Sunday, June 11, 2017

Countering Hatred

I don’t write much these days, but wanted to share our experience yesterday as we took a stand in front of a mosque in response to a nationwide demonstration against Muslims.
To begin, I am well aware of the fact that 15 years ago or so we would not have felt terribly out of place on the other side of the street, a fact which I shared with a few people. I want to believe I would have never gone that far with it, but the basic underlying beliefs and attitudes were the same and widely prevalent where I live. I know what these groups believe and what they fear. I also know there is no place to reason with most of them. Someone asked me what had changed my mind about things. That’s a very difficult story to sum up in a casual conversation. But it wasn’t someone arguing with me or shouting me down, or name calling. I do not support this approach to activism.
Before most of the group showed up, my husband crossed the street because he just wanted to dialogue. He came back highly frustrated a few minutes later to report that evidently we were the haters and their side was all about love. But also, all Muslims needed to leave.
For me, this event was personal. I was there for my friend and her five beautiful children. They have blessed us with their hospitality time and time again and we have grown to love them so much. My stereotyped views about Muslims had changed before we met, but knowing them, hearing their stories of why they came here, and what it’s like to walk in their shoes, made it real. Not like news stories of people you will never know. Every time I hear about a hate crime against Muslims here, I fear for them and try to imagine what it’s like to go out every day knowing you are a moving target for someone’s ignorant hatred, as these groups feel more empowered. This one even has contact with the White House.
I considered not going because it seemed to acknowledge them would only add to their legitimacy in their own minds, but in the end I couldn’t stay home. I did not go thinking to change their minds in any way. I only wanted to do what I could to offer another message - to everyone else. And to support those coming and going in the mosque, with their children, that this crowd of people with military style rifles slung across their backs did not represent the feelings of all of us.
As more and more people showed up, the two sides lined up on opposite sides of a busy street. A man with a bullhorn and a huge banner began his onslaught of words - none of which I will repeat here. He went from accusing all Muslims of extremist violence, in graphic detail, to insulting all of us, their supporters, to sermonizing on why we all need to come to Jesus. Others had signs saying Jesus is the only way. Many on our side were scratching their heads trying to add up the contradiction of Jesus plus hate in their message. Someone on our side tried to start chants to drown out their evangelist. The more heated it got I realized... I didn’t come there to show my message to them. I moved to the corner of the street so I could catch the attention of the flow of traffic, and began friendly waving and smiling. Others joined in and I felt much less affected by the ensuing conflict.
When you organize a public protest, you don’t have control about who shows up, or what their attitudes are. Some are dedicated to nonviolence, and some are ready for a fight. The inexperienced may not be prepared to stand down under provocation. I found myself more concerned about what people on our side might do than the other side, simply because I didn’t want our message invalidated. We were outnumbered by quite a bit, and their toy soldiers had brought all their big guns. Some came over to start arguments. Then others came to hold their signs beside ours, to make it look like we were with them. The police formed a line facing us, as if waiting for us to snap. I wanted to believe they were neutral, but it didn’t feel like it. I stayed on the corner, waving. A man moved in with his sign behind me. I tried to block him but his was higher. He wanted to read mine, and I showed him. I asked him if he had ever met a Muslim. No response. He began to repeat the abuses of some Muslims and I asked him, “What if many Muslims in the U.S. came here to get away from that?” No response.
We received a great deal of support from people driving by. Some rolled their windows down to thank us. We were also told where to go, what to do, and how to do it by others, but I smiled and waved and said I loved them too. I decided it was the most annoying thing I do. Women from the mosque brought us water - very kind considering they were out in the sun during Ramadan not partaking of it themselves. The mosque itself did not officially participate but appreciated our support. A mosque in Austin elected to start a canned food drive rather than to be self-defensive and counter protest. I admire this response.
As we were leaving we decided to cross the street and walk through what remained of the opposing members. Two people in front of us, a man and his 16 year old LGBT daughter were waiting to cross in front of us. They said they had been on both sides, trying to understand the differences. We had seen the girl’s sign on their side for awhile, and
wondered how she was being received. One man who was advocating peaceful coexistence was kicked over to our side of street. I mentioned that I was going to offer my sign to someone over there if they wanted it. She said she did, and I said “Great! This message is for everyone.”
I wanted to share this story in the hope that some might see a contrast and examine where certain attitudes lead. I want to encourage people to listen to each other’s stories. Even if this group was protesting a real threat, it’s wrong. Hatred births hatred. It never solves anything. If you don’t want your religion branded by this kind of hate speech, then maybe think twice about branding someone else’s with what gets the most media attention. Next time I have the chance to protest at an event like this I believe I will just stand there with a giant mirror.

