Jon’s Soapbox Chronicles – On #TakeAKnee, Protesting, and Empathy

First and foremost, I love America and I am blessed to live in this nation.  I like American History, the American flag, the American songs.  The 4th of July is my 2nd favorite holiday, only to be beaten by Christmas.  Is America perfect?  Nope.

I hope you’ll understand where I’m coming from, beloved reader.  Unity and healing are my passions.  We can’t keep needlessly battling each other while we die from our own festering wounds.

I’m going to address 2 elephants in the room; the topics we are aware of but don’t want to talk about.  They are racial injustice and nationalism.

Racial injustice combines two words: racism and injustice.  Racism is the belief rooted in hatred that says one is superior or inferior to another because of skin color.  Injustice is dishonesty, unfairness, and partiality.  Therefore, Racial Injustice consists of acts of dishonesty or unfairness done to someone or a group of people based on their skin color, those acts ranging anywhere from lying to murder.

I also need to address nationalism.  There’s a difference between patriotism and nationalism.  Patriotism is a love for one’s country.  You can be proud to be an American; there’s nothing wrong with that.  Nationalism, on the other hand, is patriotism’s evil brother.  Nationalism is patriotism unhinged and extremified.  Nationalism says one nation is supreme over others; everyone else must kneel and pay homage or face the consequences.

So you have racial supremacy and national supremacy. Yikes.

Sunday, September 24 was another chill day, until the NFL. While I do enjoy football from time to time (Go Dolphins!), I seem to keep coming across the same narrative: players kneel, sit, stand arm-in-arm, or not even come out of the locker room during the national anthem as a sign of protest.

(By the way, NFL didn’t require players to be present on the field when the national anthem played until 2009.  That’s not the point, however.)

Disgust and disappointment become anger and rage as social media becomes another verbal wildfire, with gasoline being poured on every side.  You’d think we would have a break from this kind of stuff, right?  But we come back to the divisive issue of race relations, and we all know that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

(Also, just know that a group or an individual out there is trying to profit from the racial divide for their own reasons.  Be aware of that.)

I read another blog about the same issue and the author said he felt like he was in the middle of a dodgeball game with his friends and family on both sides of the court, pelting each other all while trying to convince him to join their side.  I feel the same way.  I have people I love on both sides arguing passionately, slamming each other on the way and if I joined, I may be a great help, but I’d also feel incredibly guilty.

The anger seems justified on a surface level.  “How dare you disrespect the red, white, and blue?” they scream and type. “People died for this nation and you’re spitting on that!”  “You’re not grateful to live in this great country!” “You shouldn’t protest this way!” “The NFL should fire you!” “Why are you so whiny?” “If you don’t like living here, move!”

I mean, it is in the First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.

Freedom of speech and peaceable assembly is protected, so why the backlash? I submit to you that it’s because of nationalism.  When someone reveals an issue with America, the person is seen as a threat to our “perfect” nation and must be shouted down or dealt with; when and only when the First Amendment applies to our own standards.  I remember reading somewhere that when we see an argument against our core beliefs, it can register as physical pain and we will defend ourselves or we will try to explain it away.

Kaepernick and Co. nonviolently protesting during the national anthem was neither out of disrespect for America or her flag, nor was it out of contempt for veterans and those serving our country.  They’re doing it because they have seen America and Injustice sleeping in the same bed.  I submit to you that they also love America but they see her in need of healing.  Pointing out flaws in love and doing something about it leads to healing, which is a painful process.  But, we are experts at hiding our pain while inflicting it on others.

Kaep

What is the big why of protesting?  Why are people like Kaepernick and Co. not willing to stand and salute for the anthem?  Why is #TakeAKnee trending?  What is the purpose of their actions?

(Christians, I know you mean well when you say that everyone should take both knees in prayer.  There is a time and a place for everything. While it sounds great, you’re not helping.)

Protesting says there is something wrong and it needs to be fixed.  Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi both believed in nonviolent and peaceful protesting.  Good protesting is a cry of a people that wakes the public to the injustice keeping them captive without using violence.  The problem is that people who are used to sleeping see it as more of an annoyance and an inconvenience.  No one likes to be woken up in the middle of a very good dream after all.  It’s like the old cartoons where someone is trying to sleep but he keeps dealing with yowling and singing cats.  It almost makes you want to throw a boot at them.

Kaepernick and Co. know this.  They are trying to get your attention to the racial tensions and violence in America, the “land of the free.”  They know that being peaceful is the best way; violence ruins a protest’s cause.

