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What Is Elder Abuse And What Can We Do About It?

I recently attended a seminar on ‘elder abuse’. The severity and pervasiveness of this issue surprised me, and so I am passing along some key points from the seminar which I hope will be enlightening and helpful to all.

A recent U.S. Census reported that over 45 million Americans are 65 or older.[1] As ‘baby boomers’ age, elders become an ever-increasing portion of the U.S. population. No longer do families necessarily live near one another, resulting in a need for non-familial persons and resources to care for aging relatives. These resources may take the form of ‘care givers’, distantly-related ‘care takers’, continuous care facilities, retirement communities, or nursing homes.

All too often, these persons of facilities regard their work as just a ‘tough job’ and have no real interest in those they are caring for. Unfortunately, statistics show that 1 in 10 elder Americans Age 60+ experienced abuse, and many experienced it in multiple forms of physical, mental or financial abuse for as long as a year.[2]

WHAT IS ELDER ABUSE?
Elder abuse refers to intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver or “trusted” individual that lead to, or may lead to, harm to that vulnerable elder. Physical abuse, neglect, emotional or psychological abuse, verbal abuse and threats, financial abuse and exploitation, sexual abuse, and abandonment are considered forms of elder abuse. In many states, self-neglect is also considered mistreatment.

Who is at Risk?
Elder abuse can occur anywhere – in the home, in nursing homes, or other institutions. It affects seniors across all socio-economic groups, cultures, and races. Based on available information, women and “older” elders are most likely to be victimized. Dementia is a significant risk factor. Mental health and substance abuse issues –of both abusers and victims – are risk factors. Isolation can also contribute to risk.

  • 90% of abusers are family members and friends
  • 1 in 10 seniors are victims of elder abuse
  • 1 in 15 cases are actually reported to authorities
  • 50% of adults with Alzheimer’s are victims of elder abuse
  • Victims are primarily females, but also older males
  • People of ‘non-normal’ ethnicity, orientation, social-economic or religious backgrounds

 
TYPES OF ELDER ABUSE

  • Physical abuse: Use of force to threaten or physically injure an elder
  • Emotional abuse: Verbal attacks, threats, rejection, isolation, or belittling acts that cause or could cause mental anguish, pain, or distress to an elder
  • Sexual abuse: Sexual contact that is forced, tricked, threatened, or otherwise coerced upon an elder, including anyone who is unable to grant consent
  • Exploitation: Theft, fraud, misuse or neglect of authority, and use of undue influence as a lever to gain control over an older person’s money or property
  • Neglect: A caregiver’s failure or refusal to provide for a vulnerable elder’s safety, physical, or emotional needs
  • Abandonment: Desertion of a frail or vulnerable elder by anyone with a duty of care
  • Self-neglect: An inability to understand the consequences of one’s own actions or inaction, which leads to, or may lead to harm or endangerment; excludes a person mentally competent to make and understand consequences of decisions

Warning Signs

  • Physical Abuse: Slap marks, unexplained bruises, restraint marks, most pressure marks, and certain types of burns or blisters, such as cigarette burns – – change in physical appearance
  • Neglect by caregiver: Pressure ulcers, filth, lack of medical care, isolation, malnutrition or dehydration
  • Emotional Abuse: Withdrawal from normal activities, verbal aggression, unexplained changes in alertness, or other unusual behavioral changes – change in personality
  • Sexual Abuse: Bruises around the breasts or genital area, genital or anal pain or bleeding, difficulty walking or sitting, torn/stained or bloody underclothing, and unexplained sexually transmitted diseases
  • Self-Neglect: refusal or inability to provide for self, filth, hoarding, over or under medicating, isolation
  • Financial Abuse/Exploitation: Sudden change in finances and accounts, altered wills and trusts, unusual bank withdrawals, checks written as “loans” or “gifts” and loss of property
  • Any changes in home environment

[3]

Consent & Capacity
Legally, a person who periodically provides assistance, by law, are termed caretakers. This person has no legal responsibility to provide this care. A caregiver is legally responsible for the care of the elder; normally, this care is given under a contract. Neglect or abuse by the caregiver must be reported to either the police, the facility, Department of Aging or the appropriate ombudsman.