Quoted from news link below:
"It's so absurd to get caught up in that irrational fear of Shariah law. It's just totally blown out of proportion, what these people believe," Jawad said. "Shariah law is always subservient to the law of the land. It's just how Muslims manage their own affairs like wills, divorces and marriages."
Jawad said that the divides in the country concern him, and that he believes the remedy lies in the Constitution.
"We have to look deep into our own ideals as Americans, which are inclusivity, tolerance, respect and the good old-fashioned American value of being good to your neighbor. We are one nation out of many, and diversity is our strength."
"The fear of what is being promulgated of Shariah taking over is nonsense. It is absolute nonsense and it is ridiculous," Nadzku said. "If only they would know what we ourselves know, that we don't even have Shariah in that sense in our own mosques."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I Don't Know How

Pre-election thoughts. Scroll Down for post-election follow up.

This blog is just a couple weeks shy of its third birthday.  I doesn't seem that long since I felt the need to let out the anguish and frustration I have experienced upon waking up to a new version of reality as a Christian, when I began to see the heart of Jesus through the curtains of so many man-made dogmas.  I had already let go of theological prisons years ago, but the political and social unveilings have nearly undone me.

The pain has not subsided.  Although I have recently let go of my anger and resentment against the Church that was creating a block in my life, and between God and me, my grief remains.

When I became a Christian, I was ready to suffer for my faith.  I made a study of the persecuted Church in history through the present.  I had grown up in a denomination that put a strong focus on the impending tribulation (not a pre-trib rapture teaching church) so it was always in our minds that we may have to live through those terrible end times.  Then I found out a large percentage of the Christian world already is suffering in unimaginable ways because of their faith.  I was inspired by their courage, and testimonies of not wavering in the face of death, and most especially their love for their enemies.  I still admire this greatly.

Then I discovered so many others, oppressed and suffering, often through systems supported by the Church in America - both past and present.  My heart felt a solidarity with suffering humans, not just Christians, as I believe Jesus does.  He didn't put a Christian label on "the least of these."

I used to wear Christian t-shirts with pride, thinking of myself as a walking billboard for Jesus.  But I began to see what the outside world sees when they see a zealous Christian, in the American Bible Belt at least.  I don't want to lump everyone in this religion together.  There is a great deal of diversity.  But where I live, there are 31 flavors of right-wing evangelical.

I don't know if it was working with the homeless after hearing rhetoric against the poor, or my son's health-care crisis when we had no insurance.  Maybe it was the vitriolic hatred of a black president, without any regard to facts or evidence, on a scale I've never seen before in my lifetime.  Was it the gay and lesbian Christian friends who blew apart my assumptions about same-sex attractions or the truth I learned about our history with the Native People on this continent?  Yes, all this and so much more made me stop and examine, and question everything.

The political and social positions I had taken for granted for so many years as a conservative Christian, ideologies we assumed everyone else in our church pews owned as well, began to appear so foreign to the heart of Jesus.  I couldn't imagine Him arguing for his right to kill his enemies, to keep out the refugee and the foreigner, or complaining about the single mothers and children being fed with his tax dollars.  I couldn't imagine Him in Jerusalem, endorsing a political party against the Roman Empire.  I couldn't visualize Him telling a teenager about to take his life in shame because he is attracted to other boys, that he had better repent or he would burn in hell.

Have I mentioned a dear Muslim family came into our lives, whom I love with all my heart?  The fear-based hatred I see daily for them, from Christians, hurts me so deeply I can't even tell you.  When I see Muslims and Christians both fleeing countries we have torn apart, their lives in ruins, my heart breaks.  They are all so precious to God.  And I don't want to shock you too much, but He even loves terrorists too.

What if I told you, Jesus doesn't have a favorite political party, or even a favorite country?

I went back to college and have been required to study the history and politics of the southern state I live in.  I see the very deep roots of systemic oppression and racism from its inception, explaining much of the present attitudes toward minorities, and especially immigrants.  I know what white people say when only white people are around.  Until my eyes were opened to what I had seen as harmless comments, I was guilty of the same.  The Church remains complicit in these segregations and fearfully building fences to keep out those escaping violence, poverty, and corruption.  The presidential candidates who speak the loudest against suffering humanity, yet promise to restore the prosperity and pride of our nation, get the most Christian conservative support.