But you don’t see that.  What you see is a bunch of disgruntled, unappreciative, overpaid, attention-seeking “Americans” who supposedly hate our nation. Your nationalism is showing, and it’s blinding you to reality.  Therefore, you make commitments to boycotting the NFL and doing your best to urge others to do the same.

You’re worshipping America again.

Flag

Guys, ISIS hates our nation.  North Korea hates our nation.  Iran hates our nation.  I don’t know if Russia likes us or not.  We still need to pay China back.  I’m pretty sure people in our nation hate us too and love to see us divided.  They are our main concerns, not people like Kaepernick and Co.

What you’re really telling these protestors is that racism is normal and part of the American life to non-whites, or that racial injustice is a figment of their imagination.  You’re really telling them that their lives don’t matter.  You’re really telling them that they make you uncomfortable.  You’re treating them the same way people treat those with a mental illness; telling them to stop being so dramatic and getting over their “imagined” problems.  You’re really telling them that people like Trayvon Martin and Philando Castile deserved to die because they looked like a threat and/or had a criminal rap sheet.

I really don’t think you care at all about racial injustice because you’re not at the receiving end of it.  Instead, you become experts, judges, juries, and executioners.  I’m not apologizing for my firm tone here.  As I say to my friends on lighter occasions, “I’m 1000% done.”

Understand that my words are out of love and frustration.  A lot of us black people are upstanding citizens, even community pillars.  A lot of us are kind and successful.  We’re not looking for special treatment.  We’re not all lazy, incompetent, mumble-rapping, sex-crazed, criminal record holding, entitled people on welfare (everything most Americans, and conservatives, are offended by).  We’re not looking for war or violence.

I don’t want to have to tell my future family to “be safe” or to fear for my life. I want my future family to grow and thrive out here in America.

We want someone to listen to us.  We want to be understood.  We want you to know our pain.

Honestly, we are great at sympathy, but we suck at empathy.  Sympathy is just feeling sorry for someone and their situation, and then moving on with their lives.  Empathy is more than that; it involves feeling what the other person is feeling and it moves them to get their hands dirty to help them in their time of need. Empathy is from a Greek word meaning “to suffer with.”

Before Jesus started the Parable of the Good Samaritan, someone asked Him what was the greatest commandment.  Jesus responded by saying to love God with everything and to love your neighbor as yourself.  Then the guy asks, “Who is my neighbor?”  In other words, “Jesus, tell me who my neighbor is so I can dismiss everyone else.  Whom can I selectively love?”

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a guy walked down a road and was attacked by robbers and left for dead.  Both a Levite and a Priest walk by, but they, not wanting to get their hands dirty for their own reasons, pass by the other way.  But a Samaritan sees him, and has compassion on him.  He felt the guy’s pain, he suffered with him, and he also did something about it.  The Samaritan bandaged him up, treated him and put him up in an inn, paying for all costs as he recovered.

We best discover empathy when we are in person, face-to-face with the hurting; when we encounter our neighbors.  Let them speak and tell you their stories.  Don’t dismiss what they’re going through.  Put yourself in their shoes and feel what they feel.  And finally, find a way to do something about it.  You may disagree, but at least you’re listening.

Listen much, touch gently, and speak when needed – Words can be encouraging, but really what we desire is your concern and to know that you love us. – A student on the events at Virginia Tech

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. – Paraphrase from my Discipleship Ministry class

Racism has lasted for what seems like an eternity.  Slavery has lasted for generations, but came to an official close with the end of the Civil War and the events of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Underground Railroad, Juneteenth, and the 13th-15th Amendments.  Racial oppression continued with the Black Codes, Plessy v. Ferguson, and the Jim Crow era.  Though there has been widespread racial integration, there are still people out there who are convinced of the idea of white supremacy and it’s constantly being passed down to this day.  It’s sad, honestly.

(Also, can everyone – black, white, all people – please drop the n-word?)

Fist

Folks, don’t let nationalism cloud your judgment or empathy.  Don’t let it blind you to the people around you.  Nationalism, like any worshipped idol, will require a sacrifice and a price.  The more you give, the more it takes and never gives back.

And as for Kaepernick and Co., they’re going to keep fighting for what they believe in and no one is going to stop them!  Racism and racial injustice will not win!

I long to see the ethnic walls shattered and that we would unconditionally love one another regardless of race!

