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    From the Pastor

    Rev. Scott Crane

    Where Has Character Gone?

    It is not easy sitting down and writing this article each month. There are so many topics about which one could write. And there are many different issues about which to write, falling somewhere along a left to right spectrum, theologically and politically. But hot button issues usually rarely bring out the best in people.

    My desire is not for these articles to convince people I’m right or give all the “correct” answers but, rather, for people to be self-reflective as to their own behavior, their own character. A good chunk of my own writing, here and in sermons, comes from my own struggle and wrestling as to what is right or helpful or Christ-like for me.

    Recent headlines, though, have caught my attention over the passionate firestorm about what the flag and our national anthem represent, who is patriotic, and how that is defined. And, of course, being friends with a variety of diverse folk, I get people who passionately “know” that they are the ones who are standing on high ground. It’s why I often don’t take a stand about hot button issues, especially on Facebook. Many people, regardless of where they stand on the spectrum, are not truly interested in understanding deeper issues, or their complexities, they simply want to feel like they and their side are right. This is especially true on social media. It’s not the ideal place to have a conversation of substance and does not allow, as face-to-face conversation does, for nuances and complexities of many issues.

    Instead of seeing good, constructive debate, I see frustrated folk lashing out without any thought or reflection. Probably most would agree with me that character seems to be lacking in many arenas of life, especially in this age of social media. Technically, character can be bad or good, based on personality and traits, but I’m pondering the healthy and positive character aspects. Where are the people of upright and outstanding character?

    A problem today is that many people don’t want to do the homework of digging for substance of any kind on pressing issues. They want problems to be simple yes/no or right/wrong in a world where there are many shades, nuances and contexts…not to mention different experiences that often create filters as to the way we perceive. They see others hypocrisy but do not see their own. They see others sin but not their own.

    I’m striving to listen to everyone with a grain of salt. People may or may not be sharing facts with me. I can listen at what they think, their opinion, and their feelings or frustration. Yet, I realize that opinions and feelings, as well-meaning as they may be, are not necessarily facts. And, as my father would often quote, “you really can’t understand another person unless you walk a mile in their shoes.”

    So, I try to be a person of good character. I try to listen, to understand and to walk alongside others in their struggle. I cannot fix another’s concerns but I can provide a safe environment that allows them to dig deeper. Indeed, heart issues are beyond easy surface conversations and every individual must do their own discovery.

    I have found that I can disagree with others and still admire them when they are struggling to find what is right or true…especially, when they are willing to put their own neck on the line. It’s so easy to condemn and judge others through trite comments or sharing simple memes on social media. What we need are more people who can show a little compassion and grace to understand others. “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” was another quote shared often by my father.

    Good character, or virtue, does not seek to divide but struggles to understand. Good character doesn’t need to tear down another. Good character comes from self-reflection, self-discipline and self-control. Oh, if people could use a little more of those disciplines before they would jump into the fray and add to the confusion and anxiety.

    Where has good character gone?

    Grace & Peace,
    Pastor Scott