I’ve listened to the political dialogue around how our nation should respond to migrants, asylees and refugees and have noticed the assumptions that we begin with and how those assumptions form our responses. I want to talk about that in this blog post because who we think migrants are shapes how we respond to them. In addition, how we think about migrants shapes the policy discussions that we have. And then I want us to reflect on whether or not our assumptions reflect our faith and how we might consider seeking a truly Christian response to this crisis.
Our beginning assumptions shape how we see:
If we begin with the assumption that migrants or refugees are a threat to our way of life–our culture, if they are a threat to our jobs, if they are a threat to our faith or if they are a threat to our well-being, if they are a threat to our social strength, then we must create policy and enact various security measures to protect ourselves. If we think of migrants as invaders, then we would need to use military force to protect ourselves from an invasion. That is the logical flow from our assumptions to our actions.
If our beginning point regarding migrants and refugees is that all of those heading to our borders are criminals coming to harm us, then we must of course stop them from coming into our country at all costs. Naturally we would not want more violent people or drug dealers. Continue reading Finding A Christian Response to Migrants
Genesis 2:25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Genesis 3:8-13 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
I’ve been listening to that anxious dialogue in our world right now about sexual assault, abuse, rape and I have been at the same time thinking about Genesis chapters 2 and 3. Genesis 2 tells us of a wonderful garden within which human beings walk with God in the cool of the evening and men and women flourish in safety and trust—not only in God but in one another. Genesis 2:25 makes the astounding claim that the first couple is naked and not ashamed.
They are the representative humans representing all of humanity in relation with God and one another. There is no assault, there is no taking of what is not given, there is no fear and there is no shame. Human beings are free from the brokenness and suffering that will later come through sin and the sin system.
In Genesis 1:26-28 they were called to image God and reign in the Earth, filling it—creating families, who would create communities who would create nations. As agents of God, the first humans were to act in union with the one who is completely good and just and holy. And God’s people were naked and not ashamed. Continue reading Rape, Assault, Abuse and the Fall
“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
Often in my childhood growing up in a Pentecostal and Charismatic setting I heard teachings that connected faith with prosperity. Somehow, if I had the right amount of faith and I never really knew how much was really enough, well then I could obtain health or wealth. Having enough faith also included having one’s relatives saved. And I see where these ideas come from in the scripture as the Bible often uses the words faith in connection with healing and the supplying of our needs. But something always seemed a bit off for me. Continue reading A Faith That Rings Hollow
Each time we recite the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew chapter 6:9-13 we pray these words, “your kingdom come, you will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
We thoughtlessly recite this prayer without paying a whole lot of attention to just how astounding these words really are. That’s what I want us to dive into today in this blog post.
In the beginning God created a beautiful world where he would dwell with his people. Then he created human beings and put them in the world that he created. The Biblical authors called this world a garden because garden best describes what life is like in the presence of God. It is a flourishing world within which God’s people partner with God in doing the will of God. God’s people partner with him as image bearers—tending the garden, reigning in union with God and bringing life and filling the earth with people. Continue reading The Union of Heaven and Earth
I recently read an article in the NYTimes about a little boy who was separated from his father at the border and placed with a foster family and I wondered about how he would process this experience in the future. His foster mom said he cried and wailed at night for the first week and slept with a drawing of his family. He is experiencing the punitive emotional violence of our current anti-immigrant climate. Further some estimate that up to 2000 of the children have been separated from their parents in effort to punish families who are seeking refuge through the asylum system. (Intercept)
How did we get here? How did we become a people who can view every immigrant at the border as a potential criminal or someone coming to take advantage of us? And where will this end?
There is a trajectory that leads to more and more violence.
First, I think this kind of behavior begins with fear. We fear something such as a loss of safety, or loss of identity or loss of stability. The current immigration and refugee fears are fueled by concerns that muslim refugees will take over our culture and our governments to implement Sharia Law. Or that there will be so many people of color that white people will become a minority. This fear is real fueled by pundits across the nation. Continue reading The Pathway of Violence Versus the Way of Jesus
I have been listening carefully to the immigration debates and discussions in this country and have come to the realization that most everyday people do not have a clear grasp of how our immigration system works and how it affects those migrating to the US. While not an expert, I have taken a 40 hour class on Immigration Law and can explain some of the rudimentary elements of our system.
First, when we hear about immigration on the news, the various categories of immigration are lumped together and important distinctions between a refugee, and asylee, and TPS are seldom made, making it confusing for people to grasp the implications for our country. I wish to lay out some simplified definitions and answer some of the questions I often hear everyday folks ask. Know that immigration includes many different categories and these are only three. (Home Land Security Chart on differences between refugees and asylee)
What is a Refugee?
