A note about the border…

Stephen Colbert makes such a beautiful and convicting point in this clip. How unfortunate that a late-night talk show host is acting as our voice of conscience here, but here you have it…

I am not an expert of, well, anything. I am a simple small town girl, a citizen of the US who is appalled by the things that are happening in my name at our southern border.

I say that to say this is not a treatise on the merits of our immigration policy, or policies surrounding those who flee to our borders seeking asylum. To argue from that vantage point would be foolish on my part. I know enough about the process to know that those who present themselves at our border seeking political asylum have not in the past been immediately processed as criminals and separated from their children. This has not been our practice under any other administration. Characterizing asylum seekers as “criminals” is wrong. To assume that every person who approaches our border asking for help is a criminal is atrocious. Separating children – including nursing infants! – from their parents is barbarous and cruel to an extreme.

And common sense would tell you that a person seeking to illegally cross our border would not present themselves to any authority, but would find another means of entry, away from the watchful eyes of the government. Targeting this population, which is made up of mainly women and children, is just inhumane. I cannot countenance any other argument.

And most assuredly cannot countenance the use of the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 13 to justify this action. I nearly came out of my skin when I listened to these words spilling out of AG Sessions’ mouth yesterday. A cherry-picked verse that did not account for the circumstances into which Paul was writing or the context of that verse to the rest of the chapter. It was not lost on me that this same passage was used to justify slavery not so long ago in this country, a fact that directly affects me and mine as a Black woman. To say I was triggered wouldn’t explain the half of it. But my trigger was not pulled exclusively or even primarily because of my ethnicity.

My allegiance to Christ and His Gospel bears down on me with even greater force than my ethnicity ever will. It is NOT biblically justifiable to destroy families to uphold a broken, flawed, and deeply discriminatory immigration policy. I am not even talking about the fact that all of these men, women, and children being detained at our border are Spanish-speaking and Hispanic. Let’s lay aside the race card here and speak strictly on the grounds of common humanity. The fact that, as a Christian, I believe that the Word teaches that we are all created in His image, after His likeness, to reflect His glory. There is no distinction.

Romans 13 calls for us to submit to governing authorities and do what is right. The people seeking asylum are following the rules our government set forth long ago; they are not breaking the law. As such, this argument is meaningless to what is now happening. The administration has capriciously decided not to honor the rules and laws our government have set forth for those seeking to come here for protection. There is no law governing what our government is doing.

But aside from these things, Paul is speaking to Christians living under a very different form of government than we have here in America. And he is speaking to Christians and how they ought to respond to these authorities. His point was not to give justification to Rome for their persecution of Christians and their authoritarian empire; his point was to teach Christians how to live in this setting. Just prior to this chapter, Paul goes into great detail in Chapter 12 about how we ought to live in light of our faith and in view of the great mercy and grace showered upon us by our Lord. Chapter 13 is a continuation of this discussion. Ultimately, we can submit to this authority regardless of what is done to us because it is the Lord’s to avenge, not ours. The Lord’s justice is ultimate good and ultimately just.

But destroying families and traumatizing children to make a point is not a Christian response, and it is an atrocity to use the Bible to justify it.

And lest you think this is a blind screed against the Trump administration, the Obama administration was dinged for a similar practice in 2015 and was ordered to stop (see here for details). The only difference was that they did not separate mothers and children. But their actions were determined illegal then, and these should be even more so for the sheer inhumanity of this added trauma.

That’s all I have to say…for now.

Default position…

Initially, this was going to be a series of tweets. But once I started writing, I could not stop…

I am not an SBC member. But I am a Christian woman who has encountered unwanted advances from a “pastor”. Thankfully, I was not assaulted, but it could have easily happened. The thought of bringing the incident to the attention of the deacon board of the church was so incredibly frightening to me that I refused. Instead, I and my father confronted him privately. But although he confessed privately to us that what he did was wrong, he would never acknowledge it before his congregation. So, I left. He remained, and continued on with his behavior, ultimately leading to disastrous consequences. When I learned this, I felt guilty. What would have happened had I come forward?

The same thing that is happening to all of the women coming forward today. I would have been shamed. I would have branded the whore, the seducer, the liar. I would not have been believed. And the wounding that had already occurred by his initial action would have been compounded by the character assassination I would have endured. In the end, sadly, the outcome for him would have likely been the same: he would have remained and continued down the same path that led to his downfall.

It saddens me that I can predict this with such certainty. But I know how it works. And it is wrong.

We are taught that to be good, Christian women we must submit to our male authorities. We are further taught that men are given the charge to shepherd and lead. But what happens when a man does not shepherd and lead well? What happens when a man uses his leadership role to abuse and exploit? Is there any safe space for a woman to testify to abuse at the hands of someone who is supposed to protect and lead? Are we honoring the image of God in either the man or the woman when we shove such sins under the rug, instantly assume the woman is lying, or traumatize women into silence?

