On confusing Jesus with the Statue of Liberty

 “People are confusing the Statue of Liberty and Jesus…But in fact while the real historical Jesus did urge compassion for those in need, but he also said, ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.’ In other words, support government with your taxes because they have a legitimate function like protecting citizens. Those of us who believe in the sanctity of life believe that sanctity serves to not only to protect the unborn but to protect the born from terrorist attacks. That’s a Christian value as well.” – A certain pastor of a big church on Fox news

Once they wouldn’t let my Dad on a plane. He had to stay behind in Germany a few extra days to go to the US embassy because he didn’t have enough pages in his passport. It was inconvenient, and frustrating, but we knew it would all work out in the end.

Once I was reduced to tears by a grumpy immigration official who made a comment about privileged white people when I was leaving South Africa. I sat on the plane and cried, but I knew that America would let me in on the other side, and that South Africa would most likely always welcome me back (in some form or other!).

Travel can be traumatic under normal conditions. It can be traumatic even when you hold one of the most powerful passports in the world. 

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Syrian Refugees (www.globalresearch.ca)

Now imagine fleeing Aleppo with your family to escape the bombs, paying everything you have to get on an overcrowded boat that will take you across the Mediterranean  (if you’re lucky and it doesn’t sink), arriving on the other side and getting placed in a refugee camp. Imagine trying to maintain some sense of family normalcy in these crowded and chaotic conditions, while trekking to a small internet cafe with hundreds and hundreds of other people every day, trying to get connected via Skype to the immigration desks of another country to start the process for being granted refugee status. It’s really like winning the lottery if you even connect, let alone get accepted to the first stage of the process.

Imagine applying to come to the US as a refugee, and going through the 2-3 year intense vetting process. (Applying to come to the US as a refugee is currently the MOST DIFFICULT WAY to get into our country. If you want to understand all the steps and security checks involved, check out the IRC’s description of their process).  Imagine stepping on the plane, arriving at the airport, and being told “Turn around and go back home. You’re no longer welcome here.”

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I visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island a few weeks ago. I had just come from a march where people were chanting “Say it Loud and say it clear: Immigrants are welcome here.” I read stories of how American people welcomed new immigrants, helped translate for them, threw Christmas parties for families waiting for clearance on Ellis Island. Most of these people were motivated by their Christian faith.

I watched a video of a man from north Africa seeking political asylum in the 2000’s who was frustrated at having to wait 5 months in a detention centre until his status could be cleared. But at his hearing, he said the judge asked him, “What will you do if we let you into America?” and he replied, “Keep fighting for freedom and justice just like I did at home.” And the judge said, “Well then, Welcome to America, sir!”

I understand that there are governmental reasons for not wanting more refugees. And maybe if we were throwing open our boarders and allowing just anyone in, this freeze on Syrian refugees and people from Muslim countries would make sense (except we’re not and never have been- remember the 2-3 year vetting process?).

And I understand a government’s first priority is to protect its own people.

What I don’t understand is how Christian leaders are able to make arguments about the sanctity of life and somehow use that to promote anti-refugee policies.  God primarily introduces himself in the Bible as, “The Lord, father of the fatherless, defender of the orphan and the widow, who shows love to the foreigners among you, giving them food and clothing.”  

This isn’t a side issue. This relates to our theology, our understanding of who God is. If we primarily see God as out there to protect our own interests (rather than how he has consistently revealed himself in the Bible), I’m not sure what God we’re following. Sure, an understanding of the image of God in everyone and the right to protect life can apply to protecting people from terrorism. But it also applies to protecting refugees. And the Christian ethic consistently puts caring for others ahead of caring for ourselves, so when these two things appear* to be in conflict, we side with the refugees.

Perhaps someone who confuses Jesus with the statue of liberty has a better understanding of who God is and what he is like than preachers from the Bible belt. 

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As a Christian, this has been a depressing week for me. I expect our government to pass policy in its own self-interest. I don’t expect Christians to support it. I’m mourning for how this will affect families from the banned nations, but I’m also mourning how public statements in support of this ban are destroying the public witness of the church. So I asked, in my prayers this week, to see where God’s spirit was at work in the midst of this chaos, and I saw him.

I saw him this week in the Girl Scouts who went to DFW airport to give cookies to protestors protesting detained green card holders and the recent Executive Order.

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Dallas Morning News

I saw him in the Christian leaders who spoke out against this ban, and in particular the provisions that are starting to be made to give preference to Christian refugees.

I saw him in army of lawyers who gathered in the San Fransisco airport to provide voluntary legal assistance to families who were awaiting detained family members.

I saw him in the brass band that marched around the check-in counters with several thousand protestors in San Fransisco chanting, “Say it loud and say it clear, refugees are welcome here!”

I saw him in the Dallas Mayor, speaking out about the ban, and welcoming detainees with roses and heartfelt apologies as they were released.

I saw him in the many emails sent out by World Relief this week (the relief arm of the National Association of Evangelicals) urging people to call their representatives about this issue, and providing support for those affected by the ban.

I saw him in this poem, and I mourned that he was on the other side of the door:

 
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_ “NO ROOM”, A POEM BY JOHN BLASE at The Beautiful Due  (where there are more great poems!)
 

Things to do to take action: 

Sign up for World Relief’s mailing List and call your Representatives (every day).

Check out the IRC and donate

Show up to town hall meetings and voice your support for refugees

*Note: I say “appear” because factually speaking these two things are NOT in conflict. 

