Category Archives: Immigrants

That Is Not Chocolate…

I have been feeling particularly weary lately. I think I’ve had a little too much news.

But it’s Thursday and it’s time to write a blog post, and if you wait for inspiration you will discover that you will hardly ever write anything. So I opened up MS Word, and I sat down to write.

I sat, and I sat, and I sat.

My butt hurt from sitting and it was close to 1pm so I got up and ate lunch.

Then I sat back down in front of the computer and…well, I sat and sat some more.

I think you know where this is going.

I think part of my problem is that there is so little to say that isn’t a rehash of the last few weeks: I’m tired. I’m overscheduled. (No kidding Tina, tell us something we don’t already know.) I’m weary of the situation with my parents.  I have too many people that I’m trying to take care of: family, friends, parishioners, clients…parents.  And then to frost the crap cupcake life seems to have handed me, I listen to the news.

Hurricanes. Total destruction. Mass shootings. Cancer. Death.

You know what they say, don’t you?  When life serves you crap cupcakes…

…??!

I’m at a loss here, people!  What do you do when life serves you crap cupcakes??

I decided that a little prayer might shake me out of my doldrums and put me into a better place. I bowed my head to pray and found myself sitting in silence with nothing to say. I cried, and I think my heart had a few things to say, but my mouth didn’t have one good word to speak.

That’s when God encouraged me to get out my Bible and play the lottery.

You know, Bible lottery…when you open the Bible to a random spot and just start reading to see what the Lord needs to say to you right now.

I went to grab my Study Bible from seminary because it holds so many good memories for me, but for some reason The Message just would not let go of the Study Bible’s jacket and so I decided God must be giving me a nudge and I grabbed The Message. I let it drop open and started reading the first thing that my eye fell on:

“Things are going to happen so fast your head will swim, one thing fast on the heels of the other. You won’t be able to keep up. Everything will be happening at once.”

Yes, Lord, that is definitely how I feel. It has been a horrible time, these last 45 days, and one terrible thing has happened after another. My nation is a mess. My friends are suffering and some are dying. My parents aren’t doing well at all. There has been too much destruction and too much death and too many tragedies. When does it stop?

I returned to my reading:

“Things are going to happen so fast your head will swim, one thing fast on the heels of the other. You won’t be able to keep up. Everything will be happening at once—and everywhere you look, blessings! Blessings like wine pouring off the mountains and hills. I’ll make everything right again for my people Israel.”

Wait, what?

This is the book of Amos, a prophetic book from the Old Testament. Amos spends the first 9½ chapters of the book telling the people of Israel that they are in major trouble, that God is letting the nation fall into ruin because of how greedy and unjust the Israelites have become; they utterly disregard God’s laws. Then Amos spends the last half of the 9th chapter sharing God’s promise to rebuild everything and lift His people back up.

Reading this really hits me where I live.

I’m not trying to say that God is punishing the US for its greed, overconsumption, and the widespread injustice that exists in our land…although I understand how some people can think such a thing. Personally, I don’t believe that God ‘punishes’ us because that doesn’t reflect a loving God and truthfully, God doesn’t need to punish us. We have free will and our behaviors have consequences; we do a pretty good job of punishing ourselves, if you know what I mean.

Much closer to truth would be to say that everything that is happening right now is just happening, randomly. We may have contributed to some of the cause by ignoring climate change, or by refusing to deny average citizens access to assault rifles, but in the end…bad things happen because…LIFE. Life is a mix of good and bad, of great joy and tragedy, of celebration and grief.  And no matter how righteous you are, you will suffer loss and destruction just like everyone else.  “…He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matt 5:45)

No matter what the cause of all our pain, God looks down on the destruction and suffering that envelops us, and speaks words of comfort:

I’ll make everything right again for my people Israel.

They’ll rebuild their ruined cities

They’ll plant vineyards and drink good wine.

They’ll work their gardens and eat fresh vegetables

And I’ll plant them, plant them on their own land.

They’ll never again be uprooted from the land I’ve given them.

God, your God, says so.  (Amos 9:14-15)

And suddenly I don’t feel so weary anymore.  This is a big promise that God has made, a promise made to the whole world, not just to US citizens. This is a promise to immigrants and refugees; to Christians, Jews, and Muslims; to men in power and men living on the street; to women and children who have never known safety even in their own homes; to nations glowing with peace and prosperity and nations sagging under the burden of war and poverty.

