Archives for posts with tag: terrorism

I arrived in the small west Georgia town of Roopville in the summer of 1972. It would be a wonderful place for me, my wife, and our eight month old son.

In the next few months I discovered that there was no organized recreational opportunities for the children and youth of this rural area. With the help of a few committed folks in the community we changed that.

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The Roopville Athletic Association was formed. Volunteers invested many hours and their money and this loosely organized group fielded two boy’s baseball teams the next summer. With the help of a lot of local people we worked on the hard red Georgia clay playground at the Roopville Elementary School and made it into a baseball field of sorts. The contributions of entrepreneur J.W. Wood, who lived across the road from the United Methodist Church, enabled the boys to be outfitted in uniforms as nice as any other teams.

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Although the Roopville team uniforms looked as good as others, that was where the similarities ended. The boys in our area had never played organized baseball and they competed with teams in other communities that had been playing competitively for years. If you looked at the season’s won-loss record, it was ugly. The Bad News Bears looked like all-stars compared to our teams. But it was a chance for these kids to develop their athletic skills and learn a lot.

You know that they were desperate because they let me coach the 11-12 year old team. During one game we miraculously got a runner on base. Then, wonder of wonders, someone hit the ball that got past the opposing team’s center fielder allowing our player to advance to third base where I was coaching.

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As our next batter stepped in I said to the exuberant young man who had just slid safely into third, “Phil, if Tony hits the ball no matter where it goes do you think you can make it home and score?” He looked at me with a big grin on his face and replied, “I don’t know coach. I ain’t never been this far before!”

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Some days I am as bewildered as Phil. I read and hear that self-driving cars are becoming a reality. There is serious talk about establishing colonies where people will live on Mars. The globalization of the world’s societies and economies makes us interdependent and vulnerable. The recent decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union sent shock waves through economic systems worldwide. Terrorism across the globe has changed the way we live. The immigrant crisis in Europe has caused great concern everywhere. Climate change, Zika virus, and a host of other issues cause me to realize that we have never been this far before. And it can be frightening and unsettling.

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I cannot comprehend what changes will occur during the short span of years that I hope to live. And to think about what my grandchildren will experience is mind boggling. Rather than be pessimistic, I find comfort and hope in the words of a song I learned a long time ago:

Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand

But I know Who holds tomorrow and I know Who holds my hand.

There is ONE who sees the end from the beginning and I have complete confidence that God will guide and guard us through the future.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

O Lord, we praise you because you are a great and mighty God. We praise you because you are a tender and compassionate God. We praise you because you are an all knowing and wise God. We praise you because you are a God of grace and mercy.

In recent days we have witnessed the unthinkable in Nice, Istanbul, Baghdad, Dhaka, Dallas, Orlando, Minneapolis….

Every day seems to bring a new disaster. Every day people are killed because of their religion, race, gender, lifestyle, or money. Every day children lose their innocence and often their lives. Every day people die because someone chooses to drive under the influence. Life seems to have little value to so many.

With the psalmist (Ps. 13) we ask, “O Lord, how long?” How long will our enemies cause unthinkable pain and suffering? How long will injustice prevail? How long will greed and hatred wreak havoc in our world?

With the prophet Habakkuk (Hab. 1) we know, “There is strife, and conflict abounds… (It seems that your) instruction is ineffective. Justice does not endure because the wicked surround (us) … (and) Justice becomes warped.”

Lord, we confess this morning that it is easy to get discouraged and become despondent because of the evil that seems to be everywhere. But we “trust in your unfailing love; our hearts rejoice in your salvation” (Ps. 13:5).

Our hearts are broken and our spirits are sad because we have experienced the “sin and despair, like the sea waves cold, (that) threaten the soul with infinite loss.” But with the hymn writer, we declare that your grace is greater than anything. In the face of so much pain and sorrow, so much grief and fear, we claim that “marvelous, infinite, matchless grace” to cover us and our world in these difficult days. Our hope is in You, O Lord.

We pray for the victims of violence and injustice everywhere. We pray for those who are responsible for such heinous crimes. We pray for our world and all people that you created.

We pray not as a ritual without meaning but we believe that authentic prayer prompts action. It affects behavior. So, Lord, help us not to conform to the pattern of this world, but transform us by the renewing of our minds. Help us to think right so we can act right. Bring out the best in us. Guard us from becoming so well-adjusted to our culture that we fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix our attention on you, O Lord. Change us from the inside out so that our lives will be pleasing to you. Deep within our hearts we really do want to be like Jesus and we want our lives to reflect Him.

Hear our prayer, O Lord, for we offer it and ourselves in the name of Jesus. Amen.

*This is the Pastoral Prayer that I offered today (July 17, 2016) at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Georgia

History has recorded many tyrants, despots, and dictators. They have destroyed civilizations and wreaked havoc wherever they have been. Inestimable damage has resulted from their autocratic and violent reigns. Currently terrorists are creating chaos and destruction throughout the world.

Whether they rule a nation, control a radical religious or political faction, or espouse racial bigotry, they are all bullies. Some are powerful political or religious figures while others are angry societal misfits. They are all bullies.