And if this is the culture we inhabit – one in which a woman who does come forward is further dehumanized and debased by those whose purpose is to protect the reputation of the man and the fragile hierarchy of the institution – why are we then surprised that women choose to stay silent? If the outcome can be predicted with such brutal precision, self-preservation will cause someone to shy away from exposing herself to further abuse.

If the first instinct when I woman comes forward is to demand to know why she waited so long, or question if she is “sure” she was assaulted, or to simply call her a liar, why would a woman ever come forward? Would you? Why must we “wait for the facts” before judging the man (even if all the facts are laid bare before us in stark relief), but instantly judge the woman coming forward and brand her suspect?

Would you come forward in such an environment?

There so many qualifiers I could place on what I am seeking to convey here; so many “What about”, or “What if” scenarios that can be put forward. No one would say such cases are easy, or that wisdom and discernment are needed to separate truth from fiction. But if the default position is always to suspect the woman and protect the man, then there is a problem with how we are doing things.

My heart is sick about what I am witnessing in the SBC. Even though I am not SBC, my solidarity with believers transcends denominational boundaries. This is a wound on the body of Christ. It is a self-inflicted wound. And it hurts all of us.

We are supposed to be the light of the world. We are supposed to be pointing people to Christ. But we are acting just like the world.

Shame on us.

An impassioned, sincere plea…

I said I was done talking about politics…so…I lied. Not purposefully; I really wanted to be done with this topic. But I have more to say, apparently. So…

This is an appeal to my Christian brothers and sisters. I have a major concern with the way in which the church is so wrapped in the American flag that we have become indistinguishable from the rest of American society, especially when it comes to how we talk about politics and views we oppose.

I am still fighting within myself to decide if my place in all of this is to be active within the political sphere. So much of it drains my spiritual vitality, and I wonder if that is reason enough to retreat. But one thing I do know is this: the enemy has so blinded the hearts and minds of many people that no amount of truth telling will help unless or until the Lord moves miraculously to remove those blinders. And it has to start from within. It has to start with the church.

My appeal here is directly to the church versus to the American culture at large. Our witness is being damaged greatly by our allegiances to political parties. The polarized atmosphere of our country right now is tense and intense. Both sides are deeply entrenched in their version of how things are, convinced wholeheartedly that their way is correct and the other side is too blind or stupid to see it. The way conservatives talk about liberals and liberals talk about conservatives is just plain awful and dehumanizing. And what distresses me more than anything is that I see and hear these dehumanizing words being written and spoken by Christians about people who are not Christian, or their Christians brothers and sisters who are on the opposite political side. This should not be.

We are currently in a sermon series about words at my church. Of course, one of the major passages about the tongue, James 3, was the subject of one our sermons. In James 3, the tongue is described as “fire” able to “[set] on fire the entire course of life” (ESV). Hyperbole? I don’t think so. How many ways can we get ourselves in a world of trouble with one word or sentence? A careless comment or ill-advised statement can destroy a relationship in a split second.

So I am going to get a little personal here for a second. I am a Christian. I believe in the Lord Jesus, I depend on Him and Him alone for my salvation. He is my refuge and strength. I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe that He was raised from the dead. God is my Father and Creator, and to Him I owe my whole life.

I’m also a Democrat.

My political affiliation in NO WAY negates my relationship with my Lord. In deciding to be a Democrat, I cannot say that I agree with their entire agenda – I certainly part ways with the official Democratic platform on certain social issues. But I am not alone. In fact, there is a group called “Democrats for Life”, who for the most part agree with the Democratic platform with one glaring exception – guess which one. I resonate with this group. This is my brand of Democrat.

Why do I feel the need to defend myself here? Because when I was a Republican, I looked down on those amoral, evil Democrats. Liberals were idiots and worse, destined for the deepest pits of hell (and no, I’m not being hyperbolic here; I’ve heard these things said, and I’ve, sadly, said them myself). I spewed all sorts of hateful things out of my mouth about Democrats – about people, made in the image of God. And then I went to church and praised the Lord every Sunday.

Can you feel the dissonance with me?

Now I’m on the “other side”, and I see the hurt those words cause. The doors they slam shut. The hope for dialogue and points of possible agreement they quash. And I have to temper myself, because it would be so easy for me to swing to the opposite extreme.

So, for the purposes of this post, I want to appeal to my Christian brothers and sisters. I pray you will hear what I’m trying to say:

I peruse my FB feed and read some of the things that are posted. Conservatives trashing liberals and liberals trashing conservatives. And it all makes me so very sad. When I read them on pages of people I know are Christians, it just plain hurts. It’s like a punch in the gut. It is a blanket dismissal of a person, and their ability to think critically and form informed opinions. Yes, some people blindly follow whatever lead they’ve received from family or social cues; but it is unfair to make that assumption about someone simply because they have an opposing view.

