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.

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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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Friends Like These Who Needs Enemies?

Last year a Harris Poll was conducted to determine just “how happy” average Americans are. The poll (http://time.com/4871720/how-happy-are-americans/), found that only 33% of Americans responded that they are “overall happy.” Why are we such an unhappy group of people? Some on the left would say it’s probably because Donald Trump is our President. The Right would retort that it’s “godless” liberal values that are making us increasingly unhappy.

I have no real opinion or thoughts as to why, as a people, Americans are unhappier than others. Sometimes I believe it stems from living under a capitalist economy those forces us to work and toil harder and harder to scratch out a meager living. At other times I believe we may be so unhappy because we are all longing for spiritual fulfillment. And some days I assume that the entire nation is comprised of New York Knicks fans that suffer with year after year of losing, dashed hopes, and relentless heart break (you can insert my fellow Jets fans in place of the Knicks if you prefer).

Happiness is a very hard thing to define, measure, or even understand. I know Social Work literature is filled with studies that show variables like “community, faith, family, purpose, and work”  are things which make us feel more “content”, which is also often translated into feeling happy. Any Social Worker worth their salt will look to these variables and often suggest that clients experiencing depression, loss of hope, and those who are unhappy, reach out and connect more with sources of contentment.

So often in American life we resort to our “tribal camps.” Associating with those that think, believe, and behave like we do, naturally makes us feel more comfortable, and dare we say “more content”? This is why so often I find myself going to left leaning websites to read articles that document a sense of justification for feeling the world needs to be a more progressive place. This always makes feel safe, accepted, and content.

However, on Tuesday  I decided to venture out of my zone of contentment and read a few articles from a Conservative website. I thought “hey why don’t you be more opened minded and see what the other side has to say.” I have to admit that I was a bit nervous at first but after ten minutes it wasn’t all that bad. I didn’t come across anything to grotesquely right wing that would upset my “snowflake” sensibilities.

I was intrigued by an article posted on the website ( I won’t share the article or the site. I don’t want to stir unnecessary debate/ hurt feelings of those who may frequent the site.), regarding an update on Democratic Senatorial Candidate Chelsea Manning. For those who may not be aware of Chelsea’s story I will give a really quick overview: Chelsea Manning was born Bradley Manning. Manning served in the military as a specialist in Technology and intelligence. Manning was essential to providing organizations like Wikileaks and the New York Times  with classified information that informed their reports on abuses carried out by the United States Government during the Iraq war. Manning was subsequently arrested and sent to prison for giving out classified information. While in Prison, Manning declared that she was now identifying as a female and will be changing her name from Bradley to Chelsea. She has since been released from prison and is currently running in the Democratic Primary for Senator in Maryland.

I was intrigued that an overtly Conservative website would post a story about Chelsea manning’s health. Apparently there were some reports released that claimed she tried to take her own life. The report explained that Chelsea is okay and is recuperating. The story was pretty dry and self-explanatory.

I ventured past the text of the article and saw some of the comments. This is what really struck my interest. A self-identifying “soccer mom” whose username for the website (which I will make up to protect her identity) literally was along the lines of “ChrstianGal4Jesus” had the first comment on the story. Her comment, which I’m directly quoting, was “I know this makes me a bad Christian but I don’t care that she is okay. She is a traitor. She is lucky she wasn’t shot and killed.”

“ChristianGal” was very sincere and honest with her comments. While I was in a bit of shock to see her so openly state that she didn’t care that Chelsea Manning was okay, I felt compelled to take a second and think about what she said. I was struck that she was honest in feeling that her remarks exclude her from “polite Christian company.” I appreciate honest people that are self-aware. I was disappointed, however, by the amount of people that responded positively and told “ChristianGal” not to be ashamed. There were, at my last check, which was noon on Wednesday, over 20 responses affirming “ChristianGals” feelings and explaining her lack of empathy did not make her a “bad Christian.”

In Evangelical circles it’s very popular for people to say “I hate the sin and love the sinner.” Essentially, this statement is trying to clarify that a Christian is not personally hostile to another individual, but that they are merely hostile to a belief, action, or behavior that can be considered sinful. Evangelicals are very quick to offer this statement as a response to LGBTQ issues. It’s a common troupe for explaining why Evangelicals generally do not support things like “gay marriage”, “gender neutral bathrooms”, or “same sex adoption.”

