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.

What am I trying to win?

Today I read the following on Beth Moore’s Facebook page:

bmoore-quote

This hit me for a number of reasons:

I am a news junkie, probably because my first career choice was to be a journalist. And…because I’m nosy. Mostly because I’m nosy; but perhaps that’s why I wanted to be a journalist, so I could get paid to be nosy!

Anyway, I still have that natural impulse, and pay close attention to news media. It is also my natural impulse to share what I’m learning, not just because I am a journalist at heart, but because I am also a teacher at heart. The process of learning is not fully realized for me until I’m able to share what I’ve learned with others. When these two impulses are married with the speed of social media, I find myself inserting my foot in mouth, or “oversharing”, which is my term for sharing the information with my unsolicited opinion blended into the mix. It’s easy to do, and hard to control when you are tweeting or sharing at the speed of light. I find this especially hard to maintain and control on Twitter.

I have moments when I do realize what I’m doing and scale back – and then some new outrage occurs and I’m back to my old habits. “Old habits die hard” is a cliché because it is so annoyingly true!

So these are my current thoughts about this:

I can’t say I will never post another political post again. That is a set-up for failure for sure. But I do want to heed Beth’s warning here and consider the speed and volume of my posts. And by volume I mean, the outrage meter, if you will. There are some pretty yucky things going on right now, but the level of drama and the sheer volume of cyber-ink that is spilled over some of this stuff is a distraction from what’s truly important. If we are outraged by everything, is there a point at which nothing is truly outrageous anymore? Would that make it difficult to spot the real stuff, the truly outrageous stuff that is worthy of our attention and action, if we’re occupied with the busy work of the trivial?

It’s time to scale it all back, slow down and actually take something in long enough to fully understand it so I can discern what the real stuff is…

And, church, the real stuff is that we love our neighbor regardless of what the government does. We look to the government to do the things we ought to be doing. We apply worldly philosophies to the task of caring for the poor and least of these. We take on the identity of our political preferences over against the identity of Christ; and then we baptize our views in Christian language to make them sound “Christian”.

This is not an exclusively liberal or conservative tendency; both side are equally guilty of doing it. Please hear me: I don’t want to get all self-righteous here, because I have no room to be so. I am talking to myself just as much as anyone. I am part of the problem! I value my comfort more than the life and well-being of others who may need my help. From a distance, it is easy to dehumanize the other, to blame the other for their lot in life, without truly knowing how or why they got there. And even if they are to blame for their circumstance, mercy will see them not as a lost cause, but a grand possibility.

Mercy is what has kept me; mercy is why I am still here. Mercy is the reason any of us have what we have. And mercy, by its very definition is something that is not deserved. I am called to be merciful, even as my Heavenly Father is merciful…how am I doing in this area? I shudder to think of the answer to that question…

But I’m digressing again…I always digress…ugh! Back to what I was saying…

Scaling back for me is taking a break. Taking a sabbatical of sorts from all this news media chaos that happens on social media. I do not wish to “win the internet”. I want to follow Christ. Period. How I best do that will not be discovered in my FB or Twitter newsfeeds, but in the Word of God. And my ability to act in a Christlike way will not be determined by how fast I can post something, or how well I can articulate my opinion that no one really asked for. It will happen slowly, quietly, as I meditate on God’s Word and seek to obey it in every area of my life.

To be quite frank with you, I am just worn out at this point. It’s only been a month people – we have three years and 11 months more to go! I can only speak for myself, but I think now is a good time for me to be slow to speak and quick to listen. So, this will be my last post about politics, at least for a while. I need to get back to the source of our wholeness, namely Jesus Christ. I must reorient my heart, my life, and my focus on Him. All the other stuff will be clearer when I do that…

More later…grace and peace…

Silence is golden…and sometimes necessary

So, after that long, drawn out diatribe about politics, I have gone silent again. It’s a necessity right now.

This past Sunday, we started a new sermon series called “Words”. To say that it was convicting is an understatement. The opening statement was “Your talk is never cheap; your words have weight”. Well, OUCH! And then there was this zinger:

Speaking redemptively is all about choosing wise words. And that means not merely choosing what to say but what not to say. Sometimes it’s better knowing when NOT to talk than knowing what to say.

Ugh…

So this is where my thoughts are right now. There is a time to speak. And then there is a time to be silent. And I also believe that the medium matters based on the message you’re attempting to send. Not every medium fits every message. There is a genuine struggle that goes on when I stare down a story on WaPo or WSJ and try to decide whether it is wise to share or to keep to myself. I search my motives to see if they are “pure” in the sense of seeking to shed light or simply seeking to create heat (read: drama). Many times the shedding of light has the unintended consequence of creating the heat – but is that reason enough not to share it? I think an argument could be made either way, but how much is too much, and when is it not enough? The area is grey, nebulous, and slightly unnerving.