In a world where prosperity and a "way of life" must be protected at all costs, all these things make perfect sense.  They are logical.  In a world where Jesus asked His followers to serve Him in the lowliest positions of society,  love and pray for enemies, love not your lives to death, not laying up treasures for yourself on earth,  these attitudes now seem more anti-Christ to me.  I believe we have to make a serious choice.  America needs real Jesus followers now more than ever before.  Why did it take me so long to see the difference?

What I don't know how to do however, is profess to be a Christian in this climate.  I was willing to carry the shame and humility of a cross, but carrying the shame of a religion following national idols isn't something I was prepared to do when I chose to follow Him.  I was blind to it for a long time and felt no contradiction.  Now that I see,  I don't know how to proceed.  Can I profess to be one without calling and pleading for my brothers and sisters to examine their hearts?  Who am I to speak out anyway?   Do I speak up in person or just behind the face of an almost anonymous blog?

Can I broadcast my faith to an unbelieving world and expect them to listen, given the corporate witness we have created?  Many of us encourage them in their positions of unbelief.  You may not recognize your disconnect, but I promise you they do.

Now I want a shirt that says, "Not that kind of Christian."  But that's for my own pride.  All of this inner conflict is a result of my pride.  Regardless of my grief about my spiritual family, they are still my family.  I have longed for years to be on another continent where you couldn't follow Jesus without knowing it was a narrow way, and counting the cost.  But I live in America where we have invented a whole new way to follow Jesus.  Or is it the Christ we have invented?

I don't know how to keep saying the same things over and over.  But I must.

My heart aches for other believers to share this road with - walking with the Jesus I see in the Gospels.  I know a few, and we are straggling along - mostly outside of Church, often discouraged and tired.  I didn't leave because I was personally hurt by people.  I loved them.  I couldn't bear the grief.  It hurt so badly to see people not care for the suffering world outside their church doors.

I have found the heart of Jesus in other unlikely places, in people who don't claim Him by name, but value what He values; His creation, humans, equality, mercy, compassion.

Recently, I did meet a few bright Christian souls, in person.  Their stories of God's providence and their selfless willingness to follow Him revived my spirit and lifted me up.  I was reminded, we are a family - like it or not, and there is still love and beauty within it to be found,  if we don't faint on the roadside, which I have nearly done.

I do follow - I do belong - I do cry out.  I believe Jesus is pleading with us to turn to Him.

UPDATE February - 2017

I wrote the previous post in a world where I never would have believed my country would be in the situation it is now, with the president some of us elected.  In spite of the disconnect described above between American Evangelicals and the words of Jesus as recorded in their Bibles, I would not have believed they could blindly go to this extreme.  At first I thought it was just Hillary hatred, but gradually began to realize it was more.  People actually liked the guy.  I wanted to believe at some point they would wake up and say, "Oh wow!  This is going too far."  Instead I watched more and more people support a man and a message that couldn't be more opposite if they had been standing in front of Pilate yelling "Crucify Him!  Give us Barabbas!"  Because this is exactly what they have done.  The man in the office isn't the problem - he is the symptom.   

The Pew Research Center found that 81% of white, American evangelicals supported this regime change at the time of the election.  This was more support that any Republican candidate received in the past four elections.  If they didn't like the man, many said they still agreed with his agenda.  And why am I surprised really?  This is the true, historical, "great" America rearing its ugly head again.  The one I had hoped and believed was making progress toward more equality and reform.  No, we have regressed back into fear, a sense of superiority, and total lack of compassion.

I believe a path to peace in any conflict is listening to find common ground.  In a sane world, I still believe in this approach.  But we have moved away from sanity.  It's as if there was a mad man going down my street, hitting people I love with a baseball bat, smashing windows, turning trash cans out on the lawns, buying up the houses and selling them to his friends while throwing the residents out.  I say to my Christian neighbor, "What can we do about this situation?" They reply, "Oh he is doing this for the good of our neighborhood and our city!"  I do not know how to speak to this type of thinking even if no such thing as religion existed.  I cannot find a place in the current rhetoric where one would even begin to write on the same page.  The divide has become a chasm.  

