Have Evangelicals become Missionaries of Darkness?

With about three weeks left before the highly anticipated mid-term elections I know it’s hard to keep up on events occurring in other parts of the world. I like to think of myself as someone that is fairly well read, especially when it comes to foreign affairs, but a story from last weeks New York Times caught me a bit off guard. Brazil, the country known for bringing us such fabulous imports like Soccer star Pele and the thong bikini (Aren’t we all indebted to the thong for inspiring Sisqo to produce such an amazing song?) was embroiled in a heated presidential election.

While I’m no expert on Brazilian politics I have followed the countries developments to improve education, eradicate poverty, and improve the welfare state. I was an admirer of previous president Lula da Silva, and was intrigued with Brazil’s desire to implement a Universal Basic Income. I know that the recent President was removed for office and that much controversy surrounded the “soft-coup” that removed her from power. However, I did not realize how polarized the country had become politically.

As I learned in the article Brazil is a country undergoing a radical change in religious values and practices. 22% of the countries population is now “Evangelical Christian.” This is an interesting new development, particularly when one considers that Brazil has historically been an important foundation for the growth and power of Catholicism in South America. Consider that in America, where Evangelicalism plays an extremely important role in politics, culture, and civil society, the U.S has about 26% of the population claiming the “Evangelical” mantle.

While Evangelical Christianity is fairly “young” Brazilian political observers have noticed an increasing influence of Evangelical thinking on the nations politics. Once considered a country set apart for it’s “democratic socialist” ideals, the Pew Forum on Religion notes that some estimates have “54% of the population reporting that conservative political and cultural views dominate their electoral decisions.” What has been the result of such a dramatic change in the religious and political make up of the country?

One thing that stands out is the spread of the American based Assemblies of God organization in the country. The Assemblies of God denomination (for those who may not know, Assemblies of God is the Christian denomination that former Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin belongs to) is the “fastest growing Evangelical group in the country.” The New York Times reports that “many American pastors from the Assemblies of God in America have been flocking to Brazil to set up Churches, train Pastors, and create infrastructure to help the organization increase its footprint in Brazilian life.”

As an Evangelical who hold extremely left-wing political views (sorry Mom and Dad) I tend to support organizations like the Assemblies of God that work hard to spread the message of Jesus, and pray that they stay far away from trying to influence local politics. However, as the New York Times is reporting, this has not been the case at all. The Assemblies of God have become deeply involved in Brazilian politics. The results have been nothing short of disastrous.

In Brazil Presidential elections start with  anywhere from 4 to sometimes 10 candidates on a ballot. Barring that any one candidate receives over 50% of the vote, the top two candidates to receive the most votes will head to a final election later in the year. Two weeks ago conservative politician Jair Messias Bolsonaro won the highest percentage of the vote and will be taking on liberal politician Fernando Haddad.

As to be expected the countries Evangelical community is strongly backing Conservative Bolsonaro. However, it’s the statements and political history that make this support so troubling. For starters, Bolsonaro has stated, “human rights are used to support criminals,” and that “I’d rather have a dead son than a gay son.” If those statements aren’t enough to question why the Assemblies of God are so keen to support this candidate than consider this statement he gave when asked by reporters what he thinks about a female liberal politician whom he works alongside in Brazil’s Congress: “I wouldn’t rape her. She isn’t worthy of it.”

Politics is a messy business. I’ve worked in politics and have seen that it can bring out the worst in people. As Christians, however, we have a special call to follow the words of Isaiah 49:6. In this passage God tells the Prophet “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” As Evangelicals go out to other nations, we must ask ourselves if we are spreading the light that Christ has demanded we let shine?

As an Evangelical who is also politically progressive and uses the scriptures to inform my political outlook I have no problem with Christians getting involved with politics. However, this involvement must be grounded in scriptural justice. That means that when a candidate like Bolsonaro says Black Brazilians “ don’t do anything. I don’t think they’re even good for procreation any more” we must stand up and speak words of life. We must make sure that “our salt has not lost its flavor.”