A refugee is someone who leaves their country because of war or conflict and can show that he or she has a credible fear of persecution, on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion in their country of origin. A refugee often leaves his or her own country and travels to a refugee camp where they reside until at which time either their country of origin is safe once again or they are assigned a country that will take them in and help them resettle. Continue reading Overview: Refugees, Asylees, and TPS
Shortly after the #MeToo movement, another movement surfaced, #ChurchToo. #ChurchToo is about sexual harassment and abuse within the body of Christ. I am so grieved about the #ChurchToo movement as it hit’s at the vision for beloved community in Christ. And I have begun to ask the question, how do we live out the beloved community in Christ between men and women working together for the sake of the Kingdom of God? I have a couple of thoughts but first I want to lay out some Biblical support.
Ezekiel 34 tells the story of evil shepherds and good shepherds. Essentially, the evil shepherds have been feeding on the sheep instead of feeding the sheep. While the sheep are bleeding, hungry and suffering on the mountains, the evil shepherds are getting fat. And the Prophet asks the question, who will care for and bind up the wounds of the sheep? The answer is, the good shepherd. The good shepherd is, of course Jesus, the coming one who will bind up the wounds of the sheep, and tend to them in the sheepfold where they will flourish.
The prophet is helping God’s people to understand that the task of leaders and shepherds is the task of tending and caring for the sheep. I think the #ChurchToo movement is surfacing this issue in the church today so that we might become more whole as leaders and so that our communities might flourish. As those who long for the beloved community, we must be aware of the human lust for power, ego issues and self-gratification when in ministry. I want to lay out some principles that could help us move closer toward a healthy and safe community within which men and women are respected, and the sheep are fed. Continue reading #ChurchToo, Good Shepherds and Beloved Community
Romans 13:1-8 is a passage that has been used in ways that are unjust. It has been used to justify the divine right of kings, to justify slavery, to justify apartheid and segregation. This text has been used in support of the Just War Theory. It’s still used in the church to justify oppressive policing and discounting of immigrant’s basic human rights. If people would just obey the law, the logic goes, then they will be left alone. But is that what this passage means? Is Paul saying that that all laws are good? Is he saying that all people are treated equally under the law? Is he saying that laws should be obeyed without question? These things are often read into the passage making these verses something like a sword to keep oppressed people in their place. I don’t believe that was Paul’s intent.
Just because a particular action is legal does not mean it is just. As God’s people it’s imperative that we carefully discern and think through texts like these so that we might walk well in the way of Jesus. How shall we view this set of scriptures? Continue reading Re-thinking Romans 13
What is Philoxenia? When I first heard this word, I wondered if I had just stumbled upon a new kind of flower, Philoxenia… sort of like a Xenia or phlox or a Xenia crossed with a phlox to create a whole new flower. It’s not a flower, it is the Greek word for Hospitality. It literally means Philo or Love; Xenia or Stranger; put together it means LOVE OF STRANGER.
Hospitality then is the act of making strangers feel loved, as if they belong, welcome—like family. Hospitality is another thread that is woven throughout the entire Bible.
Growing up in the church, hospitality was more about making sure the coffee was on and the donuts and cookies were placed out on the serving table. We had a hospitality committee, usually made up of women, who made sure there were plenty of good things to eat and coffee to drink—cool-aid for the children and decaf for the senior folks. And we would gather in the fellowship hall after the morning service to share in a time of “fellowship”. Because what else would one do in a fellowship hall? I loved this time because it meant that I could play just a bit longer with my friends before we all went home for Sunday dinner. Continue reading Philoxenia: Love of the Stranger
How might we find our way Biblically around DACA? If the Bible is our compass and guide, what might we find that would give us direction as believers on various immigration issues such as DACA? And what insights can we gain to discern about the construction of walls? As one following the legislation currently being debated, lawmakers are considering tying the building of a wall between Mexico and the US to DACA legislation. As a means of self-disclosure, I favor a comprehensive immigration reform to create a better, more humane immigration system in this country.
What is DACA?
DACA recipients are the DREAMERS who long to be welcome and have a future within the country they grew up. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. What that means is that if a person came as a child, deportation action could be deferred. Those who came to this country as children did not have the ability to choose but came with their parents. Many young people who came as children grew up in this country and it is the only country they have ever known. According to a Supreme Court decision in the 1980’s, the court determined that it was in the best interests of this nation that unauthorized children should be allowed to receive a public education. We have approximately 790,000 unauthorized immigrants who have received DACA status. DACA was to be renewable every two years provided the conditions were met. Continue reading Why Every Bible-Believing Christian Should Support DACA