Evangelicals, Clean Up Your Act!

US-VOTE-REPUBLICANS-TRUMP

It’s hard to imagine a greater illustration of Christians losing the plot than when they defend predators. — John Pavlovitz.   Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images.

I so hate to publish this photo. But it is a fitting image for these troubling days for people of faith. However, just so you know, this post is not about politics. It is about ethics, morality and living one’s faith authentically. I happen to be a follower of Jesus, and my Bible speaks to me about “loving the least,” allowing little children to come to Jesus, and calling peacemakers blessed.

So from that sacred place, I simply cannot comprehend persons of faith who claim faith in Jesus while defending a sexual abuser. As John Pavlovitz states so eloquently,

I don’t know how to understand the mind of a man or woman who attempts to profess devotion to Jesus while simultaneously defending a molester—and I’m not sure I want to. That’s a darker place than I think I can go without losing hope or sanity. I can’t imagine how a human being can so horribly distort the “love the least,” “blessed are the peacemakers” message of Christ, enough to stand on a wooden or social media platform—and knowingly bless a man who rapes, patently excuse violence to a child, or passionately campaigns for a predator. It’s all about as stomach-turning as it gets.

– John Pavlovitz, https://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/11/18/christians-defend-predators/

Pavlovitz goes even further.

There are few bastardizations of the life and the message of Jesus . . . as grievous as taking the side of rapists and pedophiles and genitalia grabbers—but this is where we are now. With the Evangelicals embracing Donald Trump and with those now rallying to the defense of Roy Moore, this is what we’re watching in America . . . Regardless of the Bible verses they drop or the high-profile ministries they wield or how sanctified they try to sound—when Christians defend predators, they deny Jesus and they sell off their souls. It’s really as simple as that. 

Yes, indeed. It’s really as simple as that. To my brother and sisters who call yourselves Evangelicals, clean up your act! It’s past time.

And may God help us live our faith with integrity, hold the vulnerable among us in high esteem, stand firmly against those who would cheapen our faith, and allow the life of Jesus to inform our thinking and guide our steps.

Advertisements

A Holy Mission . . . A Possible Mission

IMG_5800

A post card created by the Syracuse Cultural Workers                                            commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s Beloved Community.
When Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of “beloved community” he was describing the ultimate goal of non-violent activism for peace and justice — a global community of caring where poverty, hunger and in justice are no more.

As a person of faith, how do I respond to injustice? Where do I find the impetus, the courage, to confront evil? How do I go deeply into my soul to find the inner strength to stand against that which is wrong in the world? How do I work to help realize the dream of a beloved community? How do I meet the challenge of so holy a mission?

Brian McClaren recently wrote about what he saw and experienced in Charlottesville. A part of his article includes a straight-up call to people of faith.

All of us, especially people of faith, need to proclaim that white supremacy and white privilege and all other forms of racism and injustice must indeed be replaced with something better – the beloved community where all are welcome, all are safe, and all are free. White supremacist and Nazi dreams of apartheid must be replaced with a better dream – people of all tribes, races, creeds, and nations learning to live in peace, mutual respect, and neighborliness. Such a better world is possible, but only if we set our hearts on realizing the possibility.

– Brian McClaren

Oh, how we long to experience “the beloved community.” How we long to see our dreams of peace become a reality. Yes, we do set our hearts on realizing these dreams. Yet, we still feel the reticence of fear and inadequacy. We still tend to hide inside of our religiosity, the kind of religiosity that prevents us from responding to God’s call to wage peace. The Apostle Paul spoke to the religious people of his time. His words are instructive to us.

Paul stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else . . . For in him we live and move and have our being.”

– From Acts 17:22-28

Therein lies the answer to my questions of inadequacy and urges me to go beyond my own “objects of worship.” Paul’s prompting urges me to move outside of my own religious temple into a hurting and warring world. How can I find the will and the courage?

In God I live and move and have my being. That makes every holy mission a possible mission.

May God make it so.

