“Hypocrite” feels good to say but it isn’t changing anything

Confirming the hypocrisy of your opponent feels really good. When you catch them out in a contradiction of values, championing the same conviction today that they condemned only yesterday, when you and your team believed in it–man, that’s video-worthy.

Watch it and let that intoxicating cocktail of anger and vindication tingle all the way down.

Then get to work.

It is one of the more painful realizations of our era that hypocrisy doesn’t matter. Establishing that it’s all a double standard and that the impassioned virtue of these people is nothing but self-serving performance isn’t changing anything. They still have their platform. They still have their audience, who, it seems, don’t care.

Lament the injustice of it. Pity the deception of it. Then get to work.

People will pay for hypocrisy when enough of their audience, enough of their constituents, care about the same things we care about (we’re hypocrites too) and when their lies begin to cost more than polling points. So let’s get to work articulating and embodying a virtuous citizenship, a virtuous democracy, that is rooted in convictions that don’t change with party politics: respect for human dignity, care for children, honesty among leadership.

Resisting this nightmare is a good place to start.

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Two Things About Going To Top Chef Restaurants

My wife and I have watched 11 seasons of Top Chef, beginning with season four and continuing in an unbroken streak through season 15. We’ve lived in southern California and Chicago during that time, which has allowed us to actually visit the restaurants of several of the contestants. We pick one out, then save for weeks to pay for it as a birthday or anniversary dinner. It’s our nerdy little tradition.

We did it again yesterday, and in-between the pasta and meat courses we tried to recall every Top Chef contestant restaurant we’ve been to and decide which was our favorite (we settled on nine).

Two things about this hobby of ours.

  1. I always feel like I don’t belong. The food is always so meticulous and the service so fussy. The clientele is always so attractive, sometimes even famous. I spend the whole meal feeling like an imposter, like some Joe who snuck in through the alley door left open by the sous chef on her smoke break.
  2. I usually end up embarrassed at the way in which I clearly belong in these places. Everybody there looks like me. Everybody but the staff, that is. I looked around the dining room last night and could not deny the obvious, that there wasn’t a single person of color seated at a table.

You can’t have it both ways, can you? You can’t both cling to an outsider’s inferiority complex and enjoy the spoils of the insider’s privilege at the same time. If you’re there, you’re not that different than everybody else who is there. You inhabit a space that lots of other people simply can’t, for reasons that are not hard to discover.

Let that bother you. Enjoy the beurre blanc, but let that bother you.

 

 

An Early June Evening in Chicago

As I walked to the car I left parked on a neighborhood street, it occurred to me that evenings like this are why people choose to live in this city. Warm, lush, the avenues humming with foot traffic and chatter from cafes and bistros while the side streets quietly light upĀ  through living room windows. You pass strangers on the sidewalk on nights like this and can’t avoid smiling and nodding in recognition of the secret you’re both in on, that practically no place on earth has it as good as this. That it takes months of a winter Hellscape to get to this doesn’t matter now. It’s here.

 

The Morning Routine

  1. Write a blog post.
  2. Read the daily lectionary texts.
  3. Read the news.

These are the three activities I want to fill the morning before my family gets up and preparation must begin for getting out the door. Not in this order necessarily; it’s different every day. Entire seasons pass with one (or more) of them not happening at all.

When I was in my early 20’s I felt tremendous urgency every day to do the second one first. In my 30’s, under the influence of Seth Godin, the first. After the 2016 election, the third. It changes all the time (today I have already done 2 and won’t have much time for 3).

The only constant is the time.

 

I Couldn’t Stop Watching The Two Students Who Were Watching A Baptism

There was a moment during worship yesterday that made a mark in my memory that is going to last. There is a baptism happening, a baby, and two teenage twins are leaning over the side balcony to see. The side balconies in our sanctuary run about a quarter of the way back, beginning above the chancel. These two are in the balcony above the baptismal font. They could fall into it from where they’re standing.