An elder victim can only offer consent when they have:

  • Ability to understand and make knowledgeable decisions.
  • Knowledge of the true facts/situation
  • Ability to act freely and voluntarily

Consent is not valid if obtained by force, lies, coercion, manipulation; any condition that illustrates the elder does not have the mental capacity to make decisions.

Who Are Abusers?

  • Intimate partners
  • Adult children or other family members
  • Caregivers (paid or non-paid)
  • Others in position of authority over the elder person

How big is the problem?
Research indicates that more than one in ten elders may experience some type of abuse, but only one in 23 cases are reported. This means that very few elders who have been abused get the help they need. One thing is for certain: elder abuse can happen to any older individual – your neighbor, your loved one – it can even happen to you.
 
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I SUSPECT ELDER ABUSE?

  • Report Your Concerns – Remember: Most cases of elder abuse go undetected. Don’t assume that someone has already reported a suspicious situation. To report suspected abuse in the community, contact your local Adult Protective Services agency. For state reporting numbers, visit the NCEA website at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov or call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.
  • If You or Someone You Know Is in a Life-Threatening Situation or Immediate Danger, contact 911 or the local police or sheriff.
  • To Report Suspected Abuse in a Nursing Home or Long-Term Care Facility contact the Attorney General’s Adult Protective Services or the Long Term Care Ombudsman at http://www.ltc.ohio.gov

Remember: You do not need to prove that abuse is occurring; it is up to the professionals to make a determination.
 
HOW TO PREVENT ELDER ABUSE
The New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study found that for every elder abuse case known to programs and agencies, 23.5 were unknown. In the same study, they examined different types of abuse and found for each case of financial exploitation that reached authorities, 44 cases went unreported. The National Elder Abuse Incidence Study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse comes to the attention of the authorities.[4]

  • Report Suspected Mistreatment to your local Adult Protective Services agency or law enforcement. Although a situation may have already been investigated, if you believe circumstances are getting worse, continue to speak out.
  • Keep in Contact – Talk with your older friends, neighbors, and relatives. Maintaining communication will help decrease isolation, a risk factor for mistreatment. It will also give the elder a chance to talk about any problems they may be experiencing.
  • Be Aware of the Possibility of Abuse – Look around and take note of what may be happening with your older neighbors and acquaintances. Do they seem lately to be withdrawn, nervous, fearful, sad, or anxious, especially around certain people, when they have not seemed so in the past?
  • Contact the Ohio Adult Protective Services to identify local programs and sources of support, such as Meals on Wheels. These programs help elders to maintain health, well-being, and independence – a good defense against abuse.
  • Volunteer – There are many local opportunities to become involved in programs that provide assistance and support for elders.
  • Observe World Elder Abuse Awareness Day – Elder abuse is a global issue. Contact your local aging services organizations to find out how your community will observe World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (commemorated on June 15 every year). Help to raise awareness by talking about the issue.
  • Learn More About the Issue – Visit the National Center on Elder Abuse website, www/ncea.aoa.gov.

More research is needed, but it is clear that elder abuse is a major public health problem with significant impact on millions of people. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) is at the forefront of the national fight against elder abuse.
 
Note: this article was adapted from a presentation delivered by Sylvia Pla-Raith, Director of the Elder Justice Unit of the Department of Consumer Protection, Ohio Attorney General’s Office, at the Giving Voice to LGTBTQ Older Adults Conference, held at North Congregational Church, Columbus, OH.
 

