Thursday, November 10, 2016

Was This Election About Race?

I have read that some people are writing Trump's election off to "White Backlash." That strikes me as an arrogant, ignorant and borderline racist comment. Perhaps we should spend more time listening to others rather than judging them with largely uninformed judgements. I submit the following article to expand our thinking. It certainly impacted my thinking.

What a Gay Muslim Pakistani-American Immigrant Learned Traveling to Rural Alaska The Week Before the Election
by Riaz Patel


Dear 59,668,724 Disappointed Americans, I know this is a devastating day. Considering the toxic levels of hatred and division unleashed over the past few years of campaigning, either outcome was going to be a bitter pill for HALF of our nation to swallow.

Like all forms of mourning, it will take time to heal as we mourn the loss of our version of the next four years. But notice I said OUR version. Because there is another one. And that one not only has a lot of supporters, but has legally and definitively asserted it’s right to be heard. It’s a perspective I didn’t know a lot about until recently.

A few months ago I sat down with Glenn Beck for an intense chat about hate in America. At some point he questioned why I lumped all “White Americans” together when expressing a particular point of view. I thought about that a lot. So, the next day I decided I needed to understand the election from a perspective other than my own. On my drive to work I found a Conservative radio station. The morning after, I found another. And ever since, thanks to the power of satellite radio, I’ve been crisscrossing the country, popping in to listen to local call-in shows. Here’s what I learned by listening. Listening. Not waiting to speak. Not waiting to disagree or refute. There exists a HUGE population in America who are desperately struggling to feed their families. They feel their needs are not authentically represented within this huge government. They feel their concerns are not being voiced by any major news outlet. They are tired of being called “dumb,” “bigoted” and “racist.” And, based on the shocked expressions of every anchor last night that all their polling data was off, apparently, they aren’t even really counted.

I was feeling such a groundswell of their frustration and unhappiness – and even the strong possibility of a Trump victory – that I decided last-minute to travel with my husband and our six-month old daughter to Ketchikan, Alaska the weekend before the election. Why? Because I wanted to meet these people. And I wanted them to meet me. Before we had a “Winner.” How else would we understand each other beyond the “black” and “white” which we BOTH have been painted, non-stop, in this vicious election cycle.

So, I went to breakfast at The Landing on Tongass Avenue and discussed the stakes of the election with third-generation fisherman and learned that their whole life’s work was at stake based on potential Clinton fishing regulations. I talked somewhat fervently about the cancer that is radical Islam with Nicole & Jim, who ran the Black Bear Inn and discussed how we all feel unsafe these days. And I chatted with Paula, the 30-year bar manager, who explained that almost all of Alaska is owned by the federal government so each vote in this community is REALLY about their ability to support their families. Over the course of two days, I met lovely people. Some I agreed with and some I didn’t. Some of them had met a Muslim before and others hadn’t. But all asked me earnest questions about my background, and I asked about theirs. No question was offensive because the intention was non-judgmental.

On my flight back, I realized that for many of us supporting Hillary, this election was about incredibly important social issues. It was a moral election for us. To most of the people I met on my trip, it was about survival. Literally. So when I read Facebook/Twitter posts this morning vilifying 50% of the country for being dumb or racist, I remember Nicole, Jim & Paula and I know that’s not true. But how would I know that if I didn’t meet them and talk to them with an open mind? Only by pulling up a few chairs to PERSONIFY the people we think we hate, will we move beyond “black” and “white” to the way the world really is: grey. Grey is the only way.

As I walk around my office today, people are in shock. It’s no surprise people are surprised by the results when they refused to let an opposing viewpoint in. What did most of my Hillary supporting friends do when someone disagreed with their politics on Facebook? They “Unfriended” them. And when even Jake Tapper on CNN makes the mistake of saying “we” instead of “she” as he refers to winning Connecticut, we have to realize we are in one giant echo chamber that extends to almost everyone we speak to and almost every place we get information. This morning, I am not surprised by the result. But I am slightly impressed by the notion that all the celebrity power and campaign money in the nation was not enough to continue to mute these Americans. They simply went to the polls and voted for what was best for their family. Just as we all do. And they won.

Fairly. Now, before the chat threads blow up below this article, I am not denying that some Trump supporters are racist. Of course. But some Muslims are terrorists. The point is NOT ALL. I’ve seen the clips of bigoted slurs being thrown out at Trump rallies. But, as a TV producer, when I watch the footage aired, there aren’t a tons of incidents. It’s a couple each time, played many, many times over. But if a group of twenty idiotic Trump supporters yell ethnic slurs, is the entire stadium “racist” by association? No. If a Black Lives Matters supporter says it’s “open season on whites” is that a true representation of the movement? No. Should I be viewed with suspicion because I am a Muslim and some are terrorists? No.