Polls are showing that Bolsonaro, with his almost unanimous support among the countries Evangelical’s, will easily win the second round of elections and become Brazil’s next President. I pray for Bolsonaro. I pray that Christ will change his heart. I pray for the Christians of Brazil. I pray that they meditate on the Scriptures and realize that “gaining the whole world and losing your soul” is a process that must be rejected. I pray that justice reigns in Brazil and that hate is shunned. To my fellow Evangelicals I say this: WE CAN DO BETTER! LETS BE TRUE MORAL, SPIRTUAL, AND ETHICAL LEADERS!

 

 

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Brett Kavanaugh and a Series of Unfortunate Events!

As a Christian, forgiveness is always on my mind. I believe it rests there constantly because it’s the embodiment of Jesus. If the purpose of Jesus and his mission was to “save mankind” and “forgive” us for all the injustices we wage on a daily basis, than certainly it’s easy to understand why a Christian would be so obsessed with the concept of forgiveness.

I’m always struck by stories of people that have experienced tragedy, usually at the hands of another person, and yet are still able to forgive that person for the pain they have caused. I remember being moved to tears in High School by hearing the story of a New York City Police Officer who went weekly to visit with a youth in prison. The youth is serving a life sentence for attempted murder. The victim in this case was the police officer. The Officer, who almost died and is paralyzed after being shot by the youth felt it in his heart to forgive the young man.

These stories of forgiveness provide us with hope. We have numerous examples in scriptures of Jesus teaching us to forgive those who “hate us and to love our enemies.” I think I’ve become so overly interested in the topic because I so desperately desire to be like Christ. I often think that if forgiveness was Jesus purpose than in some ways forgiveness has to be my purpose as well.

This week has been one of intense political conflict. A leisurely scroll through my Facebook page leaves me wondering how our country has not yet broken out in full political civil war. Opinions, especially in regards to Judge Kavanaugh, his accusers, and politicians from both the left and the right, have been violently opposed. Middle ground, and in the case of sexual assault this seems appropriate, is really nowhere to be found.

I know that Judge Kavanaugh denies all allegations that have been put forth against him. I also understand that at least half, and maybe more, of the country believes his version of events. That’s only natural in a democracy. However, as a Christian, I wonder if a majority of the faith community has missed the bigger picture.

Reverend Franklin Graham, son of the legendary evangelist Billy Graham, has come out and confidently proclaimed that “any accusations against Judge Kavanaugh that occurred in High School are Irrelevant.” A Marist poll recently conducted found that over 50% of Evangelicals  would still support Judge Kavanaugh even when asked if “There is overwhelming evidence that he committed acts of sexual assault.” Groups like Focus on the Family, and the Southern Baptist Convention, have all signed letters of support asking for Judge Kavanaugh to be appointed, regardless of the allegations pending against him.

As a Progressive I do not support the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. From his responses on issues like Workers Rights, to his support for unlimited corporate spending in elections, to his support of “federalism” for issues of health, sexuality, and civil rights, I believe he is unfit to serve. However, as a Christian, I believe the moral imperative is to stand with a growing majority of the country that believes morality must have a place in deciding who gets to sit on the Supreme Court. My faith tells me that the secular world, and not the Church, is correct in calling for his nomination to be rescinded, as a result of his questionable moral choices.

There are times, as a Christian, I have given a pass to the wider Evangelical community. I have many secular friends who ask “how can your Christian friends support President Trump after all the immoral things he has done in his personal life?” I usually respond by saying “I think most Evangelicals feel Trump isn’t claiming to be a Christian of high moral standing. They give him a pass because he still governs in a way that’s affirming of Evangelical values. Evangelicals know that Trump is a sinner, very worldly, but they feel his policies in the end reflect their values.” I believe that with Judge Kavanaugh this explanation is now morally reprehensible.

Judge Kavanaugh is one of several conservative legal professionals that President Trump can choose from. His support for overturning Roe V. Wade, Same-Sex Marriage, and other issues important to Conservative Evangelicals can be carried out by another justice that does not have the same “checkered past” as Judge Kavanaugh. Judge Kavanaugh is not the only choice that exists for those who wish to maintain “Traditional Christian values.”