“Everyone likely has a bullying story, whether as the victim, the bully, or as a witness.” (Michael Honda)

We have heard a lot recently about bullying among children and youth but bullies are not only nasty kids or mean teenagers. Bullies come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. They don’t all capture the news headlines or make a big splash. But they cause immeasurable harm to individuals and groups of all sizes.

Bullies may be aggressive drivers, pushy salespersons, bossy friends, co-workers, or angry strangers. They are the kid who steals a classmates lunch money. They are the boss that uses their position of power to harass those who are less powerful. They are close friends, neighbors, and family members.

Bullying can include repeatedly making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, or excluding someone from a group, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

You may not call them bullies but you know them. You have encountered them. With their words and actions they use intimidation, threats and fear. They play mind games of manipulation and control. They cause much emotional and physical  damage.

The Irish Times (Dec. 12, 2015) reported that “one third of trainee doctors say they have experienced bullying and harassment at work, according to a survey by the Irish Medical Council. The survey also found that over half of trainee doctors – 56 per cent – have witnessed someone else being bullied or harassed.”

“Bullying is a national epidemic.” (Macklemore)

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, asserts that “matters of workplace harassment (bullying) have gained interest among practitioners and researchers as it is becoming one of the most sensitive areas of effective workplace management… Under occupational health and safety laws around the world, workplace harassment and workplace bullying are identified as being core psychosocial hazards

Bullying never has to do with you. It’s the bully who is insecure. (Shay Mitchell)

Bullies are unhappy and unhealthy people who act out in inappropriate ways that inflict harm on others in an effort to boost their own sense of self-worth. They will continue to have their way at the expense of others and cause harm until we stand up to them and say “no more.”

We must recognize the strength that lies within each one of us- whether the bully is a radical Islamic terrorist, a family member, a friend, or whoever. We must resist the efforts of bullies to force their agenda upon us. We must not allow any individual or group to destroy our dignity as children of God.

In the beginning of this new year let us pledge to be present for those who feel they have no voice. To stand with those, near and far, who are oppressed. To oppose anyone who will attempt to impose their ideas and ideals upon us or others through intimidation and harassment. Let us join Jesus in his mission “to set free the oppressed, downtrodden, and bruised” (Luke 4:18).

Jamie Jenkins

In light of the horror of this past week in Paris, there are many calls to fight fire with fire. An eye for an eye. It is easy to understand this attitude in its context. Certainly someone needs to be held accountable and there must be consequences for this senseless slaughter. A reasoned but firm response is necessary but knee jerk reactions often result in undesirable unintended consequences rather than  a solution to the problem.

The growing threat of ISIS must be confronted. We cannot ignore it but we must be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” in our response.

In a recent Republican Presidential Candidate debate Sen. Marco Rubio was accused of being a “closet moderate.” This designation was not delivered as a compliment but a criticism. Perhaps the criticism was not about Rubio’s position but the fact that he has disguised or hidden his real feelings. If he has not been open and transparent, I suppose that is valid criticism.

We live in a time where militant, fanatical individuals and groups seem to get all the spotlight. Radicalism and extremism are on the rise and are dangerous. The voice of reason often gives in to those who would “bomb the ____ out of them.”

“The strength of democratic societies

relies on their capacity to know how

to stand firm against extremism while

respecting justice in the means used to fight terrorism.”

(Tariq Ramadan)

Religious and political radicals represent only a fringe element but they cause much harm. I am not speaking only of Islamic radicals although there is reason to be alarmed about them. Extremists pose real danger whether they are white supremacists or fundamentalist Muslims. Devotees to any religion or political faction who advocate for destruction of those who are different from them are cause for alarm.

When I refer to “radicals” and extremists” I am not suggesting that strong commitment to a cause or belief system is a bad thing. However, when that commitment marginalizes, endangers, or destroys anyone, it is wrong.

Dwight Eisenhower

“Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

People who represent extreme perspectives can be helpful. The presence of strongly divergent opinions can cause us to begin to see and understand things that would otherwise be beyond our comprehension. Mutual respect and civil discourse among people who disagree can lead to heighted awareness and constructive change. But hateful and derogatory language and actions cause pain and foster further division.

 “If we destroy human rights and rule of law

in the response to terrorism, they have won.”

-Joichi Ito

A “moderate” is one who stands between two extremes. Is that a bad thing? Dictionaries define “moderate” with the following terms: reasonable, sensible, restrained, fair, temperate, judicious. These seem to be attributes that would be viewed favorably by most decent people.

Clint Eastwood

“Extremism is so easy. You’ve got your position and that’s it.

It doesn’t take much thought.

And when you go far enough to the right

you meet the idiots coming around from the left.”

-Clint Eastwood

Things often appear to be “right or wrong” but many times the truth is somewhere between the two extremes. The person who is a centrist (moderate) sees the value of seemingly opposite opinions and attempts to effect a synthesis of perspectives that is more balanced. Perhaps everything is not “either/or.” Maybe a better position often is “both/and.”

Let us pray and work for peace as we strive to protect the freedoms that we enjoy and believe is the right of every human being.

Jamie Jenkins