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

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

Bilingual: Speaking both Liberal and Conservative

I was raised by conservative parents, shaped by fundamentalist churches and immersed in the worldview of the Right for the first 40 years of my life. My journey away from all that took a long time. Finding my way out of the bubble and exposing myself to people who saw the world very differently than I was a challenging and sometimes scary process. But I’m grateful. Both to be where I am today: living with much larger, more nuanced understandings AND to have gone through the process of questioning, growing, learning and changing.

I think of myself as bilingual. I can speak both Liberal and Conservative.

I’m one of countless humans who have made such journeys but it saddens me that many of my fellow Liberals seem to have forgotten their mother tongue. We are people who understand where Conservatives are coming from, not only because we have been there but also because many of our friends and family still live there. Our bilingual skills are desperately needed in these days of rancor and blame. We need to use our ability to understand their world and speak their language so that we can help build more bridges of communication.

Some years ago, I attended an ecumenical and interfaith retreat for seminary students from across Texas. Twice during each day of the retreat, we joined together in smaller groups for more personal conversation. We were assigned to one group that was designed to be intentionally diverse. The other group allowed us to self-select in order to be with people who came from similar backgrounds and shared our familiar ways of thinking and speaking.

Since I was still in my process, I existed in two worlds: Conservative Evangelical Christian and Liberal Mainline Christian. I self-selected for the Evangelical group and found myself serving as an interpreter and a buffer. These people were not arrogant or mean; rather they were thoughtful and good-hearted, and they were intentionally stretching themselves and pushing out of their bubble just by attending this ecumenical event. When they didn’t understand something our mainline friends or Catholic friends were saying, it wasn’t because they were stupid. It was because the concepts and the vocabulary were simply out of the realm of their experience.

I did the best I could to translate and interpret for my Conservative friends but maybe my most important work was to testify to the integrity and intent of my Liberal friends.

When I returned to my new world with my Liberal colleagues, I was surprised that I had to play the role of translator again. These folks were equally confounded by a worldview that was alien to them. These folks were also good-hearted and thoughtful. So I was especially disappointed that my open-minded, generous and tolerant liberal friends could be so intolerant and insulting. Once again, I was called to be witness: this time testifying to the integrity and intent of my Conservative friends.

Most of the people I know who have made a journey have moved from Conservative toward Liberal. But there are also plenty of people who have moved across the spectrum from Liberal toward Conservative. This orientation doesn’t have anything to do with our character or integrity; it has to do with the lens through which we see the world – and even how our brains are wired.

Our society is in desperate need of translators and interpreters. We need more bilingual people to be active in the public conversation, finding fresh ways to speak so others can hear. We need more optimistic people who believe in the basic goodness of humanity helping us break down barriers and build bridges.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who won’t want to join this bilingual effort. There are too many people who don’t want to listen or understand.

Those are not my conversation partners.

Instead, I’m on the search for conversation partners who want to keep questioning, growing, learning and changing. I’m convinced there are many.

I’m also on the search for other bilingual partners who are willing to use their skills of understanding the world of another and are willing to speak their language. This is how we can change the world: one conversation at a time, one friendship at a time, one bridge at a time.

Who’s in?

 

 

“Welcome” poster available for purchase at zazzle.com

 

 

This Remarkable American Family

A friend of mine cast her ballot in a metropolitan suburb in Texas and she remarked how “remarkable” was the mix of voters who stood in line with her.

I looked around me in awe at the diverse group of citizens there to cast their political opinions. Those with different colors and shades of skin and features, with varying faiths, from any number of occupations and education and economic situations, first time voters and life time voters, mothers with their children, adults honoring elderly parents; all smiling and chatting, all of us knowing that different votes would be cast by those around us. I was so proud to be under the same roof with these remarkable neighbors to exercise this incredible freedom!

Continue reading This Remarkable American Family

Mental Gymnastics

Growing up in a fundamentalist denomination, I know something about mental gymnastics. The particular issues of my religious upbringing were not so much “issues” as they were life and death. A particular way of believing determined who was faithful and who was not; who was in and who was out. There was a certain comfort in thinking we had most all the big questions settled and we cornered the market on truth.

