Manufactured Orphans

Cries of anguish from our southern border have broken the heart of America. Children have been ripped from the arms of their parents and housed in separate facilities, sometimes hundreds of miles apart. Some are locked in cage-like structures, left to comfort one another in their shared misery.

I wish I could say this evil practice is un-American, but I can’t.

This administration’s recent policy of zero tolerance has brought back horrific national memories of Black babies ripped from the arms of their mothers and sold in slave markets. Or nightmare remembrances of Native American children stolen from their parents in order to be acculturated as White.

This manufacturing of orphans has once again become governmental policy, and even though an Executive Order finally ended the policy, the practical reality is that these orphans may never find their way back to their parents. Their cries continue.

In response, cries of protest have arisen from every state across this land: Families Belong Together.

Many people of faith were offended and spoke out against Attorney General Sessions’ foolish biblical justification construed from the Bible. This passage from Romans 13 has been cited by law and order folks countless times as a way to support the status quo and condemn protest. But these cherry-pickers seem to forget that the man who wrote those words to the church in Rome was executed by that very Roman government because of his insistence that Jesus is Lord and the king is not. Because of his teachings that Jesus’ kingdom will dethrone any earthly power that stands in opposition to God’s reign of justice. The apostle Paul himself (even as he wrote those words) exemplified peaceful protest and resistance to state-sanctioned injustice. He died for his beliefs.

If Bible-quoters want to use Scripture to justify their civil policies, they would do well to heed ALL the Bible’s witness.

The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy gives some especially clear instructions to God’s ancient people that still make sense today:

They were commanded to tithe (a kind of income tax) in order to provide for the widows, orphans and aliens among them.

They were expected to leave some wheat in the fields and olives on the trees and grapes on the vine as a way to allow the widows, orphans and aliens to work the harvest and provide for themselves.

And then this startling statement: “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.” All the people shall say, “Amen!”

It is the teachings of Deuteronomy that reminded God’s people how they too had been strangers and aliens in the land of Egypt, therefore they had special obligation to treat the aliens among them with respect and compassion.

Israel’s prayer book, the Psalms, understands the Lord God as One who watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The prophets of Israel spoke truth to power when they challenged the injustices of their kings and leaders:

Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and…do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow…

The New Testament letter of James is where we find this clear statement:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress…

There is NO justification for policies that separate families and manufacture orphans. Even the argument that there has been a crisis of illegal immigration at our southern border is a manufactured crisis.

Every American should be raising voices in concert with the cries of the children. Our nation may have a sordid history, but we have power to break those evil cycles and live into a future that more authentically reflects our American values.

Every person of faith should be moved with righteous anger at the current injustice. We should be crying out against this inhumanity. It is to our shame that too many of us have played it safe and remained silent in the face of evil throughout this nation’s history. We cannot remain silent now.

And in particular, I say to every person who sees them self as Evangelical Christian: America MUST hear from you because just maybe our political leaders will hear your cries even if they ignore the cries of the children.

Those of you who believe you are pro-family and pro-life, this is a chance for you to live out your beliefs in positive, influential ways. You send your mission teams to Honduras and Guatemala and Mexico; you know these people. You say you love them with Christ’s own love, so let America hear your cries of compassion for these brokenhearted orphans and their broken families.

Manufacturing orphans is not about right or left. Rather this is about right and wrong.  Let’s do what is right, America.

 

The first photo is provided by US Customs and Border Protection; migrants sit in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas on June 17, 2018. (Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley Sector via Associated Press.) Some similar photos exist of children from 2014; the difference is those were unaccompanied minors who entered the USA without their families. The current dilemma involves over 2,000 children who were forcibly separated from their parents during a six week period in May and June 2018.

The second photo has become an iconic image of the current crisis at our southern border. Credit goes to John Moore and Getty Images.

The third image has become another icon created by artist Justin Teodoro. Find his Facebook page here.

Keep On Keeping On. But How?!

“Keeping on” surely needs to happen in these long odd days. But the important question to me is: “How?!” How do we hold on to hope, hold on to faith, hold on to loving one another when every day brings a new outrage?

My blogging work brings me into contact with a wide range of cyberspace acquaintances and I see much anger everywhere I turn. Anger, impatience, blame, antagonism, resentment, rage. How can we sleep at night when such emotions constantly roil within us? How can we maintain our most precious relationships when we disagree deeply? How can we find positive energy to address the challenges of our nation when negative emotions paralyze us? How can we keep on keeping on?

Here are just a few possibilities: Continue reading Keep On Keeping On. But How?!

