My Fellow Exhausted Americans

lightstock_214619_small_john

Today I realized how tired I am. I think we all are.

We’ve all spent the lion’s share of this year up to our necks in a swirling storm of arguments and opinions and data and memes and polls and trolls, and we’ve all arrived at this day rightly exhausted. As we stumble to this spot; soundly battered and bruised, many of us are surveying the wreckage of the journey and probably wondering if it’s all worth it.

It is.

These past few months have been costly for most of us. We’ve alienated ourselves from neighbors, reopened scarred over emotional wounds, widened family fault lines, created new tensions where we work, severed ties with friends on social media, and for many of us we’ve seen relationships that really matter to us altered irrevocably—and that’s a fair trade for our fortune.

Friends, this is the cost of speaking your truth. The pushback you receive for being authentic is the tax on the authenticity itself. It is the price of walking fully into the liberty that is America’s calling card. There is no shortcut to it, no life hack to having it. There is no easy way of enjoying the fruits of freedom other than to fight for them.

And yes, that freedom is tangibly fought for by brave men and women across seas and on battle lines and with deadly weapons, but make no mistake it is also fought for in the bloody trenches of the difficult daily lives we live; shoulder to shoulder with our fellow flawed humanity. It is fought for across kitchen tables and in cul de sacs and along church pews and on social media profiles and in awkward gatherings with extended family members you wish you didn’t know so much about and now do.

This battle is waged in difficult conversations you’d rather not have but have anyway, in times you choose to speak when silence would be far easier and fraught with far less collateral damage. It is waged in those moments when you know raising your voice will quite possibly cause every bit of shit to hit the fan—and you hear yourself speaking anyway. 

This fight is the sweet spot of America. This is where the greatness lives.

Our nation’s beauty is in the richness of the palette used to paint us; the breadth of our shared experiences and perspectives and histories. The more diverse we become, the better we become. The more voices we allow, the richer the chorus we raise together. The bigger the table we set, the more we fully share the bounty we have been blessed with.

So this fatigue of the soul that most of us are feeling today is well worth all that we’ve walked through to acquire it. It honors those who came before us; those who endured their own wounds and fault lines and fractures, those who lost lives and family and livelihood, those who paid the price to speak their truth even when that truth was the more painful path.

Regardless of your personal politics, or whether or not we agree on the issues or the solutions to all that ails us, we can all find solidarity in our shared exhaustion today, because we have acquired it together; in the messy, disorienting, violent, glorious tempest that is America’s greatness. Yes we are tired, but it is a good tired; the kind of tired you are when you gave a damn about something so worth giving a damn about.

My fellow exhausted Americans, be encouraged today.

We didn’t fight to make our country great.

We fought because it already is great.

Rest well.

 

 

 

 

 

The Kind of Christian I Refuse to Be

lightstock_254570_small_john

I am a Christian.

Actually, it’s more accurate lately to say that I am still a Christian.

I now say this with much trepidation. I say it with great fatigue. I say it somewhat begrudgingly. I say it with more than a good deal of embarrassment—not of Jesus, but of so many of his people and so much of the Church who claim to speak for him.

Looking around at too much of what represents my faith tradition, it’s become a daily battle to make this once effortless declaration, knowing that it now automatically aligns me with those who share so little in common with the Jesus I met when I first claimed the name Christian.

It now aligns me with bathroom bullies, politicized pulpits, white privilege, and overt racism; with bigotry toward so many groups of people who represent the “world” I grew up believing that God so loved.

There are things that used to be a given as a follower of Jesus, that no longer are.

For far too many people, being a Christian no longer means you need to be humble or forgiving. It no longer means you need a heart to serve or bring healing. It no longer requires compassion or mercy or benevolence. It no longer requires you to turn the other cheek or to love your enemies or to take the lowest place or to love your neighbor as yourself.

It no longer requires Jesus.

And so the choices are to abandon the idea of claiming Christ altogether to avoid being deemed hateful by association in the eyes of so much of the watching world—or to reclaim the name Christian so that it once again replicates the love of Jesus in the world.

I am trying to do the latter.

Yes, I am a Christian, but there is a Christian I refuse to be.

I refuse to be a Christian who lives in fear of people who look or speak or worship differently than I do.

I refuse to be a Christian who believes that God blesses America more than God so loves the world.

