Moving Towards a More Tolerant Society

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I have managed, over time, to develop a courteous association and friendship with a young woman on social media. We have never met in person, although, from time-to-time, I think about her as I would my own adult daughter(s). I genuinely do care about her well-being and that of her family as they start a new chapter of their life in North America. We share a love for reading, writing, and history. We value the liberal democracies that we live in, and tend to look at modern culture, religion and politics from a moderate point of view.

Although we have grown up in remarkably different societies, we share a strong interest in understanding the world that we live in, including the desire to step out of the ordinary in order to truly understand the extraordinary. For a young woman, she possesses an incredible amount of wisdom and grace, pointing to many positive influences in her life including, perhaps, immediate family and friends. It is almost as though I know how she thinks and feels  – a kindred spirit as it were. We may not always agree on various aspects of modern culture, politics, and religion, but I value her directness, honesty, and that ever-so-British politeness.

I think that is what tolerance is all about – learning to listen to the points of view and perspectives of others without being dismissive and/or judgemental. It is when we genuinely care about the lives of others in a personal way, that the dividing walls of gender, race, religion, country of origin, politics, etc., come tumbling down.

I may have developed very strong convictions and beliefs in the religious and political arenas, but God help me if I neglect to LOVE another human being. Alas, this is where the rubber meets the road – loving others and exercising tolerance for individuals and whole societies that differ from our own.

There are many views of love and an equal amount of opinions on the subject. The love that I am referring to is something I am still working on – a work in progress, so to speak.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV

Recently, I read an excellent article, an opinion piece by Fareed Zakaria, published on CNN in June of 2016. Fareed could rightfully be considered as a moderate, who attempts to correctly differentiate between Islamic terrorists and ordinary Muslim people. Fareed, in discussing the current conflicts, asks the question:

How can we bring an end to this?

And then provides a succinct answer:

There’s really only one way: Help the majority of Muslims fight extremists, reform their faith, and modernize their societies. In doing so, we should listen to those on the front lines, many of whom are fighting and dying in the struggle against jihadis. The hundreds of Muslim reformers I’ve spoken to say their task is made much harder when Western politicians and pundits condemn Islam entirely, demean their faith, and speak of all Muslims as backward and suspect.

I tend to agree with him. Islam is not a stagnant belief system any more than Judaism and Christianity. Muslims around the world do want to reform their faith and modernize their societies. When one takes exception with Islamic terrorism, and works towards the peaceful coexistence of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in society, they are moving in the right direction. We may not concur on various elements of our respective faiths, but we can live in peace and mutual prosperity, demonstrating tolerance, respect, and love towards each other.

Utopianism you say? I know…I get a lot of flak from friends and foes alike when I publicly espouse the ideals of freedom of religion and conscience in society. Yes, I lean towards being an idealist who expects great things, not only in myself, but in others also. I hold on to the biblical concept that “we are our brothers keeper” wholeheartedly, and try to extend the same grace towards those outside of my own inner circle.

I am also a realist and truly understand, from my own life experience, how difficult it is for even like-minded people to mesh together in a continual peaceful coexistence. Nevertheless, if the Jewish and Muslim people of the Middle East could peacefully coexist for hundreds of years (before the tragic wars of modern times), there is hope for North American cultural, religious, and political plurality.

Fareed Zakaria said it best:

But if America is about anything, it is the idea that people should be judged as individuals with individual liberties and rights.

I agree with his sentiments. If that makes me a Liberal, so be it.

To Grind or Not to Grind: Gravel Riding & Racing in Saskatchewan.

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Master men’s lead group coming out of a tight corner.

A number of people have asked me over the last couple of years why I don’t participate in gravel riding and racing. My standard answer is that I do not own a gravel bike and already have too many bikes in the stable. If an individual presses me a little harder, I will tell them that the agricultural dust and chemicals carried by the perpetually blowing winds in Southern Saskatchewan are some of my asthma triggers, especially during aerobic exercise. Both of the aforementioned are honest answers, the latter being one of the primary reasons why I chose not to grain farm with my dad on a permanent basis so many years ago.