The worst outcome of the election is that we have each been reduced to a series of broad labels that no longer reflect who we are. Mexican. White. Republican. Immigrant. Muslim. We may try to look at people as “labels” but we’ll never truly see them because THEY do not look at their own lives & families as labels. If, in the misery of this morning’s election hangover, we choose to continue to refer to Trump supporters as one collective “Them” I think that is as offensive as anything else I’ve heard in this election cycle and as ungracious as anything we feared from Trump supporters in the defeat we assumed would be theirs. I think a key part of beginning to heal is realizing Trump is not his supporters. Who he is and how he campaigned are truly distasteful to me. But his supporters are not him. They voted for a variety of reasons that are important and personal to them. And when I was with them this past weekend, everyone I came across showed me kindness & humanity.

I hope, for their sake, the quality of their life improves. And that they are able to continue to work and provide their families with a safe and loving home. A home into which I hope to be invited.

Think about it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Change

For those of us who attempt to bring change to failing institutions, like the church, with as much resistance that is encountered, one might think that change is a very unpopular thing. It seems that no matter how serious, even desperate, the situation, the people involved fight tooth and toenail to keep everything as it is. The church may be barely surviving on a respirator, but most people seem to prefer the death of the institution to making the changes that may bring life and health. We humans don’t like change.

Let me clarify that: we don’t like change to happen to us or around us. We like change in others. We spend huge amounts of time and energy in seeking to implement change in others. Many married couples spend long, frustrating, infuriating years trying to bring about changes in their spouses. “If I could only get her to quit… she wouldn’t drive me nuts.“ “If he would just be more… I would be happy.” Often the things that attracted couples in the first place become their main pain. “I just love her bubbly personality,” turns into “She’s driving me nuts; she talks all the time.” “He is the strong quiet type,” becomes “I hate that he never talks to me and holds everything in.” It would be humorous if it weren’t so sad.

It has been said that men marry hoping their wives never change and women marry counting on their husbands changing. During pre-marriage counseling I put the couple through an exercise. I have them turn and face each other and tell them to take a long and careful look. I then tell them; this is the best he or she is ever going to look, behave, or smell. You both are doing the best you can now to get the other to marry you. After marriage, it is all downhill. Cynical you say? Nay, nay I say. Just an observation over many years.

Our last President ran on a platform of Hope and Change. Of course, not much changed and I have just about lost all hope. Donald Trump claimed he would bring change to America. I have been observing U. S. politics for several decades and it seems that the only real change that happens is for the worst. I wonder how long; how many experiences we will endure before we finally realize that the answers to our problems do not lie in the politicians we elect. Every election is touted as “The most important election ever.” I’m not sure how important the elections are but they seem to consistently produce the same results – the same old crap.

Changing administrations may make the Kool aid drinkers of the party in power feel better but it has little positive effect on the rest of us. It is the same old rhetoric, the same old playing the blame game, the same old lots of talk and little action.

We try many other things to bring change that have, either little effect or help block the change. For example, we religious types, upon discovering some injustice or something someone does that doesn’t fit our moral code, just love to call our gang together for a candle light vigil. I can’t think of a less effective thing to do. First of all, most people ignore such empty gestures. The people it is supposed to impact remain pleasantly unaware that the gathering happened.

One of the other things we religious change agents are prone to do is have a rally/march/sit in. Often these good ideas take a turn for the worse and become riots with brutal results. Nobody’s mind is changed. The results of such activities just serve to more deeply entrench those on both sides of the issue in their preconceived beliefs. The only result for those taking part in the march is they are deepened in their sense of self-righteousness. For those not participating in the march/rally, it is either an inconvenience or just accentuates their belief that the marchers are stupid.

I realize that what I am going to propose runs contrary to some of the most cherished beliefs of my fellow clergy and socially active church members. The morass of societal chaos and confusion; the racial strife and tension; the inequities and poverty we face will not be changed through the political process or marches and candle light vigils. The much needed and greatly desired change we seek will only come when people are changed. And to change people calls for a substantial investment of time in significant relationships. It is impossible to change people at a distance.

The decades of the War on Poverty have been an unmitigated failure because it was attempted by the government. The government is incapable of nurturing the deep relationships needed to turn around systemic poverty. Standing back at an arm’s length and hurling money at those in poverty has proven to be ineffective. Money isn’t the answer; it is just one of the tools needed. It is only through relationships that core values, ineffective and negative thought patterns, and a lifetime of poor teaching and modeling can be overcome. We all wish it were simpler and easier than that, but it is not.