Persevering Hope

IMG_5700

 

PAX

(pɑks ; päks; pæks ; paks). noun

1. the Roman goddess of peace, identified with the Greek Irene

2. sign of peace

 

The Reverend Jennifer Butler was wearing a white clergy stole with Pax embroidered over a cross and an olive branch. Enlight126She Was singing as police officers restrained her, arms behind her back, both thumbs held tightly together with plastic straps. Next to be arrested was The Reverend Traci Blackmon, who chanted “justice, mercy” again and again as police restrained her and led her away.

The Charlotte Examiner described the event, The March to Save Medicaid, Save Lives.

Capitol Hill police arrested the president of the North Carolina NAACP on Thursday morning after he led a protest of the Senate’s proposed health care repeal-and-replace bill.

Rev. William J. Barber II, who was protesting in his role as president of Repairers of the Breach, was released from jail by 2 p.m. On that morning, July 13, 2017, Dr. Barber and other faith leaders led a group of about 50 people to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office in the Capitol.

The group gathered a few blocks away at 10 a.m. and walked to the Capitol, chanting and singing along the way. Eleven protesters were arrested.

Read more at this link:

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/latest-news/article161200048.html#storylink=cpy

As I watched the live feed of this moral and courageous expression of civil disobedience, I hoped that the police would not arrest The Reverend Dr. William Butler, who was obviously experiencing pain from his physical disabilities. I hoped that other faith leaders would not be arrested.

The band of justice-seekers, clergy and persons of all faiths, gathered together in a prophetic action to protect the 22 million Americans in danger of losing healthcare because of what the group calls “immoral Congressional legislation.” The Repairers of the Breach Facebook page gives details of the event.

Together, we’ll join in song and march through the halls of power, sending a moral message that we cannot cut Medicaid — a lifeline for so many children, seniors and people with disabilities.

My heart was with them in Washington. My prayers pleaded for hope for a brighter day, for justice for those who are oppressed, for peace for every person. My mind recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah . . .

And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always;
And will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.

– Isaiah 58:10-12

I watched them stand bravely as they faced the powers before them, living into the words spoken by Hannibal of Carthage, “We will either find a way or make one.” I listened to their voices echoing through the halls of the building, singing with persisting, persevering hope.

Ain’t gonna let injustice turn me around
Turn me around, turn me around
Ain’t gonna let injustice turn me around
I’m gonna keep on a-walkin’, keep on a-talkin’
Marchin’ up to freedom’s land.

Ain’t gonna let no jail cell turn me around
Turn me around, turn me around
Ain’t gonna let no jail cell turn me around
I’m gonna keep on a-walkin’, keep on a-talkin’
Marchin’ up to freedom’s land.

Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around
Turn me around, turn me around
Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around
I’m gonna keep on a-walkin’, keep on a-talkin’
Marchin’ up to freedom’s land.

Repairers of the Breach — http://www.breachrepairers.org/

Life’s Narrow and Wide Gates

IMG_5244

Life is full of narrow and wide gates, beckoning us to choose which gate to enter. On one hand, the idea of gates — narrow ones and wide ones — is a Biblical idea describing the kind of life a Christian person might choose. On the other hand, narrow and wide gates are simply a part of our life pilgrimage.

The Scripture reference is found in the Gospel of Matthew.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

– Matthew 7:13-14 New International Version (NIV)

The pilgrimage that we call life is, most certainly, a series of challenges we must face. How common it is for us to complain when the gate before us is narrow and the road ahead is rocky. Why do I struggle financially? Why must I endure failing health? Why am I in the middle of a failing relationship? Why did I lose someone I love so deeply?

Didn’t I choose the narrow gate, God? Did I not commit my life to the way that leads to life? Then why? Why the suffering?

God seldom answers us when we ask these questions. We listen constantly for God’s voice and a satisfactory explanation of life’s suffering.

We hear nothing.

Just relentless, ominous silence. It can try one’s faith.

Gratefully, I came across an encouraging quote. Before collapsing on my life’s dusty road, I found a place to lean in the words of Brother Luke Ditewig. Here’s what he said:

After making much fuss about our great accomplishment at having found a narrow and obscure gate and walked through, we’re often surprised at the ordinary challenges of life that follow, again and again. I’m embarrassed by how much I say: “Wow, this road is hard!” or “Why are we still in the wilderness?” But if you look around right now, you’ll notice divine love in the ordinary stuff of life.