There is a 70 year old woman in Germany who has spent 30 years covering up and removing Nazi graffiti and propaganda stickers.  Even after the all this time, the loss of the war and the consensus of world opinion that the actions of this group were the manifestations of the darkest reaches of human nature, its followers still carry on.  I know I shouldn't be shocked that the historical attitudes in my own country are also still alive and well, seeking to go back to this type of "greatness" defined by white Christian values that used the Bible to enslave and abuse blacks, Natives, and immigrants.  I think my white generation grew up with the naive idea that all this had been fixed and settled, because we are still too separated to know the difference.   

The church in this country has a history of being subservient to the nation first.  The flag of the nation flies on almost every pulpit platform.  I recently saw a church parking lot with seven or eight flag poles lining the street side of the parking lot, like a car dealership on the freeway.  This nationalism has become the true religion, and the values are financial prosperity and self-interest above all.  America First.

In my early 20s I discovered conservative talk radio, before I entered southern, white, Christian fundamentalism.  I became a religious zealot shortly thereafter and found the political and religious camps firmly bonded together.  Sure, there are many great principles of conservatism, if balanced with love and compassion.  I believe in personal responsibility and dislike too much government regulation.  But when those without boots are supposed to pull themselves up and the greed of wealthy men decry regulation that calls for equity and respect for the environment - then I am no longer a conservative.  Progressive ideals need balance too.  Idealism rarely looks for a solution that can address more than one interest.  Both sides need each other, but now we can no longer even have the discussions we need to have.  I cannot see a way out of this rock and a hard place that does not involve a crushing.  I hope I am wrong.

The evangelical church in America has lost any chance it had to be a voice of love, reconciliation, and healing.  It had the message most needed and exchanged it for the one most desired.  When the tide turns, and it surely will, it may suffer that which it has greatly feared - but not because it did well. There is no rapture from the tribulation of reaping what you sow.  We may find grace if those we have trampled take a higher road than we did.   I say "we" even though I have now separated myself from this type of religion and ideology.  I still spent many years blindly supporting this mindset that is now coming into its full bloom.  

We sometimes credit animals with having better instincts than humans when it comes to survival.  A few nights ago I built a fire in my home-made fire pit.  As the fire grew hotter and coals started to form, a gecko began to feel the heat and crawled out of its hiding place between the bricks.  It scurried up and over the top of the wall and right down into the fire.  I tried to save it, prodding it with a stick toward a crack where it could escape, but it was too late.  A few days after this, a squirrel tried to escape my car by running in the same direction I was driving instead of crossing the street.  In spite of how much I've claimed to disdain squirrels, I did hit it and it made my gut wrench as I saw it flopping around in my rear view mirror.  Both times this thought rushed through my mind, This is my country, my people, and those of the religion of my birth.  May the God they believe in have mercy.  

Which brings me to my final statement.  This is no longer the god I believe in.  I do believe in a Creator, and I still hold the words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 5-7, and some parts of the Gospel of John as some of the highest ideals humans can reach for.  Many others see this truth as well and seek to pattern their lives this way even if they don't believe in this man as a deity or the 'gospel' construct of heaven/hell/judgement that has taken precedence over the words he himself spoke.  I say if this theology of "salvation" is really true, then ignoring the man's values and teaching make the theology of none effect.  While I find beautiful and true wisdom in other religious writings, I find no man more beautiful, or any image of god more appealing than love that is willing to lay down its power and take up a cross to die in the belief that it would save friends and enemies.  A god that comes down to walk with his people, his creation, and share in their sufferings rather than to lord over them.  I long for that with every fiber of my being - to be in communion with this god and those that love and follow this example.  Nowhere in this framework does self-interest take precedence over compassion.  Even if your worst fears are true of all the people you have demonized, you are not following Jesus by reacting to these perceived threats in this way.  In a recent heartfelt conversation with my fellow homeschool Muslim mom friend, who couldn't understand how Christians could have so much hatred for them, I agreed, "Even if you are a terrorist, they are called to love you anyway."  Even she knew the words of Jesus to that effect.  You cannot cure hatred with walls or more bombs and bullets. You just plant new fields of it.  You may put it down for a time, but will surely rise again, shouting, "Never forget!" Do you remember, and understand?   

