Friday, December 14, 2012

When a Kiss is a Prayer

I am often aware when I kiss my children's heads at night that the act of my lips touching their hair is more than a gesture between parent and child, it is a prayer...a word of thanks and awe to the divine.

Today many of us have been glued to the television or internet following word of too many lives cut too short in Connecticut.  We have watched the tears of our president, we have anticipated updates from our newscasters, we have cried at the reality of others' pain.  And all of us have been imaging the horror of such an experience being visited upon our families, our communities, our children, our grandchildren.

We have hugged our children a little tighter.

We have been a little gentler and a little more patient with them.

And our kisses today have truly become our prayers...

As we have given thanks for the lives of these wondrous little ones among us...

As we have sat in awe of the love that bursts from our hearts at the mere mention of them...

As we have wondered how we would survive the loss of one of them...

As we have asked God to help we humans become more human...

As we have asked God to offer protection...

As we have said thank you for God's presence and love even when we don't understand.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Choosing December's Language (Not a post about cussing)

As is typical of me I have seen glimpses of a conversation without really knowing where it started nor participating in it.  However, I am going to comment on it.  :)

The conversation I've been hearing is about calling a Christmas tree a holiday tree.  Which is simply a follow up to other conversations in the past about store clerks saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."  And both of these have a connection to conversations about whether nativities should be displayed on lawns of county courthouses. 

Before saying anything else, let me say that my thoughts are based in the following assumptions: It is okay to be Christian and to claim that. It is also okay to be not only sensitive but respectful about the people who are not.

So, for what they are worth, here are some thoughts...

When you see "Xmas" it doesn't mean someone is x-ing Christ out of Christmas.  In fact, "X" is the Greek letter chi which is the first letter of the word Christ.  "Xmas" is proper shorthand for the word Christmas.  (Technically, so a college professor told me, it would be shorthanded starting with a letter that combines the letters for chi and rho - the first two Greek letters in Christ - but since our keyboards are not equipped that way, "X" will have to do).

What about greeting from clerks?  Personally, I am delighted when a clerk tells me "Happy Holidays."  Unless I am in a store that claims a particular faith (say a Christian bookstore) I believe it is not only a safe but a kind assumption to believe that some of your customers will be other than Christian.  Therefore, it makes sense to give a greeting of the season without presuming to know about another's faith.  At the same time, I do and will happily greet my Christian friends with a jubilent "Merry Christmas."

Christmas tree or holiday tree?  Why not consider the circumstances?  A week from today when my  husband and I host a party for our church staff I have no doubt we will all call what is in our living room a Christmas tree.  That is what it is in our home and why we put it up.  However, as I drive past the lighted tree on Main St. in our town, holiday tree might be the best word.  After all, I have the pleasure of knowing many Jewish and Muslim as well as non-faith people here and the tree brings them joy as well.

Here's the thing...perhaps if we spent near as much energy being kind to one another as we do criticizing language (especially language that is meant to include) we might be better off. 

If we are really concerned about the message and meaning of Christmas then let's quit buying more stuff for our family and friends who already have too much stuff and let's use our resources not only to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and visit the lonely, but to work to change systems that keep them in such conditions. 

Perhaps, if we are really concerned with the Christian message we will take down our trees altogether and set up nativities in their place or Advent wreaths around which we gather with our children or friends as we pray that God's will might be done.

Perhaps, if we want the name of Jesus to be known we might want to start living and loving as he did.  And I suspect how we choose our language might just matter to him.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

When I was growing up I was not told that I couldn't have friendships with certain people.  I wasn't told that kids who made bad choices were to be avoided.  Rather I lived in a household where a safe space was created for those friendships. 

I am certain my mother knew (perhaps not the extent, but) the reality of some of my friends' bad choices.  And I am certain that she treated all of my friends...from my friend who never cussed, never drank, never stayed out past curfew to my friend who drank and smoked pot and said many words that would have made my mother blush...the same. 

It was something I appreciated in my childhood and especially in my teenage years.  It is something that I try to model my parenting after. 

I do not believe that we can avoid every bad influence.  I do not believe that those who make bad choices are to be discarded or considered of little or no worth. 

I do believe that parenting is more about helping our children learn to make good choices than about protecting them from the possibility of bad ones. 