The Christian community has the answer to many of our social ills. We have the spiritually, emotionally and physically healthy lifestyle that Christ calls us to. If we truly understand the Gospel, we know that it is the way to a full and meaningful life. Christians must make a commitment of time, energy and resources in meaningful ministry (Relationships) if we want to see things (People) turn around. It is a huge commitment that would dynamically impact our lives and lifestyles. We probably, on some level of consciousness, realize how profound and difficult making such a commitment would be and have opted for the easier way of investing a bit of time in shouting and writing about our unhappiness with situations we perceive as wrong and by expecting the government to fulfill our responsibility to change our world.

It is interesting, in reading the New Testament stories of the life of Jesus, just how little time and effort he spent in attempting to impact the governing powers and how much time he, instead, invested in people. The Jews of that time were ruled by the Romans and not by a government of their choosing. And the Romans were neither just nor kind. But Jesus had almost nothing to say about it. He was involved in making disciples (Changing lives.) who, in turn, could make disciples who could make disciples. Where he saw unfairness, he sought to correct it. Where he saw hungry people, he fed them. He healed the sick. He made things better. He met needs. And his mission statement is still valid and in effect. But mainly he made disciples. Perhaps we, the church, would do well to follow his example.

Copyright © 2016, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.

He can be contacted @ bill45053@gmail.com. Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

For Whom is a Christian to Vote

This has been an interesting presidential campaign. Except for a few “true believers” on each end of the political spectrum, very few people are the least bit pleased by the candidates put forth by the two major political parties. As is quite common, those who are enthusiastic backers of the candidates are pretty irrational with a bad case of “selecta-hearing” and a willingness to believe the unbelievable. I understand that. Been there; done that.

The responses to the first debate held no surprises. The left leaning major networks (Please don’t bother denying that obvious fact.) all declared Hilary the obvious winner of the debate. The right wing news media (Can you say FOX news?) gave it to Donald. The opinion from an observer who doesn’t care for either of them (That would be me.) is that Hilary was the hands down winner. A calm delivery and the command of many facts gave her my nod.

I have been intrigued reading several Facebook posts and blogs written by Christians enumerating the many reasons why a Christian should not (could not) vote for Donald Trump. I have also noted that nothing much has been written about the possibilities of Christians voting for Hilary Clinton. Since many of the posts and blogs were written by respected Christians, I am guessing that their unspoken point is that it is okay for a Christian to vote for Hilary.

My take on the whole deal is that no Christian could comfortably vote for either candidate. There are several reasons why I feel this way. I am going to share some concerns I have, not as an expert but as an observer.

1.      Neither candidate shows any signs of being a practicing follower of Christ. Before you bother to call me judgmental: I am neither judgmental nor stupid. Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruits.” I am not listening to their words, I am looking at the fruit of their lives – how they have treated people and it is ugly. The Donald is rude and mean to people in public. Hillary is rude and mean to people behind the scenes. (Many books have been written by those who have worked closely with the Clintons that point this out.)
2.      Both candidates are amoral, if not immoral. They lie without flinching. After listening to Hilary reply to questions about the reports of FBI Director James Comey of the many falsehoods contained in her testimony in her interview with the FBI, she seems to show herself to be a pathological liar. She lies when the truth sounds better. Even when directly confronted with what Comey said, her take is we must have misunderstood what he meant. Without flinching, Donald has shown a strong inclination to just run over people and if anyone disagrees with him he is more than willing to attempt to verbally destroy them. I have little knowledge of the laws involved, but many very intelligent and informed people have made the point that if they had done some of the things Hillary has done, they would be, if not in prison, would have lost their jobs and security clearance. She seems to assume she is above the law. And there is little doubt that many of Donald’s “successful” business deals have been destructive to others, and yet, he points to those deals with pride.
3.      For many years it has been my opinion that if anyone desires to be the President of the United States, they are suffering from severe psychological problems. I continue to believe that and am completely serious about it.
4.      Both show obvious signs of megalomania. Trump by what he says: Clinton by what she does.
5.      Both are sexists. Again Trump shows his sexism by what he says and Hillary by how she treats women.
6.      Both are racists. This I know because I have been to classes and learned that if you are white, you are racist.

To say I am disappointed by the choices we have is an understatement. I am downright angry at the Democrats. I would love to be a part of the electorate that elects American’s first woman President. That would be awesome. But vote for Hillary? I just can’t do that. What a bummer.

