Review: What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism by Dan Rather


This past couple of years have helped highlight how divided we are as a nation. It seems to appear that you have to be either on one side of the political debate or the other. There is no room for middle ground. Yet, it is this middle ground that we must meet and enter into conversation with one another. It is only in our Utopian dreams that we are all going to get along and conflict will not exist.

In summary, this is a major part of Dan Rather’s presentation, along with Elliot Kirschner, in their book, What Unites Us. There is a common ground that we can all stand on and begin to vision what the future of our county looks like. There is not one right solution and at times there are valid points that can come from both sides of the aisle. Where our leaders are tending to fail their country more and more is in their believes that they have the only right solution.

Rather discusses what Patriotism looked like during World War II and his early years as a reporter. He shares his experience with Watergate and what it means for him to be a true patriot and love the country that he grew up in. Too often, we mix patriotism with the idea of nationalism. The United States was not created in the scope of nationalism. It was created in the hopes and dreams of founders that were seeking freedom and a better life for their families. Somewhere along the line this message got misinterpreted.

The United States is the nation that it is because of our diversity. The many cultures and identities that have came together to form a country that should be welcome to all. Rather does not wax poetically at this, he simply calls for a rationality to return to public discourse.

The World Has Not Come to an End

Though it may seem like it.

What a bitter election season we have just experienced. I sat down last night to watch the returns with a pit in my stomach that must have been anticipating the outcome that I would wake up to this morning. No matter which candidate won, there would be people not happy with the outcome. I went to bed with an inkling of how the populace voted and what the outcome was going to be. Hoping that by chance I would wake up in the morning and it would have just been a bad dream.

The thing is, I am a white Christian male, what do I have to fear? I am in the majority and apparently that majority voted for drastic change in Washington. Just from watching the returns and listening to the pundits talk, the racial divide is still strong in America. We clearly are not a unified nation. If we truly want to move forward, we must be able to look beyond these labels.

Regardless of who won the election, my calling has not changed. I am called to serve God and proclaim the good news that is the gospel. A gospel which comes down to the lowly and the least of these. A gospel that leaves no room for misogyny, racism, sexism, xenophobia, or fear. I will continue to stand up for those that feel excluded and will continue to speak of the love of God for all people. I will continue to preach a gospel that proclaims the inclusion of all people. I will stand up for the creation God has granted us.

My prayer is that we can come together in unity. A unity that will break down any walls, real or proposed. A unity that encourages conversation. A unity that encourages strengthening relationships. I believe that America is already great because it is composed of a great diversity of people. There is nothing to go back to. We can only move forward.

I cannot even pretend to know how my LGBTQ friends and family feel this morning. I cannot pretend to know how my African American or Hispanic friends feel this morning. I do know that many have expressed fear and anger. May we step up as a united people to combat any hatred that is spread and bring about the love of God. God is good. In this we pray.

We Cannot Remain Silent


Although, that is what I feel I have done since the largest mass shooting in United States history occurred this past Saturday evening. I did not hear anything of Orlando before service on Sunday and therefore did not have an opportunity to include it within the prayers of intercession.

Personally, I am at a loss for words. Not knowing what to say, other than to pray for the lives lost and the families affected by yet another shooting. A shooting in which we are still not fully aware of all of the details. ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton penned a wonderful letter in response, stating that “we are killing ourselves.” We are all created in God’s image and as Paul rightly proclaims in this weeks epistle,

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

To skim through the headlines, it is amazing the finger-pointing that is now happening. Yes, things need to change, however pointing fingers is not going to make that happen. We must use our voices and talk with those that are in power and let them know we want change.  We do not know what is going to work until we try it. Because if we keep on doing what we have been doing, we will continue to witness on average one multiple murder a day in the United States. In the words of Bishop Eaton, we are killing ourselves.

The fact that the extremist that took 49 lives was Muslim should not factor into the equation. If you recall, the shooting that took place a year ago tomorrow in Charleston in an AME Church was perpetrated by someone that was raised in the ELCA. Evil is evil, no matter what your faith tradition is.

I encourage you to reach out. I encourage you to pray for the victims by name; they could have easily been one of us, a family member, or a friend. Most importantly, continue to show the love of Christ that you do so well. The love that knows no label and places no barriers in it’s way.

Ground Control to Major Tom


Those were some of the first words that I recall hearing while attending U2’s 360° Tour a few years ago. If my memory serves me right it kicked off the wonderful evening that was about to ensue as Bono, The Edge, Adam, and Larry took the stage to commence in an incredible concert.

I have to admit that I have followed David Bowie very little throughout my life. I am of course familiar with some of his top songs. I truly enjoyed the article that Rolling Stone released yesterday following his death. This offering from Lyndsey Parker at Yahoo Music also was incredible and highlights some of Bowie’s best videos. Both of these reminded me of some his great songs as well as some that I were not quite familiar with and will be added to my playlist.

My first impression that I had of David Bowie was from my older brother who included him in the constant mix of music that came from his room. It is the image that leads off this blog that is the first image of Bowie that comes to my mind because it was from an album my brother owned.

Bowie was never afraid to reinvent himself and step beyond expected boundaries. What an example for people that feel as though they are hemmed in. Throughout his music career he was constantly changing his persona and truly was an incredible musician and actor.

There are also parts of the spiritual that resides within much of his music from the very beginning with Space Oddity to the release of his last album just a few days ago, Blackstar. There was something about the title track that moved me when I viewed the video after it was first released. The lyrics speaking to a solitary candle that reminds me of the light that is within us all.

His swan song, Lazarus, is even more moving after his death on Sunday. It definitely could be seen as a prophecy of what was to come. He knew his time was short and the message that he leaves with his listeners is one of hope. The late night shows all touched upon his death last night and I really enjoyed the clip that Trevor Noah shared on the Daily Show in which David Bowie speaks to pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. May you rest in peace David Bowie.

“If you feel safe in the area that you are working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you are capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you are just about in the right place to do something exciting.” ~David Bowie

My Heart Aches


My heart truly aches for the world. What has taken place this past week, not just in Paris, but also in Beirut and Syria. The ongoing clash of people that are afraid of other people. Tribe is pitted against tribe! As I preached this morning, this is not the world God has imagined, yet it is one that has functioned out of humanities need for power and fear of others.

We have clearly put Paris in the forefront of everything that has happened in the past week, even though there has been many other deaths around the world caused by violence and hate. Is it because we are like the majority of Parisians, in our whiteness and sameness, that it hits closer to home? I will admit that it hit me much harder than hearing about the Beirut bombing earlier in the week that killed 40 people.

I do not have the answers. I know that we have not seen the end of tribalism or the fight for power. Just earlier I saw that France was bombing the ISIS stronghold in Syria. Is this the right answer? Truly, I do not know. I do know that my heart aches and so do others. Usually, when that happens our first response is for revenge or vengeance. I also don’t believe there is room for reasoning with many of the those around the world that are fearful of the other and take out the aggressions through bloodshed.

All I can do right now is pray for our world. Pray that peace may overcome it and that cooler heads may prevail. May we pray not just for those that are persecuted, but also for those that do the persecuting. We have made so many advances in society through technology and engineering and many other avenues, isn’t it about time that we advance in our love for one another?