There will be those who say “okay, but as with Trump we need Kavanaugh because he will vote the will of God.” To those who think this way I have a question. At what price does voting the will of god become too high? Does getting someone who will vote the way you “believe” God would have him vote, overrule how the world and those who need our moral example as Christians view our community? How can Evangelicals continue to advocate for God’s saving grace, while we consistently fail to be moral leaders?

I believe the accusers of Judge Kavanaugh but I also believe that he is a man in need of God’s love. King David in Psalms 25:7 begs God by shouting to heaven “Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways.” God will most certainly forgive Judge Kavanaugh for anything he did while acting like “a childish high school jock” as many of his Evangelical supporters say. However, as we can say in the stories of Moses, David, Saul, and others, God may forgive us but that doesn’t mean our past actions won’t come back to hurt us.

Since I’m a Christian I’m called by God to be a perpetrator of forgiveness. While I have no right to forgive Judge Kavanaugh on behalf of the accused, I hold no grudge or ill will towards him. I also hold no grudge against my fellow Evangelicals who support his nomination. I do pray that as a community Evangelicals remember that “one day in heaven is like a thousand years on earth.” Evangelical support for a political party, ideology, economic system, etc.. is a fleeting moment in the arc of godly justice.

Sometimes It’s so Damn Hard to Love These People!

 

In social work we talk a lot about resiliency. The idea behind promoting “resiliency” centers on the belief that universally we all experience things that “shock us, disorientate our dreams and goals, and cause severe emotional harm.” The goal of resiliency is to give clients tools to make them stay strong during these “emotional storms” and remain on a path of personal progress.

The scriptures are filled with stories and examples of Christ encouraging the early Christians to be resilient in the face of a society built on oppression and division. Like the early Christians, it’s not unfair to claim that Christians today need to reflect on how to maintain resiliency when approached with societal evil.

This coming Sunday, August 12, a group of self proclaimed “white nationalists” will be assembling in Washington D.C. in an attempt to “unite the right.” You may remember this cast of alpha male characters from such tragedies as last years “unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville Virginia. That rally ended with several injuries and the death of one young woman.

There is much speculation in the news that the rally this weekend will end in a similar way. It’s reported (https://www.thecut.com/2018/08/unite-the-right-rally-washington-dc.html) that the D.C. police are preparing, strategizing, and bringing in help from outside police forces to prepare for both right wing and anti-fascist protesters. I pray for peace, but in all honest expect there to be war.

As the husband of a beautiful biracial woman and father of four biracial children I worry deeply about race relations in our country.  Fans of the current President might call me a “typical progressive “snowflake” and chalk up my sensitivity to issues of police brutality, racial discrimination and hate, as just typical characteristics of a liberal. However, I’ve seen first hand how deeply scared by racism my wife’s side of the family (the African American side that is). I have experienced their fear of a passing police car, fear of being labeled by white people as “other”, and have felt how deeply devastated they are by the scares of America’s “original sin.”

With all that being said, I have to confess that I too feel hatred for those that will assemble in Washington D.C. to promote hate. I feel pride in those protesters that will show up to counter these voices of hate. However, as a Christian that tries to emulate Christ, I feel deeply conflicted over these feelings. Those racist individuals that will show up to dispense their ignorant hatred are no less our brothers and sisters than the progressive voices that will be there speaking truth to power.

While thinking about this I immediately thought about the words John spoke in the Bible. In 1 John 2: 9-11 we see John telling the early Christian Church that“9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.”

John is really speaking to individuals such as those in the “Rise Above Movement” (RAM) who believe that America has been distorted by “race mixing” and the expansion of Islam in the United States. John is speaking to those men and woman in RAM who believe that sometimes “you have to fight liberals in the streets.” John recognizes that these individuals are guided by darkness. These people have become blind.

Martin Luther King has famously told us that “hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that” and I truly think that is also what John would have us understand in his scripture. We need to love the “hell” outta people that will be going to D.C. in an effort to expand their racist ideology. We need to love these people who have turned to hate and let the light and love of the Holy Spirit overcome the darkness that has clouded their lives.