The Rev deniray mueller

 
[1]      U.S. Census Facts for Features: Older Americans Month: 2013
[2]      Acierno R, Hernandez MA, Amstadter AB, Resnick HS, Steve K, Muzzy W, et al. (2010). Prevalence and correlates of emotional, physical, sexual, and financial abuse and potential neglect in the United States: The national elder mistreatment study. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 292-297
[3]      National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Late Life, Abuse in Late Life Wheel, 2006
[4]      Lifespan of Greater Rochester, Inc., Weill Cornell Medical Center of Cornell University. New York City Department for the Aging. (2011) Under the Radar: New York State Elder Abuse Prevalence Study. New York: Author. National Center on Elder Abuse, Westat, Inc. (1998). The national elder abuse incidence study: Final

Your Guide to Social Media Safety

This is a composite of articles gleaned from the internet and tech professional about the use of social media and how to keep yourself and your data safe. Hopefully, these will assist you in making decisions about your future use of social media.

Note: the articles in this collection do not necessarily reflect my opinions, but are hopefully presented in an equal manner to all sides.

Several months I published a blog about the use of technology in the church. It contains some warning about security and effective use of various social media tools. It can be read at Technology – A Blessing or a Curse?

Each article will be noted by its link so it can be read entirely independent of the others.
 

 
 
The Rev deniray mueller, Legislative Liaison, Diocese of Southern Ohio, 1 April 2018

“MY” Pew Or God’s Pew?

I wish I could say this is a made-up story, but unfortunately it is not.

We recently had a couple visit Saint John’s while looking for a new church home. They were warmly greeted by the ushers and told to sit anywhere they wished. So, they picked a pew about midway up the aisle. The people around them were cordial and offered to help them maneuver through the service (they were not cradle Episcopalians and hadn’t been in an Episcopal church for a long time).

Two parishioners came to assume ‘their’ seats, where the couple happened to be sitting. They noisily sat in the pew behind this couple, noting that ‘someone was in their seats’ in a less than quiet voice. People around the visitors were appalled at the audacity of these two women. Then, throughout the entire service, these two women make snide remarks about the couple, their appearance, and unfamiliarity with our service. And at the Passing of the Peace, they blatantly chose not to welcome these visitors. At the dismissal, they further remarked that they hoped these people got the point and found themselves other seats; those were ‘their’ seats!

When this was related to me, I was appalled that someone in OUR congregation would be so catty and unwelcoming to visitors. Haven’t we heard in Hebrews 12:13

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,

And doesn’t Jesus remind us:

I was a stranger and you invited me in (Matthew 25:35)?

Fortunately, in spite of the nastiness of these two long-time parishioners, the couple found the church to be a welcoming place and has since become active and contributing members of Saint John’s. This had to be the work of the Holy Spirit and those members who did extend a hand of friendship and Jesus’ love.

Just as the Eucharistic table is not our table, but God’s table, the pews do not belong to any one person (purchasing pews went out a long, long time ago!) Some of us seem to have forgotten that.

We want people to feel comfortable in church (except maybe during the sermon), but maybe it is time to shake some things up. We have become too complacent; doing the same thing, in the same place, over and over again can desensitize us to the wonders of our faith journey. If we don’t expect God to do anything different, we get what we expect – nothing new and exciting.

I suggest that for the remaining weeks of Lent and during Eastertide, we all do something different – change where we sit in church. Even if you know everyone in the congregation, this gives you the opportunity to get to know others at a deeper level. If you are new, you can begin to meet other people in the congregation, and they can get to know you.

Complacency of the same seat causes you to expect and perceive the service in the same way every Sunday. You never know what you will experience if you sit in another pew: you will hear the choir with a different ear, see the preacher for a different vantage point, and might even notice something about the church that you have never noticed before. You may even listen to the sermon differently, simply because everything feels new.

As in the manner of most Episcopalians, we all tend to sit in the back pews. This forces latecomers or newcomers to have to walk all the way to the front. Think about how unwelcome that would make you feel, especially if you were a visitor. We want to welcome new people, rather than creating an environment which suggests that they are not welcome, or draw a spotlight on them. Remember, you were a newcomer once.

Most people do not like change, that is a human trait. We are trying new things at Saint John’s, such as the Formation Eucharist, and have plans for expanding our worship and outreach in the future. A church which does not grow becomes stagnant and does not expand the Kingdom of God or our individual faith. We want to be a vibrant congregation that shows the community the love and faith we have in God.