– Brother Luke Ditewig
Society of Saint John the Evangelist

So let us persist, moving forward with even a tiny fistful of faith. And may we look around on the way, passing through the gates we encounter and always noticing the divine love that is ever present in the “ordinary stuff of life.”

Divine Dissatisfaction

Enlight79

Yesterday, the United States launched a military strike on a Syrian government airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians earlier in the week. Today a Russian warship entered the eastern Mediterranean heading toward the area where two U.S. Navy destroyers launched missile strikes into Syria.

It is, indeed, a precarious time. The world is a frightening place. War still holds its sway upon a divided world. The comforting Scripture proclaiming extraordinary peace is not our current reality. Yet we long for that day when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, every person will sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid.

As people of God, we should be dissatisfied until that day of peace comes. We should be dissatisfied until every child lives in safety. We should be dissatisfied until the world lives in unity. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. calls us to “Divine Dissatisfaction.”

Let us go out with a divine dissatisfaction.
Let us be dissatisfied
until America will no longer have
a high blood pressure of creeds
and an anemia of deeds.

Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls
that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort
and the inner city of poverty and despair
shall be crushed by the battering rams
of the forces of justice.

Let us be dissatisfied
until those that live on the outskirts of hope
are brought into the metropolis of daily security.
Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast
into the junk heaps of history,
and every family is living
in a decent sanitary home . . .

Let us be dissatisfied until men and women,
however black they may be, will be judged
on the basis of the content of their character
and not on the basis of the color of their skin.
Let us be dissatisfied.

Let us be dissatisfied until every state capitol
houses a governor who will do justly, who will love
mercy and who will walk humbly with his God.

Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall,
justice will roll down like waters and righteousness
like a mighty stream.

Let us be dissatisfied
until that day when the lion and the lamb
shall lie down together, and every man
will sit under his own vine and fig tree
and none shall be afraid. Let us be dissatisfied . . .

Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted.
The road ahead will not always be smooth.
There will be still rocky places of frustration
and meandering points of bewilderment.
There will be inevitable setbacks here and there.
There will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope
will be transformed into the fatigue of despair . . .

Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on
in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future.

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Excerpts from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference address, August 16, 1967.

May God give us the strength and courage to live into divine dissatisfaction until God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

What Can I Do?

IMG_5106

What can I do? When children are dying in Syria, what can I do? When the administration in power minimizes the issue of climate change, what can I do? When gun violence fills the streets of our cities, what can I do? When states propose legislation permitting guns on college campuses, what can I do? When racism and xenophobia create unprecedented divisiveness, what can I do?

I could ask such questions all day and into the night. I do not have any definitive answers. And although it is frustrating to feel helpless to encourage positive change in the face of great need, it is important for all people of faith to keep asking the questions.

Human potential is amazing . . . We have the capacity to create a world that is peaceful, one that spreads kindness and love rather than hatred. If we believe it to be so, it will be our truth, and we will create it . . . We can change our own life and ultimately change the world.

― Kristi Bowman, Journey to One: A Woman’s Story of Emotional Healing and Spiritual Awakening

So I need to keep asking. I need to keep searching. I must keep my heart open and my hands ready. I must keep my mind sharp and my soul inspired. I must seek the mind of God as I search for all the ways I can engage in making my world a better, kinder place. I must believe that, with God beside me, I really can change the world. That’s what God’s people do.

 

Many thanks to Ken Sehested at prayerandpolitiks.org for the image of Dianne Nash.

Will Never Perish

img_4652

“Oscar Arnulfo Romero – My Hero”    ▪️   Art  by Curtis Narimatsu

Martyrs of the faith never perish. Their work lives on, inspiring others to sacrificial service. For centuries, God has graced us with men and women of courage whose lives stand before us as examples of faith. One such example is the late Óscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador. Although he spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture, he was assassinated on March 24, 1980, while offering Mass in the chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence in San Salvador.