These are both seriously flawed candidates. I certainly wouldn’t vote for either one of them because I am a Christian. The question I must ask myself is; can I vote for either one of them in spite of being a Christian? So far my answer is no. They are both frightening, self-seeking, possibly dangerous, untruthful and showing no discernible relationship with God. Unfortunately, America is up the proverbial creek and someone has misplaced the paddle.

Copyright © 2016, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.
He can be contacted @ bill45053@gmail.com. Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Perfect Record

Keeping records is often at the core of some people’s lives. Accountants keep meticulous records. That’s why I am not one. Our court systems keep and store volumes of records. Police departments and emergency medical squads I have served on carefully record all that we do. The FBI, like all law enforcement entities, keeps records on people. Since I attended college in the 1960’s and was involved in student politics, I assume the FBI has a file on me somewhere in a dusty old file cabinet in Washington.

Do you remember your “Permanent Record”? Every time I got into trouble in school, which was often, some austere school official would announce to me that my misbehavior would be recorded on my permanent record. I had some questions then and have them now. What permanent record? Who has the authority to make notes on my record? Where is my permanent record kept? When I die does is it forwarded to God for our conversation about my life? Can I see my permanent record so I can prepare my defense?

I am amazed at the detailed records kept by the powers that be in baseball. While watching my Cincinnati Reds play on television, the announcers come up with an alphabet soup of statistic. Years ago they displayed the player’s batting average. That was it. Now we are made aware of his OBP (On Base Percentage), RBIs (Runs Batted In), SP (Slugging Percentage (percentage of extra base hits)), home runs hit, batting average before the All Star break, batting average in each month of the season, his hometown, family history and on and on. Good Lord, TMI.

And then a relief pitcher is put in and here come the statistics again: Innings pitched, won-loss record, batting average of opponents, ERA (Earned Run Average), Opponent On-base Plus Slugging (OOPS), Innings Pitched (IP) Strikeouts per nine innings (K/9IP), Strikeouts per walk 9K/BB), Home runs per nine innings (HR/9), walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) and more I can’t think of at the moment. It is just a severe case of overkill.

In baseball there are batting statistics; pitching statistics; base running statistics; fielding statistics; overall player value and general statistics. I found over 100 different baseball statistics. Though I had not heard of it before I was doing research for this blog, my new favorite baseball statistic is: pNERD – Pitcher's NERD: expected aesthetic pleasure of watching an individual pitcher. What is that? A cute pitcher index?

In light of my problematic Permanent Record, I am pleased to announce that somewhere I have a perfect record. In the 1956 St. Matthews, Kentucky, National League Little League record books I have a perfect 1-0 won-loss pitching record. One win and no losses. Perfect.

As I mentioned previously, the first team that picked me to play for them was the Kiwanis Club. After one practice they un-picked me and I was crushed. Soon I was picked up by Lincoln Income and played first base for them. Since my older brother, Bob, was a more than outstanding pitcher, everyone assumed I, too, would be a great pitcher. They were wrong; I wasn’t. Like Bob, I was left handed. Like Bob, I had a large, intimidating windup. Like Bob, I had three pitches I could throw. His were a blazing fastball, a wicked curveball and a slider. Mine were a slow fastball, a slower fastball and a slowest fastball. Besides throwing fluff balls to the plate, I had absolutely no control. If I happened to somehow throw a strike they might stop the game and present me with the ball.

In the context of the preceding information, picture this. It was the third or fourth game of the season and we were sporting a perfect record. Next team on the schedule was Kiwanis Club… the team that had cut me… had devastated me. As the team gathered to warm up and for some infield practice, I walked out to first base. I was surprised when Mr. Weatherby called me back to the dugout. I was guessing he thought it would be too emotionally taxing to face the team that rejected me so early in the season. Instead, he put his arm around my shoulder, walked me out toward the outfield and said, “I want you to pitch today and want you to beat these bastards.” (He was not politically correct.) And then he smiled the biggest, warmest smile I had ever seen on his face and said, “Go warm up.” That was it. As he walked back to home plate to begin infield practice I just stood there thinking. Had he lost his mind? What was he thinking? We all knew I couldn’t pitch. It was a sure loss. As I stood there I finally understood what he was doing. He was giving me the chance to make the coach of Kiwanis Club regret cutting. Up until that point in our relationship I respected Mr. Weatherby and appreciated his coaching skills. But in that moment of understanding what he was up to, I loved Mr. Weatherby.

