Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

Black Friday

The evolution of Thanksgiving Day and the day after:

The Pilgrims, befriended by native peoples feast together and give thanks.

Thanksgiving becomes a national holiday, a "high feast day" of our common American civil religion.

People of many religious traditions give thanks to God in diverse ways in a pluralistic culture.

Thanksgiving evolves into T-Day, Turkey-Day for feasting with family.

The feasting moves toward football and nap, except for those who do the dishes.

Thanksgiving Day merely the prelude to a higher holy day of Black Friday, initiating the season when retailers depend upon shoppers to move them into the black on the balance sheet.

Black Friday begins earlier and earlier, some stores open at 4:00 a.m.

The mission is to shop, buy, and participate in conspicuous consumption.

Although Black Friday is for the purpose of people buying gifts for others for the religious holidays to come, over 50%, perhaps as high as 73% of sales are for "self-gifting."

Two days are devoted to over-indulgance.

The economic crisis of 2008 causes people to re-assess the common American creed of "In debt we trust."

Stores needing to have a good Black Friday in 2009, provide a "convenience" for shoppers, many opening Thanksgiving Day afternoon.

Stores put out a list of safety guidelines to keep people from being hurt, or killed in the dangers of the day, including how to move toward a safe aisle, and to remain standing upright if a stampede begins,

Where do we go next?

For what and to whom do we give thanks?

A New York based StoryCorps, associated with National Public Radio suggests an alternative: a National Day of Listening, a time to listen to the stories of relatives and friends and to record them to share. To whom did you listen on November 27?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What Type of Conflict Is It?

In the current conflict in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) concerning the ordination and call to pastoral ministry of gay and lesbian persons living in committed relationships---or in any conflict--discerning the nature of the conflict within a certain faith community is very important. Using the types of conflict described in my book "Church Conflict: From Contention to Collaboration" (Abingdon, 2004), here are some examples of what I mean:

Conflict may be Intrapersonal or Interpersonal. It may be over Issues/Beliefs or Facts/Truth or Values/Worth or Goals/Mission or Means/Ministry.

Intrapersonal: Each of us is a sexual being. Our own inner struggles, particularly in regard to the heterosexual/homosexual spectrum may well spill over in how we enter the conversation about the ELCA's churchwide decision in August.

Interpersonal: All conflict is interpersonal to some extent. How people on a church council interact with one another or with the pastor shapes the conflict. In fact,interpersonal conflict over past issues may well color the current conflict

Issues/Beliefs: Within a faith community, and certainly within the church body, the varieties of beliefs about biblical interpretation contribute signifanctly to the conflict. How do we interpret certain scriptural passages? How does Scripture interpret Scripture?

Facts/Truth What is "true" about the nature of homosexuality? Is it a "lifestyle" A trait with which we are born? What does science say? Sociology? Psychology? What facts and whose "truth" do we hold?

Values/Worth: How does one person or another value membership in a congregation, support of the synod and the churchwide body? Are certain people of greater worth than others? What is it worth to hold this congregation together? And what role does our money play? Why do we count on it to speak for us?

Goals/Mission: Within a given congregation, even with one mission statement, there are many missions. Is this conflict about goals? What are they? To include all? to preserve what has been? Even though not spoken, the implicit goals shape the nature of the approach to this conflict. Among the members and leaders may be a goal already reached before hand about leaving.

Means/Ministry: Even if a faith community holds a common mission, how they reach that goal has many paths. Do we include everyone in membership but limit leadership to heterosexual people? Do we "hold our congregation together" Some will try "money" means to attain their goals. What is the means for exercising "bound conscience"?

One could list many more variables. The point is that if one person is entering the conflict with intrapersonal conflict about his or her own sexuality, one will not get far by arguing bible history. Or, one group of people may be arguing facts while others are dealing with beliefs. Explaining the facts of the process by which decisions were made may not reach a person who is clinging to certain values about the congregation. And so on...

What is one to do? Certainly conflicts such as this cannot be neatly sorted out so that everyone is coming from the same place at the same time. But we can seek to listen and figuare out the types of conflict present. And, together, we can collaborate on how to proceed in a way which honors people thinking about the nature of the conflict quite differently. We can strive to create a safe environment in which respect is fostered and we address the conflict from these many different perspectives. And we can trust God's presence, work hard, and continue to lead and listen and listen and lead.