Speechless

It’s been months since I’ve written an Intersection blog and I’m feeling a bit guilty about that. There are several good reasons but there are even more bad excuses. At least something inside is finally strong enough to nudge me to write. I guess something inside me is needing to get out, to find expression. Maybe that’s what writing does for us: it frees thoughts and feelings that are locked within us and allows them to take on a life of their own.

I have to admit the things locked up within me have been mostly negative. As I watch the antics of this president and his minions, the ineptitude of this Congress, the unfaithfulness of the American Evangelical Church, I realize I have been made speechless. As I listen to the cries of the children and their parents at our southern border, I realize there are no words for such unspeakable wickedness and callousness.

But I am also coming to realize I have no excuse for remaining silent. It took me years to find my voice, to find my way into a pulpit. So now, having a voice, having the power to speak and the privilege of a platform creates a certain responsibility. Therefore I will remember those who have no voice, whose power to speak has been thwarted. I will honor those whose pain remains locked within them and whose cries for justice suffer a grievous stillbirth. Continue reading Speechless

They Rise (guest post from Rev. Don Underwood)

“All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.” (Cormac McCarthy, The Road)

Is it possible that something holy and profound might grow out of this moment?

The most extraordinary thing about the Christian faith is not that we believe in a transcendent God, or that life does not just end at the grave, or that failure and sin can be overcome by something we call grace (or love). It is the fact that all these beliefs are rooted in the dark moment of the Cross, in the deadly betrayal of a follower, in the cowardly lack of leadership by a politician, in the pitiful cheers of ordinary human beings who, for reasons inexplicable, cried “Crucify him!” Had we been there, we would surely have experienced the chaos and the hate and the cruelty as some kind of prelude to the end of times, or at least to some kind of dystopia that would not be worth enduring. Instead, we look back at that moment when all of humanity hung on the cross, and we proclaim it as a beginning rather than an ending. That is why we willingly descend into the season of Lent; ironically, it is our great affirmation that hope rises from the ashes.

I’ve been hearing the voices of children this week. I use that word carefully, because they are not children if judged by maturity or ability or even wisdom. The voices of some are stronger and more insightful than any of their parents, any of us. But they are children in the best sense of the word, undeterred by political and social realities, their sensibilities and love-for-life not yet tainted by the cynicism that has become pervasive in the world around them.

They rise. They speak. And they do so with the expectation that they will be heard.

Depending on where you stand, you may or may not like some of their policy ideas, but that really isn’t the point, is it? What is the point, you say? The point is that they stood at the Cross on that day, in the midst of the thunder and the bedlam and the death; they were witnesses to the cries and the agonies and the endings; they were schoolmates to the one who betrayed them.

And now they rise. And they say we can do better.

We can create a better world, and we will, for the simple reason that we breathe the same air and we need one another. Out of the grief and ashes, they remind us of grace and beauty and hope.

Reverend Don Underwood, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Plano TX

 

 

 

Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Florida; Photo credit CNN

Political Pastors

Martin Luther King Jr. changed America. His stirring sermons stirred the pot for revival that spilled out of churches and eventually swayed a nation. Voting rights. Workers rights. Civil rights. Equal rights. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was both a Baptist minister and a political game changer.

Clementa Pinckney stood tall for liberty and justice for all before his brutal murder at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in South Carolina. State Senator/Reverend Pinckney was both a passionate pastor and a passionate politician.

William Barber continues the legacy of King. His leadership within the NAACP, his Moral Mondays efforts and now the renewed Poor Peoples Campaign are inspiring thousands upon thousands of people to become committed to a moral revolution in America. Reverend Barber is both a zealous pastor and a  political activist.

In an era when we frequently discuss and debate what it means for America to function within the parameters of the First Amendment, 2dbb9186aaf3996a953dd8e78a9c1e3emany religious people continue to strike a healthy balance as they live out their faith in the public arena. In a time when our divided society argues about the separation of Church and State, many religious Americans – motivated by their faith – continue to make significant contributions to the shape and meaning of our national politics.

But some pastors are out of balance. Continue reading Political Pastors

Thank you Oprah. I Feel Like I’ve Been to Church

The speech Oprah Winfrey gave at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards could be a tutorial for preachers stepping into a pulpit.

She began by sharing her personal story of epiphany.

Oprah was “a little girl watching from the cheap seats, as my mom came through the door bone-tired from cleaning other people’s houses. ” But in a moment of bright hope, she watched a beautiful Black man applauded and celebrated by the world. She had no idea this could be any sort of reality until that moment of enlightenment.

It changed her forever. That experience opened up within her a space for dreaming and becoming that did not exist until that moment. She saw a light which darkness would never be able to overcome.

