Mom, Manners, and Judgmentalism

I just got off the phone with a Buddhist who had been watching my videos and said he called to compliment me for my newfound humility and openness to others, and to encourage me to read his favorite Buddhist author. I thanked him for calling me, and kindly assured him that I was contented with my Christian faith. His tone quickly changed saying I was conceited and narrow minded. I reminded him that he called me on my home phone, was a stranger to me, and presumed to be in a position to discuss very serious issues with me. I encouraged him to have these conversations with people who knew him and are interested in his faith, but that Gayle and I were getting ready to work out before a day of appointments. I repeated that I appreciated him taking the time and making the effort to call, but that I do not discuss these types of matters with strangers on the phone. He retorted that we as human beings were all connected, said Christians are just like the Taliban, called me a few names and abruptly hung up.

So much for peaceful harmony.

Right now I am tempted to rail against angry Buddhists, absurd generalizations about Christians, and grown men who should have listened more closely to their mothers. But I won’t. If I were a better Christian, his call would occasion thoughts of grace and mercy toward all. But I want to protect my time with Gayle, and because I’m too fat and need to exercise, sour clouds overhead make me feel like an idiot for even answering the phone. Instead, I’ll rehearse Mom’s advice and pretend my caller should have known: “Mind your manners and think about what you say before you say it. After all, no one cares as much about what you think as you think they do.”

I respectfully answer my phone as much as time allows, and generally enjoy talking with callers. Yet I don’t recall ever calling anyone without either knowing them or being invited to call. But if you are tempted to call someone with whom you have no personal relationship, these ideas may be helpful:

1. Just because you have seen a news report about someone does not mean that you know them, have the right to an opinion about them, or should believe that you even know the truth about their story. The news story you saw has been interpreted through the reporter, producers, editors, and refined for context. If you contact the person covered and express yourself, you should probably be embarrassed for being naive.

2. My point is when people believe the projected image, they are often misled. Just about every public figure is cautious with the press because the press so often gets things wrong. Many journalists are lazy and incestuous, which means they seldom dig to find truth, struggle with nuance, and freely repeat what other journalists have said or written, accurate or inaccurate. I have become convinced authentic journalism is dead when I read what they have written about me. Most Influential people, corporations and advocacy groups hire professionals to help inform the press. They use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs to convey their messages unfiltered. They hire public relations experts, publicists, agents, and marketing firms to grasp at some control over how they are portrayed. Sadly, this too can be exploited by people to create a perception that is based neither on truth nor fact. Too often facts are selectively chosen to create a desired impression. Few are innocent of these schemes. It’s often the gullible who confuse public impressions with truth, and the exploitable who foolishly believe and respond, thinking they know. Don’t let this be you.

3. We have a responsibility to judge if another person is within our chain-of-command, otherwise it is seldom any of our business. There are four chains-of-command that warrant our judgment:

a. Family. Most of us have family members for whom we are responsible. We are responsible to judge them in order to serve them. I have five children, and it’s my responsibility to judge their driving abilities, their academic progress, their social skills, and the way they respond to peers, church, and civil authorities. Their relationships, financial management skills, and attitudes are all my business because I am their father. Since I am committed to their success, my judgments of them are birthed in duty, saturated in love, and focused on their success. When I judge negative behaviors, it’s redemptive. When I judge positive behaviors, it’s celebration. Just as my heavenly Father judges me because he loves me, so I judge my children because I love them.

b. Workplace. If you are in a position of authority at work, you have a responsibility to evaluate those who work for you. Every leader has a responsibility to achieve specific goals and objectives, which leads to a myriad of judgments. In contrast, employees get to choose who they want to work for, which requires judgment on their part. To apply to work at Ted’s Montana Grill in an affluent neighborhood is very different choice from wanting to work at Ted’s Bar and Grill next to an adult bookstore and a methadone clinic. We all get to make judgements up and down our chain-of-command in the workplace. As customers, we have the privilege of judging which businesses we’ll patronize and which products we consume. Every day we choose between Wal-Mart and Target, Tide and Cheer, McDonalds and Burger King. Judge correctly.

