Posted in All Things American

The NFL and Right to Protest

Texans Patriots Football
I love football and I hate what is happening. I’m a New England Patriots fan…have been for years. I hate what these protests have done to the game. Sports used to be a place where political persuasions of all types could set aside differences and root for the same team.

Here are my adulterated thoughts, without all of the media hysteria. First, NFL players, like any American, have the right to peaceably protest, on the field if they choose. Don’t get mad–or agree–just yet. There’s more.

Owners of NFL teams, as private citizens and owners of private businesses, have the right to allow the players to continue the protests, or not continue the protests, so long as they are willing to accept the consequences that result from that decision. I believe the fans will settle the dispute, one way of the other.

NFL fans–and this includes President Donald Trump–also have a right to disagree with the protests. If NFL fans disagree with the protests, for whatever reason, they have the right to express that view–by “protesting the protests”–by demanding that individual team owners not allow them, and hold players accountable for their actions if they continue (fines, suspensions, termination of contracts, etc.), as a condition for their continued support. If the owners refuse, these fans can justifiably withhold their support from those teams–and the NFL–as the free expression of their disapproval.

NFL fans also have the right to agree with those protests. They can demand owners embrace the “cause” and allow the players to express themselves during the National Anthem, in the locker room, or on the field, without the threat of sanctions. These fans have the right to increase their support of NFL teams and the league if the owners do this, and withdraw their support if they don’t.

NFL fans hold the power in this situation. The players know it. The owners know it. The fans know it. They buy the tickets, the merchandise, the concessions, and the cable TV packages. They drive the cost of advertising by turning on the television to watch the game. They boost the revenues of all products marketed and sold to a football audience. Or not. Empty stadiums and blank TV screens don’t pay the bills.

This is the center of the discussion. Whether the protests continue or not will be determined by whether or not the players, owners, and fans are willing to pay the price for which side they take. Are the fans willing to walk away from football? Are the players who want to continue protesting willing to let those fans walk, taking their money with them? Are they willing to accept a shrinking fan base, loss of revenue, and loss of public esteem? Are the owners? After all, no one can be compelled to support the NFL.

There is going to be a price to pay regardless of which side you choose. If you are a person of conviction, you will pay it. Maybe you agree with the protests and maybe you don’t, but none of us has the right to choose for anyone else. We only have the right to express our own convictions. The NFL will makes its choice based on what it thinks is best for the NFL. The NFL owners will make whatever decision they think is best for the team. The players will make whatever choice they believe is best for them. The fans will decide whether or not they want to continue watching.

That’s America. That’s the 1st Amendment. So, pick a side and let the chips fall where they may. For myself? That flag and that anthem mean something to me. They always have and they always will. I stand on the shoulders of those fought, bled, and died for my freedom. Their symbols and sacrifice are not props to be used for anyone’s “cause.” You have a cause? Find your own symbol and make it worthy of your cause. Maybe then I’ll listen. As long as you dishonor America’s dead and ideals while trying to get my attention, I’m simply tuning you out. I think America will, too.

I’ve made my decision. You’re free to make yours.

(C) 2018. All rights reserved.

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Posted in Bible Study, Theology, & Christian Living, Religion & Politics

Protecting Our Liberty & Inalienable Rights: Part II

JamestownCross

The power of our government is in the people.  We would do well to educate our friends, family, and neighbors—instead of politicians who pay lip service to our pleas—so they might become informed voters, not cult of personality voters.  We must also dismiss this ridiculous notion that exercising our morality against the conventional political wisdom will lead to disaster, so we must compromise our principles…that we must sometimes choose the lesser of two evils.

I disagree.  We must exercise our individual, God-given rights and choose the right path and trust in God for the outcome.  Choosing the lesser of two evils is still to choose evil.

John Adams wrote in 1798, “Our government was written for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”  There is no room in America for the lesser of two evils.  There was a time in America when we believed this.