So while I support the protesters who will be there to offer a “counter narrative” to the right-wing nationalists I pray that they do so with the understanding that in the war against hate only love will offer peace. Hate and darkness are hell bent on destroying us. I pray that this weekend does not turn in to a “bloody Sunday” and that the love of peace, understanding, and unity reigns. I pray for the Right. I also pray for the Left to be successful and for D.C. to be under the watchful and merciful hand of God this weekend. We must be resilient and continue spreading love.

Brother West and the 4th of July

A few years ago I went to hear Union Theological Seminary Professor Cornell West give a lecture at the Young Democratic Socialists of America’s Winter Convention (I know what you are probably thinking “they have enough young Socialists that they need to break their conventions into seasonal gatherings?”). For those who have never seen an interview with Cornell West I suggest you give him a quick YouTube watch. He is funny, compassionate, smart, and even if you disagree with his politics he will make you think.

I first heard Brother West (as he so often is called) being interviewed by Sean Hannity. This was during my early days as a “Young Republican.” I remember being shocked to hear such openly “Socialistic” arguments coming from someone with a PhD (Again, I was pretty young and didn’t know much about nothin!). His argument, that “George W. Bush was a Constantine type Christian” thus someone that would use Christianity to mask his plans for political power, really shocked me at the time.

What endeared me to him, and I guess really challenged my notion of what it means to be a Christian, occurred when I started to notice how he referred to everyone as “Brother” or “Sister.” I grew up in Church and feel very at ease referring to people as “Brother Dave” or “Sister Jean.” As a kid I learned early that by invoking “Brother” or “Sister” before a persons name indicates that they are “one of us” and we can know they are a “believing Christian.” So when I heard him use “Brother” when describing people like Karl Rove and Vice President Dick Cheney, I was taken aback.

The use of those signifiers also represents a certain element of “affection” and “Christian Love.” I always appreciated, especially as I got older, that calling someone in Church your Brother or Sister really helped establish a sense of solidarity. It made me feel like these people were more than just my friendly neighbors in Church. So to hear Cornel West use that when describing his “enemies” made me really think.

By the time I went to hear Cornel West speak I had done a complete change in politics and thinking. I was still a Christian (I will always remember the day I went to see Cornel West speak because the previous night I learned that I received a full scholarship to attend seminary- I ultimately didn’t go but that story can be saved for another blog), but my convictions and outlook on the world went through a radical shift. I no longer believed that “Jesus promoted Capitalism” or that “Christians should support war.” I felt more of a conviction to act out Christ’s mission to what he described as the “least of these.”

But hearing Dr. West speak and hearing him repeatedly refer to Conservatives as “Brother” and “Sister” again brought me back to why I was originally intrigued by his message and delivery. As the talk came to an end Dr. West asked if anyone in the audience had questions. There were many of the usual questions on policy, predictions for upcoming elections; however, one person asked him “why does he choose to call people that we as Socialists consider evil as “Brother and “Sister”?” His response is something I think about almost everyday. He told the crowd “I call everyone, regardless of race, religion, politics, or ideology Brother and Sister because we all come from God and we are all in this together. I believe in redemption and hope. So I believe that people I disagree with, and who are enacting policies that hurt the poor, my “brother” because I have hope that one day this will change.”

Dr. West answer is something that I try to live out in my home, office, and even here on my blog. It’s also why I have struggled with feelings of patriotism. As a Christian I always felt that my biggest sense of identity came from my faith. I always felt like “sure I’m an American and that’s great. But if I was born anywhere else that would be okay too because I would still be a Christian.” Christianity,  and not my identity as a student, Democratic Socialist, PhD Student, or even Father and Husband, has been the foundation for how I view myself in this world.

I really started to feel this more and more as I considered issues of war, death, and violence. I started really to reflect on passages from Scripture like Acts 10:34. In this Passage we read “Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.” I started to question the increasing pride for our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan that so many of my friends in Church were supporting and at times referring to as “the will of God.” I started to ask myself “if we all derive from God than why should differences separate us? Why should death on the battlefield of one person, who is from the same human family as myself, receive more of my feelings of sorrow and grief than another?” I would ask myself “why is killing okay at all”?