I think most Evangelicals  generally are sincere when they make this statement. Sure, some may be overtly homophobic, racist, or sexists, but I think there are some who generally cannot accept certain things they deem to be “ behavioral choices.” I’ve begun to wonder, however, if this statement is starting to serve as a mask for a deeper anger.

In Romans 12:2 Christians are told not to “conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Essentially, Christians should not allow the world, society, popular culture, etc. to take such a prominent role in our lives that it drowns out the saving grace of Christ. We should be believers in Christ, who spend day and night trying to reflect a love so deep that “it passes all understanding.” Can we love, when hating on social media feels so right?

I think its getting increasingly harder for Christians to decouple their thinking from that of the President, Congress, Conservative Pundits, and right-wing Facebook memes. I focus on “Conservatives” only because unlike Christians on the political left who have never had an Evangelical Liberal to admire (I exclude former President Jimmy Carter because I could write a book on how totally not progressive he was but I’ll save that for a later post), politically Conservative Christians have been well represented in the halls of political power. A Conservative response to Chelsea Manning is one of anger, betrayal, and maybe even hatred. A Christian response is one of love, empathy, and hope for a renewal of her spirit and mind. A Conservative response to “ChristianGal” is one of affirming her feelings of discuss; A Christ like response to “ChristianGal” is a word of life affirming love and correction.

A Muslim friend told me that he is disappointed in Christians. He believes that Christians are not holding President Trump to the same standards that they held for President Bush and President Obama. He stated that “Christians may be self-righteous at times but at least they came from a moral place. Now, its like anything goes. Its like they are okay with living in Sodom and Gomorrah.” I don’t think we are anywhere near Sodom and Gomorrah. I believe we are human, imperfect, and in need of love. We can make this right. We must go back to the basics. We must become friends with those in the world. We must not become like the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Light in Dark Times

As a student working towards my PhD, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many amazing students, professors, and administrators. The majority of these individuals, which I guess is not all that surprising considering my education has occurred at a public university in the Northeast, can correctly be labeled as “liberal and secular.” They tend to be liberal in the sense that their politics and outlook on society fall neatly in line with the Democratic Party, and secular in that most express no religious affiliation and no real understanding of religious teachings or traditions.

I make no secret of my deeply held political views. I consider myself a Pacifist, Democratic-Socialist (this might disqualify me from ever being President of the United States, but I’m a dues paying member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)), and an Evangelical Christian. The first two rarely get much attention on a liberal college campus, however, the third self-identification does. I’m always asked, “How are you a Evangelical and not a republican? How are you practicing Evangelical and still so progressive minded?” I love these conversations because it gives me an opportunity to what all narcissists love most and that is talk about myself.

I usually bring up the standard social justice bible verses that a majority of the public has heard (Jesus call for Christians to be peace makers, the Jewish practice of jubilee where debts are erased and the poor given access to food, the first apostles communal living arrangements, etc.). What I often find myself answering most from people who are interested in why I hold progressive political views while holding fairly conservative religious beliefs is a question that I must say really upsets me. So often, especially since 2016, I’m asked “why do your fellow Christians support Donald Trump? His life is so immoral.” My reply, which I admit is not a very well thought out piece of political analysis, is usually something like “I think Christians recognized that President Trump is a flawed man, however, they tend appreciate his policies which they view as being in line with God’s will.”

My current doctoral work is focused on the role Intellectuals have played in the Conservative drive to roll back the benefits of the welfare state. In simple terms: I’m trying to understand why Conservative thinkers, usually professors who write big policy papers and teach in top universities, believe that things like social security, Medicaid, food stamps, etc. are benefits that should be highly restrictive and not all that generous. I think I chose this topic because of my religious and political beliefs. I’ve been wrestling with the notion that conservatives, who so often are Evangelical Christians, can be opposed to things that “outsiders” and people that do not share our faith assume Christians would be happy to support. I guess I wanted an answer to the question I’m frequently asked “if Jesus wants you guys to love your neighbors than why are you all so often against allowing the government to help people?”

I haven’t found the answers to these questions. What I have found, and continue to find, are more examples of what I’ve come to label “Christianity at its worst.” I reflect and meditate on these issues not because I want to add to the growing list of complaints that are often thrown on Evangelical Christians. Rather, I think and pray about them constantly because I believe that Christians are much better than the picture we give to the outside world. I also, and this may be a bit naïve, believe that most Christians simply need to be better informed. I tend to tell myself “its not that Evangelical Christians are mean by default. I think that in a busy world with so much going on it’s hard to have a clear spirit filled belief on every topic.” At times I feel a burden to try where I can to educate my brothers and sisters in Christ on certain topics.