This is a promise to me and to you, as we stand here holding the crap cupcakes that life has given us thinking that this is all we can hope for, that this is as good as it gets.  It gets WAY better than crap cupcakes, I swear it does.

“You won’t be able to keep up. Everything will be happening at once—and everywhere you look, blessings! Blessings like wine pouring off the mountains and hills.”  Amos 9:13

If you spend your day staring at your crap cupcake, like will seem crappy indeed. Look to the mountains and the hills my friend, and pray for the blessings to flow like wine. Then put down your crap cupcake, and go talk to your neighbor and see if they need any help. Or you can pick up your shovel, or your pocketbook, or your flood/cleaning bucket *** and start doing what you can to help with all the suffering across our nation. And if you are too exhausted and worn to help anyone else because of your own suffering and destruction, cry out to the Lord and then ask someone with skin on to help you.

Life may be one giant crap cupcake, but that cupcake isn’t bigger than we are.

God, on the other hand, is!

 

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The Morning After the Mourning After

This morning I went to a yoga class.  I was exhausted and anxious and needed to let go of some stress. My daughter is getting married this evening and all that anxiety has built to a peak of anticipation.  I figured a little stretching and sweating would do my soul some good.

The instructor, Jeff Martens, is a great teacher. He speaks softly during class, reminding us of proper posture and breathing techniques.  He also speaks words of wisdom, meant to guide us into greater relaxation and greater submission to the spiritual process of yoga.

Today he reminded us that every posture is a prayer that we pray with our body and our soul. He reminded us that prayers are not requests; prayer is more than asking for things. The prayers we make with our body are affirmations of all that is already ours: health, peace, communion, joy…or conversely, they can be affirmations that we believe we exist in a state of struggle, discontent, and FEAR.

There has been a lot of fear this week.

I told you in my last post that the days after the election were particularly difficult for LGBTQ persons, minorities, and women.  Many were consumed with fear that they would lose their civil rights, their safety, their nation and their home.  This week wasn’t much different, and I had plenty of people who cried their way through their session, worried about the future and wondering what they should do next.

One of my clients yesterday was particularly upset, and nothing seemed to comfort her. We talked about the allies that are all around her; people who love her, people who are not willing let her be re-victimized or denied safety.  I reminded her that I will always be an ally.  And then I told her that my greatest hope is that there are many good people in powerful places, people who are not willing to silently stand by as millions are denied their civil rights and human dignity. I said that I believe those people will slowly reveal themselves as Trump’s plan unfolds; I believe that one by one they will stand up and say “Not in my America!” and they will be our allies as we fight against a rising tide of bigotry, sexism, and homophobia.

It won’t be as simple as the split between Democrats and Republicans. I told her that we will probably all be disgusted to discover bigots, misogynists, and homophobes among people we thought were our allies.  I’m betting we will also be stunned at the number of staunch Republicans who stand up for civil rights, equality, and justice.  Neither side has a monopoly on righteousness; in the long run, I believe that this will be a great blessing that will work to our advantage.

She smiled at me and said it was a lovely idea, but she wasn’t sure it was realistic.

I told her that I am counting on it.

I never thought it would happen so soon!

Today Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton made an announcement in response to President Elect Trump’s decision to begin deporting undocumented immigrants.  The mayor stated:

“Phoenix is an incredibly diverse and welcoming city where we endeavor every day to protect our community while treating residents with dignity and respect, no matter who you are, who you love or where you come from.

Our diversity is our greatest strength as a community, and our strongest selling point as an economy. It says much about who we are as a people that Phoenix is considered one of the safest and most welcoming cities in the United States for those seeking refuge from the violence of war-torn countries.

That will not change, regardless of who is president.

Residents and visitors can be assured we will professionally and steadfastly uphold the laws of our city. But that does not mean that Phoenix will fall victim to discourse that is openly antagonistic and hostile to members of our community.

The Phoenix Police Department will never turn into a mass deportation force, even if the new government in Washington, D.C., threatens to revoke federal dollars. This is something worth fighting for, and we will not be bullied into taking backward steps on civil rights.

I cried when I heard it on the news, and I cried when I read the article online, and I am still crying as I write this right now.  There are things worth fighting for: our deepest values and dearest morals, but most important is human lives.  These things are worth standing up for, no matter what the cost.