I don't know many things for sure, but I do know that the deepest truths of love do not need a religion to be evident.  I do know it's okay to be wrong as I have been wrong so many times in my life and been through several painful transitions.  It's okay to admit we need a better way and that our human instincts sometimes steer us in the wrong direction.  We are gullible and easily manipulated.  All of us.  This type of humility and vulnerability seems to have fallen out of fashion of late.  How, I wonder, will we learn it?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Where is it Written?

People of the book, answer me please.

Where is it written in your Good News...

that the stranger must be kept out with a fence
the poor must be left to beg or die
but he can't beg on your street?

Where is it written

that your rights matter most
your way of life
your life?

Where is it written

to fear, withhold, protect
malign with threats
to hold the lines?

Where is it written

to force others onto your path
your prayers, your rules
to win the wars?

Where is it written

that to follow the man with the cross
looks like this?

Did he give his life willingly
for this?

Yes, it is written. Not in his words, but in our hearts, as we follow ourselves.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Raising My Flag

(Pledges revisited)  Yesterday was flag day.  The calendar didn't specify which flag, so I considered putting out my Scottish flag, or my alternate version of the U.S. flag which has a peace sign instead of stars in the corner.  But I've relegated that one to the wishful thinking file.  We are definitely not the United States of peace, spending more on our defense budget in 2013 than the next 13 countries on the list, combined.
 A military budget that large has to be used for something.

So I started thinking about flags and why we have them.  Maybe the two most common historical uses have been to claim and mark territory (even the moon), or to identify which direction to aim our weapons.  Additionally, as we love symbols for our various identities, flags give us a sense of belonging.  Nation states capitalize on this and are eager to impress on young minds the importance of honoring flags with bodily gestures and verbal pledges.

I recently watched a very moving documentary about children in various parts of the world and their challenges to get to school.  One brother and sister had a two-hour hike across the Kenyan Savannah every morning.  The boy was especially eager to be on time because it was his day to raise the flag.  I wondered how many countries around the world have children every day, pledging to a flag.

A few years ago I began to feel so uncomfortable with the practice that I stopped doing it.  At first there were spiritual reasons, as I felt this had become more than respect, but a form of worship, and only One in the universe is worthy of this.  I began to see how much the American church intertwined their patriotism with their religion, and it felt wrong from the depths of my being.  Then later when I learned much painful truth about my country of the past and present that has been hidden and lied about, I knew I could no longer pledge my life to the symbol of this nation.  I love it and its people, and want the best for my country.  My life however can only be pledged to my Creator who gave it.  He loves all nations and peoples, and so do I.  I cannot pledge to only one at the expense of others.

While we blindly honor our flag with the feeling that we are joining into a practice held since the days of George Washington, the true origins of these practices and how they have evolved and changed over time is a fascinating study.  The original pledge, written in 1892, was published in a youth magazine to celebrate the 400th anniversary of  Columbus sailing for the 'new' world (Bigelow).  From there it has evolved into a religion of its own, with "under God" added during the height of the Cold War.

But what does it matter?  They are just words.  I recently heard about a young man arrested for attempting to join a terrorist group.  The article brought out that specific charges were possible against him because there was evidence he had in fact pledged his allegiance to the group.  It made me stop and think about the gravity the world places on our pledges - our words.

I also remember being sworn into the U.S. Army when I had enlisted at the age of 21, a time in my life of acute desperation.  The recruiters don't ask you if you love your country enough to die for it.  They offer you all the benefits of joining up.  It sounded like a way back to pursuing my dreams in life which were on hold as I just tried to survive from one day to the next.  Then the seriousness of our oath was impressed on us so that we would take it with fear and trembling - an oath by which we could walk in honor or conversely, be prosecuted by.  It wasn't until that moment that the weight of what I was doing really hit me, and I'd gone too far to turn around.  It is the very last thing you do after all the testing, physicals, and choosing an enlistment period and job assignment.  The words that came out of my mouth could define my life from that point on, at least for the next five years.  An accident a few weeks later rendered my body unfit for basic training, and I was discharged.

 I only want a clean conscience, and a spirit free to follow that conscience unbound by obligation to values and ethics opposed to mine.  While most people may not stop and think what they are saying or why, it doesn't lessen the significance.  If it was just a silly tradition, there would not be so much pressure for mass conformity, starting so young.