The need to breathe is a primal instinct for survival 🙂

As some of you may know from earlier posts, I had been away from Club cycling for some time before I decided to sign up with Regina Cycling Club (RCC), historically a road racing club in Regina, Saskatchewan. The club was founded by individuals I consider to be friends, although they are closer to my dad’s age than mine. I have met, and continue to meet awesome people through RCC and other cycling clubs locally and elsewhere.

Times have changed, and now gravel riding and racing is a significant part of the club and racing schedule. What I did not realize, until this year, is that there appears to be a bit of tension between traditional road riders and gravel riders in terms of agenda, events, and “air time” within the public discourse on FaceBook (FB).

As for me, I do not want to see the club (RCC) drift too far from its original purpose of being a traditional road racing club with well-organized road races, criteriums, and time trials. Please don’t get all up-in-arms over my personal preference(s) – I am just being honest here. Some of the older riders inside the club have mentioned to me that they do not like the direction we are heading with the heavy emphasis on gravel racing, cyclocross, fat biking, and just about everything else besides road racing. I tend to agree with them and have spoken freely in public forums about it. Nevertheless, a new generation and a few old-timers love gravel riding and racing and are quite vocal about it on the FB public forum also.

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Elite men’s criterium chase group.

To each his/her own. Live and let live? I am getting too old (or too wise) to get involved in the internal squabbles and small-time politics of non-profit clubs, let alone the provincial cycling association.

I must say, though, that I was disappointed in the small turnout to both the Provincial 15km and 40km TT’s and the Criteriums, especially the Elite men’s criterium this year – 4 riders showed up to the starting line. There were no women who entered the criterium races. The Master-aged riders put on a good show though! Sign of the times? I do not know.

Is road racing (in all its disciplines) dying a slow and painful death in Saskatchewan?

Based on a recent conversation with a provincial cycling official, and personal observation, I am beginning to believe that the very principle of volunteerism is dying in our cycling clubs. In other words, it is getting increasingly difficult to secure volunteers for events.

The old guard is still doing the lion’s share of the work and complain of having no one to pass the baton too.

I get that…I really do. I am still being nagged from time to time to volunteer and be involved in the local church that I attend. That church I am referring to is composed of predominantly the Gen-X and Millennial generations. My response is always the same. I have volunteered in various capacities in the church, service clubs, school groups, and sport clubs for over four decades…

…It is time for a younger generation to take the baton and run with it.

Today it seems that local cyclists are more interested in the social aspects and group dynamics of women-specific or age-group clubs and novel venues such as gravel riding/racing than the highly structured sport of road racing (i.e., officials, clearly defined rules and governance). Are the specific disciplines within road racing too hard? Do individuals loath being humiliated and dropped by a raging peloton cruising at 45km+ per hour? My experiences earlier this year was certainly a mixed bag, but I honestly loved every minute of it, whether being out front desperately trying to stay ahead of the scratch group or being dropped unceremoniously from the pack and having to ride solo all the way home.

God knows I want to be back racing with all my heart, but my body, so far, is refusing to cooperate. Patience young Jedi…

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Spring training before the ice is melted on the lake. Photographed in Wascana Park, Regina, Saskatchewan © Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

A hundred kilometres of gravel racing in 30C+ heat is no walk in the park either, yet events like this tend to draw a larger crowd and more female participants. This reminds me of the early days of mountain bike riding/racing, of which my generation essentially invented and participated heavily in. Eventually, the wild off-road antics of mountain biking became organized and regulated, partly due to opposition from equestrian riders, hikers, and environmentalists, and partly because of the process of natural evolution, i.e., evolving from a fringe sport to being recognized as a viable Olympic sport.