These are heady questions that philosophers, scholars, and theologians have wrestled with for years. They don’t have easy answers. The scriptures, however, offer the answer that I feel is most complete. As Peter said, God does not show favoritism. God loves us all equally. God is also the Father of us all. I can be mad at my earthly brothers and sisters but I can never hate them. On this 4thof July I will continue to do my best to love all my earthly brothers and sisters in the same manner that God does. I will pray that Christ gives me power to “show no favoritism.”

 

 

Owning Up to Our Mistakes: Peace and Honesty Can help Solve Our Immigration Problem

Asking fore forgiveness can be one of the hardest things to do. I grew up in a household where my parents and siblings were all believing and practicing Christians. Asking for forgiveness was a very natural thing to do. So as I became a Social Worker and ventured out into the troubled waters of peoples emotional and personal problems I noticed quickly that some people were dying, both emotionally and spiritualty, because they could not own up to their mistakes and seek out forgiveness from others.

One young client that I worked with for a few months had been arrested at 15, sent to a Juvenile facility for a year and a half, and when I met him at 17 was trying to “get his life back together.” This young man had substance abuse issues, anger management trouble, and was showing signs of deep depression.

As I got to know this client more we began to talk a lot about the guilt he felt in putting his mom through traumatic episodes. He would often tell me that he knew “I will never get over all the bad things I’ve done in my life if I don’t just tell my Mom I messed up. I need to tell her I’m sorry for causing her pain. But I’m from a place where we don’t say sorry for nothing. Saying sorry isn’t something I do.”

It was hard to see this young man struggle with his inability to forgive himself. This inability to accept his mistakes and take action to move forward was impeding him from making some of the personal choices he needed to get his life “back on track.” I could tell that if he didn’t forgive he may lose his life to the forces of violence and personal destruction that defined so much of his early life.

Forgiveness, which is hard for a person, can be even harder for a country and its political representatives. With the issues occurring at the border, however, I think asking forgiveness and owning up to the mistakes of our past, will save us from becoming a spiritually and emotionally dead country. Asking for forgiveness isn’t easy and requires bravery but I believe that as a people we can take the steps necessary.

When we see families and children being separated at the border I think we all, regardless of your political ideology, feel some sense of sorrow for those people. Even if you believe that these people committed a crime and should be forced to face the consequences of their actions, I believe that in your heart of hearts you feel empathy for the children. I think as American’s, and Christians in particular, we must focus on this empathy and think critically about the role our country has played in fomenting this crisis.

On Long Island I witnessed first hand the evil barbarity that the MS-13 gang can wage against innocent victims. Much has been written about the two young high school girls brutally murdered at the hands of MS-13 gang members in Brentwood during the fall of 2016. At the time I was working for a politician in that area, even driving my car down the street where the murders took place to pick up canvassers who were working for our campaign, the night of the murders. Those murders shook our office and the community.

I never hide the fact that I’m a “progressive” who is way far to the left of many members in the Democratic Party today. However, after witnessing the brutality of MS-13 I agreed with President Trump’s call to do more to crack down on this vicious gang.

My general curiosity (And overall nerdiness) lead me to look into the historical origins of the gang to get a better sense of their past. I read a very insightful article by Harvard Writer in Residence Daniel Denvir who explained “MS-13 was born in Los Angeles amidst the refugees fleeing President Reagan’s dirty wars in El Salvador, and became a transnational gang that ultimately did so much to destabilize El Salvador.” I learned that many young people were fleeing El Salvador in the 1980’s because the United States government was backing a repressive Right-Wing government that oppressed its people. In the 1980’s we saw thousands of people coming to America to escape these well documented “death squads” that would kill and pillage poor towns that they deemed “communist coconspirators.” And these young kids who fled the violence in El Salvador were prone to the protection and sense of family being offered by the newly created MS-13 gang.

As the Administration of George W. Bush and Barack Obama began to focus on deporting illegal immigrants that committed crimes back to their country of origin, I learned that El Salvador was having increasing troubles dealing with members of MS-13. Locals were referring to these transplants to their country as the “American Menace.” In a nutshell, the people of El Salvador were forced to deal with a problem that America helped start and then exported.