Today the Phoenix mayor (along with mayors in Boston, New York, and Chicago, as well as the police chief of Los Angeles) took a stand against bigotry, hatred, and fear.

This morning I heard that every posture is a prayer, an affirmation of what we have.

Today powerful people in a number of major cities struck a posture of resistance to injustice. They still have some stretching to do before their posture can be firm and true, and we need to join them. We are only beginning to understand just how deeply our privilege (white, straight, male, educated, etc.) has stepped on the necks of our brothers and sisters. As a nation, we need to change our posture to a prayer that affirms freedom for all, justice for all, and welcome to all who would live in peace.

Today I stand in a posture that breathes a prayer of willingness to stand for others, and gratitude for allies in the struggle.

And I am going to stay in posture for as long as I possibly can.

For more information, use the following links:

ktar.com/story/1362041/phoenix-mayor-greg-stanton-vows-city-police-will-stay-deportation-process/

www.azfamily.com/story/33729670/mayor-stanton-phx-pd-will-never-be-a-mass-deportation-force

For more information on yoga or on Jeff Martens http://www.innervisionyoga.com/

Finally, congratulations to Katie and Phil!  I could not be happier for the two of you, and wish you a long life of joy together.  Phil, Michelle, Dan, Jason, and Arianna…welcome to my family!!

The Mourning After

This has been a rough week.  My candidate lost, not that it really matters.  My life will go on, largely unchanged.  I still have a job. I still have a house. The fluctuations in the stock market affect the net worth of my retirement portfolio, but I’m only 52 and retirement is a long way away and so right now, those fluctuations exist only on paper.  In the end, November 8th came and went and absolutely nothing changed for me or my husband except the name of our president.

I got on Facebook the morning after the election and noticed that a lot of people have been posting about unity, and how both Republicans and Democrats need to set aside our differences and work towards unity.  Many of my Christian friends have posted on Facebook encouraging their friends to pray for unity and to pray that God grants wisdom and guidance to our nation’s leaders.

Gosh that sounds nice, doesn’t it?  Pray for unity! Pray that God guides our nation’s leaders!

I kind of expect Christians to be praying for unity and guidance on a regular basis. I’m kind of confused why anyone has to encourage Christians to do something that they should pretty much be doing every day.  Moments like this make me wonder if I need to go on Facebook and encourage Christians to brush their teeth and shower daily.

Apparently, Christians are struggling with the basics these days and need some encouragement.

The thing is that I’m not convinced that unity is what we need to be praying for.  Let me explain.

Do you remember when you were still a teenager and you used to wonder when you would meet the one?  I used to dream about the boy I would marry and how handsome he would be; I would dream about the house I would live in and the children that I would have with my handsome husband. I never wondered if the police would stop my wedding, or if the government would refuse to grant me the right to marry the one I loved the most.

Such is the thing we call straight privilege.  I never wondered if I’d be allowed to marry because I thought that everybody had the right to get married…and I forgot that everybody included a bunch of LGBTQ persons who did not actually gain that right until 2015.

Yeah…that’s right…LGBTQ persons did not gain the right to legal marriage in the United States until 2015.  I think I was almost 35 years old before it occurred to me that there were whole groups of people in the US who weren’t legally allowed to marry at all.

So…you can imagine how the election of a right-wing President and even more conservative Vice President impacted the LGBTQ community.

Shortly after I arrived at work on Wednesday morning, I got to listen to the despair of a young lesbian women who is engaged but hasn’t yet reached her wedding day.  I cannot imagine the pain she must have felt wondering if such a basic civil right—the right to marry—would be stripped from her come January 2017.  I cannot imagine how frightening it must be for my gay colleague in Nevada who got married last month just after adopting his son.  I can’t imagine the terror his newly adopted 11 year-old son must feel, considering that the poor boy was rejected by his biological family when he came out of the closet.  Now he gets to wonder if his new family will be destroyed by politicos who don’t even know his name simply because his fathers are gay.

If you didn’t wake up on Wednesday and feel any fear, you are probably white, straight, and male. Congratulations!  That’s quite the trifecta of birthrights!  You might not feel very privileged and God knows how hard you have worked to achieve the success that you currently know.  In fact, I’m pretty certain that you deserve all the money, success, and respect that is currently yours, and perhaps you might deserve more money, success, and respect than you are actually getting.  On the other hand, you have never had to fight for your right to marry your beloved. You have never been arrested for driving while white because it is always assumed that white people don’t have to steal to be driving a car that nice.  And you’ve never been afraid to have one drink too many for fear that the people around you will strip you naked and sexually violate you while calling you the whore.