The beauty and tragedy of social media is that it provides up to the minute information on important things happening in the world. A natural disaster hits, or a horrible event occurs and you are immediately connected to the scene. If you have loved ones there, they have a way to tell you they are safe. All fabulous things, and wonderful blessings. But the immediacy of this information also is fraught with pitfalls and snares, most importantly that information is sometimes not properly analyzed to determine its truthfulness. It takes mere seconds for something crazy false to spread like wildfire; but often, the correction is either never distributed or ignored because we’re on to the next thing.

So what do you do, especially when you’re a news junkie (confession is good for the soul)?

Slow. Down.

Oh yeah – and be quiet…

I’m talking to myself right now. I am quick to hit the “Share” or “Retweet” button after reading something that is utterly appalling to me (I’ve been utterly appalled a lot lately) without thinking through the consequences of posting, or even the accuracy of what I’ve read. I try to keep my sources within a strict window of established news organizations with varying political leanings. But everyone has a bias, and we all lean toward that which validates our own view of things. I lament that we cannot hear the other side without immediately going into all-out war mode at the slightest whiff of disagreement.

So, here I sit…wading through story after story that upsets, concerns, or enrages me. I see injustice swirling all around. I want to stand on a mountaintop and shout. But what should fill the words that are coming out of my mouth (or in my case, my keyboard clicks). Total silence is not the answer, I know. But wise silence is sometimes warranted. Only in that silence can I weigh my words carefully to be more sure that what I’m writing or saying is truthful, and how, when and where I say it is honoring to God and respectful to those created in His image.

More later…grace and peace…

 

Trigger Alert: Political Post Straight Ahead!

Hopefully, this will not be your average political post, however. I am working on a theory, and need to flesh it out. I could be wrong, but I won’t be able to figure that out until see it written down. If I am wrong, I welcome feedback and discussion. Deep breath…here goes…

I am an American, and as such, I have a certain idea of what political engagement should be. I have a specific understanding of government, a democratic republic, and my role in it and relationship to it. I don’t know anything outside of this paradigm. I live in a country where dissent is allowed, and we vote for our government representatives. I also live in a country that has as part of its national character a civil religion that borrows heavily on a “Judeo-Christian” ethic and therefore liberally applies biblical language and imagery to our public and political life. The American way of life is highly individualistic, focused on rights and freedoms, and champions the lone ranger who pulls himself up by his bootstraps and makes something out of next to nothing.

How much of that is really “Christian” though? That’s a post for another day, but I post that question to make this statement: America is not the Kingdom of God. And government can only go so far. No matter the structure, political philosophy or economic policy, every form of government is flawed. There are elements that are good, and elements that are sinful, because government is made up of a bunch of sinful people. It seems reasonable to me that if an institution or system is set up by people who are all sinners (a biblical doctrine, no?), then there will be things about that system that are sinful. Again, another topic for another day. My bottom line is this: Certain things are simply not biblical or Christian, no matter how many Christian words your sprinkle on them. And even in our most eloquent speeches advocating unwavering national pride, throwing God in the mix doesn’t make it Christian.

But, I digress, as usual…back to the point of this post.

Full disclosure: I am a left-leaning Christian. Not that anyone who reads my Facebook page or Twitter feed would be surprised by that statement. There are a few (extremely important) issues where I do not fall in line with the left side of politics; but for the most part, I would say I lean left. I own this preference, and will not necessarily apologize for it. What I will apologize for is that I at times ignore that I do look at things through this lens and therefore do not account for that particular bias when considering political commentary or news. If this past weekend has taught me anything, it is that I need to sit back and reassess how I’m seeing things.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a particular political preference. What I do think is wrong, and what I’ve seen in myself personally this last week is the fact that I allow my political preference to inform my reading of the Word versus the other way around.  There are elements on the left and the right that are God-honoring and very biblical. But there are elements on both sides that are diametrically opposed to Scripture. Naked Capitalism has winners and losers; it’s the nature of the beast. But applauding capitalism while ignoring the very real suffering of its losers and blaming them for their losses is not biblical. Treating men and women with equal dignity and respect in the home and workplace is a biblical concept. But redefining life in order to justify our desire to do as we please with our bodies is not. As you can see, I live on both sides of a very contentious fence. But things are not so black and white, and the lines we have drawn in the sand are proving to be more arbitrary by the day.