Only time will tell if gravel riding/racing, which is predominantly a North American phenomenon, will develop and evolve into something more universal like mountain biking did. According to a recent conversation with an employee of a local bike shop, the sale of mountain bikes and city bikes are still the bread and butter of their existence alongside repair services.

Recently, an individual asked a question on FB as to whether there were any paved roads to ride on anymore? I was not sure if his inquiry was tongue-in-cheek or was sincere. No one responded, but I did take the time to write out a response (which I decided NOT to post on FB) that I will share with you here:

I will try to answer your question straight up. There are still lots of rideable paved road routes in and around Regina. The Regina Bypass Project has created a lot of obstacles for road riders to get out of the city somewhat safely. As you probably know, a significantly increased population has led to increased traffic on our major highways, but most of the shoulders are wide and doable. I use ear plugs in high traffic areas on the highway, i.e. one can still hear traffic adequately but much of the high frequency noise and the wind is drowned out. Bright clothing and a powerful rear flashing taillight help out with visibility to traffic.

Others here have mentioned that some of the traditional road routes have been wrecked by chip seal paving and the removal of paved road shoulders completely. It kind of reminds me of riding in some of the rural areas of Scandinavia, Great Britain and Europe now, as we no longer have the privilege of adequate paved shoulders on some of our historical road riding routes.

Although I personally no longer ride gravel or off-road (since the late 1990’s), I can appreciate why others do. Yes, I know it is hard to believe that some of us road gravel back then 🙂 I do know that others in our club (RCC) enjoy the opportunity of discovering new routes, landscapes, and the challenging hills of gravel riding, not to mention less traffic and a much quieter environment. As with road riding, there are pluses and minuses to gravel riding/racing also. Relentless heat, dust, bugs, washboard or freshly graded and loose road surfaces, flying stones from trucks and other farm machinery, no place to restock on water and food, vicious dogs, and shotgun wielding property owners 😉

In the final analysis, cycling is cycling, and I trust that each person involved in our club or the many other cycling clubs in Regina are enjoying the challenges and the sense of community that comes from participating in sport with others of like mind. Cheers!

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Why Freedom of Religion in Canada Matters to Me

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 NIV

Exactly one year ago, I was confronted by a rather likeable young man (a Pastor) concerning some of my posts on FaceBook about specific individuals and their relatively novel theological positions on traditional Christian teaching or doctrine concerning the Rapture, the Second Coming of Christ, and the positive role of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel in both the past and the future.

We had a long and somewhat stimulating conversation concerning our very different points of view on Eschatology (final events of human history). I think part of this stimulation simply was the result of drinking too much coffee! Nevertheless, we came away from the conversation with an agreement to disagree with each other’s point(s) of view, yet agreed to demonstrate tolerance and acceptance for one another regardless of our somewhat polarized positions, different perspectives, and life experiences.

Now, I wish I could end this story by saying everything was just peachy, however, it was not. Many young people can reason and formulate an opinion very quickly. Sometimes, for no other reason than having less life experience to incorporate before making an opinion. As a middle-aged adult, sometimes one has to ponder and think about things a little longer before we can formulate an opinion and/or come to some sort of conclusion.

The gist of this story is that I had felt, somehow, I had conceded and/or given up my constitutional right to freely adhere to my own beliefs, and practice of my Christian Faith without interference or coercion from another group and/or individual’s idea(s) of what I should believe, who I can or cannot disagree with on matters of theology, and whether or not I will be accepted into this particular group if I do not “submit” to their particular authority(s).

Been there, done that. I have experienced for many years what it is like to be truly free to worship God, as I understand Him, without some organized group or individual attempting to control or dominate my personal life with their particular ideas of God, the Bible, and the inevitable system of rules and regulations so prevalent to religious groups.

And yet, I still felt somewhat insecure in my position. Even now, I marvel at the aforementioned statement. After all, I was a trained Pastor with an undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies, and a graduate education in ministry, with a life experience that literally dwarfed that of this young man. Yet, the need for acceptance was dominating my common sense and experience.