Part Two is coming and will be more about nationalism and the Church.

A people who will not acknowledge the sins of their nation are doomed to turn a blind eye to injustice.  A people who cannot separate the identity of their nation from the sins of their nation are doomed to undermine the good of their nation. – Caitlin Bassett

Until next time, I’m stepping off my soapbox.  Remain hidden in the shadow of His wings,

 

– Jon Pannell

P.S. – Let’s talk if you disagree.  Let’s not scream at each other or prove another wrong.

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Prayer in the Midst of Politics

Alright folks, let’s cut to the chase.

Election Day is on November 8, and this is the day we exercise our right to vote and make our voice heard.  I don’t care if you’re jaded to politics or if you’re deeply passionate about politics.  I don’t care if you want to Make America Great Again or if you say “I’m With Her.”  It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian, Independent, or part of the Pizza Party, you have the responsibility to vote.

If you’re like me, you’re probably sick and tired of all the political posts and arguments on social media and like me, you’ve thought at least 1,000 times a day to deactivate all your social media accounts until a month after Election Day.  You know through my posts on this blog that I hate politics with the passion of a thousand suns and I especially hate the fact that we have frivolous and petty arguments that lead to unfriending, unfollowing, and blocking our former friends and acquaintances.

We just want peace, not strife.  Unity, not division.

I want to share 1 Timothy 2:1-5 with you.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

The Apostle Paul writes this letter to Timothy around AD 62-64 in regards to instruction and conduct in the early Church.  This was during the reign of the Emperor Nero and before the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64.

In this passage, Paul urges the Church to pray and intercede and be thankful for all people, especially those in places of authority.  Read the first sentence in that verse.  Slowly.  Multiple times.  Meditate on it.

Regardless of who is and who will be the President, we as the Church need to pray and intercede and give thanks.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t like Obama, pray for him.  If you hate Trump or Clinton, it doesn’t matter; pray for them.  People in authority that you respect and/or dislike?  Pray for them.  No exceptions, no excuses.

When you pray, it takes your focus off the worldly and engages you with the heavenly.  This world is not your home, and your Heavenly Father is available 24/7; why not pray?  Feel hopeless? Pray.  Need someone to talk to? Pray.  The next time you want to blast someone or complain about politics, use that energy to pray.

Prayer leads to a “peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  Think of it as a diagnostic; a prayerless life leads to an absence of peace, a life full of loveless shouting, ungodliness, and a lack of respect or dignity to yourself or towards others.  How is your life right now?  I’m going to be honest; my spiritual life isn’t that great, mainly because I haven’t been living a life of prayer.  As a result, I’ve been stressed out and I haven’t had much peace (be praying for me).

Praying for the authorities pleases God.  And guess what?  Prayer is the driving and aligning force of His will.  He desires all people to be saved and to come to truth.  God can open Heaven on the people and situations you pray and intercede for.  Plus, God is God; He can do whatever He pleases and will even work despite your disobedience.

Think about it.  What would happen if instead of fighting with each other and complaining on social media, we prayed and lived a peaceful life instead?  We could possibly see those in authority figures come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior!  Sounds crazy, right?  Imagine if Trump or Clinton or anyone else came to know Jesus!

Jesus is still saving and transforming people.  What are we doing to encourage or hinder that?

AD 64 was the Great Fire of Rome.  All fingers pointed to Nero, but he instead blamed it on the Christians, leading to intense persecutions and horrific martyrdoms.  And guess what?  The Church still grew as her people prayed and lived peacefully.  I would submit to you that they even prayed for Emperor Nero as they were persecuted.

If our religious liberties are taken away, we must know that God is still good and on His throne, that we should still pray for the authoritative figures in our lives.  But seriously, you act as if the next Presidential candidate is going to put an end to Christianity.  Have you forgotten who really is in charge here?  God is not tied to a political party. He doesn’t take sides; He’s here to take over.  He wants to be glorified in the things we say and do.

Church History tells of what happens when Christianity becomes non-persecuted and protected by the State.  But that may be a post for another day.

So here’s my challenge to you.  If you have burned someone with your words and actions, repent and seek forgiveness.  If you have been burned, know that there is healing through Jesus Christ.  And pray, pray, pray for those in authority of our nation instead of complaining and debating all the time.  Live a peaceful and quiet life, and be clothed in dignity and godliness.  Now go and pray.  Hang out with Jesus.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. — Romans 13:1

Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! — Psalm 46:10

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. — 1 Corinthians 13:1

Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor. — Romans 12:10

Until next time, remain hidden in the shadow of His wings,

Jon Pannell

On Candidates and Forgetfulness

Hello reader!

