When God Sends Your Black Friends White Paternalism

So there’s this post going around, “When God Sends Your White Daughter A Black Husband.”  I would like to take some time to do a close reading of the language in it and talk a little bit about how, as white people, we can do horribly wrong things in our attempts to be helpful when it comes to confronting racial bias.  If you have not read the post, it is a letter that a white mother has written to other white mothers whose daughters may be choosing interracial marriage.  And while it is meant to encourage other white people to embrace their children’s choices, it goes too far in whitewashing very complex racial issues and ignoring the consequences that white attitudes have for people of color.

I’m going to go through that post now, copying the harshest of the language and deconstructing what may be read as implied meanings.

The story starts out with the writer explaining how she’d had a wish list that she prayed for her daughter’s future husband to be, and jokes that God “called [her] bluff” by sending “an African American with dreads named Glenn.”  What is unstated here is that she’d always assumed the man that she was praying for would be white, and it turns out that if she’d thought about it, she may have prayed for a white husband.  But given the title of the post I suppose that’s not surprising.

The writer then goes on to say that interracial marriage used to be taboo and even illegal, but isn’t anymore, and states that “though I never shared this prejudice, I never expected the issue to enter my life.”  Again, she’d always assumed her daughter would marry someone white, even though she claims she isn’t prejudiced.  So if she wasn’t prejudiced, why did she assume that her daughter would marry someone white and why did she say that God sending her daughter a black husband was “calling her bluff?”  Despite the author positioning herself as being openminded and accepting, her mere writing of the article gives tell to the lie- it had never occurred to her that her daughter may date someone black.  There is a very real, subtle but real, prejudice at play there.

“Glenn moved from being a black man to beloved son when I saw his true identity as an image bearer of God, a brother in Christ, and a fellow heir to God’s promises.”  The structure and language here are very interesting.  First, Glenn was a black man.  Then, as he proved he had certain good qualities, he also became something else: a beloved son.  This implies that being a beloved son and a black man are somehow contradictory or disconnected ideas.  Also, it states that his “true identity” is as an image bearer of God.  Is that also separate from his identity as a black man?

Then there is the anecdote about a fellow Christian’s worry over the possible future children of this union, “It’s just . . . their future children. They have no idea what’s ahead of them!”  This confession shows that there was an acknowledgement that having interracial children could be difficult.  What is interesting is that the writer brushes this off as a shrug- no one knows what is ahead of them!  No one picks the trials they face!  But that admits that the author believes having interracial children would be a trial.  That race affects one’s life is both tacitly acknowledged and painfully ignored simultaneously, in the way that only a white person can manage.

Then the author gives this problematic advice:  “Calling Uncle Fred a bigot because he doesn’t want your daughter in an interracial marriage dehumanizes him and doesn’t help your daughter either.”  Oh.  Okay.  The author encourages people to simply ignore “naysayers” as long as people aren’t “undermining the marriage.”  I think it’s worth mentioning here that experiencing bigotry does undermine marriages.  Relatives objecting to the marriage based solely off of the color of one person’s sin does undermine the marriage.  Encouraging people to just lovingly ignore racism helps no-one, other than tacitly racist people who don’t like confrontation.

The post continues on, talking about building relationships and trusting God.  It’s all very saccharine and generally good advice to anyone whose child is marrying anyone.  What bothers me, though, is that the issue of prejudice and racism is never confronted head-on.  If anything, prejudice and racism are swept under the carpet.  The author never delves into why she may have never assumed or wanted her daughter to marry a black man.  While she does lather on her son-in-law’s positive qualities rather thickly, she never discusses why those qualities may have surprised her in a black man with dreads.  She never talks about why other people might object to the marriage.

She does the opposite.  She ignores the issue of racism as if it weren’t important or even central to the necessity to write about her experiences.  She ignores the impact of race on the experience of of her daughter and son-in-law.  I have to wonder if her daughter and son-in-law feel that the proper approach to relatives who objected to their union was just to ignore the racism and pray?  I wonder if they felt that such objection undermined their relationship?

Instead, the issue of race was treated as a merely cosmetic issue.  I could imagine a similar missive being written about when God sends your tall daughter a short husband, or your athletic daughter a chubby man.