In Little League we played six inning games. Things went well the first two innings because the other team members came to the plate thinking they were facing my brother’s screaming fastball. The swung way ahead of my “fastball”; sometimes before it had left my hand. I had a windup that looked just like brother Bob’s, but that is where the similarity ended. After they figured out how bad I really was, the game became controlled chaos. They beat the living hell out of everything I threw up to the plate. Fortunately, nobody was able to hit the ball over the fence. But they hit the ball all over the field. But my teammates were on fire. They chased down fly balls, dove for grounders, threw runners out trying to take extra bases. Late in the game came the play of the game. That was when one of their biggest, most experienced players stepped into one of my ever slowing fastballs and hit a bullet to third base. Our third baseman, Rusty Holtzhimer, hardly had time to move a muscle. The ball, traveling approximately 10,000 miles per hour, screamed directly at his head. In a move I still remember, his gloved hand speared the ball less than an inch from his face. It was a play that resulted in ending the inning and saving Rusty’s life.

It was like that the entire game. One amazing play on top of another. If I believed God cared about games, I would have thought God rigged the game. It was amazing. We won six to nothing. The worst pitcher in the league not only won that game, but I threw a shutout. It was a miracle.

As I said, Mr. Weatherby was a great coach. Thus, he never asked me to pitch again. So, there you have it – a perfect record. Take that, you permanent record keepers.

Copyright © 2016, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.

He can be contacted @ bill45053@gmail.com. Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Locked Up

It is interesting to think about the things we lock up. We lock up the things we care about… the things we consider precious. And we lock up the things, and people, we don’t approve of or are afraid of. We put locks on things when we want to keep them in or keep them out. If there is a lock on it, it is probably considered important by someone.

I remember my first day at work at the church in Harrison, Ohio. Locks were the first thing I noticed and the things locked and unlocked told me much about the church. First I discovered that the pastor’s office was both unlocked and unlockable. Nothing important there. I soon discovered in the culture of the church, the pastor was unimportant. In every meeting I attended it was obviously assumed that the pastor was the dumbest person in the room. The pastor was the hired Christian that existed to do the “Christian” things the church members were much too busy and important to do. The pastor was generally disrespected and his office, and its contents, certainly weren’t worth locking and protecting.

The pastor’s office was unlocked but the kitchen was securely locked. I discovered that when I started looking for a cup of coffee. The kitchen was locked and I didn’t have a key. I soon discovered that it was the most important room in the building and, I not only didn’t have a key, I was not going to get a key. The kitchen contained things much too valuable to be entrusted to the idiot pastor.

The kitchen had an interesting history. It was in the kitchen that many wars had been fought and huge emotional investments made. Every year, the local baker, Byron Rupp, had come early on Easter Sunday and made donuts for everyone in attendance that day. They say that as the sweet smell of his amazing donuts cooking in the kitchen wafted up from the basement into the sanctuary, the whole congregation began stirring in their seats and many an Easter sermon was shortened because the preacher’s mouth was watering so badly the sermon could not be continued. After worship everyone gathered in the fellowship hall and ate donuts and drank coffee until it felt like Jesus had returned and brought the food. Many felt that communion would be much more meaningful if it were celebrated with Byron’s donuts and coffee. There were some great memories made in that kitchen.

The kitchen was also the sight of some almost bloody battles. The church was “famous” for its chicken dinners. Thousands of dollars were made by these dinners and several friendships were strained by these dinners. Anyone observant of human nature could have predicted these “chicken wars”. When you get a bunch of women in a shared kitchen something dangerous is going to happen. Before you call me sexist, I am only making an astute observation of the obvious. Most cooks, male or female, tend to be just a bit territorial when it comes to the kitchen. Add to that the fact that nobody can fry chicken like I can. I’m serious… I fry the best fried chicken in the world. And most chicken fryers feel the same way. Stuff us all into one kitchen and watch the fur fly. We can’t help but tell each other how it should be done, critique each other’s work and be pretty vocal about it and warfare breaks out.

Thank God they had stopped doing the chicken dinners before I showed up. I am a great believer that churches should never sell anything to the public. My thoughts are: why should people who don’t give a hoot about the church be expected to help finance the church and selling things to the public just reinforces their perception that the church is only interested in their money. If you are going to prepare a dinner, invite the public and make it free. Stopping the dinners would have just been another change to the church for the old timers to hate me for. Fortunately, before I left the church some of the lay leadership started cooking Thanksgiving Dinner for those in the community alone or in need and served hundreds of free meals every Thanksgiving day for years.

