Monday, August 30, 2010

Real Christianity

A few weeks ago a medical team was brutally murdered in Afghanistan by Taliban. One of those killed was the young son of a long-time friend. Below is taken from an email he sent to friends telling about the memorial service that followed.

We did things a little differently in that we had Brian's burial before the memorial service. The idea was to show that we, as followers of Christ, go from death to life. Our pastor gave a 10 minute devotional followed by my family releasing 7 white doves (pigeons actually, but who cares) as a symbol of peace and the Holy Spirit of God, and issued a statement of heartfelt forgiveness to the men who killed these 10 aid workers. I can understand just a little bit how Stephen could say, "Lord, do not hold these sins against them". They are men who are lost and have acted only on the sin nature that we all possess. Yes, they are guilty of murder and if caught, they will be dealt with. Without Christ, they are already condemned!! They were mere pawns in the hand of the Almighty to wake up thousands of sleeping Christians and challenge unbelievers as to why a young man would knowingly and willing risk his life serving the ungodly.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Playing the Blame Game

It's not my fault I'm drunk. The raisins did it.

Things will never change in our lives until we take responsibility for our lives.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sometimes you can't do nothing #3

Locally our summer labor force includes several hundred (I guess) international students. They come from all over the planet to work in the US, enjoy what we have to offer and to learn our culture.

Unfortunately some come here to either be killed or seriously maimed on our roads. Each summer accidents involving international students occur primarily because these young adults have not learned our laws or our culture as it pertains to traffic.

In Europe (where most of these students are from) bicycles and automobiles function together in a kind of chaotic harmony. If you've been to Europe you know what I mean. There are probably more bicycles on the roads than cars. But that's not so here in the US. And in a traffic heavy resort community where the majority of drivers are not local and are unfamiliar at best with addresses and locations, adding foreign bicyclers to the mix is an often deadly recipe.

American drivers are not accustomed to sharing the road with bicyclists. Ask any American biker. They understand that riding on the shoulder can be a toxic exercise. And when the road is US 158, a "highway" with a speed limit of 50MPH and 5 lanes of traffic, the dangers are multiplied.

Our internationals haven't learned the dangers. You can see them riding bikes, going against traffic (which is illegal) on narrow shoulders or in the right lane, at at any time, 24 hours a day. Many of them walk to work and home, and will cross a dangerous highway without the aid of a crosswalk or traffic light.

Two weeks ago another young eastern European student was seriously injured and had to be flown by helicopter to the nearest trauma center, which is 80 miles away. She probably didn't know what she was doing was foolish at best and life threatening at worst. Fortunately she survived. Barely.

I'm tired of seeing and hearing of these accidents. I'm tired of responding to them as a public safety chaplain. But being tired doesn't help lessen the carnage. So I'm moved to action. Once the dust settles a bit around here (meaning we're past summer) I plan to take steps to initiate some kind of bicycle/pedestrian safety training for these young people.

Hopefully the local businesses that employ them will get on board, as well as the police departments of our towns. But we've seen enough of them die or have their lives permanently altered because their ignorance of our laws and culture. Somebody's got to get the word out to them.

it might as well be me who is part of the solution.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sometimes you can't do nothing #2

I'm having a summer of experiences that are pushing me into new territory. My previous post introduced this thread.

Now, a second experience and how I reacted.

Early the other morning I took my wife's car to the local convenience store to gas it up for her. It was on "E" and she had a trip to take later in the AM. I pulled in beside a pump and filled her up.

On the other side of the pump was a pick up truck being filled. The driver and passengers were painters, on their way (I assumed) to a day's work. They were guys from another country/culture. While filling up, several of them had gone into the store for drinks, snacks, etc. At that time of the morning the store is pretty crowded.

I couldn't help but notice a car parked a few yards away because of the loud "conversation" taking place. I paid no attention to what was being said, but watched out of the corner of my eye. In the car were a man and woman, likely husband/wife, and he was obviously agitated. My first thought was that they were having an argument, so I was going to watch just in case it escalated beyond words.