The impact of race on people’s lives is manifold, especially so for people of African heritage, even more-more-so for people who are known descendants of slaves, and I imagine that impact is even greater in the South (where the writer lives.)  What bothers me the most is the lack of introspection on the part of the writer, and the lack of repentance, and the lack of a call to introspection or repentance.  Without understanding how racism works in our own hearts we cannot repent of it or work against it.  We cannot ignore it as a cosmetic or inconsequential concern and simply shrug it away as if it doesn’t matter.  Rather than being a much-needed confessional of how entrenched and dangerous racism is, how badly we need to confront and defeat it, the writer instead gave us a rather prim 8-step tutorial on how to smile and pretend nothing is wrong.

All the while, what is really wrong is clearly printed between the lines.

 

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Safety Is Not Guaranteed

Or, “How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Refugees.”

Ben Carson proudly backs a “majority of US Governors” who want to block Syrian refugees from coming into this country.  Paul Ryan calls for “a pause” in the refugee process, which typically takes two years, to reassure political leaders that refugees are adequately vetted.  (They are screened seven times, by several agencies, more than any other kind of immigrant.)  People across the United States are calling for the refugees to be kept out.  Government officials propose alternative solutions like, say, forcing all the refugees back into Syria and simply putting them in camps there and guarding them.

I understand that this is a complex issue and answers don’t come easily, but when I see my Christian brothers and sisters calling for the refugees to be sent back to Syria, or to be housed in “nearby countries where people are like them,” what I see isn’t a rational discussion about the issue, but a reaction based off of fear and xenophobia.  I have seen Christians using the Bible to defend both sides of the argument, arguing alternately that the Old Testament is stringent in it’s command to care for foreigners in our land and that we are called to provide for our own.

People say things like “why take in refugees from THERE when we have homeless people HERE?”

People say, “why should we WELCOME TERRORISTS?”

People say, “we have a responsibility to protect our families!”

Bible verses fly like chaff on the wind, the casing of an argument that is built around a very different kind of seed.

So come now, my friends, let’s try this again.

Why take in refugees from THERE when we have homeless people HERE?  Once upon a time, I was a supervisor in a homeless shelter.  And while my salary was paid by the kindness of our donors, and we received adequate support, I was always a little shocked by how many people didn’t help.  The amount of people who actively supported and donated, especially the amount of people who gave with any regularity, was a small percentage of the booming Christian population surrounding us.  The truth is that while homelessness is a growing problem in the United States, the people actively working to help homeless people are almost constantly having to beg for support, redirecting funds and personnel that could be helping the homeless to raise more funds.  If we really cared about the homeless, shelters wouldn’t have to be constantly begging for cash and calling their donors to ask for more food and socks and diapers.  It is both disheartening and outrageous to see homelessness used as an excuse to NOT help refugees, when the government funding for the programs that help the homeless is constantly under threat of being removed.  The Republican Presidential Nominees using “we need to help our people here” as a talking point for refusing the refugees have also said that they would cut funding to HUD, which sponsors shelters, and have said they would get rid of “tax loopholes” like the Community Development Block grant, which is part of what kept my own shelter in the black.

Point one:  You don’t get to use the homeless as a shield for your opinion if you actively support defunding the programs that currently keep them off the street.  Entire Republican field- I am talking to you.

Why should we welcome refugees if some might be terrorists?  Well, for one, while people are quick to talk about rising crime rates in European countries accepting refugees, the evidence is that the crime rate has risen in proportion to populations, showing that refugees commit the same amount of, or fewer, crimes comparative to their native counterparts.  While one bomber in Paris was found with a fake Syrian passport, his presence in France was due entirely to the amount of refugees arriving on boats in Greece and the European Union’s open border policies and lax refugee laws.  The refugees awaiting placement in the US are not the same ones washing onto the shores in Greece.  They are living in UN refugee camps and applied for placement years ago.  They are going through an intense screening process and would only be placed in the States if they are deemed to be a good fit: they have family here already, are connected with community groups here already, or have skills that would make them beneficial to the US economy.  The refugees that the UN would refer for placement in the US would already have protective barriers that are known to decrease the likelihood of terrorism, since terrorists are generally people who are disconnected from communities due to extreme hardship.  The presence of a fake passport on a terrorist in Paris tells us that the terrorists want us to fear refugees and send them back to Syria.  Do we want to be so easily manipulated?