Remind me of what I just wrote because...

My four-year-old has been learning bad words at preschool.  And I don't mean words of the "stupid" and "shut up" variety (though he has learned those, too).  Think of the word that is commonly considered the worst cuss word...and when you get it in your head picture a sweet four-year-old saying it. 

I am working through the urge to demand that the preschool expel the child who is teaching this (and other) words to my four-year-old (as well as his classmates). 

When my four-year-old was about two there was a classmate with a desire to bite who decided that my child was the tastiest.  Day after day my little one would come home with a new bite mark.  I knew the teachers were taking it seriously.  I knew the child had just been put in foster care and was going through a lot.  I knew my child would survive.  I did not demand expulsion.  The biting fascination passed.  My child lost no flesh.

I have been the patient parent.  I believe in being the patient parent.  I believe there is much going on with the four-letter-word-loving four-year-old that being expelled wouldn't help.  I believe my child will be exposed to four-letter-words (as his seven-year-old brother recently was on the school bus) soon enough. 

But hearing it come out of his not-yet-even-in-kindergarten mouth has me in an anxious state. 

And I don't know what to do.

When I consider who I think I am and who I want to be I feel it's fair to put patient and reasonable and compassionate on the list of identifiers.  I'm not feeling very much of any of those. 

Tonight if his teacher tells me that my four-year-old said bad words at school we will go home and I will wash his mouth out with soap (I've only done that one other time and it was when he was one and put his hand in toilet water then in his mouth!).  I have warned him this will happen.  I don't know if it's the right thing to do, but he needs to know that there are consequences for his behavior.  And he will.

But, darn it, he should have never heard the word in the first place (there will be time for that in years to come).  And it's not his fault he did.  It's not his fault that he doesn't understand how bad bad words can be.  But it's his to deal with now.  And his mommy and daddy's to deal with as well.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

God is Great

Today I heard a story on the radio about a recent battle.  It included a comment about someone involved saying, "God is great" as he eradicated his enemies.

My heart sank.

Because I do believe that God is great.

And I believe that God's greatness has nothing to do with hate, but with love...
nothing to do with war, but with peace...
nothing to do with me, but with us...
nothing to do with demonizing those who are different, but with valuing them.

It pains me each time I see people use God as an excuse, as a battering ram, as a weapon.

And let's not pretend that it only happens in other places, with other faiths, or with big battles.

As parents, as people who influence children in any role, it is our responsibility to make sure that's not what we do.  It is our responsibility to make sure that our children know the greatness of God's heart, of God's love, of God's compassion, of God's reach...not of our anger or bigotries or prejudices that we try to push off on the divine.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What Should We Worry About?

It is the day after election day.  President Barack Obama will be our president for another four years.

This morning on facebook I saw a friend's post.  It read, "I'm getting worried about our country."  Knowing this friend's political views, I'm guessing it was a response to President Obama's reelection and perhaps the Democratic Senate majority. 

But here's what I want to say...

Perhaps we shouldn't worry about who was elected, whether they were "our" candidate or not.

Perhaps what we should worry about is our lack of desire to work together with people who are different from us.

Perhaps what we should worry about is our tendency to villify those who hold different opinions than ours.

Perhaps what we should worry about is our attitude that if "our" candidates don't win the country is falling apart. 

Perhaps what we should worry about is what our children are learning from our behavior and what it means that we are raising them in a time when we refuse to choose other than to be polarized.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The "Favorite Child Principle"

This last month we've had a class at church on the three faiths of Abraham.  We've had the pleasure of having friends from the local Jewish and Muslim communities as well as a Christian history professor come speak.  I had the privilege last Sunday of presenting the final lesson talking about the importance of interfaith conversation. 

During that lesson I talked about what I've come to call the "Favorite Child Principle." 

I talk about it this way...

One day as my mother, sister, and I sat together mom started talking about something she had read.  It seems a woman had written letters to each of her four children that they were to receive when she died.  In each letter she told each child that he or she was her favorite.  She had also concluded by writing in each letter that the recipient should not tell his or her sibilings, after all their feelings would be hurt.  My mom ended this story by saying to us, "So when you get your letters, don't tell each other."  (You know we will!)