As I replaced the nozzle and started back into the car to leave, this parked car pulled in behind me to be the next to gas up. Nothing wrong with that. But then, as soon as he came to a stop, he began to curse and swear at the painters on the other side. Apparently he thought they were taking far too long to fill up. They were, after all waiting on some inside and enjoying a bit of conversation among themselves in the mean time. I don't know what all they were saying because I'm not fluent in their native tongue.

But I am fluent in English - even in redneck profanity. I know what all those words mean, and I also know they are inappropriate in a public place. Sorry, I'm old fashioned that way. So when he began his tirade from the driver's seat of his car, blasting these men with words about their relationships to their mothers (which I doubt he really knew anything about), I reacted.

It probably didn't occur to the painters to go ahead and move their truck from the pump while waiting on the rest of their party to come out from the store. For them, this was a time to socialize. They didn't know that we Americans are always in a hurry. (Maybe we should consider practicing "siesta"). So to the irate middle-aged man in his red, white and blue ball cap, these immigrants were being inconsiderate of his time.

But I can't help think maybe there was more bothering him than their lingering at the pump.

At any rate, I don't tolerate public profanity. It's a sickness in our society. So my reaction was quick. In a flash I was literally in his face as he still sat behind the wheel. I told him that if he didn't cease and desist I would call the police. And I would have.

He reacted in somewhat a state of shock (maybe that I would come to the defense of these foreigners) and hastily started to explain why he was so mad. I cut him off and said something to the effect that no one deserves to be talked to in that language and if he continued (as I reached for my cell phone) I would call the cops. And he and I are from the same generation, too, in case you might think he was a kid.

I guess he didn't need the gas because he backed away and drove off.

To me this was a cultural injustice taking place. Sure, they likely don't appreciate our American way of thinking because we're moving so fast. And sure, he probably never thought that in their country/culture they weren't doing anything wrong. But his verbal abuse was unnecessary and crass.

Sometimes I think you have to take a stand and do something.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sometimes you can't do nothing

Lately I've been impressed by a few experiences about injustices and oppression based on cultural differences. I think I'll share them in a series of posts. Long posts tend to get passed by.

In France our American team of Christians (16 of us including a 3 yr. old) traveled from our initial stop in Paris to Grenoble via train. The trains are super fast and a comfortable means of transportation. And they are public transportation.

We were briefed by our host before the trip across the pond that among other things, the French consider Americans to be loud and boisterous. It's a perception based on cultural differences. We are loud. We like to laugh out loud and have fun.

So here we are on this coach with maybe twenty other passengers on an afternoon train ride that took something like 3 hours. Our team is just that, a team that enjoys being together. We were reminded (by yours truly) that we should be respective of a different culture. And for most of the trip we did our best to gag our Americanisms.

But you can't expect 16 friends to spend 3 hours on a train and act like strangers, not engaging in talk and fun. So we talked and laughed. A very non-French thing to do.

Most of the others on the train were keeping to themselves. My guess was they were either napping or reading or just looking out the window at the beautiful villages and countryside that zipped by.

Then the cultures clashed. A passenger in the rear of the coach stood up and in English said (so that we all could hear) something like, "Less noise, please!". Oops!

A hush came over our group. Busted! We did our best to keep it down. Not because we understood or even agreed, but because we didn't want to offend. Yet we felt like fish out of water.

I thought some of these thoughts...
It is public transportation. Who made him the decibel meter maid? Get your sleep somewhere else, Francois. Last I heard France was still a free country. Get a life!

In the US, on a bus or train I might have even expressed those thoughts. But this was a different culture and we were guests. So when in France, do as the French do. At least try. And we did.

I need to also say that by far our experiences in France were positive ones and the French we worked with and met on our trip were the greatest hosts and hostesses. Never did they make us feel unwanted or uncomfortable at all. So this isn't a criticism of the French or their culture.

But what I learned from that experience is that if we don't understand or adapt to another culture when we are within it we'll either create or be the recipients of criticism. And if we as citizens of the "host" country don't recognize that guests might bring their own nuances with them and give them some slack we can quickly allow prejudices to determine our ability to treat them with respect.

The minor incident on the train ride helped me mentally prepare for a couple of incidents here at home that I would engage soon.