Legislation and Legalism: The Parable of Arizona Bill 1062

A bill recently came to desk of the Arizona governor to allow business owners to not have to serve certain clientele (namely homosexuals). The bill was vetoed but not without much debate, anger, and hurt. I understand that business people don't want to be forced to do something that goes against their beliefs. And religious beliefs were largely at the core of the bill.

The problem with the bill was that it didn't go far enough. I'll admit that I don't know the specifics of the defeated bill; from what I understand it was largely intended to give retailers and service industry workers the freedom to tell someone that they didn't have to provide them business if doing so would condone something they didn't believe was morally acceptable (largely around the issue of gay marriage and wedding services).

It didn't go far enough because if people are going to be denied service due to one particular sin, they need to do so to people who partake in all sins that go against their moral/religious beliefs. 

Christian business owners who provide wedding services need to not only make sure the couple is heterosexual, but that they haven't fornicated or engaged in any other acts of sexual immorality. They need to make sure neither party has ever gotten drunk, lied, coveted, or taken the Lord's name in vain.

The Bible also tells us to obey governing authorities, so they should also make sure they've also paid their taxes and never broken any laws (including speeding). They need to make sure they've tithed to their churches (no less than ten percent of their gross income). Prospective customers also should not have worshiped anything other than God. All of their actions toward their neighbors should only have been out of love. 

If we're going to protect ourselves from from condoning sinners, we need to protect ourselves from all sinners.

Including ourselves.

Yes, ourselves. Didn't Jesus tell His followers that we need to remove the plank from our own eye before criticizing the speck in someone else's? I'm fairly certain He did. Because we're all sinners. Even Christians. Especially Christians. That's the whole reason we need Jesus. I know I'm a big sinner, and that I need Jesus.

Part of the problem is that we've been told that we need to be tolerant. Frankly, the tolerance push is ridiculous. In the classroom in which I work, I won't tolerate bullying. I won't tolerate disrespect. I won't tolerate meanness. I won't tolerate lying. I won't tolerate racism. 

The same goes with my children--only that they have an even longer list of things I won't tolerate from them. I have plenty of behaviors that my wife won't tolerate (and she shouldn't!). I have plenty of behaviors I do that I don't want to tolerate. I want to keep becoming a better person and get past the things I do that I don't want to tolerate.

Frankly, tolerance is mostly ignorance.

Tolerance turns a blind eye. Respect and love acknowledge that there are sins, flaws, and growth points but that each person is created with a special eternal spark. We all mess up and tarnish that spark. Me. You. All of us.

But each of us also has great redemptive value. Me. You. All of us. But we're not going to uncover that redemptive value if we keep treading all over everyone whose values don't line up with ours. Do we need to embrace those values? Definitely no. Do we need to embrace those people? Resoundingly yes.

That doesn't start with legislation (I'm pretty sure Jesus' message was anti-legalism). That starts with the heart.


Olympic Woes

I don't usually do a post like this, but I need to have a word with NBC and their Olympic coverage. So if you're from NBC please read this; if you know someone at NBC, please pass it on to them.

I love the Olympics. Our whole family does. The children got to stay up late to watch the opening ceremonies. Most nights of the last two weeks we've watched at least a little of it.

Admittedly, the Olympic coverage hasn't garnered our full attention. There have been plenty of exciting moments and interesting behind-the-scenes stories. We did see some exhilarating new sports with the slopestyle events in skiing and snowboarding. But frankly we got a little tired of seeing mainly skating and skiing night after night.

And I know that the Winter Olympics don't have the wide variety of sports that the Summer Olympics have, but the prime time network coverage has dropped the ball on showing us the full experience. I haven't seen any curling. And maybe it's not as action packed as snowbaord competitions, but is 15 minutes to much to ask from a network that will willingly show golf and bowling tournaments?

We didn't see any hockey at all. There was an amazing Russia vs. USA game that was referred to as "Miracle on Ice II." We only heard briefly about it. Again, I understand if we don't get to see a full three periods of the game, but give us something, please.

Even if it's a sport that the USA isn't excelling in, please give the country a chance to experience that sport--even briefly. Exposure is a good thing. Despite the lack of network exposure, curling is becoming more popular here in the Twin Cities (I've played before--it's tougher than it looks, and it's a good time with friends and strangers). With a little more exposure those kind of sports gain interest. And that's part of what the Olympics are about: exposing the world to new things, whether it be a sporting event, cultural awareness, stories of human triumphs, or just new places and people.

So I hope someone from NBC Sports reads this. I enjoy watching skating and skiing, but not every minute of the coverage. Show us some hockey. Show us some curling. Don't keep sports like the biathalon out of prime time. Expose us to athletes from some of those nations we hardly hear about. Keep teaching us, keep inspiring us, keep entertaining us.


Kids' Concerns

We let our kids eat ice cream for breakfast today. A friend of ours started the event, "Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day" to honor the children who have fought or are fighting cancer. Surprisingly, our youngest son was the only one in our family who didn't participate. I had leftover baked oatmeal from the previous day's breakfast which was nicely topped with the ice cream and some berries. 
We've had some friends who have gone through cancer battles with their children. It's always hard when adults have to battle cancer. Children shouldn't have to do it at all. But they do. 

So the simple child-like act of eating ice cream for breakfast reminds us of the sweetness of life.

At the end of this week our family will be walking at the Mall of America (one of the few times we go there) to join good friends at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's walk to stamp out diabetes. I believe this is our fourth time walking. Anders' best friend from Kindergarten was diagnosed with diabetes right after his birthday at the end of that school year. We saw our friends struggle with helping their young child prick his finger to test his blood several times daily as well as having to give himself shots. Technological and medical advances have improved it for him, but it's still not easy for an elementary-school student to cope with each day.