Everyone in the room is watching the baptism, as they should be. It’s a watershed moment: an identity is being imparted–beloved child of God. Yet I can’t take my eyes off the two eighth graders. Their baptismal identity was confirmed in this space just weeks ago, and now here they are taking part in the church’s work of naming that reality for someone else, saying “yes” we will nurture and care for this child, a total stranger to them, yet now a sibling in Christ.

It’s their faces, both of them. They’re eager to be here, to be part of this.

This is why youth should be in worship.

Friday Night

Friday night may the a youth ministry opportunity hiding in plain sight. I’ve spent most of my career religiously avoiding programming on weeknights, as both students and parents in the contexts I’ve worked have affirmed repeatedly that there is just too much going on, what with school work, band practice, soccer, and all the rest, not to mention time families want to spend together.

So it’s been Sunday. It has also, though, been Friday and Saturday with some regularity, right? What else is a retreat? What else is a lock in?

Somebody asked why we don’t invite students to gather on Friday nights, and I didn’t have a good answer.

Youth Should Be Making Youth Ministry Decisions

If you’re not inviting youth into decision-making roles, you’re missing out. The two students on our Committee on Youth Ministry practically drove our meeting last night. We came away energized by an idea for a new experiment that was proposed by one student and meaningfully shaped by the other. I was kind of magic.

Students’ schedules and relative inexperience with participating in decision-making with adults means that sticking a youth on committee is not, by itself, a recipe for meaningful engagement. In fact, I attribute last night’s magic to there being two students in the room, not just one; it’s a rare group of adults who know how to draw out the confidence of the lone teenager at the table. They draw it out of one another, though.

What else? The agenda isn’t particularly youth-friendly, only clear and specific. Maybe just pay attention to how students are reacting to what’s being discussed and invite them to express themselves. One committee member last night pointed out that a youth member was putting off strong non-verbal cues at one point and made sure the rest of us noticed, stopped talking, and then listened.

The adults in the room have to want input from young people, not merely tolerate it.

My Church Is Hiring Somebody

I wrote a post yesterday and only today realized it never published. It was about gathering a team for youth ministry, how the interpersonal work of listening to students and accompanying them during adolescence is only part of the work, how you also have to build leaders, both staff and volunteer.

It was the single best blog post I’ve ever written, and now it’s gone forever.

It was a setup. My church is hiring a Youth Discipleship Coordinator, and I want you to tell people. It’s a full-time gig that gets to work with me on jr. high and sr. high youth ministry, both what is and what can be. Email me and I’ll send you the job description and application instructions.

Science

The 8th graders in my Confirmation program, in fact all the students in my congregation, do not struggle with the relationship of the church’s faith in things like creation and resurrection to the contemporary scientific worldview in a way that can addressed in a single lesson, or even two. It’s also true for their parents. It’s true for all of us: the Bible and scientific reality seem at odds, and we move from ignorance of that fact to anxiety about it to uneasy acceptance to resolution. For some the resolution is within the church. For others resolution is a rejection of faith and all it asserts.

Nobody has resolved this by the 8th grade, though. So our time on it is spent exploring a range of possible postures, from opposition to integration. We don’t dictate one. Most never knew anything but conflict was an option, so it’s a useful enough lesson.

But it’s so not enough.

Maybe some element of the scientific needs to be integrated into every Confirmation discussion. Maybe it’s a lens through which to view all the subjects more than a subject unto itself.

 

Avoiding Decision Fatigue

Planning well saves energy. This is particularly true on mission trips. Decision fatigue is real.

What’s the plan for dinner?

Are we assigning van seats or can students choose their own?

Should we set up beds or do the orientation first?

Devotions before or after free time?

What time is lights out?

What do we do if somebody loses their water bottle?

The strain of thinking about and deciding upon those questions, one after another, in the first several hours of your trip, will put you at a mental and emotional energy deficit right away.

Think about them before you leave, then. You’ll be glad you did.