America in the 1980’s was in a “Cold War” with Soviet Russia. Any country that appeared to be embracing “communist practices” would immediately receive attention from the CIA. El Salvador was of particular interest to the American government because the U.S did not want a left-wing government taking over and aligning with our Soviet enemies. So in the name of “national security” we helped lay the foundation for the chaos that occurred on the streets of Brentwood, Long Island.

This has come to a head as the President; Republicans in Congress, and the American people demand action to be taken on the Mexican border. What we miss when we say blankly that these “immigrants are illegal and committed a crime” can be found in the research of Stephanie Leutert of the Brookings Institution. She writes, after years of field research in Central American countries, “For Central American residents, control of these gangs over their neighborhood likely means a weekly or monthly extortion payment simply for the right to operate a business or live in their territory. The price for failing to provide this money is death. All it takes is a neighbor or nearby shopkeeper to be gunned down for failing to pay the adequate fees, and it becomes clear that the only options are pay or flee.”

This reality should force all Americans of good conscious to grapple with the reality of the immigrant experience and the need to address these issues with empathy, love, and justice. Martin Luther King Jr in a sermon once said that people who are “hard hearted” can hear facts and figures, moral arguments, and persuasive reasoning but still remain cold to human suffering. I believe that the start of turning our country away from a “hard hearted” response to the peril immigrants face is by asking for forgiveness and being honest.

In Ephesians 5:11 Paul tells Christians to “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” In facing the reality of our countries past in helping create and export violent gangs like MS-13 we can begin a process that helps us renew our collective spirit.

We must also face the reality that when it comes to foreign policy our country has not had a very “Christ-centered” approach to dealing with our brothers and sisters across the globe. As author Madeline Rose in the recent issue of the Nation Magazine explains, “Ten years ago, 80 percent of international humanitarian assistance went to the survivors of natural disasters-floods, droughts, and hurricanes. Today, violent conflict is the primary driver of humanitarian need, with more than 90 percent of all global assistance going to crises fueled by this cause.”

As the country, which spends and exports more lethal weapons than 7 of the world’s largest industrial nations combined, we have not been sowers of peace. We have sown chaos, violence, and pain. We must admit to this and ask forgiveness from God, our neighbors, and from each other. This is not easy but it can be done. We must ask Christ to lead us as we seek to make things right and help the world heal from the pain we have caused.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Bible tells me So (Well, at least those parts that support my politics)

In the midst of the horrible tragedy occurring at our borders, and in light of the Trump Administration’s decision to separate Immigrant children from their families, a Biblical debate has emerged in popular media. From the New York Times down to the New York Post, editorial pages and blogs have been filled with arguments over the theological, moral, and Scriptural ethics of the Administrations policies. Usually, when the bible is used as a lens to critique public policy I get scared that the media will find the most uninformed, close minded, and hostile representative from the Evangelical community to speak on “God’s behalf.” I was pleasantly surprised to see a mix of views presented.

This all started when Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed a news conference regarding the Administrations “zero tolerance policy” on illegal immigration. When questioned about the Trump Administrations “Child Separation” policy, the Attorney General brought up Romans 13. For those unfamiliar with Romans 13 it’s a Chapter in the Bible where the Apostle Paul encourages the Christian community to ““Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” In essence the scripture is calling on Christians to recognize that God has a hand in establishing the rulers, leaders, and regimes of this world. This Chapter has often been referred to as a  “bludgeon” by scholars because it can be used selectively to grant moral support to awful political, social, and economic abuse.

Anyone that has ever read one of my blogs will know that I’m not a big fan of those called by the mainstream media to speak on behalf of Evangelical Christianity, however, I was pleasantly surprised that most mainstream evangelical leaders were quick to deplore the Attorney Generals misuse of scripture. The Reverend Franklin Graham, who I previously criticized for zealously supporting the Trump Administration in the past, publicly denounced Mr. Sessions invocation of scripture and referred to the Trump Administrations policy of separating children from their families as “disgraceful.” I believe it’s extremely important to recognize, even when it’s coming from someone I vehemently have disagreed with in the past, when someneone speaks truth and advocates for justice.

