Two Tribes

Today Donald Trump becomes our Role-Model-in-Chief.  Many Americans are hoping he will bring change and give a voice to their forgotten causes.  But his voice is already quite occupied with impulsive declarations of his own prowess, and the constant chatter of who is in and who is out.  Like the leader of a Junior High School clique he divides the world into his people and The Others.

And don’t we all?

There is a joke in computer science that (nerd-time: stick with me here), “There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don’t.”  To explain: binary numbering uses ones and zeros to spell other numbers or letters, and here the “10” translates as “2” – thus dividing the world into those who get the joke and those who don’t. (now read the joke again with 2 subbed in for 10)

Early in the presidential campaign, the main binary question was whether Trump himself was the joke.  But today Trump will put his hand on the same Lincoln Bible that Obama did 8 years ago and become president of the entire nation.  A nation that he arguably spent the last year dividing; by galvanizing a former majority and promising to bring back the America they remember.  In response we’ve had to gather all the nation’s “others” into one category to defend and fight for inclusion.

Categorization fits our scientific drive to explain life.  But, “Science needs art to frame the mystery,” writes Jonah Lehrer¹, “Neither truth alone is our solution, for our reality exists in plural.”

“Science needs art to frame the mystery”

I want to see the plural. Life is more nuanced than binary.  I want to enjoy life’s music on wobbly analog records as more true than the perfectly reproduced digital music.  Except, I don’t. I’m fighting my own brain on its quest to order the world, categorize its inhabitants, and be sure of my beliefs.  I can even become belligerently certain of my belief that things are not certain.

I surely started life in one “tribe”, and by various triggers came to awareness, and then even appreciation, of other tribes.  “The world is nuanced,” I declared smartly, and could immediately feel the satisfaction of full membership in the Tribe of Nuance. Only to discover the new group also divides the world into tribes as easily as the first, those who “get it” and those who don’t.  (Hard to forget Hillary’s lumping of all Trump supporters into a “Basket of deplorables”)

On a day like today though, I don’t want to “give” that point.  I want to challenge Trump and the nation to always remember that at one time, we were all an “other”, if not your parents then your parent’s parents… Only a few in this nation did not immigrate here. If Trump won’t work toward inclusion then we ourselves will double the efforts to overcome.  Overcome not only the current rhetoric that led us to this inauguration day, but also overcome our human craving for binary thinking.

♦ weekendswell ♦

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¹Lehrer, Jonah (2008).  Proust was a Neuroscientist. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company

Castle Walls

How high are your castle walls?

When you find something that clears your muddy brain water, you do all you can to hold onto it.  You find a truth so you protect the truth.

Soon the truth is a castle wall being surrounded by other “truths” that act like a moat.  Now the truth inside can’t even be questioned without first crossing the moat.

This past year my moat was seriously breached by one particular topic, but now that I’m inside I’m examining the entire castle wall.  It’s scary and exhilarating.

The topic was the church’s views towards sexual orientation.   A view that took a handful of scriptures, unchallenged history, and scientific studies from the 1960’s about how people became gay, and built a moated castle.

That moat was drained when our bible believing loved-one – who was not abused, did not have a poor relationship with her parents, did not choose this path (and in fact fought against it for years) – came out.  One beautiful person who we’d known since birth challenged all the teachings around the teaching.  The moat of misinformation had served to protect not just the doctrine, but the questioning of the doctrine.

Maybe I will have more thoughts on the scripture, but currently it’s the moat of misinformation that concerns me most because it affects how the church treats gays in and out of the church.  (Imagine the anxiety of realizing you’re different from the majority, and having that majority conclude that you chose this path and need to change.)

But this is one issue among many.

We might start with the easy-to-carry good news of who God is and how much He loves us, but over time it becomes a heavy load when we pile on church doctrine and community expectation.  When it becomes an all-or-nothing package, the moat is wide and the barrier has been made bigger than it needs be.  The perception of us vs. them increases, and it is a bigger leap for others to come in.

I’m looking outward to discern what other moats I’ve hidden behind.  It’s vulnerable to be honest – to stand out in the sun with no moat and only half a wall, after years of fearing ‘the outside’.

But the air is fresh.

And I’m catching glimpses of the difference between doctrine and doctor, the Great Physician who is surrounding and healing me in the process.  And with the walls down, I can see so many others who were nearby all along, ready to show and receive mercy with me.

I’m catching glimpses of the difference between doctrine and doctor

♦ weekendswell ♦

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Capital Faith

Give faith room to be re-invented.

My faith can never stay the same, any more than my body could. Through the decades it has to grow, but most often that growth first feels like loss.

We’ve re-imagined our garage many times – car parking, storage, ping-pong table, gaming lounge – but we can’t just cram all those new things into the garage as is.  It always starts with removing what’s there and a clean up that can feel like a good “scrubbing behind the ears”.

“Finish well” doesn’t mean ending life with the exact belief set we started with.  We can live dogmatically – holding principles as incontrovertibly true – or we can strive to be corrigible – capable of being corrected or reformed.  Both allow Truth to be capitalized, but only one allows Faith to be.  As Anne Lamott writes, “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.”

Keep searching for further light to shine on the truth you “know”.  It might look different in 5 years.  Though Truth itself may be absolute, our grasp on it ebbs & flows, because now we see poorly as in a dim and dusty mirror.  But soon we will see face to face, and this joy will surely also reveal areas we were wrong.


The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.

–Anne Lamott in Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

♦ weekendswell ♦

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