Archbishop Romero inspired Christians around the world with his commitment to the poor, the outcast, and the marginalized — those whom Jesus described as the ‘least of these.’ Archbishop Romero’s stirring words from his last sermon capture the essence of his ministry and continue to inspire us all:

Those who surrender to the service of the poor through love of Christ will live like the grain of wheat that dies. It only apparently dies. If it were not to die, it would remain a solitary grain. The harvest comes because of the grain that dies . . . We know that every effort to improve society, above all when society is so full of injustice and sin, is an effort that God blesses; that God wants; that God demands of us.

On May 23rd, 2015, thirty-five years after his assassination, Óscar Romero was beatified in the capital city, San Salvador. At least 250,000 people filled the streets for the ceremony which was the last step before Archbishop Romero is declared a saint. But let us look back on his life. In 1980, the soon-to-be-assassinated Archbishop promised history that life, not death, would have the last word.

“I do not believe in death without resurrection,” he said. “If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the Salvadoran people.”

On each anniversary of his death, the people march through the streets carrying that promise printed on thousands of banners. But his murder was a savage warning. Even some who attended Romero’s funeral were shot in front of the cathedral by army sharpshooters. To this day no investigation has revealed Romero’s killers. What endures is Romero’s promise.

Days before his murder he said this to a reporter, “You can tell the people that if they succeed in killing me, that I forgive and bless those who do it. Hopefully, they will realize they are wasting their time. A bishop will die, but the church of God, which is the people, will never perish.”

In these days of peril, may we all heed the words of Pope Francis, “Let us be moved by the Holy Spirit in order to be courageous in finding new ways to proclaim the Gospel.”

Courageous faith that works on behalf of those who are poor will never perish. Lives dedicated to standing against injustice will never perish. God’s holy church, though it is made up of imperfect humans like you and me, will never perish. Thanks be to God.

 

Sanctuary

enlight1

Churches vow to offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants: At least 450 churches are prepared to act as Trump-era “Underground Railroad”

Sanctuary . . . A sanctuary, in its original meaning, is a sacred place. By the use of sanctuaries as safe havens, the term has come to be used for any place of refuge. For people of faith who are providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants, a sanctuary is indeed a holy place, sacred and inviolable.

Jeanette Vizguerra is a Mexican mother seeking to avoid deportation. As she held her 6-year-old daughter, Zuri, she spoke during a news conference in a Denver church where she and her children have taken refuge. But when Jeanette Vizguerra walked into that Colorado church, she also walked into the forefront of a possible clash between Donald Trump and many sanctuary churches across the country.

Vizguerra has lived in the U.S. since 1997 with four children, three of them born here. She was due to check in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Instead, she took sanctuary inside the First Unitarian Society of Denver.

“I did not make this decision lightly,” Vizguerra said through an interpreter. “I was thinking about it for weeks. But I think that I made the right decision in coming here instead of going to the immigration office.”

The pastor of the church, Rev. Mike Morran, said, “It is our position as a people of faith that this is sacred and faithful work. We know Jeanette. We know her to be an honorable human being.”

But critics say the church is violating the law. While it has been for years federal policy not to do immigration enforcement in churches and other “sensitive locations,” such as schools, unless absolutely necessary, today that may be a lapsed policy.

“President Obama’s administration thought it was prudent to avoid rounding people up in places like hospitals or churches,” says Richard Garnett, director of the program on Church, State and Society at the University of Notre Dame Law School.

But Garnett says if the new administration changes that policy, it could set up a conflict between President Trump’s push for tougher enforcement of immigration laws and his administration’s support for religious freedom.

“Sanctuary works,” says Seth Kaper-Dale, pastor of the Reformed Church of Highland Park in New Jersey. “I can tell you from our own experience that all nine people who lived here have kept their families together, have been able to raise their children, have been able to go back to their jobs. Is sanctuary brutally hard? Yes. But it is a tool that we will use if we’re forced by a brutal regime to use it.”

Sanctuary churches across this country are living out their convictions because of their faith in a welcoming God. The government will, no doubt, enforce immigration law. The Church will live into the law of God . . .