She named the evil…

Continue reading Thank you Oprah. I Feel Like I’ve Been to Church

Responding to the Cues

My adult son and I see the world quite differently. I’m fascinated to think about how often this is true of parents and children. We bond early, grow together, learn from many of the same sources, but even in their young days, children develop an interpretation of the world around them that can differ dramatically from their parents. Never mind when they launch and begin to engage society without us; a myriad of other influences play their own roles in the shaping of each unique human being.

Our differences are fascinating and they are also very normal.

Differences are not a problem. But sometimes the way we respond to our differences can create all sorts of relationship problems.

I can’t change my son; those days are long gone. He can’t change me; my opinions and belief system are my own responsibility and I’m not going to change my beliefs just to create an artificial peace in our family.

But we keep learning how to talk to each other. And how to listen to each other. And how to respond appropriately to the cues that come to us as we communicate with each other.

I read a blog recently from the Hands Free Mama, Rachel Macy Stafford, and her wisdom rang deeply true for me. She – like I – continue to grow weary of the toxic conversation that swirls all around us these days. As a progressive Christian, some of the opinions I hear coming from the religious Right and the non-religious Left bother me. As a American, some of the modes and methods of too many of our politicians anger me. As a citizen of the world, some of the isolationist rhetoric alarms me

I can’t change what is going on in Washington, Moscow or Beijing. I know I can mail letters and make phone calls, sign petitions and vote, but I’m not in charge of the world.

However I am in charge of myself.

I can control how I respond to my family and friends and neighbors. I can even manage my mental and emotional reactions to the politicians and preachers who say and do things that make me crazy. I can react to the cues that others send – not in kind – but with my own commitment to goodness and grace.

Rachel calls it The Cue to Love.

It looks like this:

Another person’s closemindedness is my cue to be curious instead of defensive.

Another person’s shaming language is my cue to speak words of acceptance.

Another person’s hostility is my cue to be a peacemaker.

Another person’s arrogance is my cue to gain understanding.

Another person’s quick-to-judge attitude is my cue to remember we’re more alike than different.

Another person’s vitriol towards a group of people is my cue to love all in abundance.

It’s easy to see how accepting cues to love when we feel most unloving is helpful to the world as a whole, but taking these cues greatly benefit us at a personal level. One of my favorite enlightenment authors, Marianne Williamson writes, “Growth comes from focusing on our highest lessons, not someone else’s.”

I can choose to perpetuate the turmoil as it churns all around me; or I can choose to live as a calm presence in the midst of confusion.

I can allow my most precious relationships to rupture; or I can respond with grace and healing.

I can react in kind to cues of anger, fear, blame and shame; or I can take those signals as my cue to love.

I have made my choice. Now all I need to do is keep practicing, rehearsing and refining my efforts. This work will probably keep me busy for the rest of my life, so I figure I’d better get started.

 

Read Rachel Macy Stafford’s blog here:

Use this Emotional Cue to Turn Other People’s Infuriating Opinions into Your Highest Lessons

Truth Will Out

Years ago, as a brand new minister, a woman in my church told me she had been sexually assaulted. I did not believe her. I knew the man she was accusing: a kind hearted, hard working regular guy. I just couldn’t believe he would do something so horrific so I took his word over hers.

That terrible mistake still haunts me.

It took immense courage for her to come forward and tell me the things she had experienced. The truth was painful and embarrassing and humiliating.

It took an immense cowardice for him to deny it. His lying was a self-serving, self-protective survival response. But it didn’t save him from the truth.

Truth will always come out. Continue reading Truth Will Out

When Women Were Objects

The stories keep coming. This politician and that corporate mogul face the accusations of numerous women who say they were touched inappropriately without their consent. This sports star and that news personality face public censure because of sexual harassment or violence against women.

The stories are not new. What IS new is that – finally – the stories evoke outrage in the American conscience.

Surely the women-as-objects paradigm is as old as time. Across the ages, across the globe, social systems evolved based on the premise that “might makes right” and physical strength justifies domination. Women are not the only people to find themselves on the bottom of this perverse hierarchy, but women and children are the most common targets throughout human history.

Within my own Christian religious tradition, patriarchy has been the norm. Our own Scriptures offer multitudes of examples of this cultural norm. Not because our religion created male dominance but rather because any religion can incorporate any kind of cultural expectations and baptize them with religious justifications. Continue reading When Women Were Objects

How Long, O Lord?

People of faith have endured violence since the beginning of time. Maybe the main reason for this truth is that people in general have encountered violence for all of our existence; people of faith have never escaped that human reality.

The massacre at Sutherland Springs TX takes our breath away and we find ourselves grappling once again with the epidemic of gun violence that infects our nation. The mass murders of these people who were worshiping within their sacred space evoke our anger, our confusion and our deepest indignation.

Continue reading How Long, O Lord?