Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Fighting a Culture of Hate

I often think a lot these days about something I see developing around the world. It has been developing over the course of years, I am sure, but I have really began to take notice in the last three years. That is a culture of hate. Brazilians, for example, often slam America for its' President and his policies, lumping Americans in general with the government. Africans do the same, lumping Americans in with Europeans. And Democrats and Republicans seem hateful toward each other today. We seem to have lot any sense of commonality and instead see only the differences that divide us. I stuggle myself with this, because the lies and exaggerations I so often hear spreading make me angry and resentful. They are distortions of the facts and used to reflect badly on honest people like me who have firm convictions and are highly educated but also deeply passionate about our views and our compassion for others. And more and more this has me wondering: are we building for tomorrow a culture of hate?

I firmly believe there is nothing we could do to more aid the spread of terrorism than allow a culture of hate to develop in our countries. If good, decent people who work hard to love their families and provide for them cannot see past the ideological differences to the fact that they have the same ultimate goals as each other despite this, then how can we hope to help our children have the same goals? They will get lost in the angry ideology and this is what breeds terrorism. Angry ideology with no roots in goals of family, work, and a better life. All they want is to destroy those who do not share their views. Insane ideologists like Osama Bin-Laden feed on this kind of thing and they use it to create terrorist bombers. Think I am wrong? Look at the reactions of the families of young men involved in the July 7 London bombings. Surprise. Dismay. Denial. They never imagined they were raising a terrorist. Never saw their own child headed for this distruction. But look what happened.

Brazil and America have large media infrastructure. In Brazil, there seems to be no sense of the ethical restraints we have so often believe American journalists operate with. But as we are seeing from recent incidents involving Time Magazine, CBS News and more, those ethical restraints are failing even here, and worse, open bias in reporting has become the norm, not the exception. This just feeds the anger of those with a different ideology from those reporting the news and feeds their frustration. It makes them want to fight back to spread their own ideology, and the cycle continues. The culture of hatred gets more ammunition and moves further and further into reality.

In Brazil, and to some degree this is becoming more and more true in the U.S., there is increased deadening of reaction to violence. In Brazil there are more murders per capita in Rio De Janeiro, the second largest city, than in whole countries have in several years. That is just one city. Brazilians killing each other, robbing each other, is a common reality. Though I did meet one Brazilian teenager who denied such things ever occurred. In America, with violence in movies, television, even news outlets, more and more we are not shocked or saddened any more. We just react with resolve: "This is how the world is today." Maybe that is why the problem just gets worse and worse. If we were actually shocked and aghast, maybe we would fight harder to change things.

Some of you may think I am being alarmist, but just pay attention. I would love nothing more than to be wrong about this, but I fear that my predictions will prove true. If that is the case, America must be concerned about homegrown terrorists in its midst. Look at the young Muslims already arrested fighting AGAINST U.S. troops in Afghanistan! What if what happened in London, happens here? We are closer than we know and we all need to take action to reverse the dangerous course.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Future so bright.....

Well, my Board just let me know that they think I can plan on going to Brazil in August or so of next year to begin full time work, on an initial six month approval, training the musicians, worship leaders, and
congregants of First Presbyterian Church, Varginha, Brazil! YAY! I have been waiting for such an opportunity for a long time, and I think my blog will be much richer, and written in much more often as I am more involved in cultural interaction. First, though, I have to review the first 10 and do the last 30 lessons of the Portuguese CD course I spent $80 on which claims to be equal to two years of college study. It sure helped me a lot when I tried it before, so I am sure it will now. I want to complete that by January so I can work with a private tutor for the six months or so before I head to Brazil. HA HA WISH ME LUCK!