By changing your seat every week, we open ourselves to experiencing new and exciting things, and we will be more prepared for the changes as we move into the future. If you will not consider changing your seat, maybe you need to look at your heart. Pure stubbornness closes off the mind and heart and soul so that the teachings of Jesus cannot break through your outer shell. And isn’t that why we are at Saint John’s? – to grow in our faith and testimony to the world of the Kingdom of God.

Let’s try ALL of God’s pews!
 
 

Written for The Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church of Worthington & Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 8 March 2018

Technology – A Blessing or a Curse

The world today operates on technology, whether we like it or not. . . communications, information, and knowledge all ride on the world wide web. In our digital era of smartphones and social media, it seems nearly everyone is suffering from communication overload. Less than 15 years ago, most netizens had just one or two email accounts, texting was tedious and costly, and mobile phones were primarily used to make, well, . . . phone calls!

However, today, it’s common for people to manage numerous social media accounts and email addresses. One recent estimate is that the average internet user has seven social media accounts — excluding email. Chunky mobile phones have been replaced by pocket touchscreen computers that constantly jingle and buzz, pulling their owners away from face-to-face encounters with other human beings into a social networking vortex.

CELL PHONES
Reality Check!!! almost no one under the age of 40-ish uses their cell phone to make person-to-person calls, or even email. It is indeed handy to have your phone in your pocket, but for many, the cell phone now has many another uses. Messaging is the means of communication, and if we are uncomfortable texting, we will miss a lot of communications. Messaging software allows pages and pages of information to be displayed on the cell phone screen. Moreover, the 140-character limit of Twitter not only uses a series of abbreviations that most people don’t understand, but also, by use of those abbreviations, offer the probability of misunderstanding by the recipient. One important thing to remember, is that even when you delete the message/tweet, it still exists out there in the cyberspace.

SOCIAL MEDIA
Experts recognize that while social networking has its benefits — professionally, personally, politically — it is also reshaping and “dumbing down” the ways people communicate with each other. Having so many channels of communication has overwhelmed our ability to thoughtfully interact online, encouraging cheap and easy forms of communication. Instead of taking the time to formulate a thoughtful reply to an online friend’s social media post, users tend to use an “emoji” or fire off a brief comment that conveys little more than acknowledgment, and is often misunderstood or off-putting.

Despite these negatives, we must remember, social media is a marketing tool! And faith communities and other organizations have no other choice but to get on the bandwagon. Over one billion people log into Facebook every day, and the average American is logged in for 40 minutes. We quite literally speak to more people via social media than we could ever reach otherwise. So, use social media with a purpose in mind, rather than to just pass time or “troll”. Although, there are positive aspects of technology and social media, there are also pitfalls unless we are aware of them and how to avoid them. We can learn to avoid those pitfalls and let all the ‘positives’ of these tools work for us!

When you are thinking of engaging in social media, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Are you using social media to gain approval? Posting to get responses of approval can be addictive, escalating to more and more need for approval – a vicious cycle! Is the purpose to boast about your accomplishments, or even your failures or distresses in your life? Are you using social media as an adult ‘show-and-tell’? Not all moments need to be shared (how many people, do you really think, want to know what mundane things you did in a day?).
  1. Is your post/tweet kind? Freedom of speech is fundamental to the American life, but with it comes the responsibility to consider what the impact of the post may have on other people, and not deliberately attack another. We have replaced face-to-face confrontations to hiding behind an impersonal identity that does not allow the subject of the post to defend themselves. Posts can be misinterpreted, and the sender has no responsibility for the weight of the words, and the impact of the message sent.
  1. Will the post be misunderstood? Some things will sound one way to those who know us, and another to those who don’t. There is no tone or inflection so the most mundane comment may very well be misinterpreted and taken in a way it was not intended; consider who is listening to what you’re saying. Readers are actually eavesdropping on what should be private conversations.
  1. Think carefully about controversy. The line between vigorous exchange of ideas and a kind of social war is sometimes thinner than we may think. What good is this particular controversy contributing to, or is it harmful? Will anyone be embarrassed or offended by what you’re saying?
  1. Are you posting when you should be taking action? Social media is a breeding ground for people with great intentions. But great intentions don’t change lives. Action does. Posting a comment of agreement or adding substance to a post does not remove the responsibility for taking action on social justice issues. If you have no real desire to act on it, do not post. Posting lulls you into believing that talking about an issue and acting on it are equals.