The great statesman, Noah Webster, said:

“…No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”

Webster was not alone in his thinking. In fact, the seeds of his reasoning were planted long ago, inspired by the work of the Protestant reformers, in little colony in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607.  There, after assuming great risk, a group of English settlers came ashore and plowed a wooden cross into the sand and dedicated this land to Almighty God.  It was written in the colony’s 2nd Charter of May 23rd, 1609:

“…the principle effect which we can expect or desire of this action is the conversion and reduction of the people in those parts unto the true worship of God and the Christian religion.”

Similar sentiments were echoed in every founding charter of colonial America.  The settlers came in droves to the place where one could worship God freely.  Their faithfulness and inspiration would influence the men who would later found this great nation.

To know God and Jesus Christ was the theme woven through our nation’s educational system, for the Bible was every school’s textbook.  Those beliefs were passed on to succeeding generations by the 1st and 2nd Great Awakenings and the evangelism of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and Charles Finney.

No nation on Earth has enjoyed the prosperity of the United States of America.  America’s blessings point back to her foundations and the Providential Hand of Almighty God.  Her great spiritual blessings unfolded by remarkable design.  So also her Constitution and the great freedoms it guarantees.

With grateful and humble hearts, Americans once honored God—who had granted this nation blessings and freedom.  But slowly, Americans changed.  They began to attribute their blessings not to God—but to men.  And God-fearing people let them.

I suppose you can blame almost anything.  We can blame the Bible critics, the modernists, the liberals, the Marxists, the Socialists—anyone else we choose—but a large amount of the blame must be placed squarely on our shoulders.  We have not protected our God-given heritage.

God-fearing Americans watched in silence while our leadership abandoned our moral foundations.  Most said nothing while God was pushed out of our society and confined to our churches…and today they are even trying to drive Him out of those.  We sat idly by while they took the Bible out of our schools and told our children they could not pray.  Standing silent we let them say, “We don’t need God anymore…we can do it ourselves.”

For some reason, it became taboo to bring the values we learned in our churches and were passed down from our forefathers into the halls of our government. Our religion and politics were so interwoven at one time that Alexis de Tocqueville said that in America religion “was indispensable to the maintenance of Republican institutions.”

We must recognize that our fight to restore our Republic is a spiritual battle also, to be fought with spiritual weapons of warfare: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God.

(C) 2018. All rights reserved.

Posted in Religion & Politics

Protecting Our Liberty & Inalienable Rights: Part I

AdamsMorality

To take something away from this article, it matters not if you believe in God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, or the Easter Bunny…because the principles I am going to speak about are written in the laws of nature and in the conscience of each individual man.

The Apostle Paul wrote in the Book of Romans that individuals “…shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness…”

These divine laws are fixed in our universe; it matters not if you are a theist, atheist, or humanist.  Whether you believe in God or not, these moral and natural laws are absolute and hard-wired into our DNA…and they leave no room for debate.

Thus, I will not be advocating for one political party over another, one political ideal over another, one government over another.  This article is about the inherent principles that should guide our relationship with government.  As Francis Schaeffer said, “There is no difference between an authoritarian government from the right or left; the results are the same.”

I submit that in our government today there is no right or left, Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal…there is only good versus evil, right versus wrong, and truth versus deception.  And while it is still in our power as Americans to choose good, to choose right, and to choose truth we must do so–over party loyalty–and we must choose these things over pragmatism.

Frederick Moore Vinson, 13th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,  said something that is eerily indicative of our society today.  He said this, “Nothing is more certain in modern society than the principle that there are no absolutes.”  But we cannot have freedom without foundation or we will have freedom which leads to chaos. This is not the freedom I am advocating.

Moral absolutes must serve as the foundation of our government.  I believe there are two sets of values driving the political discourse today:  the ever-shifting values articulated by Justice Vinson; and the Biblical absolutes anchored in the sacred text.

George Washington said in his farewell address 1796,

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them.”

These moral supports are not found in any political party.  They are found within, in our conscience, placed there by a Divine Law Giver…and it is the duty of each one of us to exercise that conscience in the voting booth. The responsibility to cherish the principles of morality and religion, Washington said, does not fall just on the politician.  No, it falls equally on the pious man.

