Tag Archives: arrogance

A Vice President-Elect, a Theater, and an Ambush



When Vice President-elect Mike Pence walked into the theater to watch the Broadway play Hamilton recently, he was not Abraham Lincoln and it was not Ford’s Theatre, but Mr. Pence walked into an ambush. He might have smelled trouble immediately upon entering. The air was thick with self-righteousness.

The actions of the booing and churlish crowd are utterly indefensible upon any grounds. If as a child I’d been caught in such behavior, my mother, unhampered by “progressive” ideas, would have delivered a speech and a liberally applied spanking to a son she refused to let grow up as a boor and a brat.

That the speech prepared beforehand by the cast to be delivered to Vice President-elect Pence was civilly presented means that the ambush was a tad less brutal than most. But it was still an ambush, premeditated and perpetrated by hosts upon a guest in their “home.”

The backdrop, of course, was the recent election. Columnist George Will well describes its outcome: “a loser who deserved to lose and a winner who did not deserve to win.”

But we did have an election. And we did have an outcome. And it is high time to behave.

I find myself wondering what it would have been like to be singing or preaching at a venue in which, some eight years ago, Vice President-elect Biden was in attendance. I’m not a fan. But I honestly cannot imagine ambushing the man in a theater or church where I had any control. If the crowd started booing him, I can easily imagine delivering a speech—but it would not be to him.

Self-righteousness short-circuits civility, and brutish arrogance is no more the temptation of the right than it is the left.

Whether we lean right or left, it’s no surprise when our most seriously held political opinions become so entwined with our moral convictions that it’s hard to separate them. At times, they can’t be separated and shouldn’t be. At other times, more often than we think, they can and should. At all times, demonizing those we disagree with is only effective if we wish to become demons.

I well remember listening to a sermon presented by a seriously left-leaning guest preacher at a church I was visiting. He prefaced his comments by expressing a desire for us to understand that he was not being political; he was just standing for God’s truth. I had no trouble imagining a right-leaning preacher at a church down the street stepping into a pulpit and giving exactly the same preface. Both would pass lie detector tests as both prepared to preach their politics.

I’m sure the audience members booing VP-elect Pence in that theater felt that the gravity of the moral injustice just perpetrated in the election, and the more serious evils they are sure will soon be unleashed, made their behavior justifiable, even necessary. In a different time and a different theater, perhaps their equally zealous counterparts on the opposite side might feel the same way. Both would be wrong.

And for Christians the question is as always: how would our Lord behave? What would he say?


     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com



Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

“What Have You Learned From Your Failures?”



Note: I just ran across this column/blog I wrote in 2012. I’d almost forgotten.  Aargh!

“What have you learned from your successes and failures?”

That was the question the interviewer put to billionaire Donald Trump a few months ago during Trump’s brief (and, I personally hope, never to be revived) flirtation with presidential candidacy.

His answer: “I don’t see myself as having failures . . .”

I was so surprised by the answer that I may not have heard if he later tried to pull that bit of nonsense out of the ditch. Could any sane person fall into a failure more foolish or fatal than to claim to have no failures?

Two kinds of people draw breath in this world: those who are seriously weak and flawed and know it, and those who are seriously weak and flawed and don’t know it. We’re far better off being, and spending time with, the former. The latter are uncommonly tiresome, obnoxious, dangerous—and well-avoided.

Yes, we’re far better off belonging to the first group and being honest about it. But I suspect the only way that priceless knowledge can be bought is with some very costly pain. Until we’ve been hit “up the side of the head” pretty hard with one of the major bricks life sooner or later throws at us all, I doubt we can offer much real and condescension-less comfort to others who are also ordinary humans—which means at times concussed, bruised, bleeding.

Until we’ve shot ourselves in the foot and have been forced to learn that, though God’s children all dance, they also all walk with a limp, I doubt we have much valuable to offer those who want to join the dance.

