Open Mouth, Insert Foot April 4, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Communication in the Church, Core Values, U.S. Culture.
Tags: Christian Community, Communication, Values
We tend to celebrate our pluralistic and richly diverse culture and, in the church, we talk long and loud about radical hospitality and open hearts/minds/doors. Yet, we still seem to be having problems knitting our intercultural parts into a well-integrated body of Christ. There is so much latent and subversive “-ism” — sexism, racism, classism, ageism, us/themism, colonialism, territorialism — that we cannot seem to all get on the same side at the same time. Dr. Maura Cullen’s book, 35 Dumb Things Well-Intentioned People Say (Surprising Things We Say That Widen the Diversity Gap) is a great primer for anyone who truly wants to be more loving, kind, gentle, respectful, conciliatory, caring and graceful (by which, I hope I mean anyone who really wants to be Christian). Those who bask (consciously or not) in power and privilege are often less than mindful of the impact of their words, regardless of their intention. Cullen’s book calls us to take responsibility for the things we say, and to those of a Wesleyan bent, to truly live the standard of “first, do no harm”.
The book is essentially a compendium of Do’s and Don’ts (35 clear “don’ts…) that help us better understand how to communicate in effective and affirming ways. Cullen helps shift perspective to the other side — what it is like to be on the receiving end of inappropriate, thoughtless, dismissive or even well-intended but harmful statements. Her instruction is simple and straightforward. It doesn’t much matter what we intend; our words are measured by their impact. Thoughtless and offensive statements “pile on” over time, so that the general attitude behind any one comment can be magnified. Defensiveness and attempting to justify oneself adds insult to injury, and mindlessly accepting power and privilege as a personal right while denying the same to others is unacceptable. Most people are trying to be better and do the right thing, but words have power — they can be tools that build up or weapons that destroy. Used thoughtlessly or irresponsibly, they do more harm than good.
The Janus Conundrum November 18, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Church growth, Church Leadership, Communication in the Church, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Church Leadership, The United Methodist Church, Vision
A day of new beginnings often produces mixed results — hopefulness & skepticism, promise and problems, anticipation and anxiety. In The United Methodist Church we are poised — some say on the threshold of a new day, others say on the brink of utter annihilation (most feel we are somewhere in between, but are not sure just where…) Unfortunately, when there is an absence of visionary leadership, we unintentionally compound the problem by adopting contradictory and incompatible tools and processes to attempt to make something happen. We have done it before, and we are doing it now. Case in point? Vital Congregations and Adaptive Leadership.
We v. They September 21, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Communication in the Church, Core Values, Integrity, Personal Reflection, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian Community, church, The United Methodist Church, Unity
Like everyone else, Raleigh Hayes saw the world, and the people with whom he was obliged to share it, through the kaleidoscope of his own colored designs. As the years turned the viewer round and round, the bits of glass fell into new patterns, but the perspective remained limited to Raleigh’s eye. (Handling Sin, Michael Malone, 1983)
Not everyone agrees with this premise, but I am of a mind that everyone sees the world, not as it truly is, but through a set of personal and unique filters that makes an individual worldview. As we encounter others, we bond most closely with those who share key elements of our worldview. This makes for a grand and glorious bell curve of subjective worldviews that we embrace as objective reality. The truth is out there, and each of us brush up against it, but none of us own it. It is through this kaleidoscope effect that we polarize and politicize and project. It creates the frame and forum for “us/them; we/they; right/left; right/wrong” thinking that defines our modern/post-modern U.S. culture in the early 21st century. This comes clear to me as I look at comments made about my reflections on the work of our General Boards and agencies of The United Methodist Church.
Obtuse Is As Obtuse Does September 4, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Communication in the Church, Missions, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Communication, The United Methodist Church
Okay, let’s face it, we have a lot of differences that are not easily reconcilable. We are split over dozens — maybe hundreds of issues. So, why do we go out of our way to misunderstand one another and to ascribe negative (even malicious) intention where there is none? Obviously, the current political campaigning is an excellent illustration, but let’s not go there. Let’s keep it close to home. I’ll use a personal example. I attended a conference last week, then came home to a long holiday weekend. When I checked my email, I found seven angry messages about “what I said” about Imagine No Malaria. Now, this is news to me, since I can’t remember the last time I said anything about Imagine No Malaria, but I guess someone “quoted” me at a recent regional gathering. Interestingly, the “quotes” are actually quotes, but taken out of context they are being used to convey a very different meaning. Here are three quotes pulled from things I have written:
- “…the United Methodist Church creates a bigger problem by saving all these lives.”
- “It is irresponsible to take such a simplistic approach to such a complex problem. This isn’t just about combatting one disease. The solution just shifts the problem elsewhere, but let’s us feel good about ourselves.”
- “…anything less than a systems approach to global health is indefensible. …we are compounding a tragedy.”
