Chaos or Opportunity

Posting this today (31 December 2017) but it is also my beginning 2017 post.  Comments and thoughts about the coming year are welcomed.  I would also would like to know if the blog is “readable” (i.e. reasonable font with reasonable size, and so forth).

In some of his speeches, President John Kennedy would offer the thought,

In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity (Speeches by President Kennedy at United Negro College Fund fundraiser, Indianapolis, Indiana, 12 April 1959, and Valley Forge Country Club, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 29 October 1960)

There are some linguists, however, who suggest that this is, at best, a very bad analogy based on a simplistic understanding of the written Chinese language.

Perhaps a better thought is the one offered by Sun-Tzu, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”

Whether one wishes to see the world before us in 2017 as one in chaos or one in crisis, we need see the opportunities that this presents.

Some of these opportunities are short-term while others will not come to fruition for one or two years.  But we must begin immediately to counter-act and reverse some very disturbing trends.

It is obvious that the political system has been hijacked, or stolen if you wish, by individuals who feel that equality is simply a word in the dictionary without any definition or meaning.  These individuals feel that one’s social and economic status count matter more than anything else and that one’s race, gender, or sexuality are reasons for divisions, not unity.

It is also obvious that religion has been hijacked, or stolen if you wish, by individuals who wish to use the idea of religion and belief as a means for control and power.  And it is not surprising that the many of the individuals in this group consort and conspire with individuals in the first group, for the aims of power, creed, and control transcend political and religious boundaries.  (And while I feel that the concept of religious control transcends faith, I will focus on Christianity.)

As a Christian, I am disturbed that there are those who insist on the acceptance of certain documents as factual and true when there are questions as to their source and authorship.  I do not deny the thoughts that lie in the Bible for to do so would be to deny my faith.  But I also believe and know in my heart and mind that I was given a mind that would allow me to look at the world and understand what I see, not merely to accept the views and thoughts of others whose goals have nothing to do with the growth of knowledge and understanding.

I am also disturbed by the slow and, perhaps deliberate, degradation of our educational system.  It seems to me that, in the name of accountability, we have stripped our educational system of the very thing that makes education the liberating force it was always meant to be.  As Nelson Mandela said,

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

While I have no problems with demanding accountability in educational systems (which would suggest that other systems also be held accountable), I do feel that we need to do more than simply expect students to memorize data without meaning and repeat that information back on a test.

This process removes much of the learning process from the equation and develops a culture in which one does not question things.  Right now (and I have said this before), we need to prepare our students to answer questions that haven’t been asked or even considered at the present time.  What we are doing is teaching students that all the problems have been solved and the answers are in the back of the book.  This is a recipe for disaster.

The solution to this problem, as well as the solution to the political and religious problems that so dominate the conversation, cannot be achieved immediately nor with broad pronouncements from the “powers that be”.

The solution should take time, if for no other reason than it will take time to correct the mistakes and errors we have made already.  It must be a broad-based, again because the errors are so wide-spread.  And we must realize that one solution will not fit all.  We must take each student and see where there are at and work from that basis (which, admittedly, goes against the current process).

Second, the change must come from the local level.  Those who are at the top of the structure have no interest in changing a system that can and will bring about change.  In addition, working at the local level and building up provides the basis for a long-term solution and works well with the concept of seeing each student as an individual, rather than part of a group.

The changes in the political and religious systems must also take place at the local level, if for no other reason that change does not come from the top down.

2016 ended in and 2017 began in chaos.  But in the chaos comes a great opportunity, the opportunity to make possibility more than just a word in the dictionary.

4 thoughts on “Chaos or Opportunity

  1. “It is also obvious that religion has been hijacked, or stolen if you wish, by individuals who wish to use the idea of religion and belief as a means for control and power.”

    Ok, you see “theological purity” within the UMC as a problem; even a power grab..

    There are others from within the UMC who feel that gross disobedience to and ignoring of The Discipline as a problem and a power grab.

    As a cradle Methodist/United Methodist of 631/2 years, what I see is a church that has become a non-descript grey area because it no longer believes in anything in particular and has a tendency to shoot itself in the foot because depending on their perspective, people can cite the Bible, Jesus and John Wesley to support completely contradictory understandings/beliefs. A comment by somebody outside the UMC who was commenting on the general state of the church in America said that the reason the church has become unintelligible to those outside of it is that it has become unintelligible to those within the church. I could not agree more. In fact, I think the UMC should get real honest about itself and change its name to the Unintelligible Methodist Church. After all, it has degenerated into competing and conflicting factions jockeying for position and control. There is a reason that in 2018 The UMC will have the opportunity to mark 50 years of continuous/uninterrupted numerical decline. Why would anybody want to be part of an organization that collectively has absolutely no clue why it is in existence and what it is it is supposed to be doing? That is the very question I am struggling with. I hang around and stay connected because of my long history with the Methodist/United Methodist Church. But I do not blame anybody who decides to walk away.

    And just for the record, being a Christian of the Methodist/Wesleyan persuasion is “not merely to accept the views and thoughts of others whose goals have nothing to do with the growth of knowledge and understanding.” It is about learning from others who have already embarked on the journey of becoming the truly human persons God intended us to be when he created the earth and everything in it and called it good–at least it was good before humanity decided to take control of the situation.

    And yes, that is what I believe about Christianity even though I have a Masters of Science degree and spent a combined 20 years in the field of scientific research at a university and a medical school.

    • Well, in all honesty I wasn’t thinking about the on-going struggle within the United Methodist Church concerning what you call “theological purity”. There is a part of me that thinks that there is a problem when one demands strict adherence to laws that end up hurting people.

      And when I wrote about the growth of knowledge and understanding, I was speaking about those who insist that their path is the only path and that to question that authority will only destroy my faith. If we cannot question our faith, how will we ever learn?

      As to the future of the United Methodist Church, I am concerned about the direction it is taking. But any denomination (any denomination and not just the UMC) which creates a set of rules, laws, and regulations that fail to recognize humanity or say there is only one version of humanity is going to be on the losing end because the message that comes from God is not the message that is often heard today.

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