May the Lord shine His face upon you and those you know in 2016.  May He do something so mind blowing to you this year.

This past Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  This was also the day that Donald Trump came to speak at Liberty University’s Convocation.  If you’ve been living under a rock under all this time, let me fill you in.  D. J. Trump (shortening his name just because) is one of the Republican candidates running for the presidency.  He’s a very wealthy businessman who is…quite interesting.

He’s known by social and mainstream media to be a misogynistic, racist, xenophobe who has no filter and offends anyone and everyone he talks to with his words, even standing behind his idea to build a wall to seal off the Mexican border and to make Mexico pay for said wall.

DJTRUMP

“I should call my campaign ‘Playing the Trump Card…'”

The reaction by students and alumni were…quite interesting as well.

Some students decided to protest the Convocation, even making their presence known on social media (powerful tool, isn’t it?).  Others made fun of his use of “Two Corinthians,” while others expressed their shame of being Liberty students/alumni.

Convo

Liberty University Convocation.  Look at all those people!

Oh, I forgot to mention that some didn’t like Jerry, Jr.’s introduction of him, which paints D. J. Trump in a very different picture that the media.  People were wondering why would Jerry, Jr. give a very warm welcome to him (My opinion: he kind of has to).

The big question was:  Why would Liberty invite a “known racist” to speak at Convocation on MLK, Jr. Day?

Now, I don’t care if you support Trump or not.  This post isn’t about him.

Forgetfulness, I believe, is one of the most powerful and potent weapons in Satan’s arsenal.  You would have moments with God where it seems like you and He are like best friends.  Then you have those dark moments where it seems that God is absent and nowhere to be seen.  You rail against Him, shout at Him, become angry with Him.  The enemy pours more and more lies in your heart and mind, tempting you to walk away from Him, to resent Him.

The enemy uses forgetfulness in multiple ways.  He’ll have you forgetting His promises to you, His promises in His Word, the times where He has forgiven you, the times where He delivered or healed you.  He’ll have you forgetting your mission to make disciples, to love one another, and to love your enemies.

So many of us, myself included, are forgetful.  Take this past Monday, for example.  We forget that D. J. Trump is a human, just like us, created in the image of God, just like us.  We love to point out his flaws and even the flaws of others, but we forget to check ourselves AND forget to love and pray for them.

Think about it; instead of complaining about D. J. Trump, have you ever thought to pray for Him, that He would get rocked with the Gospel and the love of Jesus Christ?  Or is he beyond help?

Let me tell you this, friend.  No one is beyond help.  Not him, not Bernie Sanders, not even Hillary Clinton.  The Gospel is for everyone.

MLK

Don’t let someone keep you from celebrating a legacy.

Satan had us forgetting that Trump is created in the image of God and needs Jesus just as much as, well, all of us.  And guess what?  He succeeded.  And another thing as his added prize:  We started to worship politics and our self-righteousness instead of Jesus.

Don’t get me wrong, there are reasons to protest and be concerned about certain people, places, and things, but if Jesus is not in your words and actions, then what are you trying to prove?  What kind of change are you trying to make without Him?

Some people are like brick walls, which can only be broken down with Jesus holding the sledgehammer (don’t run that with Scripture).

Peter wrote that the God of the universe has given us divine power through knowing Him, and this power helps us to live godly lives.  When He saved us, we become “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire,” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As Christ followers and partakers of the divine nature, we must hold to these qualities and increase in them, so that we may be effective in our lives and have a closer relationship with God.  But, there’s a consequence if we don’t hold to those values.

For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

Satan, your nemesis, wants you to lack in faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.  He wants you to question your identity in Christ, as well as make you ineffective and unfruitful.  You were blind, now you can see, but Satan wants to blur your vision so you can’t see clearly and eventually wind up fighting the wrong target(s).

He will stop at nothing for you to forget why you are following Christ and completing His mission.  He will turn your attention to vilifying and berating others instead of encouraging and loving them.  He will get you worshipping other things, politics included, instead of God.  He will get you to engage in questionable and sinful behavior instead of seeking after God.

But let this be an encouragement.  Whether it’s someone like D. J. Trump or your next door neighbor, treat them with a Christ-like love.  Treat them the way you want to be treated.  Pray for them like you would desire to be prayed for.  If you protest, remember to do it out of love and not to fulfill some kind of agenda.