What does that have to do with the three faiths of Abraham, you might ask?  Well, the reality is that often we walk around acting as if we are the "favorite child."  As a Christian, I know Christians do this.  I am sure that there are Jews and Muslims who do as well.  But what if we came to recognize that we were each God's favorite? 

This would make a difference in our interfaith relationships.

This would make a difference in our political battles.  (Is anyone else ready for Nov. 6 to get here?!)

This would make a difference in our family life.

This would make a difference everywhere.

As parents we so often talk about how having child #2 (and 3 and 4 and more) only expanded our hearts to give more love.  In religious circles we talk about the same thing with God...God loving each of us as if there is only one of us.  And yet we often live in ways that are very contrary to these claims.

But what if...what if we would choose to honor the favorite-ness not only in ourselves, but in each other?  What if we didn't need to prove our favorite-ness?  What if instead we could affirm each others'?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What Makes a Christian Family?

Tonight as I was watching Army Wives (one of my favorite television shows) the question of what makes a Christian family was posed.

A young girl was single and pregnant.  She had no family support and could barely manage to take care of herself.  She was honest enough to know this meant raising a child alone would be difficult.  As she came to the point of considering adoption she was connected with a lesbian couple looking for a child.  But she had been raised Christian and wanted her child raised Christian.  She was asking the question of whether these "sinners" could raise her child correctly.

As you have probably already anticipated, the story resolved with her deciding that perhaps this was an appropriate couple with whom to share her baby.  When she went to their home to tell them her decision she said, "I was raised in a Christian family...well, my dad hit my brother and I..." and then she went on to reflect on how if the household of her raising had been more like this household where a lesbian couple was wanting to adopt, perhaps she wouldn't be in this situation.

So, what makes a Christian family? 

Is it two parents...a father and a mother...married to each...married only once?


And sometimes it is a single parent...a gay or lesbian couple...a multigenerational family living together...people who are divorced and remarried...two straight partners who remain unmarried...or even a congregation that adopts children (a headline I read the other day).

What makes a Christian family?

Is it people who go to church regularly, who pray at dinner and bedtime, who know their Bible?


But more than going to church, hopefully it's people who go to church because they've found a loving community where they experience passionate worship, where they find support and challenge as all members of the family continue to grow in faith.  More than praying at set times, hopefully it's people who have developed a deep relationship with God that not only shows up before dinner is tasted, but that informs their living.  More than knowing their Bible, hopefully it's being able to think through the texts, to appreciate not what we want them to say but what they are were and are saying, to be shaped into people of love and compassion by them.

What makes a Christian family?

Maybe it's as simple and as complex as what Micah affirms...doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God.

Maybe it's as simple and as complex as what both the Jewish and Christian scriptures teach...loving God and loving neighbor.

Maybe it's as simple and as complex as compassion and forgiveness and love.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

An Open Letter to "Bad" Parents

To all parents who have ever beat themselves up over their parenting, this letter is for you.

If you have ever said no to your child's request for a new toy because she has a room full of toys at home or because you chose to pay the electric bill or because you were saving for retirement or are not a bad parent.

If you have ever yelled at your child because of other things going on rather than because of what he did and then gone and apologized to him, admitting your are not a bad parent.

If you have ever cried in front of your child or said a bad word in front of your child or fought with your spouse in front of your child and then had a difficult conversation explaining what they saw or are not a bad parent.

If you have ever taken your clean, well-fed, loved child to school, sent them off with a hug only to realize later that it was picture day or the day they were supposed to wear their favorite color or the day they were supposed to take something else and you are not a bad parent.

Admittedly I am a person who hesitates to use the terms "good" or "bad" for people - whether parents, children, or the clerk at the check out counter.  But this is about more than just not wanting parents to call themselves bad...I also think sometimes we need to cut ourselves a break.  After all, most of us are doing the best we can with the resources we have at the moment.  And we have morphed into this culture of people who feel guilt for what we don't give to or do for our children even when they are not hurt (and sometimes are even helped) by our actions.

So, please, before you beat yourself up over mismatched ponytail holders, limits on television time, nights when you don't read to your children, or days they leave the house in a mess...please remember this...

There are children whose parents buy crack instead of food...

There are children whose parents not only don't have pictures of them but whose parents don't care to even remember they exist...

