ending slavery.  So they printed abolitionist symbols on their ceramic medallions, to raise awareness, to bring the cause from the fringes to the mainstream.  The image from the medallion came to be also put on vases and snuff boxes and bracelets.  I think this is an excellent means of promoting social justice, and that the NFL, if it so chooses, could employ such methods for causes they believe in.

 

That said, if their customers or employees don’t believe in their cause, the NFL may find themselves with a choice between profits and activism.  I believe it ought to be any private business’s right to put any (non-sinful) condition on their employees for keeping their jobs.  So if the NFL wants to demand that players stand for the national anthem, they can.  If they want to demand that they kneel, they can.  If they want to allow their employees the option of joining either cause (pro-patriotism or pro-reform), they can.  And we, as the patrons, can decide not only if we like the product, but if we want to indirectly support the causes the companies are promoting, and these conditions for their employees.  I really value this aspect of free markets, and for that reason, I’m reluctant to discourage the boycott that many are engaging in since the NFL declined to take disciplinary measures against players who kneel.

 

But I do.  I discourage the boycott because of the following four reasons:  First, the boycott has the unintended consequence of drawing more attention to the protest, a protest whose whole point, from what I can tell, is to garner attention.  Second, if a bunch of people with mostly conservative values stop watching the NFL, and if the NFL doesn’t comply with their wishes, football will become a smaller part of our culture, but it won’t go away, and it will be left to people who don’t share our values.  Not that this would be a huge tragedy, but there are too many parts of our society that we retreat from.  Do we really want to give over news media, storytelling industries, arts, higher education, the medical fields, cake-making, counseling, and charity to people whose values we oppose?  It is hard work, surely, to keep them and keep them well, but I hope some things are worth it to us.  Third, really? The national anthem and the players standing for it is an integral part of the experience of being a football fan to you?  I don’t even know why we have the national anthem at sports games, and most of the time I don’t get around to tuning in or paying attention until kick off anyway.  And what the players do during the anthem is not affecting the actual game, which is what I want to see.  Finally, while I’m proud of Americans for being able to eschew the conventional obsession with football, I’m disappointed that this is what provokes people to boycott – not scantily clad cheerleaders or players who sleep around or whatever other, more demonstrably wicked behaviors the sport tolerates in its employees.  In addition to football, there are many other businesses whose employees promote all sorts of ungodliness, yet most Americans still patronize them.  Is patriotism such a superior cause?

 

What would you do if the president of the United States said that you or your coworkers should be fired for declining to participate in some morally significant activity?  Would you feel threatened?  Would you relent in fear, or take a stand against a dangerous use of the bully pulpit to compel patriotic uniformity?

 

Some people think these players should be fired, among them President Trump, according to a statement he made last week.  Fellow athletes who may not agree with the cause of the protest, nevertheless respect their teammates’ views and believe they should not be forced to make a political statement they aren’t presently sincere about, just to keep their jobs.  In order to deter their organizations from firing them, these additional players join the protest, because it is much harder to fire half a team than one or two members.

 

Even before President Trump’s comments, to teammates and coaches and owners, the question was not so simple as whether or not they love their country.  The represented cause matters to a lot of the football players and – though you may not be aware, from being in a bubble of likeminded people – a lot of fans.  They had to consider what message it would send to those teammates and fans, to not join in their protest.  If they valued unity and peace – like I do! – they had to make an attempt at a choice that had potential to bring people together, or to demonstrate an example of unity, at least.  I believe this is why some teams chose to stand together with linked elbows, and even why some people joined the protest, who wouldn’t have started it on their own.  They don’t want to be seen to say that they don’t care about things that matter to others.  And even if we disagree with their conclusions, I don’t want ordinary people, myself included, to disregard the things that are inspiring people to take these bold stands.