In order to maintain this illusion, we needed to contort our arguments to explain away any facts or evidence or experience that did not align with our fixed notion of reality. But it wasn’t just a contortion of thinking; it was an unconscious contortion of reality itself. The whole enterprise of keeping our balance on this tightrope required our own unique exercise of mental gymnastics.

This is not justification; it is simply confession. And maybe a bit of explanation.

gettyimages-484797712_custom-695b9781e4a550ac0cdd3eba481660feefd333a8-s900-c85Much has been made of the puzzling Evangelical Christian support of Donald Trump. This poster boy for materialism, narcissism and perversion of power contradicts every heretofore voiced value of any authentic expression of Evangelical Christianity. He even mocks the cornerstone Religious Right  issues of abortion and homosexuality by mouthing transparent platitudes that everyone knows deny and spin his actual positions.

Many pundits have pondered the puzzling irony of Mr. Trump’s Evangelical support. My contribution is hardly definitive but I keep going back to this one insight: we humans have an uncanny ability to convince ourselves that just about anything is true/right/good and we can justify even questionable/shady/convoluted means in order to accomplish our self-righteous, pre-determined end.

I  see too many of my Evangelical friends caught in this trap. I think it explains some of the mental gymnastics we see coming from that camp. Mostly though I’m pondering my own culpability in new  forms of mental gymnastics that twist my interpretation of reality into fresh convolutions. I’m wondering what my journey into painful honesty may have taught me in this odd political/social/cultural season in which I  live.

I see two approaches that may help safeguard against unhealthy, unhelpful, unconscious mental gymnastics.

On the one hand  – the more convoluted the reasoning is, the more likely the logic is actually hopelessly illogical.

But then on the other hand – the more simplistic the reasoning is, the more likely it is that multivalent, multidimensional truth is being contorted into untruth.

As to the first challenge, I recognize my own temptation to create elaborate defenses for whatever  I want to believe. These defense mechanisms can trick us into creating a reality of our own invention. (And I’ve noticed that my Liberal friends can be just as defensive as my Conservative friends.)

The second challenge of simplistic thinking comes because it’s so very tempting to  try to divide our lovely  human rainbow variety into boxes of black and white, good and bad, right and wrong when the truth is – we are  all a messy mix all the time.

This conversation is of particular importance these days because of the bizarre presidency of Donald Trump and the toxic and dangerous passion of his supporters. Too many of them sadly support and cheer him on because of their own xenophobia or misogyny or deep seated anger over some real or perceived wrong.

contortionist_ravi_standingBut too many of them support him because of their convoluted mental gymnastics. Trump does not care about protecting the unborn as they pretend to believe he will. He does not care if same gendered people are married. He only cares about himself: his money and his power. And yet too many kind-hearted, sincere believers have allowed themselves to believe he cares about them and their issues.

As a woman, a mother, a grandmother, I denounce the blatant insults Mr. Trump heaps upon other human beings – particularly those who are not male, white, beautiful or wealthy.

As a Christian, I disavow all the insidious mental gymnastics that convolute the truth of the Christ and the Christian faith.

As an American, I challenge any who pretend his leadership will be beneficial for our nation or for the world.

Let’s remember who we are as Americans and reclaim the ideals of welcoming community that is the true foundation of our greatness.  There is a point at which gymnastics becomes a deadly exercise. America has certainly reached that point.

 

 

Ravi the Scorpion Mystic stands on one leg performing his act in Times Square, NYC, 2004

Black Lives AND Cops’ Lives

Last year my local newspaper published an op-ed criticizing Black Lives Matter. Normally I’m fine with critique as long as it is fair and helpful. This was not.

Writing a response to the columnist, to the publisher and the editor seemed like a proper way to express my opinion and present an alternative viewpoint. I worked hard to be respectful even though I felt her words were reckless and inflammatory. Continue reading Black Lives AND Cops’ Lives