Please, if you woke up on Wednesday and weren’t afraid, do more than pray for unity.

Go out and create some unity.

Do me a favor.  Look in the Gospels!  You will discover that Jesus did not sit in his prayer closet asking His Father for unity and governmental guidance for 33 years before crawling onto the cross and dying for your sins.  While Jesus’ ministry only lasted three years prior to His death, that man was busy!  He prayed plenty, but He spent much more time doing the right thing than He did praying about the right things.

Look, you and I both know that a Trump presidency is NOT the end of the world, no matter what you or I think of him.  A Trump presidency will not be the end of America as we know it, either.  On the other hand, the people who are terrified of what this election has done have good reasons to be fearful.

Maybe you should find out what those reasons are.

Speak to a Muslim, and find out what it is like to be blamed for the behaviors of other people whose choices you never supported.  Talk to a member of the LGBTQ community and find out what it is like to be denied basic human rights, and to fear that your recently granted human rights will be taken away again.  Speak to a woman who fears that women’s equal rights are about to disappear along with women’s safety from sexual harassment and assault.  Speak to a Hispanic person who fears widespread racism against citizens of the US who just happen to be of Hispanic descent. Speak to someone who benefited from the Dream Act, and find out what it’s like to be raised in the US but considered an illegal alien.  Find out what it is like to fear being sent “home” to a country that you’ve never even visited.

Go and find someone who is truly terrified; sit and listen to them without arguing with them about why they are wrong.  Just listen.  Try to understand that the campaign speeches that you may have found liberating felt like threats to the person you’re listening to. Imagine yourself in their shoes, having to fear your country’s government and what they might do to you only two months from now.

Listen closely to them no matter how you feel about what they say.

Having done all that, if you are still serious about the unity you are praying for, look them in the eyes and speak these words:

I promise to use whatever privilege is mine to protect your human rights and your human dignity.  I may not agree with how your live your life, or how you came to live in my country, or who you worship. None of that matters, because I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and He gave His life to save the lives of every human being, and that includes you and me. If you mean that much to Jesus, then you mean that much to me.  I will not stand idly by while other people try to take away your rights and your safety.  Everyone deserves their human and civil rights. Everyone.

Letting other people have their rights will not take away your rights.

Giving other people respect will not deny you respect.

Working to achieve justice for everyone will create a just world for…EVERYONE and that includes you.

And praying…praying is nice, but when it comes to where the rubber hits the road, action is what it takes to create unity.

And just in case you’re still not sure if God is on board with this idea, remember Micah 6:8.

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

You heard the Man.  Now do it.

American Dream To Me

Have you been on Facebook lately? Watched the news much? Listened to talk radio?

If you have, you might just be thinking that the American Dream is coming to an end, that the US has become one giant mess of racial division and hatred. And there is plenty of evidence to support that worldview, except for one thing: it’s not true.

I used to have a professor in seminary who would say “Everything you see and hear confirms your fears, and your fears are still not true.” It took me a long time to understand his statement, but he’s right.

Just because you hear all about on every news source you turn to doesn’t make it true. I’m going to say that again: just because you hear about divisiveness and hatred every day on TV doesn’t mean that this nation is consumed with racial divisiveness and hatred.

Pay attention: THE NEWS DOES NOT REPORT ON WHAT IS GOING RIGHT IN THE WORLD–mostly because that’s kind of boring. News programs report on crime, violence, economic problems, and worldwide concerns. Sure they’ll throw in the occasional human interest story that will make you feel good, but most of the time in any news show is dedicated to reporting what is going wrong in the world.

If you focus on what’s wrong for very long, it will seem like what’s wrong is all there is to focus on.

Everything you see and hear confirms your fears and your fears are still not true. So let me drop some truth on you:

Anyone who tells you that America is rife with division and hatred is lying.

WE ARE MORE UNITED THAN WE REALIZE.

The truth is that you don’t care what ethnicity your neighbor is or what their religion is, as long as they maintain their home and help you create a safe neighborhood for the children to play in.

You don’t care what country or state they came from as long as they will sit next to you at the PTA meeting and work to increase the quality of the schools.