I refuse to be a Christian who uses the Bible to perpetuate individual or systemic bigotry, racism, or sexism.

I refuse to be a Christian who treasures allegiance to a flag or a country or a political party, above emulating Jesus.

I refuse to be a Christian who is reluctant to call-out the words of hateful preachers, venomous politicians, and mean-spirited pew sitters, in the name of keeping Christian unity.

I refuse to be a Christian who tolerates a global Church where all people are not openly welcomed, fully celebrated, and equally cared for.

I refuse to be a Christian who speaks always with holy war rhetoric about an encroaching enemy horde that must be rallied against and defeated.

I refuse to be a Christian who is generous with damnation and stingy with Grace.

I refuse to be a Christian who can’t see the image of God in people of every color, every religious tradition, every sexual orientation.

I refuse to be a Christian who demands that others believe what I believe or live as I live or profess what I profess.

I refuse to be a Christian who sees the world in a hopeless spiral downward and can only condemn it or withdraw from it.

I refuse to be a Christian devoid of the character of Jesus; his humility, his compassion, his smallness, his gentleness with people’s wounds, his attention to the poor and the forgotten and the marginalized, his intolerance for religious hypocrisy, his clear expression of the love of God.

I refuse to be a Christian unless it means I live as a person of hospitality, of healing, of redemption, of justice, of expectation-defying Grace, of counterintuitive love. These are non-negotiables.

Yes, it is much more difficult to say it these days than it has ever been, but I still do say it.

I am still a Christian—but I refuse to be one without Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Sons Deserve Better Than Donald Trump’s Example of “Manhood”

noahmetower

My son is 11 years old; bright and beautiful and fitted with a heart far larger than it has a right to be. He’s that kind of brilliantly alive that only an 11-year old boy can be.

And this year, we let him down.

Donald Trump did.
The GOP did.

The Evangelical Right did.
Much of America did.

I did.

This year, while so many people openly (and rightly) lamented the devastating effect Donald Trump’s disgusting treatment of women (and the inexplicable defending of said treatment) will have upon young girls looking on, we all forgot something: our sons were watching and listening too.

I’m not sure we’ve stopped to think about what kind of young men we’re creating right now.

I don’t know if we’ve considered the collateral damage this is doing within the boys in our collective care. 

I don’t think we can fathom what our sons in a Donald Trump America are likely to grow into:

Men with a dangerous sense of entitlement when it comes to the bodies of women.
Men for whom violent, hateful, objectifying words about women are viewed as normal.
Men who believe that money and power and their penises give them license to do whatever they want with a woman regardless of what she wants.
Men for whom the very idea of consent is unimportant.
Men who believe they will get rewarded for their misogyny and sexism and filth, because they’ve watched it happen.

This week my son asked me what Donald Trump said about women, and I did the best I could to relay it all without using the actual words, because to use the actual words Trump used, would have meant subjecting my son to the kind of explicit, angry vulgarity that isn’t normal and shouldn’t be normal for 11-year old boys—or boys of integrity of any age.

The words about women from a man who is now President, unfit to be repeated by a father to his son. Let that sink in for a minute. 

Trying to find any scenario in which any man talking about grabbing a woman by the genitalia and forcing himself on her physically is at all normal or acceptable, underscores the tragic absurdity of it all. It also illustrates the depths to which we’ve fallen and the sickness which is so pervasive; that our politics now so easily trumps our humanity.

The fact that a man with such a well-documented pattern of misogyny was the GOP representative for the highest office in the country (let alone garnering the support of millions of people who claim faith in Jesus) should be an embarrassment to any self-respecting parent and Christian. We should be sick to our stomachs right now, realizing how poisonous this all is to the hearts and minds of our boys. We should be openly condemning it all, if we had any regard for them and any interest in who they are becoming.

That so many fathers (and mothers) are not doing so, means that maybe Donald Trump is exactly the person to best represent us in the world. Maybe that is how low the bar we’ve set for our young men really is. Maybe the support for Trump is a true measure of the hatred so many men have toward women and the self-loathing too many of those women are afflicted with.

I have better dreams for my son than this.

I want him to know that girls and women are worthy of respect and decency and gentleness.
I want him to know that dehumanizing a woman is never normal; not in a locker room or a frat party or a board room or a bedroom.
I want him to know that another woman’s body is not his jurisdiction.
I want him to know that a woman’s outward no is louder than his internal yes.

