Respect: Find Out What it Means to Me

arethaYears ago (almost 50 to be exact), the Queen of Soul released a hit song. Her name, as you probably already know, is Aretha Franklin. The song is Respect. It put her on the map, and she never looked back.

Apart from the fact that it was a good song, I think it resonated with people. Everyone is looking for respect. For Heavens sake, even the Cowardly Lion wanted chipmunks to genuflect to him. We all want to be viewed with some degree of deference.

“The woman walks over him…”

The interesting thing about “Respect” is its origin. It was written, recorded, and released by none other than Otis Redding (no slouch himself). His version hit the stand in 1965. It didn’t make that much of a splash, however. I suspect part of the reason for that was the tenor of his performance.

The original rendition done by Redding came across as a fraught man imploring his lady friend to respect him. In it, the guy doesn’t seem to mind if the woman walks all over him, just as long as she respects him. Sounds like a bit of a contradiction in terms, but it’s his song after all.otis-redding

As you know, Aretha’s version portrays an ardent, self-assured woman demanding the respect she deserves. She knows what she wants, and she knows it’s due her. No wonder people (especially the women) back in ’67 were picking up what she was laying down.

In the chorus, Franklin sang these words: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.” To me, these words are the crux of the lyrics. Find out what respect means to me. I don’t want what you’re calling respect. Find out what I view as respect and give it to me.


Therein lies some of our problem today. We often give only what we want to give—and then, begrudgingly. To her credit, she lays it out for her man in the song. Here’s what I’m looking for. Give me the kind of respect I’m worthy of receiving.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t have the opportunity to lay it all on the line like that. We just hope those around us will see us for who we are—people who deserve to be esteemed in some small way.


Jesus laid out a simple formula for doing that in what we call the Golden Rule. (Matthew 7:12) Showing respect is simply treating others the way we would like to be treated. We have lost a great deal of that these days.

In our culture it’s almost become a sport to show disrespect to someone. It happens so often, we’ve even coined a phrase to describe it—“You dissed me!” I never even heard that word until a few years ago. Now it’s commonplace. I guess social media has made it a bit too easy to do that and get away with it.

Aretha’s song went straight to number one when it came out. Maybe we need a little revival of it fifty years later.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

Castro and the Caribbean Calamity

Fidel Castro forced his way into power when I was nine years old. For some reason, it stands out in my memory. My only other recollection of that entire year is of my family moving from one town to another. I’m not sure what this says about my childhood. A local move and a third world dictator impressed me. I’ll let you fill in any blanks necessary.

Since his recent demise, it’s been amazcastroing to me how many people have praised him. Some make him sound like a hero. I find it astonishing because I have seldom (if ever) heard anything good about the man. By most accounts, he was a brutal dictator who usurped power in a poor country and made it worse.

All this reminds me of the Che t-shirts I’ve seen many college students wearing. You may remember that Che Guevara was Castro’s partner in crime. He was famous for exporting his leftist, revolutionary ideals. He was, in fact, a mass murderer and a thug. Like Castro, he is still revered by many. Personally, I think I’ll pass on that t-shirt.


I recently read an article about Armando Valladares. Valladares was a Cuban Christian who refused to put a three-word slogan on his desk at work. The slogan simply said, “I’m with Fidel.” He was given a thirty-year prison sentence for his dissidence.

“I spent eight years locked in a blackout cell, without sunlight or even artificial light. I never left. I was stuck in a cell, ten feet long, four feet wide, with a hole in the corner to take care of my bodily needs. No running water. Naked. Eight years,” Valladares recalled. “All of the torture, all of the violations of human rights, had one goal: break the prisoner’s resistance and make them accept political rehabilitation. That was their only objective.” (Read more about Valladares here)

Valladares’ story is only one of thousands of victims of the Communist revolution in Cuba. That revolution was a promise of freedom and reform. Valladares himself was an early supporter of Castro. He realized quickly that freedom under the Castro brothers had a much different definition than the one of which Jesus spoke in Scripture (John 8:32).

“Life Was Not Enough”

Valladares is a poet and painter. While in Castro’s prison, he penned t his work, “Life Was Not Enough,” dedicated to Pedro Luis Boitel, whom he called “an unforgettable brother.”

Life was not enough for you

in that torture chamber

but there were rifle butts and boots to spare

buckets of urine and excrement thrown in your face.

They could not forgive you


your labors of light and words

they feared your smile

the eloquence of your hands

they feared the fertility of your ideas

and your manner of being silent

they feared your life, Pedro,

and they murdered you . . .

I suspect there will be an influx of “Fidel” t-shirts soon. I think I’ll pass them as well. Maybe I can find an “Armando” t-shirt somewhere…maybe…

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

You Could be Illegal in 53 Countries

illegal-shirtMy oldest son has a black t-shirt that (in bold, white lettering) announces the shirt is illegal in fifty-three countries. It further breaks down that number by saying it is restricted in forty of those nations and meets with hostility in another thirteen areas around the world. The reason it is illegal is the fact that it prominently displays a cross on the chest.

I’ve always been taken with that shirt. There’s nothing fancy about it. In fact, it’s rather plain as shirts go. But the garment is striking in the message it carries. It’s a not-so-subtle reminder of the kind of world in which we live.

“I find it a bit disconcerting.”

By all accounts, there are less than two hundred independent countries on planet earth. If the message of this t-shirt is correct (and I strongly suspect it is), over a quarter of the nations of our world are overtly hostile to the Cross of Christ—and presumably to Christians as well. Being one of the later, I find that to be a bit disconcerting. You may want to check closely the next time you do a little globetrotting.

hjlpThis is just another reason to be thankful for the country in which we live. While things are certainly less than perfect here, freedom is still the watchword we live by. Some of us may get annoyed when we’re not allowed to place a crèche on the courtyard lawn, erect a Christmas tree on a mountain, or say, “Merry Christmas.” Still, we’re a long way from getting thrown in jail for worshiping Jesus.

When the institution we now call the church was first formed, she was a loose aggregate of people desiring to follow in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth. She was often referred to as “The Way” and had no aspiration other than to be (and make) disciples of Christ. Despite (or maybe because of) her simplicity and authentic, up-front way of living, she was like a magnet.

“There’s always going to be a certain amount of animosity.”

People were drawn to her, and many who were not so drawn were reported to have said things like, “See how they love one another!” That’s a pretty good witness from a pagan world. Would that we would hear such things said about us today. Instead, we often hear hatred.

loveoneanotherI realize there’s always going to be a certain amount of animosity from the surrounding culture(s). Jesus was quite clear about that. Still, he just as clearly pointed out that we are to earn the right to tell people about him. Grabbing someone by the lapels and saying, “Jesus loves you” doesn’t cut it. We are to live among them, be their friends and co-workers, and earn their trust. When we have equal footing, it’s a lot easier to tell them that the Kingdom of God is near. (Luke 10:1-9) That equal footing comes at a price—the cost of discipleship.

May our unity around the manger of the Christ-child hold fast this season. Who knows? Someone might even notice our love for one another.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]