It doesn’t matter what strange foods they eat or how they dress as long as they will help you set up the Halloween Festival in the park in your neighborhood…if they will sit next to you and smile at the children’s costumes…if they will help you with the clean-up afterwards.

You don’t care what your neighbor earns or where they work.

You don’t care who they love or who they choose as their partner, as long as they are private in their lovemaking. (Praise the Lord…I don’t want to see anyone getting their freak on.)

You don’t care what they drive. You don’t care who they vote for. You don’t care what TV shows they watch or what music they listen to…as long as they don’t play it so loud that you are forced to listen to it.

In the end, all you really want is for the person who lives next door to be a GOOD NEIGHBOR…so that you can be a good neighbor towards them and together you can build a safe neighborhood for everyone to live in. All our differences are meaningless when we are kind to each other…once that’s taken care of, what matters is what we have in common.

And we have more in common than we realize. We all want a safe place to raise our children; a good job so we can support our family; enough money to save for our future; and a community that stands together for the good of all. And the things that make us happy are the same: a loving partner, a cozy home, good friends, and occasionally a barbecue and a beer so that we can sit back and enjoy how good life is.

The things we have in common are so much bigger than the differences that supposedly divide us.

And of course, you will always be able to find people who are only in it for themselves, who don’t care about being a good neighbor or a good person. People who are willing to let the public support them; who don’t care about their property; someone who makes things harder for everyone around them. Those people will always exist and you are free let them ruin your ability to believe that we are best when we are united, but I don’t recommend it.

America is not about the red, white, and blue. America is about the black, white, brown, red, and yellow. America is not defined by our geographical borders, but by the unity of the American people, which is far bigger than coasts and islands, and transcends skin color, gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity.

Anyone who tells you that you are living in a country that is divided is LYING. Our unity is bigger than our diversity. It is entirely possible that we are able to be unified because of our diversity, since the American Dream is based in the idea that anyone can succeed in this country if they are willing to work hard enough—anyone, regardless of color, gender, or sexual persuasion. We do love our success stories in this country, and we hold up those successes like beacons of promise to remind us that our goal is to be an equal opportunity nation. It’s no wonder why so many people are trying to immigrate into our nation. And while we may not truly have achieved the equality we seek for all persons, we are still striving for it. We are still working to end discrimination, still striving to recognize the areas where our biases create invisible walls that prevent others from achieving their dreams, discovering that even unknown privilege is a problem.

In the United States of America, we have ideals that are far higher than our actual achievements and we are still working to reach those ideals.

Don’t believe anyone who tells you that our ideals cannot be achieved. If you are losing hope in those ideals, get out there and work to make those ideals a reality in your community. You are only one person and you may not be able to change a nation, but changing your little corner of the world is a great start.

I like what Joe Biden had to say in his speech at the Democratic National Convention: “We are America, and we OWN the finish line!” Indeed! Now…let’s work to make sure that everyone crosses that finish line in the most spectacular way possible. Sounds like the American Dream to me.

Get The Sackcloth

Every now and then I come up against a week that just blows me away.  This week it wasn’t work or anything to do with work that knocked my socks off.  It was the sheer weight of evidence that discrimination and hatred are alive and well in the United States of America.

It isn’t that I wasn’t aware of this before this very minute. Discrimination and hatred have always been a part of our culture in the US and I don’t see that ending anytime soon.  I guess that I have just chosen to focus on the areas where the mess is slowly being chipped away, where things are actually improving. I like to focus on the positive and look for evidence that God is doing great things.  Usually I don’t have to look too far before I find evidence of God’s grace and handiwork, and not long after that I find myself filled with peace and joy, having much to praise God for.

Sadly, the last few days have been filled with an increasing amount of despair.

I like to watch the news, sometimes watching it twice a day: once during breakfast and again just before I go to bed. The news acts as a kind of bookend to my day, keeping me aware of the world around me so I don’t end up cocooning in my office with my clients, or cocooning in my home office with my books and my blog, or cocooning on the couch with my family…basically the news rips me out of my cocoon!  Unfortunately, the news is not there to tell us all that is good in the world.  Usually, the news reports on what is broken, destroyed, and badly in need of repair.

This would be why the news is currently reporting on politics.

I realize that we are currently attempting to find two decent individuals that we can choose between for the next president of the United States; it’s not as if the news simply decided to start talking about politics and nothing else.  Actually, I think I would be comforted if they talked about politics and nothing else because much of what I am hearing about the presidential race has little to do with politics and has much to do with all the -isms: racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, classism.  When you boil it down, all those -isms condense to one thing only: hatred.