I point this out to suggest that perhaps we are focusing on the wrong thing, or better said, depending on the wrong thing to effect change in our culture and world. No matter what issue we’re debating or what side we are defending, all policy has unintended consequences. We are not omniscient. We cannot see all sides of everything. Fixing one problem can create a dozen new ones we never saw coming. When that happens, who is there to pick up the pieces and help those who have been hurt? Should that not be the church?

This is where I’m going: How would things look if we owned our political biases and allowed others to own theirs without automatically dismissing them as sub-Christian because they disagree with us? Or spent more time comparing our particular stances with Scripture and allowing Scripture to correct them instead of going to Scripture to proof-text the validity of our positions? Or stopped stereotyping each other and allowed facts to drive our discussion, even if they don’t support our position? This would require that we be willing to see the flaws in our positions and accept that the other side might have something valid to say. This would require that we hold our position loosely enough that we are willing to be wrong and change our minds. It would require more listening as opposed to speaking. It would require humility, some discomfort, and the potential loss of reputation and/or influence in the world.

But wouldn’t it be worth it?

We could then focus on being a prophetic voice instead of a political mouthpiece. We could a refuge that would help clean up the mess those unintended consequences of policy decisions will create. But most importantly, it would shift our focus as the church back to what we ought to be focusing on. Caring for the least of these, for the poor and afflicted. Caring for the orphaned and widowed. For the stranger. That is not a left or right position: it is a biblical position. It is uncomfortable and would require sacrifice. But I ask again: wouldn’t it be worth it?

I realize that opens up another can of worms. How best do we help the least of these? But that is a discussion worth having and should be had in the church. We have the resources within ourselves to do these things. We don’t need the government to do them. We need each other.

Again, this is a work in progress. I haven’t thought out all the implications, and as you can see, I haven’t yet dug deeply into scriptural content yet either. All or some of this is subject to change. I just know there is a better way than what we are seeing and have been seeing for a long time.

So this is part one of a multi-part series that will go on for who knows how long. I will take breaks from this topic because it is so thick that sometimes I have to come up for air. But since I don’t think this problem is going to get better any time soon, it’s not something I can ignore.

More later…grace and peace…

To March or not to March?

This lightstock.comSaturday, women all across America will be marching in response to our recent election of Donald J. Trump as president. He will be inaugurated this Friday, two short days away, and I have to admit I’m not all that excited about it. As Inaugurations go, I’ve never been one to get super excited anyway. It was pretty phenomenal to see President Obama sworn in, not because I am a die-hard Obama enthusiast, but because I never thought I would see the day that a Black person would make it to the White House. To witness that was breathtaking; I can’t explain it adequately.

I find myself not being able to explain my feelings this year as well, but for vastly different reasons. I am not excited, or welling up with pride, or feeling we’ve overcome a major milestone with the election of Trump. I feel like we have regressed. I feel like someone punched me in my gut and have yet to catch my breath again. I feel as though the things he promised, the things so many of his supporters are looking to him to do, will not come to pass, or worse, will blow up in our faces and make things worse. I feel we elected him for all the wrong reasons, and that it is not going to be pretty. And it’s not because I hate him, or because I hate people who voted for him; I just believe that he is not what we need as a country. That we are at a turning point right now in our history, and that his presidency may just push us in the wrong direction, to the point of no return.

Aren’t I a bowl of sunshine today?? But this is where I am. And this is why my impulse to march, to speak out is so strong. Because I want us to stop the train before we reach the edge of the cliff.

But…

Earlier this week I read that the organizers of the march had pulled one of their sponsors because that particular group is a pro-life group. In other words, this group is against abortion. The platform of the organizers is adamant that abortion, or what they term “reproductive rights” are a core part of being pro-woman and that any group that would differ on this point does not deserve to march with them on Saturday. I think that is wrong and very unfortunate.

Today I read an article in the Washington Post about the architects of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Susan B. Anthony in particular was highlighted in this article. The writer explained that Anthony would not have marched on Saturday, and in fact would have probably been uninvited because she and her feminist comrades were staunchly anti-abortion. On nearly every other point held by the current iteration of the “Feminist” movement would have been agreed upon except this one, and for that reason, she would have been shut out of a movement she helped found. How sadly ironic. And how telling of the fact that we do not know the history of the very movements we say we support.

I’ve been called a feminist a few times, sometimes as a compliment, sometimes as an insult. If believing that all people, regardless of ethnicity, religious affiliation, body type, physical ability, gender, or sexual orientation (yeah, I said it) should be treated with dignity and provided the same access to opportunities to flourish within a society, then yes, I suppose I am a feminist. But if I must support a something I am theologically and personally opposed to in order to be a feminist, then that is not me. I believe the potential of an unborn child is just as profound and worthy of protection as my potential. But this would make me unwelcome in the organization that is seeking to mobilize and unite women for positive change. Why is that? Why has the movement been boiled down to this one thing, this one litmus test?