I believe in good citizenship which perhaps in my view entails more solidarity with the human race than a political entity.  My heritage comes with a burden of a responsibility rather than a reason for pride.  I know we can do better, see more clearly, and reach higher. Many who have gone before, daring to call for change, were able to see the fruits of their courage and hard work.  Some walked on before they could see it.  These heroes encourage me, one small voice, to keep going forward.

Friday, February 13, 2015

What My Muslim Friend Knows About Christians in America

With great sadness I have to share what I am ashamed of in my state, country, and religion called Christianity.  While I cannot help but identify as an American, a Texan, and a Christian – these three identities converged into a single identity called “hater” this past month. 

Muslims in America face a great deal of hatred and discrimination on a daily basis.  While Muslim families may originate in different parts of the globe and from various cultures, Americans see only one kind of Muslim; Arab terrorist.  When they see a woman with a head scarf, the only thing they may have to associate her with are the repetitive images daily paraded past their eyes in the news as we are bombarded with atrocities committed by violent men.  They do not see her as an individual but rather as symbol that strikes fear in their hearts.  They see a threat.  I know because a few years ago seeing Muslims invoked a similar response in me as well.  I was surrounded by people opposed to any trace of Islam in their own communities.  No one I knew had even a Muslim acquaintance, yet we were all experts on the threat this religion’s followers posed to our way of life.  While I experienced fear, I don’t believe, and I would hope, I never allowed this to sink into hatred. 

Imagine you are a peaceful demonstrator, standing up for your faith in spite of being maligned with the worst cruelty humanity has to offer.  People of other faiths or no religion are standing with you in love – for your rights as an American citizen and out of respect for your convictions.  Your children are with you, holding signs pleading for recognition and their rightful place in society


 And soon you are overwhelmed with this.

We have an interesting friendship; I as one who have never before had any direct contact with a Muslim and have been fed only what our media deems important for me to know, and she who seems to have had mostly negative, hateful contact with Christians. 

She tells me of the time when she entered into a discussion on a home school internet forum to defend her faith against the derogatory conversation taking place there.  Since her first name sounds American no one imagined she was Muslim.  She was cursed at and called many names, accused of being a “bad Christian”.  These un-Christ-like people thought she was just a Christian with an opposing opinion.  She said one woman did speak up that their behavior caused her shame as a Christian.  I could only agree.

She shares her experience trying to buy fresh milk from a rural farm – out where everyone and their dog go to church on Sunday.  What amounts to an honor payment system for everyone else became an experience in intimidation for her as a man stood in the room and silently stared at her with his arms crossed while she put her money in the box and retrieved her milk.  She said she sent her husband after that because no one can tell a man is a Muslim or not.

She asks me if I've seen the latest news story about Muslims shot in cold blood, here in America.  Whether or not the killer is a Christian, it adds to their uneasiness.  While she had been concerned for her family living in France, she is becoming more aware of the level of hatred surrounding her in her own community.  The atmosphere has definitely intensified in the past few months.

My outlook and attitudes had changed long before I met her, thankfully.  But I am not proud that I allowed fear and ignorance to affect my attitudes at any time in my life.  I am only now thankful for the privilege to be her friend.  She may be happy for the chance to show that not all Muslims are terrorists, that our families have much in common.  I feel overwhelmed with the opportunity to simply love her and her beautiful children – which I do so very much.  They are all beautiful, loving, human beings and my life is better for having known them.  I may not be much of a “real” Christian in her eyes, but in the light of things the past few months, maybe that’s not a bad thing. 

I don’t understand people who claim this belief in Jesus and shout hatred toward other human beings.  EVEN IF they really were all terrorists, Jesus still would have you love them, not curse and threaten them.  Maybe you would never shout hate speech into someone’s face with their children standing next to them.  But would you stand up for them in conversations with your friends when people imply they should all be sent out of the United States?  When someone says the Middle East should be turned into a glass parking lot?   Do you enjoy entertainment that glorifies the killing of these “savages”?  Hate and prejudice exercised discreetly isn't any prettier than the kind shown in the open.  And I've heard these things more times than I can remember.  I have not always stood up for what is right in these situations.  Remaining silent is not acceptable.  This isn't about learning to be politically correct.  It’s learning to see people through the eyes of Jesus.