Every church I have served has had a kitchen police force of one. In the church I grew up in it was Mary Lou Henry. Every time I see Dana Carvey do his “Church Lady” bit, I think of Mary Lou. She locked the kitchen and oversaw it every moment the doors were open. She counted the silverware. I know because one Monday morning when I was working at the church as an Associate Minister, she showed up in the office, highly agitated, with a note for the weekly newsletter. It read: “Someone has taken a slotted spatula from the church kitchen. You must return it immediately.” The note sounded just a bit hostile and unkind to me, so I suggested another solution to resolve this horrible situation. I would invest the $1.25 and go buy a new slotted spatula for the kitchen. I’m thinking she didn’t like my idea since she slapped her note on the counter and stomped out the door in a major huff.

The Church Lady (kitchen police chief) at the Harrison church was Edna Ohler. Edna carried a key chain with more keys than the jailers the prison where I had worked and ruled the kitchen (and the church) with an iron hand. Everyone chuckled at her antics but nobody crossed her. Everybody knew you didn’t want to get on the wrong side of Edna. So, of course, I did. Somehow we worked out our differences and became great friends. But I remained locked out of the kitchen until the day Edna died. They gave me a key but then just quit locking the door. With Edna gone it just wasn’t as much fun anymore.

Copyright © 2016, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.

He can be contacted @ bill45053@gmail.com. Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Friday, August 12, 2016

Mr. Weatherby

It all started when my father and I had had one of the famous “bathroom” conversations. Serious conversations with my dad happened in one of two places: his home office or in the bathroom. Both locations had some negative characteristics.

Most times, when my father called one of the children to make an appearance in either place, it was not a pleasant experience. When summoned to his office one could assume the summoned was in deep poo. The was no doubt that the poo was about to hit the fan. Unfortunately, I hold the family record for office lectures. I guess you could call me the McConnell Poo Champion. Lucky me. All of the office lectures followed a similar pattern. Dad calmly invited you in and told you to have a seat. I would have preferred to stand so I could dodge more freely and perhaps, if necessary, sprint for the door. When dad started with the phrase, “Now I’m not going to get mad,” you could put him on the clock. Within three minutes his voice would be raised, his face bright red and a vein on the left side of his forehead would be bulging out about one inch and throbbing dramatically. From then on I never heard a word he said. All of my attention was on the throbbing vein: wondering if this was the day it was going to burst right before my eyes. Was my bad behavior going to be responsible for my father’s untimely death? Would I be saddled forever with the memory of watching his head explode: seeing the him, me and the office walls covered in blood; knowing that when I called for the ambulance it would be the first time he wouldn’t be complaining about me tying up the phone? I learned early, since I was no longer paying any attention, when there was a pregnant pause the correct response was to say, “Yes sir.” There is no telling what all I agreed to during those lectures, but saying “Yes sir,” probably saved my life a number of times.

The man-to-man, this-is-information-you-need-to grow-up-to-be-a-man, talks took place in the bathroom. I know what you’re thinking: it was a large family and the bathroom was to only place we could find privacy. You would be thinking that we dragged small chairs into those limited quarters for a short chat. You would be wrong. We met in the bathroom because that was where dad spent lots of time and he hated wasting time. He would sit on the toilet (Not with the top down – he was doing his business.) and I would sit on the side of the tub. Mine was an uncomfortable seat made profoundly miserable due to the tub having sliding shower doors that were held in place by a one-inch tall metal track. So the feckless student was force to sit on the track which pressed into one’s thighs, cutting off the circulation to the lower legs. Slowly all feeling was lost and visions of amputation creeped into one’s mind. My dad didn’t believe in short talks. He could go on for what seemed decades. At the conclusion of a bathroom talk the tub sitter slowly stood, staggered out of the bathroom and did an impressive impression of a pitifully drunk person for about half an hour. The siblings would gather to harass and laugh.

One early spring day I announced to no one in particular that I would like to follow my big brother into Little League baseball. The word circulated through the household and pretty soon I was summoned to the bathroom for the talk. Now the talk lasted approximately two hours but I can sum it up in a very few words. Don’t quit. If you start this thing you are NOT going to quit. Quitters never win. McConnell’s aren’t quitters. Perhaps you noted a theme to the talk. According to dad, I was into Little League baseball for the long haul. As dad talked I nodded my head, felt my legs lose all feeling and began to wonder if I would be able to walk, much less play baseball.
A few weeks later I gathered with several hundred 9-12-year-old kids for Little League tryouts. These were the old days where not everyone made the team and got a trophy. We kids spent a Saturday going through skill drills under the observation of the coaches. That evening the coaches gathered, each with a certain number of points, and bid on the players they wanted for their team. Sunday they called the fortunate kids who had been chosen. No call – no play. That Sunday I got a call and informed I was on the Kiwanis team and when and where to report to practice.