I want him to know that there is a huge difference between being a man—and being a gentleman.

I believe my son deserves better than this week. All our sons do.

They deserve far better than a Donald Trump presidency. They deserve a higher definition of what it means to be a man, than an insulting, groping, bragging predator who treats women with complete disregard. 

They deserve a Christianity that isn’t as pliable as the Conservative Right and so many professed believers have made it in order to accommodate their candidate.

They also deserve better than to see adults making excuses for the words Trump has said and the things he’s done. They deserve parents, mentors, and role models who won’t sell their souls to align with a party or retain power.

One day my son will be a man, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to ever worry that he’s not a man who recognizes women as valuable and equal and worthy of respect, and I’m going to shout down all the voices that would speak something different into his ears, even if those voices are of family members, friends, pastors, and Presidential candidates.

Rationalizing sexual assault and violence toward women as just “boys will be boys”, is the best way to ensure that our boys grow-up to become abusive men who have contempt for women and believe that to be what all men do. I refuse to participate in that.

At this point, opposing this kind of language and behavior shouldn’t be seen as a political move—but a human decency move. There shouldn’t be an alternative side to choose here; not if we love our sons and daughters.

Right now my son and millions of other bright and beautiful boys with big hearts and bigger questions are watching and listening to Donald Trump, and to us.

He is failing them.

We can’t afford to.

 

Get John’s Email Newsletter

Receive regular updates with speaking dates, media links, book launches, shareable graphics, and regular content regarding stuff that needs to be said.

 

 

 

 

Respect for a Persevering Marriage

In a photo via the Hillary Clinton campaign, Hillary and Bill Clinton at Yale in the early 1970s. Hillary Clinton’s work, as a young law student in 1972, to determine whether a school in Alabama discriminated against blacks was a moment of awakening for her. (Via Hillary Clinton campaign via The New York Times) -- NO SALES; FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY WITH CLINTON SEGREGATION 1972 BY AMY CHOZICK FOR DEC. 28, 2015. ALL OTHER USE PROHIBITED. --

A friend sent me this picture and it reminded me of something: 41 years is a long time to be married.

Anyone’s who’s been married will testify to this. (On some days, a day is a long time to be married.)

Being married to someone for 41 years means making tremendous sacrifices, sometimes giving more than you think you’re getting, forgiving things you didn’t think you could forgive, living through the worse parts of “for better or worse”. It means not bailing, running, or looking to trade-up when things get messy or boring or painful. 

It means occasionally surviving Hell together—even if you helped create that Hell together.

Marriage sometimes means staying when going seems like the rational, healthy, or even wise decision. Sometimes people leave before they should or stay when they should walk away, but even for those two people, knowing the when is almost impossible.

I haven’t been married 41 years, but long ago I learned that anyone else’s marriage isn’t my jurisdiction. It is not within my capacity to properly critique. It is not something I’m qualified to speak to with any accuracy or clarity. We all think we can see another’s marriage clearly from the outside, but we simply can’t. Only two people are within it, and they are the only ones who really understand it. In love, this proximity is everything. 

My wife and I have a million moments and tears and scars that no one else on the planet has access to, and it is our specific sharing of those things that makes our marriage sacred. As much as we are spouses and best friends, we are fellow soldiers who have fought together in the trenches of loving and changing and failing and forgiving and repeating. No one has been with us, in the way that we have been with one another—and this is where the sanctity of our marriage is.

Being married is really, really difficult stuff; like Master’s Degree living stuff. Staying married to one person for life isn’t easy, or every couple who began would still be married. (That “till death do us part” thing is not for the faint of heart.) Couples who manage to persevere aren’t better, but they are different. They have battled to survive—and they have somehow survived; wounded, weary, and wrinkled, but they have. There is no single secret to this. There is only the stumbling, awkward, glorious working out of a partnership that has never existed before, by two people trying to hold on to it and to one another in real-time.

So I’ve learned to respect any marriage that endures, because I know it came at a great price, and because I realize that only those two people and no one else, understand what they have together, how hard they’ve had to work, what they’ve shared, and what they mean to one another.

You and I don’t know the people in this photograph, not as much as we might believe we do. Like all marriages theirs is the unique, once-in-history property of the two people who began it, who shared it, who built it, who sustained it.

41 years is a long time to be married.

May we who choose marriage, all find a way to love with perseverance.