One topic that I have written about and have discussed with Christians at length is immigration. Most Evangelicals are just like the rest of America. They are afraid that lax immigration leaves the United States prone to potential invasion and think if someone enters the country illegal they must face punishment. Usually, but not all the time, Christians simply see illegal immigration as a crime that must be punished like all other crimes. These are all fine arguments that I understand and disagree with. However, what so often I don’t hear is a scriptural argument for these stances.

As Christians we are exhorted to live not by “Bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Christ wants us to not “conform to this world but be transformed through Christ love and salvation.” In essence, we are not supposed to conduct ourselves in the same manner as everyone else. We are to be beacons of light, hope, and compassion. We are to be the moral salt in a world that has become bland to seeking justice.

In the Washington Post today I read a quick “update” on where the Department of Health and Human Services is in implementing a policy to deal with increased traffic on the border. The story stated that the Trump Administration is looking at options for placing children in “foster homes, unused summer camps, or in military installations.” The article explained that children who are separated from their parents as a result of their detainment for trying to “cross the border illegally” will soon be relocated to one of the three options mentioned before.

This brings to mind Deuteronomy. In the book of Deuteronomy God informs the Jewish people that children “shall not be punished for the sins of their parents.” God deliberately prohibits children from receiving any retribution for the acts of their Fathers and Mothers. God, who is the ultimate arbiter of justice in the Old Testament, is making a clear judicial distinction for what can be considered “reasonable punishment.”

Jesus, in the New Testament, often brings many of these Old-Testament laws into a better light. Jesus explains to his followers that children are what we all should aspire to. Jesus lets us know that children, both literally and figuratively, have a special place in the kingdom of god and should have a special place in our daily lives.

This circles back to the issue of President Trump. It also brings us back to the question “If Christians believe in Jesus than why do they support President Trump?” It begs Christians to ask,  “Are we living out our faith with fear and trembling?” Are we ensuring that “in welcoming aliens we unknowingly entertained angels?” Does our political stance square with our public witness to those who are not saved?

I’m hopeful that Christ is at work in the lives of us all. I’m also hopeful that Christians stop, pray, and think how best we can serve as a wake up call to a world begging for peace, love, and salvation. Can we anymore justify the President’s actions with statements like “it’s the liberal media attacking him? I know he isn’t a saint but still he supports the Christian agenda.” Can we allow a President, who as many political scientists have found won the election only as a result of the Evangelical vote, to “punish children for the sins of their mothers and fathers.” Or can we be the force that propels our world to stop, think, and move towards justice, hope, and light?

 

Fear of Practicing What We Preach: Fearing the Bad Apples Misses the Potential Angels in The Current Immigration Debate.

Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

A year ago the New York Times released a detailed investigative report on the lives lost attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. One unidentified victim “Case 0519 carried Psalms and Revelations, torn from a Spanish Bible.” Another victim had “a cross and a few grains of rice” on them when their bodies were discovered and turned over to authorities. These stories, and many more like them, are incredibly heartbreaking and sadly relevant in the wake of the hundreds of Central American migrants currently begging for asylum on the U.S.-Mexican border.

As a Christian who likes to fancy himself “someone who takes the Bible seriously” I have struggled with how best to relate what occurs in the scriptures with what occurs on CNN or Fox News. Yesterday, while waiting to get my oil changed I was treated to an hour of President Trump’s favorite television show ‘Fox and Friends.’ On the show were some family members of victims hurt, killed, and raped by non-documented immigrants. One family member asked the question “if we just kept these people out, my family would not be grieving the loss of a loved one. Our family would still be intact. Why are we even considering letting more of these people in?”

It’s hard to think ideologically when you are face to face with someone that is experiencing such unbelievable grief. I could hear the pain in the voice of the family member and felt, as someone who considers themselves to be way to the Left of liberal, that my political ideology has consequences. I thought, “Maybe people like me who have a dedication to social justice are to blame?” It was a moment of deep self-reflection.

As I went about my day this short segment from ‘Fox and Friends’ kept playing in my mind. I wondered how I would react if the same thing were to happen to someone from my family. I have often been asked the “Michael Dukakis” question. People who know that I consider all taking of human life by the state to be illegitimate and morally evil, often ask if I would hold the same belief if my “wife were raped and murdered.” My response is always unhesitatingly Dukakis like: “Yes I would still be against the death penalty.”