So I find myself in a bind here. With a few notable exceptions, I agree with most of the things that the Women’s March is speaking out against. But on this point, I strongly disagree. I am willing to join hands with my fellow sisters to fight for those things we hold as common causes, and dialogue on those things with which we differ. The question is: would they be willing to return that same open hand to me?

I will not be in DC this weekend; but a sister march will be taking place here in my town. I will probably be marching. I am willing to fight for the basic right of dignity that all people deserve – and I strongly believe I can support that position scripturally. But I will do so with a twinge of sadness in my heart, that even in “unity”, we will be torn asunder by this one issue, the one issue the movement’s founders likely would have wept to see come to pass.

More later…grace and peace…

“True tolerance demands civility with those with whom we disagree.” – Randy Boltinghouse

Random and unexpected…

I didn’t think I would go here, but here I am…
So this is the deal.
I just finished watching the Inauguration, and just like last time, I was a pot of simmering and conflicting emotions. I love the pomp and circumstance of our government. The sight of the Marines standing guard over the pathway through which all the dignitaries will make their way to the platform; the sea of flags lining the street leading up to the Capitol Building; the soaring beauty of our patriotic songs. It’s all quite cool and wonderful. That I can actually participate in this pomp and circumstance is something I do not take lightly. My freedom to do so was hard fought on a long, painful road.

It is a sight of utter amazement to watch a Black man take the oath of the highest office in the land. Even the second time around, I find it hard to believe. Again thinking of that hard, long, painful road that has led to this day, and knowing many of my own relatives and others of my race spilled their blood to make it happen, fills me to such emotion I cannot explain. Not to be gross, or a downer, but as a Black American, this is not something I can just casually cast aside because I may not agree with his policies. It is an historic moment; we have all witnessed history. And we should take note of it.

But then there are things that I see or hear that gnaw at my spirit – the invocation of God’s name for things that His Word makes clear are wrong; the pluralistic nature of each prayer that was prayed. As a Christian, these things burn my insides and make me cringe. I am, quite frankly, concerned for our country. I would never classify myself as a Republican or Democrat – I am not truly conservative or truly liberal. I fall somewhere in the middle, in a no-man’s land that is comfortable and uncomfortable on both sides at the same time for vastly different reasons. Thus that simmering pot I mentioned earlier.

If I stay focused on that, my heart and mind will implode and I dissolve in a puddle of anxious thoughts and emotions. But I must not stay in this place; I must move forward to something deeper, something richer. Something that will last long after America passes from the scene.

A conversation with a friend yesterday crystallized this for me. We were talking about a particular pastor that was initially invited to participate in the Inauguration, but after a sermon he preached against homosexuality surfaced was forced to withdraw from the ceremony. This pastor does wonderful work in the area of human sex trafficking; he also takes the Bible seriously and believes all of it is the Word of God, not just the parts we like. It was implied by one pundit that no one in their right mind believes all the Bible has to say. I guess I’m not in my right mind, and neither is this pastor. There was uproar and outrage from some quarters of Christendom; but for me, I was not surprised.

I love my pastor for many reasons, and one of those reasons is his constant reminder that the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of America are not synonyms. I grieve the state of our culture and government, but my hope is not in either of them. I desire to be a light in the darkness that surrounds me, but I have no illusions that all will be drawn to that light. We are called to be faithful to our God, even if it means being rebuffed and rejected by our society – and we should not be surprised, dismayed or indignant when it happens. It is right to grieve; it is right to mourn. But we should expect it. Not because we seek to be martyrs, but because we were promised in scripture that it would be so. The closer we get to the Lord, the less we will look like our culture, and the more they will marginalize us. That’s just as it is.

We live in a country where we have the freedom to go to any church of our choice. We can boldly proclaim the name of Jesus to all who will listen – but let’s not kid ourselves that being faithful to that message is going to score us political points or make us popular. Can we die to the idol of relevancy? That is what I feel must happen. I will make clear – I am not for abortion; and believe the Word of God teaches us that God calls homosexuality sin. And yes – I am in my right mind (wink). And I believe these things because the Bible says so, and I have reasoned and studied it out and can come to no other conclusion. I don’t expect this to make me popular. I expect this to make me hated by some. But I cannot let that stop me from being faithful to my God.

My point in this post is not that we stop proclaiming the Word, but that we not be surprised and dismayed when we are rejected for it. Instead, we ought to rejoice, pray, and continue to share the love of Christ and the truth of scripture, trusting in the Lord for the outcome.