 

I’m disillusioned enough to realize that some of the participants in these protests are just doing it because it’s popular, or because they’re emotional.  But I also believe that many of them hope for good things for their country.  They see problems.  Not as bad as they have been at some points in our history, and not as bad as the problems in other parts of the world, but they care about what is theirs, their country, here and now.  And they want to contributed to improvement.  That’s why I was disheartened to read that some, even among my friends, suggest that dissenters should expatriate.  If you don’t think America is perfect, move somewhere else?!  If I believed that, I’d have to be living in another country!  And if everyone believed that, no one would have anywhere to live, because every country on earth has problems, and every country on earth has the gift of citizens who haven’t given up on seeing them overcome.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Ethnic Privilege

Frequently when I’m reading/hearing about white privilege and minority cultures, I struggle to understand. One reason I think this is true is because I don’t relate to a lot of this dominant white culture that I’m supposed to be benefiting from. On the other hand, I don’t feel the need to be ashamed of liking hamburgers and pizza, folk music and blue jeans – if those are included in my white privilege.

 

I like to think about the strengths and weaknesses of various aspects of our personal cultures: hospitality, hard work, musical rhythm, pace of life, family values, adventure, foods, medicines, styles, baby-wearing, theology, inventiveness, compassion, education, skills related to geography (surfing, snowboarding, fishing, farming, jay-walking, driving, catching a bus, biking, climbing trees). I like to think about the influences of family histories, like grandparents going through the Great Depression or immigrating from another country. I like to think about those other countries that shaped our specific families, and how we let go of some inheritances, held on tightly to some, forgot and found things again, picked up practices along the way. I think there is similar value to considering birth orders, the financial status of a family you were raised in, how large or small your family was. Did you travel? Did you move a lot? Who were the friends that shaped your grandparents, parents, and your own childhood? The diversity of these stories is fascinating.

 

On the other hand, I reject sexual promiscuity and unfaithfulness in any cultural context. I reject rudeness, but I think most of the rules about politeness (in many cultures) are silly reasons for offense unless they happen to be rooted in actual selfish inconsideration. I believe in Jesus and that His sacrifice is the only means of salvation. I reject demonic spiritism that is at the dark heart of pagan religions. I take a stand against rebelliousness in the hearts of people no matter our color or background. I judge lying and stealing; they have no validity in any culture, since they are opposed to the righteousness of God and the love of one’s neighbor.

 

I love the redemption stories, of individuals and of larger groups turning away from evil: becoming undeceived; turning away from division and hate and greedy war; learning to love and serve and create and eat and drink to the glory of God. I love that so many stories are in-progress, people still learning and repenting and growing.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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I watched Moana for the first time yesterday. I’m kind of ambivalent about it, since I can think of some good and some bad messages, and as a 32-year-old, wasn’t all that captivated by the story (though I appreciated the quality of the animation).
Maybe because the setting is more tribal and not so Western, and maybe because of Disney’s motif of sort of refuting some of its earlier fairy tales, I was partially hopeful that this would be a story less about following your heart and more about courageously and sacrificially submitting to the leadership and community you were born to.  I was disappointed.

 

It wasn’t the demi-gods or coconut-demons or fire-monsters or reincarnated/ghost grandmas that most concerned me about this movie; it was that message of how to find out who you are meant to be: Disregard your parents and authority figures.  Be inspired by stories and legends.  Find some distant ancestors whose way of life is most appealing to you, and believe it’s an integral part of you.  Don’t prepare; just literally let yourself be thrown into something, and then pursue it with all the publicly rebellious determination you can muster.

 

One thing that complicates this for a Christian is that some of Moana’s discernment is based on the spiritual encounters she has.  There is no true God and Savior Jesus Christ in this movie, so other things stand in for the role He plays in directing our lives and gracing us to fulfill our “destinies”.  If the water-spirit that is so influential in Moana’s journey were actually the Creator God of the Bible, her story would be less concerning.  But it isn’t, and I believe that there are other spiritual forces in the real world, not only in fantasies, that stand-in for the place God ought to have in our lives.  And these beings are not good, not neutral; they are in evil opposition to the loving Lord of the universe.  What kind of message is it sending us and our kids to trust these kinds of spiritual experiences to direct us?

 

Moana did keep in mind and heart, always, how to serve and care for her people.  This is one of the better aspects of the “find your purpose” theme.  I was telling my brother that if they’d written the story of her father encouraging her to be different from him, while holding these same values of service to the tribe, I’d be way more excited about all of it.