It took my loving companion of 35 years, my wife, to remind me that I was indeed free to choose to follow my own conscience without interference. And I am continually grateful for her kind and insightful advice.

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Happy are the PeaceMakers

“…evangelicals have more in common with conservative Roman Catholics than they do with liberal Protestants.”
 
As one who is culturally most comfortable amongst Catholics and yet holds to many evangelical doctrines or beliefs, I must admit that my choices and worldview are a bit of an enigma. I have invested the better part of my life walking that thin line between these two sociocultural and religious groups in order to bring peace and focus on that which unites us rather than divides. This has often put me at odds with the hard right or left thinking of both groups, yet I have remained true to my sense of calling to be a peacemaker and mediator, not only between these two diverse Christian groups, but between a predominantly secular humanist Canadian society and Christianity.
 
True peace can only be achieved on the basis of truth and not falsehood, exemplified by tolerance and respect for others who have been created in the moral image or likeness of God.
Tolerance and respect are ideals, that if we are truly honest, are ideals that we all falter or fail at from time to time. But, we should never give up in our pursuit of these noble ideals.
 
God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9 NLT
 

The Nature of Discovery: A Journey of the Mind

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Life is an open road

I would like to take a moment to thank each one of you who have chosen to follow my blog, EclecticChoices. Today marks a milestone for me – 101 unique followers. Thank you for your participation on WordPress.

I started this blog five months ago to demonstrate that people from many different nations, cultures, political and religious beliefs, educational backgrounds, etc., can find common ground in just about anything in life. We may not agree with each other on any number of ideas, concepts, or philosophies, but we are all here to learn from each other in a common sense and respectful way.

I chose the name EclecticChoices because that is an apt description of my entire life. I have made many unique and somewhat unusual decisions or choices in my life. Some of those choices have led me off the beaten path to both metaphorical and literal places of intrigue and wonder. As a Canadian with a cultural heritage of Norwegian and German, my wanderlust seemingly has no boundaries. Yes, I have physically travelled to many places on this great blue planet – each one eclectic and unique in its essence. At the same time, and perhaps so much better, I have endeavoured to go on a journey of the mind.

There is infinite truth to discover in this life. The joy of that journey is not so much in the destination, but rather the process. In other words, each new day, I delight myself in the process of learning and discovering, rather than worrying about the destination or purpose and end result.

I am not ashamed to admit that I am a sincere follower of Christ. It is through His leading and guiding, that I have come to experience those things magnificent – joy unspeakable. At the same time, if you have actually read a few of the 200+ articles on EclecticChoices, you know that I am just a human being subject to the same weaknesses and faults of all those around me. And that, my friend, is the beauty and wonder of walking together in this life.

One of the greatest ideals that I have sought after, with an almost unstoppable passion, is to exercise tolerance for those that may differ from my own worldview. This is not an easy thing to do, in a world of so many people with differing viewpoints. But, does that mean we should not continue to try? Of course not!

So, it is with that in mind, love and tolerance for each other, that I would encourage you to continue to walk with me on this journey together. Please feel free to comment on any post here with that notion of kindness, respect, and tolerance in mind. Thank you.

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Keep your friends close and your enemies closer?

San Juan National Historic Site
Viewpoint of San Juan and the ocean from the grounds of the old fortress. Puerto Rico

There is an old saying to “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. I have never really understood that kind of expression or philosophy for living.

Why on earth would I keep in close contact with my enemies?

I might try to understand or exercise tolerance towards an enemy, I might even pray for an enemy. But I don’t think I would go out of my way to hang out with my enemy. Perhaps I am just missing the point.

Sorry Google, I don’t need your help today.

Having considered this idea of enemies a little further, I can honestly say that I have met very few people, if any, over my lifetime that I would consider a life-long enemy. Sure, there are people I may not agree with on various matters of life and living. There are also those I have battled in the realms of competitive sport, academics, the workplace, or even the grocery store line-up. After all, I am a competitive person by nature, but that is slowly being tempered as I grow older.