There are plenty of diseases out there that effect too many of our friends, family, and loved ones. We aren't able to join in every cause to support them or stamp out those diseases, but we try to when we can. Especially when children are involved. So until cures are found, we'll keep on walking and eating our ice cream.


Art and Self-Care

My wife was gracious and gave me time to get out by myself today (she had some time yesterday--hockey was her preferred event). It had been a stressful week for both of us, and we're learning to take the time to take care of ourselves. I got some time alone at the YMCA (usually I have the children with me). Then I headed to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to explore and take some pictures.

Next time I need to remember to also take my sketchbook and pencils. I need to just sit and take it easy, relaxing and reflecting. I tend to try and take in as much as I can otherwise. Still, it was enjoyable to look and take some pictures. 

As I was looking at a special Henri Matisse exhibit, I heard an elementary-aged girl tell her parents, "I could draw that." I heard her say that about a few other pieces of art. And she may have been right. We've all thought that at times--especially with some of the modern art pieces. 

And it may be true. We may be able to come up with a very similar drawing. But usually we haven't. Some of it is our lack of connections in the art world. But likely it's just because we haven't taken the time to draw or paint something. Or possibly we could do something similar, but we probably haven't had the amount of practice or training it takes to come up with the right lines and curves or hues.

The same goes with self-care. I know that I need it. I know it's good for me. But I'm not always good about taking the time. I don't always do it very well because I haven't practiced or planned enough to do the things that are restful, re-energizing, or renewing for me.

I took a nice solo camping overnight last fall, but I haven't gotten much else done for a while other than an occasional trip to the Y or a little time in the basement painting. It's important I do take time for myself. It's important my wife does as well. It's important that we have time together as a family (we went to see The Lego Movie yesterday). It's important my wife and I have time together (which is often the hardest to fit in). 

There is beauty in art. There is necessity in self-care. Maybe there's a bit of beauty and necessity in both.


A Family Camp Plug

I am the camp representative for our church. What this means is that I promote our church's camp, Covenant Pines Bible Camp, and handle any questions that people might have. The job kind of fell into my lap as I worked full-time in camping ministry for almost a half-decade and spent summers working there in high school and college.

Tonight was Covenant Pines night at church. One of the staff members came and shared with the adults and the kids. Seeing the video from summer camp makes me long for the warmer months ahead--getting outside, camping, swimming, hiking.

We signed up this week for Work and Worship at camp. Nearly all of our church goes as a sort of an "all church retreat" even though it's open to people from any Covenant Church in the Twin Cities. It's a "family camp," but we're all family--it's open to everyone. We go for a day and a half of working, getting the camp ready for the summer ministry season and have a day of rest, worship, and play. Because of the work we do the cost is really affordable.

That weekend at camp is what got us into our church family. They pulled us in by the spirit of community they displayed while working, worshiping, and playing together. Our children felt it, which was important.

That weekend is often important for our family. We get time away to work and play together. The boys can work alongside other families and individuals and be encouraged to work hard and well. We get in the outdoors (which we're pretty good at, but it gives us a chance to canoe and use resources we don't always have available to us). We experience community with our church family as well as new friends from other churches.

If you get a chance--if your church's camp (if you have one) offers a similar weekend--give it a try. Not only does it provide your family with an opportunity to serve, but it gives you time together as a family and to meet other families.


Winter Olympics

Our family has been watching TV like crazy the last few days (though I think we're probably still below the national average of hours of television viewing). We've had trouble because we don't usually watch it and something is apparently on an energy-saving timer so it turns off after a while. The Winter Olympics are to blame. It's honestly been the first time we've watched television in a long time. 
I've said it before, but I don't watch a lot of sports on television. I generally just don't take the time to do so. But the Olympics is my exception.  Our children are both old enough to enjoy it this year. We didn't get out our world map like we have in the past, but they've both done work on the flags of the nations in school so they have an idea of where the countries are. 
The games started on Thursday this year. We had a family from school over for supper and to watch the games (their washing machine was broken so I had offered the use of ours--I had made some lasagna to cook the night before and I knew the games were starting, so it all fell into place nicely). 
We let the boys stay up late on Friday night to see the torch being lit. They enjoyed the parade of nations and seeing all the countries and their outfits.

The winter sports are something we enjoy in Minnesota. We have to. We have almost half the year with below freezing temperatures (okay, maybe not that long, but close!). You have to enjoy outdoor winter sports to survive winter here. At least our family does--it's too depressing to stay indoors all winter.
So we sled (though we've only gone once this winter). The boys have been enjoying ice skating and hitting around a hockey puck, especially Nils. We've done a little cross country skiing (thanks to a very affordable family pass at a nature center in the Twin Cities). We even (kind of) tried curling at the Art Shanty Projects last weekend.

No matter what debates there are around the Olympics and it's politics, I appreciate that the nations of the world come together to compete and have fun. The conflicts of the world seem to fade away for a few days. We learn about places in the world most of us know little about. We hear the stories of overcoming challenges and triumphs. We can cheer on the athletes no matter where they're from or what politics, religion, or ideology they stand for; we cheer them on because they're good and this is their chance to do their nation proud. 

Ice, snow, and bitter cold is no reason for lack of exercise (but poor clothing is). I recognize the irony that we're spending more time in front of the television because of the Olympics, but they're also encouraging my sons to spend more time skating and skiing and playing outside. That's a good thing in my book.