Scary Times: COVID, Hurricane Zeta, and Halloween are scary times indeed, but the divisions in our country are the most frightening to me. By this time next week, the election will be drawing to a close. No matter who wins I expect the extremes to act with violence and consequently the divisions in our country will grow. I harken back to my Martin Luther King Jr. statement from last week – “We must either learn to live together as brothers (and sisters) or we will die as fools.”

I take seriously the Beatitudes – Blessed are the Peace Makers. Not only are we to be peaceful, we are to do what we can to make peace.

Several times in this election I have wanted to strike back at people on both sides, who make self-righteous statements fomenting division. I did not because I felt I would be contributing to the division. The Russians and the Iranians are having a field day, adding fuel to our divisiveness.

Let us be peace makers. Our words and our actions make a difference.

Adaptation: I have the privilege of leading a group through an interesting book, “Canoeing the Mountains,” written by Todd Bolsinger. He is a well-known and respected consultant.

His basic thesis begins with understanding Lewis and Clark started to explore the West with the hope and expectation they would find a water route to the Pacific. The expedition was planned and prepared with that goal in mind.

When they got to the headwaters of the Missouri the water ran out. They looked ahead and saw mountains and rugged terrain. At that point their plans and approaches had to be changed. They scrapped their original goal and adapted.

Bolsinger believes we find ourselves in similar circumstances today. Churches, businesses and other institutions are faced with very different circumstances than the circumstances of the recent past. Churches and businesses planned and prepared for a future that is very different from the circumstances of today. They need to adapt, He gives some excellent suggestions for adaptive leadership.

Educational institutions also planned and prepared for a future that is very different from the circumstances of today. The difficulty in adapting has been going on for a long time. I clearly recall a meeting in the 1980’s with the library committee at the University of South Alabama. We were discussing the budget. With a fixed amount of money, we had to decide allocation. I well remember one side not wanting to adapt. They wanted all of the money to go into hard copies of books and journals. Others could see the future and wanted to adapt. They called for money to go into computerization. It was a difficult meeting. Adaptation was not and is not an easy process.

Institutions and Individuals. In the book Bolsinger reports a conversation that has been very helpful to me. He was driving a husband and wife from a conference back to their hotel. The husband was the head of a multinational corporation and a key speaker at the conference. Todd asked them how his work affected their marriage. Her response was interesting and very helpful to me.

“As Christians, we all have responsibilities that we feel deeply. I feel the responsibilities of individuals in our lives, he feels the responsibilities for the institutions. I think soul by soul. He thinks institution by institution. And sometimes that is a stress between us that requires negotiation.”

I recognize a similar distinction between how I view and approach the world we face and how many others view the world. I believe the biggest problems and best solutions lie with individuals. Others believe the problems and solutions lie with institutions.

I expect the best solutions lie in the proper negotiation or navigation of both views.

The distinction has greatly helped me understand some of the differences in focus between myself and others with whom I have meaningful dialogs. We strive for the same big goals but have different foci.  

My granddaughter is a sociologist. A good friend is an IO psychologist. They stress the importance of organizations and institutions. I now have a better understanding of some of the differences in how we approach issues. It helps me hear them more clearly.

I tend to believe even the worst institutional problems will change if the people in those institutions develop proper hearts. Others believe the institutions must change. Some propose changing by changing laws. Some go so far as to propose revolution and the elimination of particular institutions.

You might think about some of the people with whom you disagree and see if the differences occur because the two of you are approaching the problem from two different paradigms, one individual the other institutional.

Two statements clearly demonstrate the difference in approaches.

  1. America is a racist country
  2. America is a country with some racists.

Both approaches are against racist behavior. Some believe America is a racist institution. They believe structural change is necessary.

My view is America is a country, with some racists. My focus is on individuals. My hope for change is to limit the power of those individuals, and to look for new ways to change the hearts and minds of people with those beliefs. 

More than ever – Peace

Jerry


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