Conservative Evangelical leader Bob Vandeer Plaats is another “mainstream representative” of Evangelical Christianity that went against an administration he enthusiastically supported in the past. New York Magazine even reported that Mr. Vandeer Plaats has a creepy photo of Trump, the Bible, and a Cross adorning his office wall. These “enhanced support techniques” (this my attempt at political humor considering Vandeer Plaats support of Sen. Ted Cruz and his ‘torture loving’ rhetoric in the Republican primary) have not blinded him to the moral realities of the Trump Administrations policies. Writing in the New York Times Vandeer Plaats says “As a Christian, I find that the Bible’s Book of Micah offers a guiding principle of doing right: “He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (emphasis added). This is biblical. That means we should execute justice, yes. But not with the kind of cruelty we’re reading about from the border with Mexico.”

It’s refreshing to see people put the Scriptures ahead of their political ideology. My Friend has a saying that he often invokes when we applaud people for doing what they are supposed to do. My friend will say “you don’t get points for breathing.” While I know I shouldn’t be singing the praises of someone like Mr. Vandeer Plaats who has supported some of the most immoral anti LGBT laws in the past and who openly uses derogatory terms to describe Gay men, however, I think as a Christian who believes in redemption and will forever believe that we all fall short of God’s desires and need grace, I would like to pray for him to continue progressing and opening his heart to the troubles facing God’s children.

So often mainstream Evangelical Christians, when it comes to Conservative political leaders, are more like the Jewish masses written about in John 7:49 “The foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them.” I pray that more people awake to the call for peace and social justice that scream to us from scripture. I believe that the evangelical community has a real opportunity to make “justice roll down like waters” and drench our country in a spirit of love and peace. Lets continue praying that this is only the beginning of a new movement to link Evangelical belief with the cause of people suffering both at home and abroad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was there Room for Jesus at the Stone Wall Inn?

On my way to the office this morning I passed a couple taking some pictures in front of new sign posted on a busy intersection. I was a bit nervous for the couple, Brooklyn traffic still makes my stomach sink every morning, and wanted to see what was on the sign they were standing in front of. As I passed the couple and looked back I saw that the sign was a big rainbow flag stating “Brooklyn Celebrates Pride.”

As a white heterosexual male I have to admit that I didn’t realize it was that time of the year. Usually I’m made aware that it’s Pride season when all my Conservative Christian friends post pictures equating New York Cities Pride Parade with the on goings of Sodom and Gomorrah. The New York parade hasn’t occurred yet so the fact that Pride is being celebrated by millions wasn’t in my consciousness.

As I continued driving I started to think about the couple. I couldn’t help but think about their lives, their story, and the struggles they faced. In my heart I know it can’t be easy for our gay brothers and sisters to live a life completely free of worry, care, and judgment. I always wonder and marvel at the strength it must take to live in a society where some question their humanity, love, and sadly in most churches, their faith.

I write about issues of Social Justice because I’m a “Jesus person.” I’ve been a Jesus person all of my life. It’s really all that I’ve ever known. Its what defines who I am and why I live my life the way I do. Jesus has kept a tight grip on my heart since I was a little boy and he has never let go.

I say all this because in a week filled with news of suicide, nuclear war, and dictatorship, I sometimes wonder if the cares of this world take my eyes off of Christ. I’ve been wrestling in my head with those arguments that claim homosexuality is a choice, a manifestation of sin, deplorable, etc. I’ve been wrestling with the reality that we all fall short of God’s expectations and desperately need mercy.

I’m not a theologian, biblical scholar, or Christian philosopher. I’m a simple person that feels Jesus has called us all to live out what Scripture says in Ephesians 4:1 “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” I want to spread humility, love, and compassion in the same manner is was shown to me through the life of Jesus.

I know that Pride began when Gay men and woman began to fight back against brutal police oppression at the Stone Wall Inn in 1969. I know that day was the beginning of a people awakening to express their humanity. I pray that as a follower of Christ I stand always with the oppressed. I want to stand with “the least of these” even when doing so might raise the eyebrows of “good church folk.” I want to stand for grace and salvation because that is what Jesus gave to me. If I’m wrong than it will be only because I’m a fool for Christ and the hope he inspires.