Positive Use of Social Media
With some care, churches can use social media effectively.

  1. Share the Gospel – church websites provide information about the church and its activities, and present sermons, blogs, videos, and articles of interest to the faithful. Social media tends to be dark; churches can bring light and love to this world. The purpose of posts should be to educate, not proselytize or denigrate other faith traditions.
  1. Use blogs to provide the ability for discussions of faith, prayer requests, and varied interpretations of the gospel. But be aware, that you cannot control the tone or outcome of the conversation.
  1. Keep the Facebook and web site updated, if that means hiring a professional to do it. Out-of-date social media indicates that you are not serious about outreach, and are not interested in being relevant to the social media community. In the case of blogs, a monitored site is critical; this allows the administrators to prevent negative or inappropriate posts being visible.
  1. When using videos, make sure that they are clear and of the best quality available, and that the sound is clear. Make sure the format of the video is executable by the standard media players for PC and MAC.

Internet Etiquette
There are several do’s and don’ts of internet communications:

  1. Do not post anything that you would not say face-to-face. One of the great tragedies of social media is that it has given power to a lot of cowards. And cowards with power are dangerous, and they NEVER have to deal with the ramifications! Here’s a rule for social media: If you wouldn’t say it face-to-face, don’t post it.
  1. Negative comments are the quickest way to end a conversation and, permanently lose the reader. Negative posts have an emotional impact on the reader, creating a sense of doom or despair, and also encourage negative posts in return.
  1. Passing along other’s post with a comment such as ‘this is interesting’ is spam posting– as disliked as spam on email. If you have a relevant comment, use it; otherwise, leave it alone. ‘Share this post’ is just another type of social media spam.
  1. Do not deliberately post comments that are intended to be confrontational. Ask yourself what your reaction would be if you received a similar post.

When you take the dive into all forms of social media (i.e., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Email, Messaging), think about what you want to do and the audience.

Happy social media-ing!
 
 

The Rev deniray mueller, Connections, Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio, 24 January 2018

Do Not ‘SHOULD’ on the New Year

What was the year 2017 like for you? Was it filled with joy and peace, or anxiety and stress?

The ritual of setting New Year’s resolutions is a staple in our culture–a time when we examine the past 12 months and set intentions for the coming year, promising ourselves to give up some bad habit or to develop new good habits or make significant changes in our lifestyles. It may be a time for trying harder at something (like losing those last five pounds!), or a time of re-establishing broken relationships. But, it can also bring regret and cynicism as we realize we’ve set the same goals year-after-year with little progress. I have never heard of anyone who was successful in meeting all of their resolutions throughout the year. Still, there seems to be a societal norm for all of us to make resolutions.

The fatal flaw with New Year’s resolutions is that we typically bite off more than we can chew. We do not set realistic goals, and so we end up disappointed and, often, forget resolutions by the time February rolls around.

It is something they say we ‘should’ do! – and we often know full well that we are not going to keep them.

We ‘should’ lose that extra weight, save more money, spend more time with our family, go to church every Sunday, become a volunteer. . . the list goes on and on! And when we fail to meet these expectations, we pile guilt upon ourselves. . . “we ‘should’ have been able to do ‘whatever’”.

Should-ing’ on ourselves is counterproductive – it only makes us feel worse about ourselves, and soon supplants any positive feelings we get when we accomplish something. We cannot learn new things or have new experiences if we are constantly telling ourselves we are ‘not good enough’, are failures. Besides, it wastes a lot of time when we could be accomplishing new and better things.