I say this not to boast in my strong adherence to a deep moral confidence. I say this more as a meditation on what it means to be a Christian in a world of increasing hatred, division, and violence. I say this also in reflection of what the Scriptures, which as an Evangelical I believe to be the word of God on all things spiritual and moral, tell me about conducting my life in a fallen world.

In Hebrews we learn directly how God views proper relationship building amongst those that are “strangers in our land.” I often reflect on how hard it must be coming to a new country where you don’t necessarily know the culture, language, or social norms. I wonder how scared you must be to meet someone that doesn’t approve of your coming in to his or her country. I imagine that the immigrant hopes she stumbles upon a Christian who believes in living out Hebrews 13:2 and not one that thinks in agreement with Brother Franklin Graham who stated, “Immigration is not a Bible issue.”

It’s hard to live out the teachings we find in scripture. Loving you neighbor, being a peacemaker, even keeping your heart and lips free from lies and jealousy are incredibly hard to overcome. As Christians we have the Holy Spirit to help us in this endeavor. I have come to believe it was the Holy Spirit that moved the Freedom Riders to face brutal violence in Alabama as they fought for desegregation. I think it was the Holy Spirit that gave spiritual bravery to the young African American college student who chose to sit quietly and read C.S. Lewis while being attacked and verbally abused at a Woolworths lunch counter during the historic “Sit-Ins.” I think it’s the Holy Spirit that allowed “Scott Warren, a volunteer with No More Deaths” to posses the bravery to subject himself knowingly to arrest for giving undocumented individuals water in the Desert of Mexico. Scott Warren knowingly followed the Holy Spirit instead of “man’s law” which calls it a crime to give water to a person seeking refuge in the United States.

We may not all be called to display such acts of bravery. However, we are all provided the help of the Holy Spirit to stand brave when times are scary. I pray the Holy Spirit would help me remain strong in times of fear and suffering. I pray the Holy Spirit be with us all as we continue to figure out how we can best make it through our lives in this world of hurt and suffering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Truth in Cliché

More and more I ‘ve come to believe that we can find some of the sharpest social criticism in the sometimes vulgar, lowbrow, comedy of Family Guy. In one scene there is a “cut away” to an anti-war activist shouting, “We need to ban nuclear arms. You can’t hug your children with nuclear arms.” The intent is to highlight the sometimes-overwrought cliché that are attached to social and political protest. As a self-proclaimed “Christian pacifist” I admit that even I found it funny to laugh as such a “corny” statement regardless of the political sentiment.

While reading the news and following updates on President Trump’s attacks on Syria I expected to read and hear a lot of familiar cliché. I expected my daily diet of left-wing commentators to shout things like “food not bombs” and “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” I agree with these statements but they are used so much their meaning seems stale and a bit useless.

While reading one of my favorite commentators I saw the often-used left-wing cliché “budgets are moral documents.” This commentator was speaking of the government’s budget that included sharp increases on military spending with sharp decreases in social welfare spending. The cliché here is that we can understand the morality of our elected officials by seeing which programs they choose to fund and which programs they cut. While I’ve read, and probably have used, this cliché a thousand times it stuck with me as I thought about the missile attacks on Syria.

Journalist Will Bunch made a point in his column on the “differences in priorities” that the U.S. government was taking with its policy on Syria. Bunch noticed that

“Two numbers really stand out regarding the Syrian missile strike. The first is 105- the number of cruise missiles fired at Syrian targets Friday night, an arsenal that has a cost of roughly $200 million dollars. The other number is 11- the grand total of Syrian refugees that America has accepted so far in 2018. In other words, the number of missiles we fired into Syria because of our concerns for their suffering people is nearly 10 times the number of people we’re willing to offer safe harbor in the United States.”

I believe that Bunch has found the truth that is buried in the often-used cliché. We see the morality of our leaders in the policy decisions they have made.

The context of all this and how we think of policy prescriptions should be centered in scripture. I thought of the verse in First Chronicles 29:14, where King David is thanking God for choosing to save his people from their misery and injustice. King David is so thankful that God has extended his mercy on his people that he observes, ““For all things come from you, and of your own we have given you. For we are aliens and pilgrims before you, as were all our fathers; our days on earth are as a shadow, and without hope.” I know that things are dark for the people of Syria right now. But as a Christians we are nothing if we don’t become like little children and surrender ourselves to “hope.” My hope is that as Christians we will push our decision makers to take a holistic approach to this problem and embrace solutions that promote life. I pray that Christians across the world bear witness to hope and help our Syrian brothers and sisters.