I really don’t remember how practice went. I have a vague memory of running to first base, tripping over the bag and sprawling face first into the turf. My guess is the first base run was not my only screw-up that day because the coach called me that evening to let me know I had been cut from the team. I was devastated. Weeping, I ran from the house and sought refuse in my hiding place; a small cave I had been exploring. I was crushed. I sat there sobbing for what seemed hours. My heartache was short lived as the very next day I man named Ed Weatherby called to let me know I had been picked up by his team, Lincoln Income.

Since I was ten years old, and not the sharpest knife in the drawer, it didn’t occur to me that there was something fishy about this deal. First, my dad was the chair of the St. Matthews Little League board of directors and could, and probably did, pull some strings. Secondly, the team I had been picked up by was sponsored by the company my dad worked for (Was vice president of.). I was young and dumb and just happy to be playing ball. Not that I’m slow but it was a few decades before I made the obvious connections that led to my good fortune.

At that first practice I met Mr. Weatherby. I’m guessing he was in his late 20’s, tall and handsome. And he was serious about baseball. I was coming to that conclusion by how often and how hard we practiced: four evenings a week, three hours at a time. We learned about hitting, fielding, base running, bunting, sliding, how to get hit by a ball with the least damage done. I left every practice dirty, exhausted and drenched in sweat. I ached in places I hadn’t known I had.  I was having a blast.

I practiced at home every day with my brother Bob. Bob was a year ahead of me in the system and he was a star. Over his pitching career from Little League through high school, he pitched several no hitters. He threw a fastball like I had never seen before or since. And he was just wild enough to be intimidating. His curve ball broke to the left and dropped like it had fallen off a table. He could even throw a knuckle ball. At the start of a game, when Bob walked out to the mound the opposing team dropped their heads and moaned. Since Bob was such a great pitcher, everyone assumed I would be too. They were wrong. My fastball looked like a Whiffle ball thrown against the wind. My curveball spun some but never broke.

Being left handed, my choice of positions on the team was limited. The first game I played in Mr. Weatherby put me in right field (The place where he figured I could do the least damage.). He was wrong. It seems I was depth perception challenge and could not judge a fly ball. Fortunately, I was so bad at judging a ball I never got near enough to have one hit me. My career in right field lasted less than a full game. The coach put me out of my misery and took me out after just a couple of innings. It wasn’t long until I found my place on the team at first base. I loved it and became very good at that position.

When I say that Mr. Weatherby was serious about baseball, I mean SERIOUS. Opening day was a big deal at St. Matthews Little League. We had two perfectly manicured fields with press boxes, bleachers and a fabulous concession stand. Remember, this is back in the 50’s when kid’s sports were not a religious experience. On opening day all of the teams from both the American and National leagues gathered in perfect formation on the field to participate in the ceremonies. Local dignitaries were introduced, the opening pitch was thrown and the local TV sports guy, Uncle Ed Kallay, gave a speech. Ed Kallay worked for WAVE TV in Louisville and was Kentucky’s first television sports caster. He got the moniker, Uncle Ed, from hosting a popular children’s cartoon show called Funny Flickers. It was a huge honor to have Ed Kallay to be the opening day speaker.

I don’t remember the entire speech but I do remember Mr. Weathersby’s response to part of it. Near the end of his short speech Mr. Kallay said, “Just remember kids, you can’t win them all.” At that point, Mr. Weatherby, who was standing at parade rest in front of the team, looked at us over his right shoulder and said, just loud enough for us to hear, “Like hell you can’t.” I remember thinking, “Oh, crap, this is going to be an interesting season.”

By the way, Uncle Ed was wrong.

Copyright © 2016, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.

He can be contacted @ bill45053@gmail.com. Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Why I Like Donald and Bernie

For years I have raved on about how much I dislike and distrust the political establishment.  I am not a Republican because I once was one and they profoundly disappointed me. I became a Democrat and marched with them until they just flat out disgusted me. I am not a fan of either party, for good reasons. I have become a bit of a Libertarian, not so much because I like all of their political stances, but because they seem to generally tell the truth – something the other parties are either unable or unwilling to do.

Many people have asked me (a Political Science major) why the two major political parties nominated two such disliked and distrusted candidates. I will admit that Donald and Hillary both have a bunch of true believers in their camps, but there are a huge number of clear thinking Americans who can’t stand or trust either one of them. For most of the “true believers” in each camp, the decision to back their respective candidates is much more an emotional decision and much less a rational decision.