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

– Leviticus 19:33-34 New International Version (NIV)

The invitation from God’s people proclaims, “In the name of God, come! You are welcome in this holy place of refuge.”

 
(Information about Jeanette Vizguerra is from David Zalubowski/AP.)

Come! Live in the Light!

 

enlight1

“Come! Live in the light!”

So begins a beautiful hymn Entitled “We Are Called,” I discovered only yesterday. A dear friend sent it, describing it as the new theme song for her life.

When I looked up the hymn and listened to it, I was mesmerized by its melody and its message. The people of God, today facing so many challenges of injustice and divisiveness, would do well to adopt this hymn as their theme song. I hope it speaks to you as deeply as it spoke to me.
“We Are Called”
David Haas

Come! Live in the light!
Shine with the joy and the love of the Lord!
We are called to be light for the kingdom,
to live in the freedom of the city of God!

We are called to act with justice.
We are called to love tenderly.
We are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God.

Come! Open your heart!
Show your mercy to all those in fear!

We are called to be hope for the hopeless,
so all hatred and blindness will be no more!

Sing! Sing a new song!
Sing of that great day when all will be one!
God will reign and we’ll walk with each other as sisters
and brothers united in love!

Protesters cry out on the streets of our cities, but we are called to live in the light. Immigrants are detained in our airports, but we are called to live in the light. Immigrants are refused refuge in our country, but we are called to live in the light. Our leaders make decisions based on divisive ideologies, but we are called to live in the light.

So while protesters call for compassion, immigrants find no refuge among us, and politicians argue about what’s right and wrong, let us make sure we live as God’s people in a broken world.

Come! Live in the light!
Please listen to this beautiful hymn on YouTube at this link:

The Strong, Bold Power of Hope

enlight1

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.

– II Corinthians 3:12

Boldness is a part of our Christian witness. Holy boldness makes it possible for us to proclaim, without apology, Christian values, justice for every person, and the radical reconciliation that has the power to unite us. There has never been a time in history when it was more important to hold tightly to a strong, resilient hope that gives its life to restore beloved communities where justice reigns. When I was just beginning my ministry, a Seminary professor, Paul Simmons, asked a compelling and provocative question: “Is what you’re doing worth giving your life for?”

Curtiss Paul DeYoung and Allan Aubrey Boesak wrote a haunting book entitled Radical Reconciliation: Beyond Political Pietism and Christian Quietism. In the book, they present a political theology that proposes the kind of boldness that can result in true reconciliation. They assert that so much of what is being called reconciliation and social justice stops short of completing the complex work required.

Too often “reconciliation” is used merely to reach some political accommodation that does not address the critical questions of justice, equality, and dignity that are so prominent in the biblical understanding of reconciliation . . . When Christians discover that what is happening is in fact not reconciliation, and yet seek to accommodate this situation and refuse to run the risk and challenge of prophetic truth-telling, we become complicit; we deny the demands of the gospel and refuse solidarity with the powerless and oppressed.

The authors continue by denouncing ineffective attempts at reconciliation and calling for bold reconciliation that brings genuine hope. What does it mean, the authors ask, to live out radical reconciliation in our lives? They call the reader to immerse their lives in the work of restoring beloved communities. DeYoung poses this question:

Do racially diverse congregations automatically experience reconciliation or could they simply become demographically diverse but not racially reconciled?

The authors call attention to the “need for a reconciliation that is more than conflict resolution and political accommodation; a reconciliation that resists the temptation to domesticate the radical Jesus, pandering to our need for comfortable reconciliation under the guise of a kind of political pietism and Christian quietism that deny the victims of affliction the comfort of justice.”

Paul Simmons’ question continues to cast its shadow over my life. “Is what you’re doing worth giving your life for?” The question permeated my life from the moment he asked it, prompting me to question myself over and over again. What is it that was guiding my life? Was it worth giving my life for? Did it hold the power that could shift the world on its axis? Did I have the boldness to hope for genuine justice? And did I possess the strong, resilient power of hope necessary to fully engage?

It is a privilege to hold something robust and resilient called hope, which has the power to shift the world on its axis.

― Krista Tippett, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living