“We, the people” are the pious man.  We are the government. The Constitution reads “WE, THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES…” It is our responsibility as pious people to protect it, to fight for it, and to elect those who will stand with you to do the same, regardless of party affiliation.  Further, and more importantly, we must run out of the halls of our government institutions those who would try to subvert it.

Our government is full of such subversives.  Political activism is not just “speaking truth to power.”  The internet is full of videos where people speak before legislators lecturing them on what our Constitution is supposed to mean, as if such legislators are innocently ignorant of what the Constitution says.

Ignorance is not their problem.  The problem is that they know their actions violate the Constitution and our values.  They already know what we believe and why.  The problem is that they don’t care. This apathy is calculated and deliberate.  They don’t need to be educated. They need to be exposed and replaced by someone who shares our values.  The only way to deal with subversive politicians is to vote them out of office.

Follow The Patriot Chaplain for the second installment of this series.

Posted in Leadership

Want Change? Start with Leadership!

Change

Organizational success depends on a willingness to adjust to varying conditions. Much the same way a professional baseball player must improve in his area of weakness if he wants to remain competitive, organizations must be willing to change if they are to remain successful. However, oftentimes the biggest hurdle to change is the leadership of the organization. Changes can be made, leadership expert John Maxwell has said, when we realize changes are necessary, why it is so difficult to effect them, and how to successfully implement them.

Signs of Troubled Leadership

The first step in changing the organization is to change to the leader. But it is important to know when the leader needs changing. Maxwell identified twelve characteristics of a leader in trouble but, in my experience, I find the following five to be the most crucial: he has a poor understanding of people, feels secure and satisfied, passes the buck, is insecure and defensive, and has no team spirit.

In summary, these traits describe a leader who sees employees as servants to do his bidding and, subsequently, sees himself in charge of these people, perhaps even ruling by intimidation, confident his “charges” will submit for fear of losing their jobs. He is never responsible for mistakes, always blaming someone else for the failures of the organization. Because people are afraid to lose their jobs, he believes, they will accept this blame without complaint. Should an employee ever challenge the way things are, or recommend they be done differently, he will react as if he is being thought incompetent, or that someone is trying to take his job. The primary concern for this type of leader is to protect himself and his authority; there is no concern for his employees.

There is no tougher climate than that listed above in which to enact change within an organization and, I fear, most organizations will fail rather than change for these reasons. Hopefully, the organization has a structure in place to hold poor leaders accountable. But if a willingness to change exists, any organization can be turned around.

Even so, a leader who is willing to change will face significant challenges. He must know what is required to bring about change and how to motivate the members of the organization to accept it. Since people are notoriously resistant to change, for a leader to break through it he must understand why people are this way.

Old Habits Die Hard, Even Bad Leadership

Fundamentally, people are creatures of habit. As employees, people fall into certain routines; they are comfortable with what their jobs are, and they feel they have control, however little, over them. An important element to this routine, I believe, is that people develop the ability, once they have settled into their routines, to do the minimal amount of work in the allotted time, while still justifying their position.

As a result, people will resist change to protect what little control they have over their jobs and to avoid having more responsibilities placed on them. Change will be perceived as a threat to job security, job responsibility, or job satisfaction. There is a real fear that jobs will be eliminated, restructured, or staffed with new personnel. Trying to combat and overcome resistance in an organization with this frame of mind poses several challenges for the leader seeking to make changes.

Leaders can influence followers to accept changes in the organization by understanding some basic principles. First, it is imperative that leaders establish a reputation for being trustworthy. They must dispel the perception that they are self-serving, paranoid, and unaccountable bullies. People must see leaders as willing to solicit input, willing to make decisions with the team in mind, and willing to lead with a steady, but softer, hand. This can be done by leading by example rather than dictating to others what must be done while doing the opposite.