I could insert a pithy quote here from a wide assortment of candidates (especially Donald Trump) that is anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim…or anti-women. (God bless poor Megan Kelly.)

But it isn’t just the candidates that are filled with hatred.  It’s my fellow countrymen!  My fellow Americans are busy spouting just as much hatred as any candidate on the podium, and some of them have chosen to add in the distinct flavor of violence as well.

At a recent Trump rally, a protester raised his voice and began shouting anti-Trump statements.  Understandably, he was removed by security, and this is not the problem.  As he was being removed, someone yelled “Set the *&#^%@ on fire!”

Who says that??? Who, in this country where free speech is revered as one of the most important rights we have, advocates to set a man on fire for speaking freely?

And then there were the pictures of klansmen in full KKK regalia outside Nevada caucuses, rallying for “President Trump”.  There didn’t seem to be one shred of shame in them as they paraded around, advertising hatred and yelling pro-Trump slogans…yet they hid their faces.  When you are doing the right thing you shouldn’t need to cover your face and hide your identity.   The KKK likes to say that they believe in God and the United States of America.  The only people I know who talk about God and Country are Boy Scouts and members of the US Armed Services…and none of them hide their face and very few of them advocate racial hatred.

These examples are only a few drops of water in the lake of evidence that we are neither as tolerant nor as free of hatred and -isms as we had hoped to be over 50 years after people of color and women achieved equal rights in this country.

I could give you a lengthy discourse related to all that is wrong with our country, but strangely, the show Black-ish nailed it just last night.  Please watch this clip. It made me cringe, but it was right on the money.

Black-ish Explains Why Racism Isn’t Over

The funny thing is that I started cringing even before Anthony Anderson made his point.  I started cringing as the clip of Obama was showing because I remember watching that exact scene during the inauguration.  I remember the moment that Obama stepped out of the limo and started walking down the road.  And I remember the sudden knot that grew in the pit of my stomach and the sick feeling that gripped me immediately.

I was waiting for the shot to ring out that would end our new President’s life.

I had trouble believing, back in 2008, that the sheer amount of hatred that had been levied against Barack Obama prior to the election wouldn’t conspire to end the hope that his election had brought to me and to many people in our nation.

The fact that Barack Obama is still alive and is our President eight years after his election is a testimony to just how far we’ve come in this country.

The fact that we have campaigns like #BlackLivesMatter (and that we argue about why we need such a campaign) is evidence that things are not progressing as they should.  We are still a racist nation.  And the clearest evidence of that is that we have to have “special episodes” of television programs like Black-ish and then again on Chicago PD to address the widespread violence against Black people in this nation.  Yes…Black people. Not African Americans…that’s not what the campaign is called.  It’s called #BlackLivesMatter.

Yes they do!  Black lives matter!

Women’s lives matter.  Women’s sexual rights matter.  A woman’s control over her own body, which is gift to her alone from God, matters.

Gay lives matter. Gay couples matter.

Hispanics matter.  The lives of American citizens always matter and Hispanics are, by and large, American citizens.

Native Americans and First Nation People matter.  And the truth about how our nation has continued to sin against the Native Americans must be told, because the truth always matters.

Immigrants lives—legal and illegal—matter.

In the end I could go on and on.  But I don’t have to, because God’s children matter wherever they are, whatever color or gender or sexual orientation they are.  God loves all of God’s children and your particular opinion about that person’s spiritual status as a “sinner” or a “saint” does not absolve you of recognizing their inherent worth, nor does it give you permission to treat that person poorly or to discriminate against them.

Hate is not a Christian value.

Oppression is not a Christian value.

Discrimination is not a Christian value.

Jesus came to free us from the power of sin and the havoc that it wreaks in our lives and yet despite the many ways that we confess His name and call him our Savior, many of us appear to be clinging to all the things that Jesus came to free us from.

I look at such things and I despair of our nation’s future.  I don’t know what we need to do to stem the tide of hatred in our nation, but we need to do it soon.

Job 42:6  “therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

One Nation Under God

** This post has some ‘fanciful’ moments where I speak in ways that are not reflective of my personal thoughts. Please be mindful of this as you read.  Not all the words in this post reflect my own opinions.