 

Also a positive, in Moana, Disney has released another film that demonstrates the need for teamwork.  Moana and Maui each come to realize that they are more effective with each other’s help, and that the other does really need them in order to save their world.

 

I think I am actually most intrigued by the character of Maui, who wrestles with his own identity questions.  When we first meet him in person, we quickly recognize a dominant trait of arrogance, but later we learn that this is sort of a cover, a compensation for a deep insecurity.  The complex ways these issues affect his choices are fascinating; and over-all, I think they send a good message to audiences.

 

In the end, Moana does have a suitably communal argument for everyone having something to contribute, be it a peculiar chicken, a teenage girl, a demi-god with or without his hook, an experienced leader, or the village crazy lady – and the value of embracing what others have to offer.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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In an episode of the old TV show, The Beverly Hillbillies, a back-woods granny convinces a Beverly Hills banker that she has a home-remedy cure for the common cold.  After he’s all excited about the prospect of selling this marvelous discovery, she tells him the instructions that go with it: take with rest and lots of fruits and vegetables, and you’ll be better in 7-10 days.

I like to think about what made Granny believe she had a cure.  Probably there were a lot of competing local “cures” where she came from, and they may have had varying effects on symptoms.  But no one would have considered using no “cure” at all when there was one available, and known to produce the results of delivering the patient from sickness withing a fortnight.  So there was no “control”, no standard in their close-community by which to judge the success of a cure against none at all.

How many times do we do that?  Everyone does a thing, and we believe by tradition and assertion that it must be necessary and valuable and effective.

I appreciate that a growing number of people in my generation are challenging things.  They’re challenging shampoo, soap, the suburban lifestyle, not eating seeds, using synthetic medications to solve health problems.  We challenge assumptions about government and relationships and church.  We want to do things because we have a good reason.

But I want to be on guard against the things yet unchallenged in my life, whether it is flavor combinations or hairstyles or more serious things like my beliefs and philosophies.  It may be harder to receive when it is someone else challenging my ideas and habits, but I want to be open to that, too.  This is the essence of growing and learning, to be unashamed of realizing I was wrong and moving forward.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Fanny Price is one of the most boring heroines in literature.  She is always good, always correct, and it seems that her only faults lie in being too timid and being too easily fatigued.

Edmund Bertram is one of the least interesting heroes in literature.  He is sincere, intentional, and sober.  His primary shortcoming seems to be thinking the best of people and making the most of bad circumstances.

But isn’t real life and real goodness more like this duo?  Do they not refute our human tendency to buy into bright personalities, to follow confidence, to love foolishly?  Isn’t it hard to draw the line between dying to self and giving in to the pressures of those less wise?

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen, does seem to be busy pressing these truths.  The most charming characters are the ones who oppose the good.  Mr. Henry Crawford and his sister Mary may not set out to be wicked, but they don’t try to be good.  They try to seem good.  They may even wish they were good.  What good could be done with them if good people took them under wing, befriended them, taught, influenced, married them?

How are good people to resist the allure of reforming their lovers?  How are good people to judge accurately?

While simultaneously facing these dilemmas and illustrating them, Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram move through the excitement of new connections in the small neighborhood that has been their comfortable home.  Over and over again you see the heroine and hero making mistakes because of the things that influence their perspectives.  They doubt themselves.  They deceive themselves.  They reproach themselves.  They deny themselves.

And all through the plot, following paths merely tangential to each other, they’re getting a chance to discover the value of each other’s steady, reverential characters.  So when the events conspire to divide them from all the temptation of flattery, charm, and attraction, little wonder they proceed to fall in love with unsatisfactory brevity and with a felicity the envy of all their foolish relations.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I remember reading the Anne of Green Gables series, how well it taught the lesson.  Anne turned down a silly farmer who asked her to marry him via his sister.  She said no to Gilbert who’d been her rival all through school.  She was disappointed when her best friend agreed to marry the ordinary local, Fred.  But maybe her friend Diana was onto something.  Maybe Anne’s tall, dark, handsome, charming ideal wasn’t what Anne really needed.  As fiction conveniently wends its way, Anne met with such a man at college.  They courted for months.  And in the final breathless moment when he asked her to be his wife, she realized that she’d been wrong.  Her girlhood husband list had been dreamy and foolish.  There was nothing so wrong with this man.  But her heart wasn’t in it.  The truth was, she had been meant for Gil all along, only her stubborn fantasies had kept her from accepting it.