Sometimes old expressions just don’t make any sense.

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A Safe Place

San Juan
A facsimile of a Sixteenth Century statue of Mary, mother of Jesus.

I have had the opportunity to attend a Christian church over the last few years that is composed of predominantly young adults often labelled as Millennials. People my age (middle of the spectrum) probably represent less than 5 percent of the congregation. Sometimes, that makes me feel old and out-of-touch with the Millennial specific cultural norms. Yet, regardless of generational and cultural differences, I think it is important to listen to the younger generation – truly listen. When different generations collide together without some intrinsic principles of tolerance and respect for one another, polarization and division is often the end result. One of the underlying principles of our young and rather exuberant church community can be summarized as follows:

We will be known for what we are FOR rather than what we are AGAINST.

Essentially, what that means to me is that we will be known as people who love God and love each other rather than what we oppose. Pretty simple stuff, yet for each one of us, it necessitates a trial and error PROCESS of living out our faith from day-to-day.

It would be an injustice to claim that rather imperfect people, from widely different age-groups, and equally variable social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds, can mesh together flawlessly at all times. Living under the banner of love for God and love for each other is merely the beginning of a life-long journey for most. If one expects everyone to be in perfect harmony right at the onset, and requires that relationships work like clockwork – they will be end up being disappointed.

True love for others cannot be scripted. All relationships take time to grow and develop to fruition. Our love for God is but a faint reflection of his boundless love for us, and is demonstrated by our love for one another.

Someone once said that life is where the rubber meets the road. As a road cyclist, I can understand that metaphor quite well. A bicycle tire is pumped up to a considerably high pressure, three times that of an automobile tire. The contact patch of the bike tire on the pavement is actually quite small [about one square inch (2.54 cm squared) in a rather elongated pattern], and yet we still experience the effects of friction and resistance that slightly impedes our forward progress. The rougher the road surface, the greater the resistance. Loving God and loving others is like that – there always seems to be a little friction and resistance going on, but we are still moving forward. Somewhere along our journey together we hit a rough patch, and things get much more difficult.

May I suggest that this is where mutual acceptance and forgiveness comes in to play. We all make mistakes and sometimes we really mess things up. As a result of this, it is quite natural for human beings to desire a safe place where we can be loved, accepted, and forgiven for our inherent faults, character weaknesses, tendency towards selfishness, and so forth. The theologically educated will notice that I did not immediately use the word SIN. The Greek word hamartia, translated into the English word “sin”, essentially means to miss the mark (as in archery) and/or to intentionally miss the mark or standard that God intended for us.

Historically, I think that the concept of a family unit was intended to fulfill that need for a safe place in the context of a larger society. Unfortunately, for many of us in North American society, that ideal did not necessarily work out so well. The seemingly endless cycle of broken relationships and high rates of divorce has deeply affected generation upon generation of young people and adults alike. For better or for worse, this is our story.

Millennials understand the concept of a SAFE PLACE. They practically invented the idea on our university campuses throughout North America. The difference, however, between a predominantly secular humanist notion of a safe place and a Christian concept of a safe place is literally worlds apart. The former emphasizes shutting out even the abstraction of a personal God and any person(s) who holds to a worldview that contradicts their own, the latter is far more inclusive and tolerant of opposing ideas and welcomes God, as we understand him, into the conversation.

How do I know that? By my own life experience. I want to be loved, accepted, and forgiven like anyone else. To be respected as a person who has inherent value as a human being is something we all want.

As for me, I have chosen to hang out with a bunch of Millennials that have often been the brunt of a whole lot of stereotyping and criticism by my generation. I feel that I am an ordinary person living in an extraordinary time in human history.  Our little church community is just a minuscule part of something much bigger than all of us. It’s an honour to experience that together.

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