If change is to be made, the leader must demonstrate that he is willing to walk the same road he expects of others. But he must do this knowing that change will be resisted. In knowing this, the leader must plan for incremental success. Setting small goals that have a high probability of success initially can prepare people for larger, potentially more difficult goals with a higher level of cooperation if they have had a taste of success. These seemingly small successes are like making small deposits in a bank. Small and incremental deposits eventually grow and provide the capital necessary for larger withdrawals. If the bank is secure, the people will trust who is running it.

Good Leaders Inspire Good Followers

People also have a need to be part of something they can be proud of. I have found that people are much more open to change if they are asked what change is necessary. The wise leader will take note of this and make it part of his vision. Soliciting the input of underlings, incorporating their ideas, and giving them credit when they are successful makes change that much easier to implement and accept.

Involved employees are more likely to influence other co-workers to accept, and participate in, change as well. Leaders should hold meetings where all can participate and voice their opinions on the perceived positive and negative effects of proposed changes and given a period of time to ponder changes before they are enacted. Once changes are enacted, the people should be expected to help integrate the changes. Having a key part of the process gives people a sense of pride and ownership in positive changes they helped to materialize.

Willingness to change, in a changing world, should be the constant mindset of any organization; change is the opportunity to improve and grow. The responsibility to institute change rests with a vigilant leader who is on constant guard to improve on those things that are no longer effective. Without him, an organization can only strive to achieve mediocrity, a maintaining of the status quo. This is not acceptable in any organization, especially an ethical one. We do not get the opportunity to go back and correct our mistakes; we only get the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and improve moving forward. This should be our goal.

(C) 2018. All rights reserved.

Posted in All Things American

Race: Honest Observations & Questions from a White American to Black America

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I am white…let me put that out there. Let me also put out there that I denounce the evil that was slavery, that I denounce judging people by the color of their skin, and that I denounce any philosophy that seeks to denigrate a segment of society solely on their race. Acts 17:26a says God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth…”  Our blood is the same. We are the same…all of us–black, white, brown, red, yellow–internally bound by the material our Creator used to make us.

I am grieved by the state of race relations in this nation. I wish I could wave a magic wand and fix it. I am hoping this article is cathartic for me…and I hope it makes sense to others. I am sure my sentiments are shared by many. I am sure many others may disagree. That’s fine…at least it’s a dialogue.

Growing up in Maine, I wasn’t exposed to many black people, or people of any other color. Maine is (was) not known for its diversity of races. It still isn’t. I think there were maybe five black people in my high school of nearly 2000.  My one year at the University of Maine-Farmington (UMF) wasn’t any more diverse than my high school.

At UMF I had some “black” friends. I don’t recall at the time that their skin color was something I took notice of, and it certainly didn’t leave a negative impression. I guess I just thought of them as people and treated them as such, as my father had raised me. They weren’t “token” black friends and they didn’t treat me any different because I was white. I say all of this to lay a foundation: I wasn’t the son of a racist, raised to be a racist, or grew up in an area known for racial strife. That racism existed was something I viewed with some perplexity.

My first opportunity to “relate” to people of other races came when I was 20, in Coast Guard basic training in Cape May, New Jersey.  Military service was my first real opportunity to form any kind of bond with Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, or any number of other ethnic or racial groups. Heck, being from a French-Canadian Roman Catholic community, I think it was the first time I was exposed to someone who wasn’t a Catholic! Up to then, I had no experience relating to minorities. I had no basis to form an impression–positive or negative–let alone become a “racist.”

What I knew of “race relations” came from stories I had heard growing up, nearly all from my father. Dad was a Marine (1962-1966), and by that I mean “M.A.R.I.N.E.” I grew up hearing all kinds of stories about the Corps and Dad’s fellow Marines: stories from Parris Island, Camp LeJeune, Guantanamo Bay, The Cuban Missile Crisis, infantry field exercises, the rifle range, forced marches, and of friends he lost in Vietnam. I still remember Dad in front of the T.V. in the early 70’s, supper on his T.V. tray, watching the news about ‘Nam, because he still had friends there. Marines were color-blind, Dad always said, and I remember my military experience being the same.