The Christmas Movie List: the most un-Hallmark version ever!

I have my favorite Christmas movies. They have to be watched, or it doesn’t feel like Christmas. Charlie Brown, The Little Matchgirl, Elf…. but aside from Santa, there’s not much that makes these movies actually Christmassy…. you know, as in real meaning of Christmas, real Jesus-coming-to-earth-incarnation stuff.

So here’s an alternative Christmas movie list. They probably won’t all fill you with warm fuzzies and holiday cheer. But probably will get you thinking about Jesus and what he was all about!  (Click the links in the titles to watch the Previews).  Continue reading

What Christian Politics looks like

Surveys show that one of the reasons millennial are leaving the evangelical church is that they perceive it to be too political. I relate to this (probably because I grew up in another country, and seeing American flags on the front stage of churches is just still very odd to me). The evangelical church has been associated with the conservative Republicans since the 80’s when some guys realized there was a huge sector of society that was uninterested in politics, but if energized, could be a significant political force.  Continue reading

A few parables

I’ve been reading the book of Luke lately. In Luke Jesus does lots of cool things, and  he tells these things called parables to the crowds who follow him. It made me want to write some of my own.  These stories are made up. Don’t take them too seriously.

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Part 1

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Daily Mail.co.uk

Jesus went with his disciples to the city, with a great crowd following him. A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the city gates. The boy, who had been shot and killed by a police officer, was the only son of a widow and many mourners from all over the city were with her. Continue reading

The Gospel as an antidote to white fragility

When it comes to talking about race, white people often feel defensive, angry, and afraid. White people can completely shut down because conversations about race or privilege are so uncomfortable. A researcher named Robin DeAngelo calls this “white fragility“. In a conversation with Sam Adler-Bell, she describes why white people completely shut down:

For white people, their identities rest on the idea of racism as about good or bad people, about moral or immoral singular acts, and if we’re good, moral people we can’t be racist – we don’t engage in those acts. This is one of the most effective adaptations of racism over time—that we can think of racism as only something that individuals either are or are not “doing.”In large part, white fragility—the defensiveness, the fear of conflict—is rooted in this good/bad binary. If you call someone out, they think to themselves, “What you just said was that I am a bad person, and that is intolerable to me.” It’s a deep challenge to the core of our identity as good, moral people.

Continue reading

Neither Poverty nor Riches (book Summary)

hunger for justiceIn part one, I gave a picture of how stuff is distributed in our world. I wanted to do that because after reading this book, the biggest take away is as people who follow Jesus we should be very concerned about economic inequality. In the book (aptly titled Neither Poverty Nor Riches, by Craig Blomberg ) the author is attempting to create a textbook that is a Biblical theology of possessions. Biblical Theology is a big word, but what it basically means is he’s going through the whole Bible, taking every mention of possessions, money, wealth, etc. and figuring out what those passages are saying. Basically he’s trying to answer the question: What is the Biblical view of stuff? Continue reading

Flight Behavior: On identity, climate change, and the evangelical tribe

Identity was the word of the year in 2015. Which I like, because I’m obsessed with thinking about how identity works in shaping our world. There’s people who think stuff happens in the social world primarily because people are rational and weighing the pros and cons and acting in their own self-interest. Then there’s people who still believe in altruism. And then there’s people who think people act not because of some rational thought, but because their actions line up with who they are. “I buy a Mac because I’m an Apple person.” “I’m a Twins fan because I’m a Minnesotan.” “I recycle because I’m a green millennial.” Continue reading

I used to think the Bible was always right. Now I think the Bible is always right, but I might be wrong.

Hey, I’m linking up with Sarah Bessey today. The prompt is: “I used to think___ and now I think ____”. Sarah’s new book is out! It’s called, Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith and it’s all about this process of being recovering know-it-alls, and allowing our faith to be in a constant state of growth. It’s now available on amazon. Go get it. 🙂

“When I was a child, I thought like a child, I talked like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put my childish ways behind me. Now we see in part, as into a mirror dimly, then we shall see clearly. Now we know in part, then we shall know fully, even as we are fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.” – the Apostle Paul

12006285_10153644284492744_7689261392404589568_nWhen I was a child, I was pretty sure I had this Christian thing all figured out.

Whether it was literal young earth six-day creationism, or women preachers, or strict gender roles, or gay people, or the gifts of the Holy Spirit, or Harry Potter—there were specific Bible verses that could be pointed to in order to back up my argument. When I look back at that time, it seems—well, childish. I don’t mean that in a belittling way. Just that I was naïve, binary, and literal in my thinking, just like all children are. I also thought that math was stupid (because it was hard) and that girls were better than boys (because I was a girl), and that everyone was either good or bad. It’s the way things go when you’re a kid.  Continue reading

Jesus, friend of sinners

Jesus,I’ve been reading Sarah Bessey’s book Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith, and something I appreciate about all of Sarah’s writing is you can see how much she loves Jesus. Not the idea of Jesus, but Jesus himself.

There’s a difference.

Jesus, the guy who lived 2000 years ago in Palestine, who was a devout Jew but still showed grace to Gentiles, who taught crowds and healed broken bodies, and said really confusing things.

She talks about sitting on a gym floor singing praise and worship songs as a child, and just knowing that Jesus was there with them by his Spirit. (It sounds weird if you’re not a Christian or churchy person, but yes, we do actually believe that the historical Jesus who died 2000 years ago really was God’s Son and is alive, and is present by his Holy Spirit).

Continue reading