Don’t let the enemy injure or kill you with forgetfulness.  Know who you are, whose you are, and what you are meant to do in this life.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life… – Philippians 2:14-16a

Don’t be like the Israelites, whom after escaping from Egypt, longed to go back, forgetting that they were once former slaves.

Until next time, stay hidden in the shadow of His wings,

Jon Pannell

P. S. — Disagree with me? Let’s talk about it.

Of Politics and Conversations

I’m not a big fan of politics.  I don’t like them.  At all.

There, I said it.  And I feel better.

Monday morning, March 23, 2015, the students walked into the Vines Center at Liberty University to hear Ted Cruz speak and announce that he will run for presidential candidate.

TC

The media blew up like the 4th of July.  The major news outlets were all over that one hour of a Monday morning like the white on rice in a glass of milk on a paper plate in a snowstorm” (Major Payne reference, anyone?).  The media covered everything from Ted Cruz’s intention to run as candidate to the few students (some of them I know) wearing the “Stand with Rand” shirts to the fact that students were “forced” or “required” to hear this address during Convocation.

Social media displayed several sides of the spectrum.  My Libertarian and Republican friends are cheering, while others are combating the media statements, while others were giving more reasons why they hate Liberty University, as others are just sick and tired of the entire thing (like me).

*Sigh*

*Sigh*

There comes a time, actually quite often, where we seem to forget that Jesus is on the throne and that He is the One we must answer to when everything fades away.  We are called to be followers of Christ, but sometimes conservatism and politics become our god.  It’s funny how we are called to be the Church, but become so divided when it comes to something like politics.

A house divided by itself cannot stand…

I want to encourage you, brothers and sisters of the faith we share, that it’s okay to disagree with one another, but when you inject your disagreements with pure vitriol, you will end up doing more damage than good.

The best way to win an argument is to avoid it. An argument is one thing you will never win. If you win, you lose; if you lose, you lose. If you win an argument but lose a good job, customer, friend or marriage, what kind of victory is it? Pretty empty. — P. Paulraj

Folks, let’s have healthy discussions about what we believe in differently.  Let’s have discussions that break down the walls of stereotypes, beliefs, and insecurities.  Ask yourself constantly, “Am I bringing glory to God by my words, actions, and posts?”  Are your words edifying others?

Know this, my beloved brothers:  let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. — James 1:19-20

Be quick to hear.  The best part of having a conversation is knowing when to shut up and listen.  One way of winning a brother or sister is by listening to their side of the story.  Don’t expect people to think and act the same way you do.  There is a reason why people say what they say and do what they do.  Listen and even have them rant.  And be attentive!  People are turned off by someone who is seen as uncaring.

Be slow to speak.  While you’re having this discussion, think about what you want to say.  Oh, and for the love of all that is Jesus, don’t lose your testimony over your quick mouth.  Don’t say things that you’ll regret for the sake of being right in an argument.  Thinking about what to say doesn’t make you a bad “debater,” it makes you a thoughtful one.  It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers.

Be slow to anger.  Anger is a God-given emotion that can bring glory to Him if used correctly.  If mishandled, people can get wounded almost instantly.  Be careful with your words and how you say them.  Nobody wins in an argument when anger is used incorrectly.  You may apologize, but nothing can be done to take back what was said or posted.  It will take time to heal verbal wounds.

Whenever we engage in any kind of discussion (not just political), we tend to do the exact opposite of what this passage of Scripture says.  We become slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger.  Instead of responding with careful words and consideration, we instead react with careless thoughts and become defensive.  Don’t get me wrong, we are all called to defend our beliefs (1 Peter 3:15); but how we defend determines the outcome of our message.CoffeeSpeak

Let’s engage the world with gentleness and respect, folks.

And PLEASE, don’t argue on the Internet!  I can’t stress this enough!  People will hide behind the egos of their screens and Internet life.  Plus, there are trolls that will bait you into a reactive response.  It’s better to have discussions in person or maybe even over the phone.

You may disagree with me, and that’s fine.  I’m more of a peacekeeper first anyway (not the Hunger Games kind) and a fighter against the enemy and his schemes second, not the other way around.

Folks, you are Christ-followers first, and politicians second.  Don’t ever forget that.

Until next time, be hidden in the shadow of His wings.

Jon Pannell