There are children whose parents smack them around and then tell them it's their fault...

There are children who don't know their own names because their parents only call them bastard...

There are children who have never been told they are loved, have never been shown they are loved, who do not know they are loved.

If you love your child and your child knows it, even if you have room to be better, please remember - you are not a bad parent.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

We're All the Same

It was almost ten o'clock and the babysitter was expecting us home anytime.  As we walked to the car my heart was smiling.  I had just dined with new friends at the mosque.

It was last Saturday night...just one week ago today.  Several of us who knew the imam through some Interfaith planning had been invited to share an evening with the Islamic community here.  We arrived, about an hour before sunset.  We were ushered into the prayer through one entrance, women another.  We heard the story of an older gentleman who has lived in our community over 50 years - long before there was a local mosque.  He spoke of acceptance and peace, of not having to apologize for his faith - things he's receive in our country and our community.  Next the imam gave us some basic education about both Islam in general and Ramadan (the holy month they are currently celebrating) in specific.

Then the time came.  We moved to the dining rooms and with our new friends we placed dates in our mouths to break the fast (their fast, not ours...I must admit I'd eaten way too much already that day).  A quick snack, then a return to the prayer room for prayers at sunset, and finally back to the dining rooms for a meal and conversation. 

No wonder my heart was smiling.

Then Monday morning came.  As the boys and I were leaving the house my phone rang.  It was a gentleman from our church.  "The mosque is gone.  It's burned to the ground," he said.  He drives past there each morning on his way to work and called me as soon as he saw it. 

My heart was sad.

All I could picture was the big eyed toddler holding her mama close...the preschool kids jumping off the stage with joy while their parents engaged in prayers...the woman with whom I had shared dinner conversation, talking about parenting and careers...the twins who had been on my own son's soccer team...the gentle imam caring for his congregation. 

All I could picture was people with whom, although they worship differently than I, I am very much the same.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Together at the Table

We've spent the last month traveling and in the process taking our children to eight state capitals (after all the six-year-old is currently learning them), each in which we visited the capitol building.  (Side note: If anyone can explain to me why the city is spelled with an "a" and the building is spelled with an "o" - I'd love that!)

We visited the capitals of Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Kansas (and if you can tell me all the capital cities, I'll be very proud of you!).  As much as I'd love to post pictures of my adorable children at each of the capitol buildings, I'll save you from that and get on with the main story I want to tell which happened at our first capitol building visit in Jefferson City, Missouri (there I gave you one!).

On the first day of our travel we walked into our first capitol building.  As we entered the capitol, we walked across the floor and came to the rotunda.  We were able to look up at the beautiful dome but also look down.  And down on the ground floor, this is what we saw...

Without missing a beat the four-year-old said, "Look, Mommy, it's where they take communion."

Although my cynical side said, "Yea, right" and my pastor side said, "This child spends too much time in church," I've spent a lot of time thinking about his comment.

And here's what I've been thinking.  Wouldn't we all - not just politicians (although yes, them, too) but all of us - be better off if we came around the table together more often.  Perhaps the place to do this for some of us is at the communion table - after all, the world would be much improved if just those who proclaim Christianity could actually all value each other.  But it's not only at the communion table of the church.  We also need more explicitly inclusive tables where we can come together apart from one particular profession to see each other as human, as valued, as cherished, as loved. 

What a different world we might live in if we came together at the table.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

O Canada

This morning on public radio I heard that Ontario has become the first Canadian province to protect transgender people in its human rights legislation...legislation that has protected gay and lesbian people since the 1980's. 

This tickles me for two primary reasons...

First, because I appreciate their action on behalf of the human rights of all people...not just people like me...not just people who are in the norm...but really protecting human rights.

Second, because in the news story I also heard that all three political parties supported this legislation.  Way to come together for your people!

Thank you to our northern neighbor for this great model!  I like the world you are creating for our children.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

When I Need a Worship Detox (aka: Worship PG-13)

I'm on sabbatical.  Part of what this means is that my family and I have the opportunity to go and worship at other churches on Sunday mornings.  This is nice for three reasons: we get to sit together in worship, we get to simply worship, and we get to see what other churches are doing. 