c. Civil Government. We all have a responsibility to judge during the election season. As a 56 year-old citizen who has voted in every election since I was 18, I don’t judge elected officials based on news reports or their speeches. Political speeches are prepared by political operatives or public relations managers, so I take them with a grain of salt. I judge based on my fundamental philosophy of governance in contrast to theirs, and their record of service. If they are a new candidate, I’ll note their political party affiliation, their associations, and their actions. Once elected, I respect the process and am supportive of whomever is elected until the following election season. I don’t hassle them while they are in office, I respect them. It’s the wisdom of good manners.

d. Church. I work at St. James Church and serve in the role of Sr. Pastor. I and the other leaders get to judge who cares for the children in the nursery, who leads worship, who pastors the youth group, and who ushers. Wise judgments are our responsibility. Since St. James Church is a local church, people contemplating coming to St. James get to judge whether or not they want me as their pastor, Jonathan Johnson as their worship leader, and Shobie Spear as their youth pastor. We are not a para-church ministry, nor are we part of a denominational structure. As a result, we don’t ask the general public for financial support nor do we report to a national office anywhere. Consequently, people with manners living in Toronto, Canada would not presume an opinion about Shobie Spear being a youth pastor or Jonathan Johnson being the worship leader. In the same vein, I don’t have a judgment on the way the Catholic church chooses its bishops or the way the Mormons manage their ministry funds. I’m neither Catholic nor Mormon so it’s none of my business unless I join them or am seriously contemplating becoming a member. Here in Colorado Springs, I don’t have an opinion about the process Woodman Valley Chapel or First Presbyterian Church uses to choose its pastors, because I don’t attend or fund those churches. I repeat, it’s none of my business. But since they are in my community, I do care, but my role isn’t to offer my random opinion, but instead to be supportive of them. Good manners.

The angry Buddhist demonstrated poor manners by calling me and judging me. I have the right to judge his call because he called me at home, and I have authority in my home. He has no chain-of-command authority in my life, has no relationship with me, and no spiritual authority in my life. Since he is not a parent or an older sibling, he has no family authority in my life. Since I don’t work for him, he doesn’t have any workplace authority. Since he is not a government official, he has no civil government authority, and since he doesn’t attend and isn’t contemplating attending St. James Church, he has no church authority in my life. He is a human being, thus worthy of respect . . . to a degree, which is why I answered the phone and listened. But he hadn’t earned the right to be heard by me on major life and spiritual issues.

Mom was right. Manners are important. Judgments help when in order.

It’s liberating to know we don’t have to have an opinion about everyone and everything, and that we can live happy lives with unspoken thoughts. I rightly judged not to let a phone call dominate my morning with my wife. He thinks that proves I’m a bad guy. I think not.

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20 thoughts on “Mom, Manners, and Judgmentalism

  1. C says:

    right on Ted, great wisdom, practical living tools and truth covering several arenas, I call it practical Christianity. blessings on all you and Gale put your hands to.
    Candi MacAlpine

  2. Pam Flanery says:

    I thoroughly enjoy your blogs, I always learn and grow from your wisdom and keen insight. I did not have the privilege of meeting your mother, but she definitely taught you well and this nation has been impacted by that wisdom. The phone call you received reminded me of a conversation we had as a family the other day about tolerance. We discussed how the world wants us all to be tolerant, however if we don’t see things from their perspective, they become aggressive and rude…how is that tolerant? I’m glad you educated this man and hopefully that truth will resinate in his mind.

  3. Linda Tennies says:

    yes, yes, yes, and yes. Thanks, Pastor:)

  4. Jim says:

    Pastor Ted,
    Good words!

  5. Mary-Rhea McMullen says:

    i am humbled by you, your life and the manner in which you have dealt with it all. i was ashamed, for lack of a better word, when i read of the treatment you received at the hands of your own church those few years ago. rather than concentrate on them i turned introspective… i asked the Holy Spirit to help me take stock, to search my heart… where have i been so callous and cruel when love and mercy were the biblical way to proceed. i am also humbled by you and Gayle in the way you continue to open yourselves to the intolerant abuse of people who should know/do better and by those that don’t, and you do it to help others who are in pain; who have made mistakes; who need to be loved and healed and returned. God bless you…..