One particular story Dad told me has stuck with me to this day. It was of a fellow Marine, a black man, who he served with, but I forget now where. As Dad tells the story, this black Marine had just heard that the Civil Rights of Act of 1964 had passed.  Dad was not an emotional or sentimental man, which is probably why this story has stuck with me, but he was emotional when he told it.

In his telling of the story, Dad respected this fellow Marine, from Alabama if I remember right, because of his strength, commitment to duty, and commitment to his fellow Marines…the kind of guy you wanted in the foxhole with you. His color was of no consequence.  He was, as Dad described him with no tone of disrespect, “Deep South Black” (whatever that meant), with a smile that lit up the room and a deep, hearty, and infectious laugh. I picture Michael Clarke Duncan whenever I think of this story.

As Dad related the story, when this man, whose name I was never told, heard that the Act had passed, he fell to his knees and cried. This was not just any crying, I remember Dad explaining. His shoulders heaved, his cheeks soaked with tears, and he sobbed uncontrollably for a time. Dad’s eyes filled with tears as he told it.

What could have caused this man, a man worthy of my father’s respect (which was difficult to earn from my father), the epitome of strength and courage, to break down like this? Though I never saw in person what my father was talking about, the image of this strong, muscular, “Deep South” black man,  crying like that left a lasting impression on me and I never forgot it. I didn’t understand at the time–but I understand now–that for this man the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had declared what should have been self-evident to all: his rightful place in society–allowing him to assume his God-given station–as a man, not as a “race.” Having been denied that, the emotional weight of the relief he felt had broken him.

Flash forward to 2018.  This past August I went to Gettysburg to tour the battlefields. The incident in Charlottesville had just happened and Confederate monuments were all people were talking about. As I toured the battlefields with my wife, battlefields that were soaked with the blood of Americans of all races and creeds, Blue and Gray, I noticed one thing that disturbed me. In three days touring those fields and visiting those monuments–Union and Confederate–I didn’t encounter ONE black person. That’s not to suggest they don’t visit, I just didn’t see any when I was there.

As I mused on this, it struck me like a punch in the stomach. It doesn’t really matter what you think of race relations in America today, or what you think of the slaves in bondage of yesterday. At one point in history, thousands of mostly white men stepped forward, left their homes and families, and picked up a rifle to end the scourge of slavery and free the “Negro.” Many men died, leaving their wives widows and their children orphans.  Are they not worthy of some honor? A thank you, perhaps, from the descendants of the slaves they died to free? As a white man I ask, regardless of whatever work remains to strengthen the relationship between black and white, why is there no “Thank you” for those men?

Slavery was real. Racial oppression is real. Racism is real. I don’t know a white person who disputes that.  But I look at the America my parents grew up in: segregated lunch counters, separate water fountains and bathrooms, separate schools, segregated sports leagues, and segregated military services–to name just some–and I look at how much has changed, I would argue for the better. Those things are gone, things my white parents–and other whites from their generation and generations before–labored alongside blacks to change. I also ask, “Where is their ‘Thank you?'”

I am not convinced the racial divide is a great as some would insist. I believe there is gratitude. I believe there is understanding and acceptance. But I also believe that there are sinister forces who would rather see us divided than united. Personally I believe, as Robert Kennedy said the night Martin Luther King was killed:

“We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We’ve had difficult times in the past, but we –and we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it’s not the end of disorder. But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.”

I want to go back to my opening paragraph. I had a recent conversation about race relations. I expressed to this individual the sentiments I expressed in the beginning of this article. I was told I could believe all of those things, treat all men with the same respect without regard to their color, and advocate for those principles because “it was the right thing to do,” and still be racist. The insinuation was that I can be a racist and not know it.

My question is a serious one: if what I think in my heart, know in my head, and act in my life is not racist, how is it that I–or anyone else–can still be accused of being racist? I find that a very difficult place to start a dialogue.

We need to do better than that as a starting point. It is true we cannot change the past. But we should learn their lessons for a better future.