We may talk a good game about grace, about how we’re all sinners in the same boat completely dependent upon God’s mercy. But until we’ve swallowed enough sea water to seem to be headed under for the last time, I doubt we can really open our hands to reach up for God’s hand or to reach out a hand to genuinely help others.

Until we’ve been aghast to find ourselves down in the depths, we deep down think in our heart of hearts, even if not aloud, that we or our group are a cut above the rest. God’s favorites. The blue birds in the class. At least a little bit gifted and talented morally. We blindly think that all we really need is a little more time to try harder, get things all figured out, and sharpen up our act.

Until we’ve been jolted into sanity by hitting bottom, we center on our problem with sins rather than our problem with Sin, worry more about outward acts than inward putrescence, focus on specks of sawdust in other folks’ eyes rather than planks in our own. We waste time gazing through the wrong end of the telescope. Nothing clears up the picture more quickly than hitting the wall with some obvious failure and living through the pain that follows. Then grace means something because it is real and precious. It has always been our only hope, but now we know it.

And then if someone asks us how we’ve dealt with failure, the answer will be worth hearing.


You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!


Copyright 2012 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

“God Has Forgiven Me, But I Can’t Forgive Myself”


“I know God has forgiven me; I just can’t forgive myself.”

I hear people say that. To my shame, I probably have also. I’m almost 51% sure that most folks mean well by it. But I’m 100% sure it’s among the most wrong-headed, arrogant, and idolatrous statements we could ever make.

Do we think it sounds humble? “God has forgiven me, but I can’t forgive myself”? How could that conceivably be confused with humility?

It’s completely encased in arrogant pride as, while we acknowledge that God can and does forgive the sins of others, we’re sure our own sins are so much worse than theirs that, though God has forgiven us, we can’t manage to do the same for ourselves.

Are we really such a better (or worse) class of sinners than the run of the mill, ordinary sort? Are our standards (here comes the idolatry) higher even than God’s who says that through his Son, we’re forgiven?

Will we say, “Thank you, but I doubt that even the blood of your Son can forgive me, Sir. Instead of accepting charity, I choose to wear (if I can find them) a hair shirt, sack-cloth and ashes, and a dour expression. Instead of accepting your gift and focusing on your Son, I’d rather, if you don’t mind, go on gazing at my own navel, allowing the universe to be bordered north, south, east, and west by “I, me, myself, and mine,” and go on playing the victim. If you don’t mind . . .”

Oh, get over it. God minds!

Whatever we intend, this false humility is a stinky thing, a slap in the face of God, a denial of the cross. It can be nothing else.

But someone opines, “I can’t forgive myself. I know God says I’m forgiven, but I don’t feel forgiven.”

Two points. First, why would we ever think we could literally forgive ourselves? Jesus said it: “Only God can forgive sins.” If we’re his, he has done the forgiving at appalling cost; our only choice is to accept the gift or not.

Second, though our Father cares how we feel because he loves us, feelings, for folks as self-centered as we are, easily become our most popular idol. But they’re wrong about as often as they’re right. And they make a rotten god.

If God says we are forgiven, then we are, no matter how we feel. I may feel in my heart of hearts that the moon is green cheese; my feelings won’t change reality at all. But my feelings about forgiveness will affect my ability to live a joyful, gracious, unselfish, and fruitful life.

The Apostle John writes that God is greater than our “anxious hearts” and “self-debilitating criticism” (see 1 John 3:19-20, The Message).

You can’t forgive yourself? So what? If you’re God’s child, accept the gift and dance with joy! Or hold it at arm’s length and wallow around enjoying your role as a poor, pitiful victim. The first choice is life and joy. The second is as boring and tiresome as it is deadly. The first is heaven; the second, hell.

Refusing forgiveness is a lot of things, all bad; the one thing it absolutely is not is humility. God sent, God gave, his Son so we could get over ourselves.


     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! I’m pretty sure some Christmas music is waiting there, as well as some potential gifts!  😉



Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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