  6. “I rightly judged not to let a phone call dominate my morning with my wife. He thinks that proves I’m a bad guy. I think not.” Yay Pastor Ted!!!! It reminds me of something that brother Andrew Wommack said one time about a man that approached him after one of his teaching seminars. They didn’t like the way his wife, Jamie was dressed nor did they like how she was wearing her hair and makeup. Can you imagine? She’s a very conservative woman in her looks and dress! He responded to this man the same way that you had responded to the man that called you on the phone and that is from the standpoint that “We have a responsibility to judge if another person is within our chain-of-command, otherwise it is seldom any of our business.” One of those chains-of-command is family. This man had no right to judge brother Andrews’ wife and let me tell you that brother Andrew let him know this! Yikes. You have overcome so much Pastor Ted. This is wonderful news. Satan got behind you because you chose not to let this call bother you. That’s SO! important because while we are pilgrims in this world, this will always be a battle; how we react to those who oppose us. I do notice how this man transformed from light to darkness when you rejected his agenda for the call. You WILL know them by their fruits eventually. Love and prayer. Wouldn’t this have been grand?? You should have offered him one of YOUR books in return for one of HIS! A big hug Pastor Ted. You’re awesome.

  7. Mary says:

    Ted,
    Thank you for yet another breath of fresh air.

    I also want to thank you for allowing me to read and comment on your blog, even though I am a stranger. I hope that neither you, nor any of the other folks who comment, have felt offended by anything I have said. How ironic that this gentleman complimented you on your humility and openness to others, yet sadly failed to extend that same type of graciousness to you.

    Thank you for reminding us that we are indeed called to judge, but only in those matters in which we have a right to make a judgement. I cannot judge you, because I don’t truly know you. But, I can tell you this. The authenticity and love with which you share your testimony via your site and YouTube have played a great role in my coming to Christ, and for that I will always be grateful to you, even though I don’t know you.

    Have a great day!
    Mary in Utah

  8. david says:

    Well, I think you handled it well and anyway, don’t Buddhists know that Buddha is dead?

  9. Ilda Barker says:

    Eloquent, straight to the point. Could you talk about it this coming Sunday or next?? Specially the chain of command letter C. They did not listen to me, they may take it from you as our Pastor.. Thank you. Ilda

  10. debtfree2012 says:

    Pastor Ted,

    I congratulate you on maintaining your emotional control in this situation.

    It is VERY sad that someone [who doesn’t even know you personally] would have the gall to call you at your home and then insult you because he didn’t get his way with you…like your suppose to bow down to the politically correct spirit of deception of our day.

    I have a fairly good size web presence, being an author and minister, and I do my VERY best to not allow just anyone to have my address, home & cell phone numbers…for reasons much like what happen to you recently.

    I’m proud of you for maintaining emotional control and for standing up for our faith in Jesus Christ. I honestly am not sure if I would have reacted with same grace and peace that you did. I sure hope that I would have done as you did if I were in your situation.

    The Lord bless you in the New Year and years to come,

    Gregg Huestis

  11. Kim Mance says:

    I agree about not letting the alleged Buddhist take away your day with Gayle. (And I very much remember you — from the pulpit — disliking similar prank calls back in ’96 or so.) I wouldn’t enjoy them either and likely be much less gracious.

  12. Birgit says:

    This reminds me how important it is to have a relationship with somebody before sharing my faith and to be thoughtful how to share Jesus.

    Thanks for sharing.

  13. Lincoln Hudson says:

    Ridiculous that someone would take the trouble to reach out to you and then sign off by insulting you. It makes me wonder what on earth he really wanted. Often people watch videos or read blogs and then make an assumption about the person concerned. When it comes to different faiths and beliefs all we can do is share our experiences. Often individuals wish impose their own beliefs and this can make what we believe political and harmful. This person could have ruined your day, its good that you didn’t let that happen.

  14. Wendy Selvig says:

    Amen, amen and amen. Authority and relationship are key.

  15. Wendy Selvig says:

    Amen and amen. Relationship and authority are key!

  16. Teresa Lane-Hoskins says:

    Forgiveness…. is lost in the integrity of our church’s and society. For all the pain and agony you have been through at least you see that you have been delivered out of the lions den (the stumble in the world ) and the fiery furnace (the church that can’t forgive). Which brings me to this question are people that DO go to church reading their bibles or just trusting what these Preacher’s say? Sad to even think about the probability. I will be praying blessings and favor for you Pastor Haggard and St James Church as you are pressing forth in your call !

  17. Karen says:

    Well done and thank you for sharing.

  18. proverbsgirl says:

    As always, well said, Ted!

  19. Tan says:

    The man simply wish to share some gems he knows from his faith. Saying Buddha is dead is equivalent to non Christians saying Jesus is dead.

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