Today we opted to go to a church that's part of a multi-campus congregation.  I have heard good things about the church and was interested to see how they maintained a single identity at multiple campuses.

Today was a day when we went in knowing that theology would not align with where we are, but expected the worship experience to have many gifts.  Instead, I walked out feeling like I needed to detox...feeling like my body and spirit had been filled with so much darkness that I couldn't see the light.  And yes, they were preaching the light (Jesus) loud and clear.

There were many differences between this congregation and ours.  We immediately knew this because worship was much like a rock concert (and reminded me that no matter how many times I think ours is a blended worship we're really quite traditional) - it's not my usual style, but I'm okay with that.  In fact, the first song we sang had great lyrics and I'd love for our congregation to learn it.  Those sorts of differences weren't hard for me.  I'm not a person who thinks that there is only one way to worship.

So, what was wrong?

First, my children opted out of the children's programming.  That was fine.  I would have let them go or let them worship with us.  But by the end of worship I wish it'd had a PG-13 warning so I could have made an informed decision about their participation.  Although I'm all for people understanding the realities of crucifixion - I do fall into the camp of believing we've domesticated the cross to a fault - all I could envision was nightmares that my 4 and 6 year old children might have after hearing graphic descriptions of the process of crucifixion as well as conversation about God vomiting us up because our of lack of fire for our faith.  It's not that I couldn't have some of the conversations that were being presented, but I believe they are to be had in a very different fashion depending on who is in the conversation - a four-year-old, a longtime Christian, someone looking for a new faith commitment, someone who has lived a life of violence, etc, etc. 

Second, the service was focused on the meaning of the cross.  And the theological canyon between the preacher and myself was simply too great.  I know that many people echo what he said, but I realized today how happy I am in my bubble of a different understanding.  How do I understand the cross?  I understand it as a reality of human choice, not God's only option or first desire.  I understand that Jesus was born to be followed not born to be crucified.  I understand that the cross is only the will of God so far as God gave us free choice and so within that reality the cross happened.  I understand it not as the only way God could save us from our sin, but as a reality that happened because we rejected God's better ways.  And frankly, as Christian as I am, I don't think we are out of reach of God without believing that we need the cross.  So, to hear about the cross as the time when God's back was turned on Jesus and as the only way we could be saved from our sin and on and on (all preached amidst previously mentioned graphic details) was just too much.

I do think we need to be more willing to talk about sin and to help each other through our sin.  I don't think worship needs to be all flowers and butterflies.  But I also think there is enough shame and violence, enough trash and hatred, enough power plays and force Monday - Saturday that I'm not sure it is what makes for great worship.  Between vomit, urine, and feces (all words used multiple times in the sermon) and the feeling that if anyone walked out without sincerely turning to Jesus they were doomed to hell, it was hard for me to find the light.

Today I missed my church.  During sabbatical it is important to take a break, to be away.  But let me tell you - it took everything I had not to beg my husband to drive straight to our congregation where we could sneak in the back get a detox!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Gift...and the Anxiety that Comes With It

I am one of those fortunate people whose vocation grants a time to step away.  I will, for the second time while serving this congregation, be receiving the gift of sabbatical.  For the next couple of months I will be out of my usual routine and be given time for rest and especially timely gift considering our community just passed the one year anniversary of our tornado.

I can't say thank you enough for this gift.

And I'm exited about the promises of this time...
     the promise of rest (goal: 8 hours of sleep at night)
          the promise of health (goal: exercising again and making better
          eating choices)
               the promise of relationships (goal: time with family and
                    the promise of renewal (goal: finding my center again)

But I am aware of the anxiety that comes with this gift...
     time will go too quickly
          I haven't set goals that many would say are either big or
          measurable...and might not even accomplish these
               even if I do great over sabbatical, will day 1 back at work
               throw my right back into unhealthy rhythms and bad

And so, as I prepare to receive this gift (which begins June 1) I am eager...I am anxious...I am hopeful.

What healthy routines do you practice for self, for spirit, for family?
How do you defend your boundaries?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What About the Stuff?

Last month I had the privilege of going with our youth group to Heifer Ranch and spending a night in the Global Village.  There each group stays in a house representing a different impoverished country or situation.  We got to the stay in the Refugee Camp.  What this meant is that we had no resources (food, fuel, or utensils) and were unable to communicate with those outside our group.  The idea of this experience is that there are enough resources for everyone but the only way everyone has enough is to share. 