Driven by our stubborn willfulness, pressure, adrenaline and “never good enough” messages, we fail to allow that which is already unfolding in us, and in the world, to emerge. This year, we must get out of our own way, step aside and trust that the better version of ourselves will awaken, however it is meant to be. . . and when it is meant to be. We cannot ‘should’ it to happen.

In John Maxwell’s book, Developing the Leader Within You, a Middle Eastern mystic said, “I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was: Lord, give me the energy to change the world.’ As I approached middle age and realized that my life was half gone without my changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come into contact with me, just my family and friends, and I shall be satisfied.’ Now that I am an old man and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been. My one prayer now is: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change myself.’ If I had prayed for this right from the start, I would not have wasted my life.’

So, what attitude will we choose to adopt in order to make the most of 2018?

Can we just forget about ’resolutions’ that may end up only making us feel worse about ourselves?

Can we just forego judgment about ourselves and strive to be open to love and acceptance, trying to be our best selves each day, whatever that means?

Remember, above all, one of my favorite pieces of advice is:

“Do Not SHOULD upon yourself today!”

If we do that, 2018 will truly be a wonderful year!

                                                                                  
                                                                                   Written for The Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church of Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 14 January 2018

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Healthy congregations are diverse congregations

The Episcopal Church prides itself in the acceptance of all people – those of diverse cultures, ethnicity, race, gender identity, sexual identity, and abilities. This allows congregations that share the wonderful uniqueness of each person, celebrate their varied differences, and promote stronger and richer missions through their shared ideas. Each culture brings with it an approach to worship that enriches the corporate celebration of the sacraments.

Christianity, at its best, is an all-embracing tradition, taking all that is good and true and beautiful in the world, bringing it together to give it a home. In so doing, it is able to appreciate a wide variety of practices, spiritualities, theologies, philosophies, and cultural adaptations. Of course, there are elements which transcend differences, such as the sacraments which bring us into the Church: baptism, chrismation, the eucharist, clerical orders, marriage and anointing may be celebrated in a variety of unique ways, but the central core is still in the celebration.

With diversity, however, comes many challenges. There are established cultural ‘norms’ that discourage some members of the congregation from being open to new ideas. There are social and racial biases so ingrained that some congregants don’t even realize they have them. Every person comes with his or her own customs, manner of dress, music and liturgy preferences, and political views. Saint Paul encountered this in his ministry; each city he proselyted was different, with difference mores, cultures and social guidelines. These differences created a messy church – just like ours today.

A major hindrance to creating a unity within a diverse church is the tendency of human beings to cling to ‘their own kind’, even if they live, work, and worship in multi-cultural neighborhoods. It is more ‘comfortable’ to be among people just like one’s self, rather than ‘stretch’ to acknowledge and come to understand customs and behaviors that are unfamiliar or different.

Even within the church, many people accept the concept of diversity until activities become culturally uncomfortable to them – then they want to go back to ‘how we have always done it’, discounting the possibility that new ways or approaches might even be more enriching, or open their minds and spirits to God in fresh and exciting ways. Styles of music become a serious impediment to solidifying a congregation – there are those who refuse to acknowledge any worth in contemporary Christian or non-piano/organ music. Many cultures worship in a participatory manner during the service, especially during the sermon. To those who could be labelled the ‘frozen chosen’ (sitting silently during the sermon), this is an anathema!

No matter the number of sermons preached on embracing those who are not like us, social and cultural norms reinforce that concept that ‘that’s okay for other people, but not for my church’. Past schisms in The Episcopal Church demonstrate evidence of how rigidly some beliefs are held.

Today’s church is no different from the early church, where Saint Paul preached:

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

One of the best ways we can achieve true unity in diversity is to move from speech to action, by actually celebrating diversity in our churches. It takes a concerted effort by all members of the congregations; but it can be rewarding, inspiring, and joyful!