One Indignation Under God August 27, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Christian witness, Communication in the Church, Congregational Life.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Communication, Values
Have you noticed the mammoth chip some United Methodists have on their shoulder? Just mentioning it makes some people mad. I’ve received eight nasty emails since yesterday, when I posted the not-too-profound concept that anger is a choice and that no one else can offend us; we can merely choose to be offended (Loser’s Choice). Obviously, indignation is viewed as a right or a spiritual gift and not something we control. I can’t even reprint some of what has been written because it uses language not appropriate and it is in the form of personal attack. It actually gives me a chance to practice what I preach. My intelligence, parentage, politics, and the integrity of my beliefs are all directly and decisively attacked. Oh, whatever should I do? Should I reply in kind? I could launch some real zingers. That would certainly teach them a thing or two. Or I could twist their words and ascribe malicious intent and try to make them look evil or stupid. That would sure help the situation. I could simply dismiss them as beneath my consideration. What a witness to Christian charity that would be. One of the statements made was, in my opinion, ignorant and bigoted. I must own that I struggle with offense when races, genders, or minorities are referred to with derogatory and hurtful slang. I do not approve of or appreciate mean-spirited labels meant to demean others. But I still control my response. I can express my displeasure without resorting to insult or attack. I am not compelled to scream or shout and I am not impressed by those who do. This is my whole point: how we respond is as important as what we think and feel. I have not ever said we should simply accept whatever anyone else says to us (a common response to my post yesterday), but that the form and force of our response is critically important to our witness to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The Unforgiving June 20, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Communication in the Church, Core Values, Personal Reflection.
Tags: Christian Community, Mission & Purpose, Values
I am back from Annual Conference (and a few days off to recuperate…). My inbox is packed with mail from people who loved this year’s conference, hated this year’s conference, were proud of this year’s conference, were ashamed by this year’s conference, were excited by the delegation we elected to General and Jurisdictional conference, disappointed by the delegations — in other words, very normal, human reactions to a big business meeting that brings hundreds of people into close proximity in a strange and unfamiliar place. But there is a subtle undercurrent to the reactions to this year’s conference — almost everyone has something unpleasant to say about someone else. “Those people,” “that person,” “them,” pervades each missive. The implied message is that conference would have been so much better, except for “them” (whoever “them” might be…). Don’t get me wrong — we have some serious issues — differences of opinion, theology, moral compass, and personal desires — that divide us. What strikes me is that we are not making any kind of commitment to build bridges, heal hurts, and forge alliances that will move us forward. It doesn’t help that we have a church trial coming up this week to try one of our sisters-in-Christ for her sexual orientation and her officiating at a same-sex union. Hear this: I don’t CARE what views we hold on the issues of gays and lesbians in the church — what I believe is that God wants us to find a way to live the fruit of the Spirit IN SPITE of our personal differences. One may hold a negative view of same-sex partnerships and still offer love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control to those same people. Not only can we not muster basic fruit, we can’t even offer a high fructose corn syrup (fake) alternative! For some reason, it is more important to argue and hate and score points off of others than to care for them.
Pure Theology June 7, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Communication in the Church, Critical Thinking.
Tags: Biblical interpretation, Faith Sharing, Unity
I don’t interpret scripture; I just read it and do what it says.
Basically, this is a false statement intended to end discussion by claiming that the person speaking has a crystal clear understanding of what God intends based on his or her personal favorite translation of the Bible. No need to interpret — simple know. Yeah, nice try. The human brain doesn’t work that way. Any information received is immediately processed through multiple conscious and subconscious filters. We have no control over some of the interpretation in which we engage — it is simply an automatic response triggered by a wide range of factors. I was listening to a group of men discuss the discipline of children when I stopped for coffee this morning, and this was the nature of the exchange:
R.D.E. May 31, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Communication in the Church, Congregational Life, Core Values.
Tags: Christian Community, Communication, Values
I have been reading Paul Watzlawick’s fun and funky, The Situation is Hopeless, But Not Serious — The Pursuit of Unhappiness. The central thesis of this short work is that human beings create their own unhappiness and discontent in dozens of creative unconscious ways. In one section, Watzlawick focuses on a topic I find especially appropriate for churches: RDEs, or Relationship Demolition Experts. RDEs are exceptionally adept at creating tension and conflict without even trying. They establish rules of engagement that make conflict not just possible, but unavoidable. RDEs are essentially self-centered, defining relationships in terms of their own needs and desires, setting double-standards, and pushing personal encounter from the win-lose competitive mindset to a simple no-win situation.
You Need to Understand May 9, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Communication in the Church, Congregational Life, U.S. Culture.
Tags: Christian Community, Communication, Trust
Working for the church, first at the denominational level, then at the conference level, I am surprised at how often people will open their communication with me with the words, “You need to understand…” A more narcissistic and ego-centric phrase may not exist, because the people who open with such a statement are not truly seeking understanding, but acquiescence. Here is how the statement breaks down:
You — I am abdicating all responsibility for compromise or cooperation — the responsibility rests solely with “you”
Need to — must, should, ought to because I say so. My wants, opinions, and desires must be the most important consideration, and the declarative indicates how important my position is
Understand — you surrender any opposition to my position and submit to my way of thinking.
Guilty By Dissociation March 4, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Communication in the Church, Core Values, Integrity.
Tags: Communication, Reconciliation, Unity
A fascinating occurrence. I reported an incident that happened in another conference in an article entitled Guerilla Christianity, and I have had four separate responses from other United Methodist Churches believing that I was talking about them! Obviously, what happened in the incident reported struck a chord with these other situations, but in each case people wanted to explain how their context was unique and justified. I have no stake in arguing about who is right, wrong, justified or not, but isn’t it interesting how readily four churches identified themselves in the report of the fifth? I have tried to explain to each person writing to me that there are two possible responses: 1) relief to know that they are not unique, or 2) sadness to realize that they are not unique. The fact that uncivil and hurtful behavior is so common is a fact that should cause us to pause.