It is not an excuse for either side to say “Well, the other side does it”. That is not how Christians should think or act. And please hear me when I say this: I am not sitting in a place of judgment, because I am guilty. I stand before you to confess my own sin, to fall on the mercy of God and say that I am need of a heart change. I see this out there because it lives in my heart too.

And so I say this: For any posts I have ever posted that have been derisive, personal attacks on conservatives writ large, I apologize, with no qualification.

The most important words in the phrase “Christian brothers  and sisters” are *brothers*, and *sisters*. I am your sister. You are my brother or sister. We are children of God, and as such, siblings in the family of God through Jesus Christ. We don’t have to agree with each other everything; but we are forever linked to each other by our shared profession of faith. We are the light of the world. The church is the light of the world, not a particular country or political party. We are the salt of the earth. Are we shining light? Have we lost our saltiness?

These are the questions that keep me awake at night. Not whether or not America will crumble. It is a certainty that if the Lord tarries, the empire that is America will fall – it is a manmade kingdom and will go the way of all other manmade kingdoms. But the Kingdom of God stands forever. No matter what…

More later…grace and peace…

Sometimes silence is golden…

Another day, another tragedy. Last night I watched a horrific scene unfold in Dallas. This morning I am equal parts hopeful and appalled at the varied response to that scene.

A peaceful, lawful protest took place in Dallas last night, similar to others across the country. As the crowd was dispersing, someone suddenly began opening fire, raining down bullets from above, directed at police officers. Utter chaos ensued.

This morning we know that 12 officers were shot, 5 are dead, and 2 civilians were caught in the crossfire. A large section of downtown Dallas is considered a crime scene and is closed off. One shooting suspect was killed after an hours long negotiation broke down. His statements to police were that he was upset with Black Lives Matter, he wanted to kill White people, specifically White police officers, that he was not affiliated with any group and that he acted alone. This remains to be seen, as the investigation is far from over.

Today, my heart is heavy. Yesterday was tough enough as I sought to absorb the loss of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in suburban St. Paul. But the utter terror I watched unfold in Dallas last night was just too much. My heart is undone today. I am grieving.

I have so many thoughts running through my head right now; I don’t even know where to start. Words seem trite and useless, but words are all I have. I am a writer. I have fought the urge to use my writing to speak on social issues, wanting to live in the relative safety of motivational stuff, encouraging stuff. But part of this journey to wholeness is facing the brokenness head-on and calling it what it is. So I will use this platform to do what I can to contribute meaningful, thoughtful dialogue in the face of pain and suffering.

I am still processing all that has happened and how I feel about all that is happening in our world and in our country right now. My only thought right now is this: Social media can be a double edged sword when these things happen.

On the one hand, social media may have actually kept Castile’s girlfriend alive in the aftermath of his shooting. There have been instances where social media has helped law enforcement as they pursue criminals or deal with an emergency situation. Social media is invaluable during disasters and emergencies of any kind, providing a readily accessible outlet for people to let loved ones know they are okay, or to reach out for help if they are not.

But there is another side to social media. The side that polarizes people and reduces complicated realities into memes. And even if the meme is spreading a false narrative, it spreads like wildfire among those who agree with it. Judgement is passed, motives are questioned, slander abounds, and misinformation is treated as gospel truth. Reading the comment section of some of the posts has led me to the decision that it’s time to take a nice, long break from this madness.

Sometimes silence is golden. As with the Orlando shooting and its aftermath, time should be taken to grieve, to process, to let ourselves be human. Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the police officers in Dallas were human beings, made in the image of God. Slandering the character of any of these victims while their families and communities mourn is deplorable. Turning this into a political talking point is ridiculous. Using one event to justify the other is just plain wrong. To grieve one is to grieve all. It is all senseless.

I have a right to remain silent. And so I shall. Only speaking when necessary, when I’ve had the chance to think and process and grieve. I think we all need time…

At a loss…

Please give me grace to express my lament. I am beyond frustrated, sad, confused, angry…sitting here at work in tears. For families in Orlando…Turkey….Bangladesh….Iraq….Saudi Arabia…Baton Rouge….St. Paul. How long, O Lord? How long? My heart breaks anew each day. Our leaders sit on their hands and do nothing; our media focus on the insanity of presidential candidates and their self-indulgence. And people die; children lose their mothers or fathers; spouses lose their life partners; families and friends grieve the empty space that person can no longer fill in their lives.

The lack of compassion and complete disregard for human life is amazing, even among we who call on Your name. Perhaps we have become calloused and desensitized. It seems everyday something new happens. Lord, give Your people hearts of compassion, hearts that break with the brokenhearted, hearts that cry out for justice, hearts that are moved to act on behalf of our neighbors. Begin with me, Father, begin with me…