I tried to watch both conventions but could only take them in small doses. People standing and cheering for such poor candidates who are being proclaimed as the answer for all that troubles America was just irksome. Many of the followers of The Trumpster and Her Hillariness struck me as much like followers of far out religious cults… starry-eyed, out of touch with reality and just a little bit scary. I have pretty thoroughly studied both candidates and like a little bit (a very little bit) about each of them, I honestly wouldn’t vote for either of them. No offense to any true believer reading this but they are two pitiful people and neither would be a decent leader of our country. If you are a knee jerk Republican or Democrat, you don’t like what I have written, but it is still the truth.

I will repeat a question I ask often and have yet to receive a rational answer. Why does such a huge block of the African American population continue to constantly and consistently vote the straight Democratic ticket? Now I realize that the Democratic Party talks incessantly about being the party that stands with African Americans and is their answer to all the social ills and issues that beset them. But with all of that said and many years of Democrats holding office in Washington, the poverty rate among the Black population has risen more than 3% in the past eight years, up to 27.2%. The unemployment rate among young African Americans has dropped some but is still outrageously higher than the rate among the white population. My question to the African American voter is: Are you only listening to the political rhetoric or have you bothered to notice if the Democrats have delivered on decades of promises? I am suggesting that, instead of just listening to empty promises that make you feel better and voting for the politicians who promise you the moon and fail to deliver, look around for someone(s) who will really help. I’m I suggesting you go over to the Republicans? Of course not. They are mired in the same dysfunctional morass as the Democrats… seeking only power and to be re-elected. Seriously, do you really think either political party gives a rat’s ass about you? We are all pawns used to keep them in power. Wake up and think!!! The solutions will not be found in Washington. The answers will be found in us.

But let me tell you why I like Donald and Bernie. They both challenged the political systems in their parties. They flew in the face of the establishment and sought to take it down. Would I vote for either of them – Oh, Hell No! But I like what they did. They each had a different experience and outcome. Trump hijacked the Republican party from the Washington inner circle. They were caught flatfooted. They threw everything they had at him but there were too many disgusted, disenfranchised, thoroughly ticked off Republicans out there – far more than they realized. The Washington political inbred family spent too much of their time talking to and arguing with each other and not enough time listening to their constituents. They tried to carry on business as usual and the party regulars said, “I don’t think so. We have had enough.” I like Donald because he gave the party leaders a good and well deserved butt kicking. And they, of course, responded by putting on their frowny faces, picking up their toys and stomping home. Maturity reins.

And then there is Bernie. Dang, he almost made it. Unfortunately for him, too many of us have been around a long time and we have seen socialism being tried and failing miserably enough times that we couldn’t get all that fired up about living in a socialistic state. The present socialist countries they like to hold up as positive examples haven’t been around long enough to degenerate into the mess that socialism inevitably slides into. Human nature (greed and laziness) precludes socialism working for long. Like many things, socialism is better in theory than in practice. Poor Bernie and his dewy eyed followers completely underestimated the devastating power of the Democratic Party machine. He was crushed, ground up and spit out the other end. His supporters were completely shocked at how he was undermined and disrespected. Come on people, anyone who understands American politics has known for eight years that Hillary Clinton was going to be the 2016 nominee of the Democratic Party, come hell or high water. They owed it to her. She had earned it. She has been a part of the machine for decades. I give Bernie points for trying but wonder what possessed him to think he had a chance.

I’m asked if I am excited that a woman was nominated for President. I would be if the woman nominated had a decent value system and didn’t treat the people around her like she is above them. My disappointment has come in seeing Bernie and his followers roll over for the machine that screwed them out of the nomination and vowed allegiance and support to Hillary. Their thinking, I am sure, is that she is better than Donald. But she is not. She is just different. She takes money from the same people he does. She makes the same kind of outrageous promises that he does. She cares as little for the average voter as he does. (She just talks a better game.) She has shown herself to be as inept as he is (No matter what the great truth teller Obama says) and her trust factor is even lower than his. That in itself is completely unnerving.

Unfortunately, Bernie also gathered his toys, quit the Democratic Party and went home. He resigned from the party and went back to being an Independent. Which is what he should have stayed… and run for President. This country could use a good third party. Lord, we could just use a good party.
Copyright © 2016, William T. McConnell, All Rights Reserved

Bill McConnell is the Interim Minister at Norwood Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a Church Transformation consultant and a Christian Leadership Coach. He is a frequent speaker at Church Transformation events. His latest book on church transformation is DEVELOPING A SIGNIFICANT CHURCH and is available at Westbow Press.

He can be contacted @ bill45053@gmail.com. Connect with him on Facebook @ William T. McConnell or on Twitter @billmc45053 or visit his Amazon Author Page @ Amazon