 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” (NRSV)

This is the United States of America, and we are a Christian nation.

Okay, not really.  We might have been founded by Christians, but we were also founded on the precept of religious freedom.  We are a nation where people are free to worship as they please, or not worship at all.

Some people in this nation are Christian, some are Buddhist, some are Muslim, some are Sikh, some are Baha’i, some are spiritual but not religious, and some are atheists or agnostics who proclaim no faith at all.

For just a moment, though, let’s pretend that we live in a Christian nation governed by Christian values.  Let’s pretend that we are one Christian nation under a Christian God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

What would that mean and what would that look like?

John 13:34-35 “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (NRSV)

Okay, I guess it starts with love.  We must love one another.  I think we see Christian love for one another in this country; moments when our love for one another prompts great acts of kindness and sacrifice.  People traveled from all across the nation to help the people of New Orleans rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.  People all over the nation lined up to give blood for what we hoped would be the survivors of 9/11.  Firefighters nationwide volunteer every year to go and risk their lives to fight fires in parts of the West that are being overrun with brush fires. Just this week a number of celebrities including Jimmy Fallon and Cher have sent donations of bottled water to the people of Flint, Michigan. A satirical article about the rock group Insane Clown Posse sending a truckload of Faygo soda (a favorite soda of the band) to the people of Flint, Michigan led to fans of the band organizing a bottled water drive because they felt led to counter satire with genuine charitable action.

These are a few examples of the daily goodness that flows freely from the American people to their brothers and sisters, and yet…

Have you watched the news lately?  Have you seen the political rhetoric that fills the news broadcasts? What am I to say when Donald Trump says that he wants to ban Muslims from entering our country?  How do I respond to reports that many of our presidential candidates speak ill of the Syrian refugees who seek asylum in our country?  What am I to think of the suggestion that we build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants from Mexico from crossing our borders in search of employment?

Can we be a Christian nation if we seek to exclude those people who seek our borders for protection and economic stability?  What happens when we sacrifice only for the people already inside our borders?  I don’t know what to think anymore.

And so I meditate on the Scriptures while simultaneously letting my mind drift into the ether to sniff at the rhetoric that is posted on the Internet and broadcast on the nightly news…

1 Cor 13:3 “If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (NRSV)

Certainly Jesus must understand that we cannot support an unlimited population of immigrants who want to get fat off of our resources and our kindness; He cannot possibly expect us to sit by and let people stream across our borders who only have their own self-interests at heart.

We cannot be expected to accept an endless stream of immigrants from countries that are hostile to our way of life.  These people don’t care what they are doing to our economy or to our people; in fact, they want to kill us!  These Syrian people are just a bunch of ISIS insurgents in disguise and they will kill us if we give them the chance.  Why should I care if they destroyed their own nation?  Sure, some of them are innocent, but you know that there are ISIS members hiding in the ranks of refugees, waiting to get inside the US so that they can inflict as much damage as possible.

I Cor 13:4-8a “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (NRSV)

Oh, please!  I’m supposed to LOVE them? They HATE us!  They don’t wish us well.  They wish that we’d all die and fall off the face of the earth so that they can take our country!  They want to exterminate us as if we were cockroaches in their kitchen. So what if some of them are children who are starving and in dire need of medical care? So what if there are families who are just looking for a peaceful place to raise their children?  So what if they are supposedly God-loving Muslims who also believe that Jesus was a prophet of God?

They aren’t like us and I don’t have to let them into my precious country!

John 13:34-35 “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (NRSV)

It’s always good when the Word of God brings me back to reality.

When Jesus said that we should love one another, He didn’t put any limitations on this.  He didn’t put national borders on the command to love one another. He didn’t put any religious limitations on the command to love one another.  He didn’t put any skin colors or ethnic backgrounds into the mix, either.

In fact, when Jesus ordered us to love one another, He didn’t specify genders, sexual orientations, national backgrounds, ethnicities, or religious limitations.  What Jesus said was that people would know we are Christians by the way that we love one another…without any limitations on the ‘other’ person or who they might be.

If we want to be considered a Christian nation, then we have to start following Jesus’ example.

We have to practice the commands that Jesus gave us, and that command is to Love. One. Another.

We are to love one another without limitation, without reason, and without a litmus test for who deserves to be loved.  We have to love one another the way that Jesus loved us.

I Cor 13:13  “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” (NRSV)

Take that, Mr. Trump.