Ash Wednesday is approaching again this next week.  Last year I wrote a prayer of repentance and pleading in tears and put the ashes of it in a glass vial which I have worn for a year, (not even realizing I was doing this during the Ash Wednesday holiday).  My desire for repentance and a heart change for my people – Christians, Americans and Texans – hasn't changed.  While my governor set aside a day of remembrance for a man who killed more Iraqis than any other soldier, can we set aside a day, a week, or better yet a lifetime, to remember Jesus and the love He lived and taught?  In all our fears, and among all our idols of culture and country, let us remember the One who invited us to the Narrow Way.  As one exhortation I read stated, “Let us turn from our sins and obey the Gospel.”  

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Wound Unhealed

Yesterday I met with a group of some of the most socially aware people you can find.  They spoke of anniversaries coming in 2015 for causes they wanted to support in environmental and nuclear weapon proliferation issues.  As the meeting ended, I shared that the next day was also the anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee - 124 years ago.  No one in the room was aware of this, but they were glad to know it.  They had just made plans for a meaningful participation in the MLK holiday, yet as I find nearly everywhere, true Native history and continuing injustices are still way under the radar for most people, if present at all.

I also had an interesting conversation recently with a woman who has traveled the world, written a book, and lived a life dedicated to serve her country in the military.  She is now doing amazing things on her property with solar panels, rain storage, growing food, and keeping bees.  I related to her about our brief experience this summer with a ministry that builds hogans for the Navajo in New Mexico.  I explained how the homes were off the grid, but not by choice.  No bathroom was even built onto the structure, but may be added later.  They have no electricity and must haul their water in storage tanks.  To grow food there would be a challenge for anyone, and I didn't see so much as a small flower bed the entire time we were there.  In disbelief she asked,  "In America??!"  Yes, in America.  But that was the end of the topic.

This morning I saw a tweet by a young Native American woman who was asking why all the people hating on her had "Christian" and "Patriot" on their profiles.  This especially, brings me deep shame as a  Christ follower, and an American both.

If you take a sledgehammer and break someone's leg, and later feel badly for what you have done, you can put a cast on it and say you are sorry and even cry, but the truth is that injury must heal from within the body itself.  So even in the best situation - this would take time and you would have to hope for forgiveness eventually.  However, if every time the person managed to try to stand, you whacked them again, or hit their other leg too, and then proceeded to do so to their children as well - for generations to come - then how will healing come?

Today in honor of those Lakota who were brutally murdered in a way that makes ISIS look like our kin folk, I want to share the most moving short video I have seen on this event.  If you are white and Christian especially - you need to know the truth.  Think about how Christ views this, and what an appropriate response would be.  I have been mocked by a white Christian minister for suggesting that genuine apologies and a change in attitude must come.  I believe that in spite of continued white ignorance and hatred, the Creator has a plan and an honored place for these Native children He loves.  He will bring healing to their people.  How much more healing do we need, who cannot see our sins for what they are?

Not only do we not repent, we magnify these sins.  Twenty of the men responsible for this received medals of honor.  We have not turned back from our brutality and injustice.  We continue to walk in it, yet have the arrogance to condemn others who also do the same.  What will be our end?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Learning War

Such a poignant picture I saw this morning - a "pigeon" (looks like a dove to me) released at an oath ceremony for young cadets in Ukraine, at a monastery.  The symbols of priest, cross, and dove seem to contradict the military uniforms on these young bodies.
The oldest living United States veteran (108 years old) was quoted in the news this past Veteran's day as saying...

“War’s nothing to be into, don’t want to go into the war if you don’t have to. But I had to go. I enjoyed it after I’d went and come back, but I didn't enjoy it when I was over there. I had to do things I didn't want to do.

Yet we continue to glorify war for each new generation, and put God's stamp of approval on it in our churches.  It's hard to make a case for the necessity or effectiveness of our post WWII military activity, but we still march along as unquestioning sheep, throwing our own children into the cauldron as pawns for greed and corruption in the name of God and Country.  

I recently saw groups of soldiers on our local base out jogging on a track, careful to maintain their fitness levels.  For all the effort they invest into caring for their physical bodies, those same bodies are of little consequence to the men to give the orders from on high.  My heart ached as I imagined them strewn across a battlefield.  These are the little boys in the picture above.  When will we stop loving war?

A girl in my family has joined the JROTC, and everyone is beaming with pride for how quickly she has excelled in this program.  I see many positive benefits for her through this and I try to be encouraging to her where she is at the moment.  But the last line of this scripture has been running through my head so much lately.  I long for this day for all God's children, but Today is a good day to learn peace.   

He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. Isaiah 2:4