Since I was in the group that couldn't talk, I did a lot of listening and observing.  And here's what I most noticed - having stuff gets in the way of being kind.  (This doesn't mean people weren't kind to us.  They were and we ended up well taken care of.)  It wasn't that people were unkind to us, but I was amazed at how much we argue over the things that we have.


On Sunday my children had a friend over for the day.  With three boys from age 4 - 6 you never know what might happen but the day went really well.  But there were those moments over the course of the day...

"It's mine.  You can't have it."

"I want to play now.  It's my turn!"


Today I am working on a sermon.  In Acts, Luke writes about the early Christian community, "no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything was held in common....There was not a needy person among them" (4:32b, 34a).


So, what do we do about the stuff?  I'm not ready to give it all away.  But, I can't help but wonder how much kinder I would much more attentive to those who cross my much more generous...if I weren't so worried about locking and protecting and taking care of and enjoying everything that I own (or that owns me). 

And what does it teach my children when stuff has so much of me...and of them?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Messy Imposition

Today is Ash Wednesday. We had services tonight at church. I imposed ashes on those who had gathered to worship. About halfway through the crowd there was my almost-four-year-old baby boy in front of me...waiting, both eager and curious about what I was going to do.

I touched my thumb to the ashes, then to his forehead. As I made the sign of the cross I said, "I mark you with God's claim" (I don't know what others say, but this seemed right for tonight).

After marking him with ashes, I was about to stand for the next person.

But he wasn't done.

He reached out his little pointer finger to touch the ashes. I first thought he just wanted to play and began to pull the dish back. He then pointed to my forehead. "You don't have any," he said. And he was right.

I put the dish back where he could reach and watched as he stuck his little finger in and then touched it to my forehead before getting a confused look.

There was a problem. "It didn't stick," he said.

But this boy knows how to solve problems. Reaching back toward the dish, he dug in with thumb and finger, gathering as much of the ashes as he could and lifting them gently to my head. I watched as ashes cascaded down my forehead and across my nose and cheeks. I held my lips together, not sure I wanted to taste the ashes. Then he repeated...after all, it is the sign of the cross we traditionally mark each other with and the cross has two beams. Another pile of ashes to my forehead and the crossbeam was in place.

He walked away satisfied.

I stood there, ashes thick on my forehead, scattered across my face, even around my feet. It was a messy imposition for sure, but one I will never forget.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Living with Reality

As you have heard me say previously, our community was hit by a tornado last spring. Eight months later it is clear that our reality is forever changed. All we have to do is listen to our children to know that.

(spoken by our daycare provider who has been in this profession for 20 years): Before May 22nd, I've never had children playing "tornado" - now it's a regular part of their play.

(a question asked on a recent windy night to my friend by her three-year-old daughter, they were in their basement as their house got hit by the tornado): Mommy, is the wind going to break this house, too?

(a conversation held between myself and my almost four-year-old son yesterday in my office when he found my hardhat from the repairs to the church after the tornado):
Him: Mommy, why don't you ever wear your hardhat anymore?
Me: Well, I don't need it now that the construction is done.
Him: So, you'll use it next time a tornado hits?

Part of me is pained by these conversations, these realities. Part of me takes comfort in the fact that children have an amazing way of incorporating even that which we describe as devastating into their reality. Part of me wonders what other conversations we'll have and what answers I'll be able to give.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I don't even know what to title this post...

And I don't promise it will be well written or well thought out...

I simply need to say that it pains me as I watch amazing, thoughtful, compassionate, kind people define themselves according to what "good Christian people" have told them is right or true.

Why does one person feel the need to tell another that because she wonders she is not a Christian?

Why does one person feel the need to tell another that because he questions he is going to hell?

Why does one person feel the need to tell another that because her answers are different than his she is wrong?

Why do so many feel the need to be so certain, to be so right, and in the process to be so destructive?

Why do so many people seem to be so scared to live in the gray area?

And how do I raise my children in the midst of this all too usual rhetoric to be kind and caring, compassionate and accepting, thoughtful and loving, open minded and encouraging?