First, we must come to understand some core obstacles that may keep us from unity:

  1. Pride in one’s identity must make room for embracing the identity of others. Racial, political and educational characteristics are at the core of our ego and self-identity. If we pridefully cling to our differences as the core of ‘who we are’ and ‘what is right’, we are unable to embrace the identities of those ‘not like us’ – often resulting in bigotry and judgment, rather than loving and sincere interest in others. Realizing that much more unites human beings than divides them, is essential to unity.
  2. Openness to doing things in new ways must supplant the discomfort of not doing things ‘my way’.
  3. We must meet changes and new ideas with patience, genuine interest, and honest responses rather than anger and apathy. We should always care what happens in our church, and if we do not agree with it, gently and earnestly express our opinions, remembering that someone may cherish what we disdain – compromise can always be found among truly united people!
  4. Forgiveness for perceived hurts and misunderstandings, rather than holding grudges, is essential for moving forward to a united church. We must help one another look at past slights and offenses in order to forgive, and put such incidents in the past.
  5. A sense of ‘ethnic-awareness’ and appreciation must replace ‘color-blindness’ for true unity. We are not ‘all the same’, but we are all wonderful products of God’s creative imagination!

We pray daily that God’s Kingdom will come ‘on earth as it is in Heaven’. Our churches should be the best example of what that Kingdom should look like! Blind conformity, rote ritual, token motions of mission and outreach, power plays, and denominational pride are not found in God’s Kingdom – nor is disregard for the feelings and needs of each individual. The Kingdom of Heaven must be heralded by a church that is intentionally loving across ethnic, racial, and gender differences. Churches that are struggling together to love and care for those in need, will declare and model the Good News of Jesus in all they do.
 
 

written for Connections, Diocese of Southern Ohio, 30 November 2017

A Terrorist is a Terrorist – No Matter WHO It Is!

We are all reeling from yet another atrocity – the massacre at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland, Texas. The fact that someone chose to mow down people worshipping on a Sunday is an anathema of all this country professes to be. Unfortunately, we live in a world that is sadly marked by increasing violence and terrorism. It seems like very few days go by, if any at all, without some horrible act of terror or random violence. It has become such a ‘normal’ occurrence that some in the country hardly react any longer. There is surely something wrong in our society when the solution to a problem or reaction to anger is to not only kill the offender, but also massacre innocence people in the process.

But equally disturbing to me is that whenever there is a terror attack, the natural impulse is to blame a Muslim or ISIS. Are we so influenced by the national attitude that we can’t wait to immediately attach the nomer ‘Islam’ or ‘ISIS’ to the word ‘terrorist’? Perhaps it is easier to accept that a foreign element is responsible for our mounting atrocities than to accept the perpetrator may be the person next door, but clearly that is not so.

It is human nature to seek scapegoats for the causes of evil – it is far easier to look upon the things that come from without than the things from within. That chosen scapegoat suffices only until another deadly attack happens; then we repeat the blaming (mental health, access to guns, foreign agents).

If you look at the last six massacres, each one was perpetrated by a home-grown, All-American citizen – not some foreign boogey man. They may have had mental health issues, but they grew up and lived as a citizen of the United States. We are reluctant to admit that ‘we’ have spawned this monster.

We do not call their actions ‘terrorism’ . . . but terrorism is terrorism. . . – no matter who the person is. Whether they have a mental problem or are seeking revenge for a perceived slight, when one kills and maims dozens of innocent people, they are still ‘terrorists’. And until we accept that their actions are not solely, ‘mental health issues’, or ‘gun control issues’, but ‘acts of terror’, it will be nearly impossible to address these actions.

Living among us as law-abiding and patriotic Americans are thousands of Muslims. In a knee-jerk reaction, to continually label them as a group as being the cause each time we have an incidence of terror in our midst, is unfair, unjust, and weakens our ability to address the real causes behind the terrorist’s act.

We, as Christians, need to begin to address the causes of terrorism. We need to provide services for those who feel they have been a victim of injustice. And we need to be a strident, but loving voice against those who spout hatred against those who are not ‘like us’, whether ethnic, racial, gender, or religious. If we begin to ‘love one another as we love ourselves’, maybe we can begin to change the world.

We can pray this will be so – and put our prayers into action.
 

written for The Crossroads, Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Worthington & Parts Adjacent, OH; 12 November 2017