Anyway, I am learning more and more how each of us live in a bit of our own culture. I, for example, have what they call TDAH in Brazil or ADHD in America. And I am constantly "culturally challenged" in dealing with others, my Board of Directors, for example. The big challenge is that people who have not lived with ADHD or around it much, just don't realize that at a certain point it is just WHO YOU ARE, and so the problems inherent with it just have to be worked through and dealt with, from the approach that this is how life is for you. Because those problems so often involve the ADHD person's interpersonal interactions, it is a particularly difficult area for people without personal experience with ADHD to accept without thinking: "you can work on this so these problems don't happen." I used to buy into that. And while I have made progress, I have found the progress is not in how others percieve me but how I react to their perceptions and how I handle it when issues arise. There will always be issues like that in my life. There have been for 26 years since I was diagnosed and there always will be no matter how much medication, therapy or life experience I have.
Some on my Board seemed to have the attitude that if I just work a little longer and harder I can work through that and eliminate the issue. Or at least get to the point where it is a minor issue in my life. Personally, I think I am already at the point where it is minor, because incidents of it over the past two years are very few. But it is always something I will struggle with. My best way to deal with it has been to confront it head on: be honest with the key people in my life who will interact with me and explain ADHD, how it effects me, then ask for patience and grace when situations arise. That has worked great at my present jobs since October 2003, so I feel like that is the only way I can face the future. Not that I have not been studying and working on coping skills with a counselor and such, because I have. But there comes a point where only in living one's life as one feels called and desires, can a person truly know and learn how they will be in those situations. And there comes a point where one can only learn to handle situations in those situations themselves.
Anyway, things look good for going. I am very excited. I have prayed for a longer term mission opportunity for seven years. So please pray for me. I think it will go well, and I will learn a lot. With success there is always failure, but if we learn from them and grow, there is no real failure in those situations, in my opinion. If things go as well as I expect, I will be able to continue my work in Varginha for several years. Who knows how much better able to lead Anchored Music Ministries and provide cross culturally relevant leadership development training I will be after such an experience! Anyway, that's a little bit about my own "culture clashing."
By the way, we can do pictures now, so here is one of me at the Zoo in Rio, taken by my girlfriend, Bianca Sousa. We are two BSes. Bryan Schmidt and Bianca Sousa. Tell me God doesn't have a sense of humor.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Evangelical Culture Divide

Okay, today I decided to blog on something that may not seem in the scope of what this blog is about, but it is bothering me a lot, so I am going to address it. That is what I call the Evangelical Culture Divide.

Recently, as we face the nomination of a new Supreme Court Justice, I heard news reports that evangelicals said they deserve the nominee of their choice because they helped decide the election. I want to say that I have no words for how sick this makes me. I AM AN EVANGELICAL. I VOTED. I am glad to feel my vote counted, but the facts show that most evangelicals had not voted in years. They love to complain about where the culture is going and what the government is doing but they did nothing to exercise their right to have a voice in it. This is like one of the churches criticized in Revelation. They love to complain, but they don't do anything positive about it. Now that they have acted and voted, they want all the power. How does that work? One of the things that Democrats and others offended by the evangelical lobby complain about which is valid (so many are not but really reflect instead the different values they have) is the fact the so many evangelicals mistakenly think they have the duty and obligation to shove their beliefs down other peoples' throats. This has created a huge cultural divide between Evangelicals and everyone else.

Now I should say that there should be a divide based on values and lifestyle. If there was not, there would be something wrong. But the problem is that an attitude of superiority or moral defenders has taken over many evangelical circles and now they label anyone who doesn't agree with them as non-Christian or unsaved, which is very arrogant and unloving, not to mention unbiblical. Who are these people to determine who are saved? And where is the love of Christ in what they are saying? No wonder the world mocks our hipocrisy and misses our witness. It is a shame.

The United States of America was founded on a system of government that changed the world. And it has worked for over 200 years in spite of naysayers because it allows protection for people to speak what they believe, and especially those possessing unpopular opinions. It provides for equal representation for all citizens, and it achieves this as best any system can, I believe. The reality is that our culture is becoming liberal and watered down. If we feel our representation is watered down and liberal, that doesn't mean they are not representing our culture accurately. And while I would like to see this change, it will never change if a small minority demands the power to force their views on everyone else. Evangelicals, unlike some places in the world, are still a minority in the U.S.A. so while we should expect representation from evangelicals in congress like Senator Jim Talent and Senator Rick Santorum, we should neither ask nor expect that we have a right to pick our choice over everyone else's. We have to win fair and square by putting up good candidates who are honorable, decent, and trustworthy, and fight hard to do the right things in spite of the imperfect system in which they work. That is the only way we can effectively hope to impact culture and government. Not by demanding our own way.

I am ashamed that some of those who call themselves evangelicals, some of whom are even influential like James Dobson, have lost the sense of this and are making us all look bad. They are intelligent and successful and richly blessed of God, and yet in their anger and frustration, they have lost their way. We all need to pray for them. And we need to ask God to guard our hearts so that we don't become like them. Then we need to work hard to make sure they don't rule the day and cooler heads prevail. Otherwise, evangelicals will never be taken seriously again.