Having a list seemed to help me when I was in high school.  It reminded me that love and marriage were about choice, not just feelings.  I still like my lists, even if only for self-knowledge.  In my case I was over 20 years old when I realized that a man doesn’t have to have a career plan for the rest of his life to make a good husband.  Many of the men I have ever respected (including my own dad) have been hard workers, caring for others, but trying different things, or whatever work they could find.  In a changing world, myself even desiring a bit of adventure, how could I demand stability? So my list has been modified.  As I’ve gained humility about my own certainty of how the world should be, I’ve grown a bit more relaxed about some of the things.

Never mind the unforeseen and unknown; what selfish attitude is it that tells me that I can decide what I want and demand that I get that or else?  How was that affecting my relationships with men?  Is that what marriage is about?  Is that what life is about?

I know lots of examples of people digressing from their lists as they matured:

A friend said she’d never marry someone in the military.  Then she met her husband on a military base in Japan, and she changed her mind.

Another friend said her husband would have to own a top hat.  Would she really turn down an otherwise perfect match because he didn’t own the ideal accessory?  (The answer was “no”, she wouldn’t turn him down!)

Some friends wrestled with more serious questions.  Could they marry someone who was not a virgin?  What if his views on finances (debt, saving, spending) was different from hers?  If God was calling her to ministry, could she marry someone who didn’t have that same calling?

I suppose it goes both ways.  No doubt men have their own hang-ups.  One man I know struggled because his family owned many animals and the woman he was interested in had severe allergies.  I’ve heard that many men planning to be missionaries look only for women who are pursuing the same goal.

Some of these things are generally good wisdom.  A pastor I know counsels people to marry only if they’re physically attracted to one another (successful legacy of arranged marriages notwithstanding).  I know couples who were not attracted at first, but as they proceeded with their relationships, gained such feelings.  I myself would rather not marry someone in the military because of the demands on time and loyalty.  It’s a good idea to be unified about things like money and children and ministry.  But they’re not essential.  And sometimes, especially when we’re young, we don’t know what we need.  One artist friend knew God would provide her with an artist-husband, whose soul could understand hers.  Another artist friend has been married for decades to a man who’s good with numbers instead.

Still other friends now happily married look back and think their “lists” or ideas were lacking some significant points, like respect for parents.

In our society we barely know what marriage is really about, let alone what makes for a good one.  Sometimes parents and mentors advise us.  Sometimes they’re just taking a guess and pioneering new territory they never ventured on in their own relationships. Some of it is good advice, general wisdom.  A lot of it is promoting self-interest.  Some of it is universally-useful advice about trusting God and loving others.

Are there legitimate deal-breakers?  Is it wrong to have a list of things we’re looking for?  What guiding principles are there for deciding to get married?  What is marriage?  What contributes to a good marriage?  If you choose rashly at first, is there hope for a good marriage in the end?

But the fuss we make about who to choose…

~ Miss Austen Regrets

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I took a walk last week, on the day after our first snow here in Colorado.  The air was nippy but not wintry yet, fighting its way back to sunny seventies soon.  My boots beat along the sidewalk, until I came beneath a certain tree.  No one had warned it about the snow the night before.  It had been bearing the glorious fruit of autumn only a few days prior – the air a balmy 80 degrees.  Who knew that cold would come?

I picked my way around fallen fruits, darkened by separation from the sap – whether because of the cold hardening the nutrients yesterday or from today when the branch let go, I couldn’t tell.  But what was plain to see was that the tree had surrendered to the surprise.  It didn’t keep on with its job of growing fruit.  Instead it let them splatter the ground, making an ugly mess.

So I pulled my jacket close against the wind, bowed my head beneath the somber scene, and prayed to not be like that tree.  Don’t let me give in to bitterness just because hard things were unexpected.  Please, God, let me be useful to You no matter what, to be drawing near and bearing fruit of love and joy and truth and glory to You.  Give me faith to keep trusting even when things look bleak.

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” ~ John 15:16

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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