Point Two:  If you fear refugees, you do what the terrorists want.  The first step to overcoming terrorism is to not fear what terrorists ask you to.

But we still have a responsibility to protect our families!  Except we have to ask ourselves what we need to protect them FROM.  One thing we want to protect them from is living in a future where the actions we take today could haunt them.  One way we could haunt our children is by making our country responsible for millions of deaths because refugee camps were overrun, people hand nowhere to go, so they were trying to cross the seas en masse on rubber rafts.  The fact that the US was unwilling to take in Jewish immigrants prior to WW2 remains as a stain on our collective conscience.  How many people could we have saved if we’d been compassionate?  But people had, then, the same fears they have today:  what if the refugees steal our jobs, rape our women, cause crimes, are actually spies?  While the problems today are slightly different and there is legitimate reason to suspect that terrorist organizations would take advantage of refugee programs, that is why the government of the United States already has refugees pass seven screenings through various organizations before approving them for placement, in a process that takes several years.  Ten thousand unscreened refugees aren’t going to show up and wage war tomorrow.  It isn’t going to happen.  While one or two psychopaths could possibly leak through, it would be in a percentage proportionate to the population at large.  And while one or two psychopaths can cause a lot of damage, we face mass shootings from our own citizens with some regularity.  By taking in refugees, we help the UN to provide stability throughout the Middle East by taking some of the pressure off of their refugee camps.  This helps to keep everyone safe and sap the power from the terrorists, who benefit from Syrian families suffering.  Besides which, if you feel justified in “keeping your family safe” at the expense of the suffering of innocent people, that is truly shudder-worthy.

Refugee camps catch on fire.

Refugee camps are susceptible to fatal disease outbreaks.

Female refugees, especially young women, are often the victims of unreported crime.

Refugees have inconsistent access to medical care, to education, and to basic niceties of life.  The war in Syria could rage for decades; in the meantime, are we meant to believe that we make the world safer by leaving these people to burn to death, to die of viral meningitis, to be raped and beaten?

Will their children learn to love us and our freedoms if we leave them to suffer?

Point three:  You cannot make the world safer by perpetuating the conditions that breed terrorism.  If you want the Muslim world to love us and our freedoms, bring them here.  Show them our freedoms.  Love them.  Let them learn to love us.

Besides which, the Bible doesn’t guarantee us safety.  If anything, it does the opposite.  The Bible is full of references to persecution, stating that as Christ suffered so we will also suffer as his disciples.  Let’s not forget the fact that we follow someone who lovingly offered his body to the scourge so that his blood would be shed to save us.  And we can’t even offer up our local community center to a refugee family so their children can play?

1 Corinthians 14:10-  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

This is an opportunity for us, in our weakness and fear, to be made strong.  This is an opportunity to put our faith in God, to put our fate in God’s hands, and to trust that His will be done.  This is a time to pray for the wisdom of our leaders that they make the right call when placing refugees.  This is a time for us to sacrifice our pride as the servants of mankind and to pour out blessings on the refugees, trusting that as we do so in obedience to Christ that our faith and humility will open their hearts to God’s love.

This is a time to act like Christ.

Let us not forget that Jesus washed Judas’ feet the night before he died.  That he ate with Judas, that he called him friend.

Let’s not forget that anything God calls for us to sacrifice, even our lives, is never too much.  That we have faith in him that he uses every harm for good, every wound to show his grace and mercy.  When we open our mouths to say that we must ignore the needs of the innocent because it is “too risky” to help, that we must leave orphans and widows in squalor because we must protect ourselves, what we say out of the other side of our mouth is that we no longer believe that serving other people in obedience to God offers us any sort of reward.  We want to reward ourselves with our own safety.

Is that what faith does?

Let us not forget that as the Bible teaches us, everything we have is God’s in the first place.

Psalm 24:1  The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it

All we have we possess as His stewards.  If we truly believe that, that this is His country and not ours, we need to ask ourselves not what we want but what He requires.

Does God want his children in the Muslim world to suffer in camps, living exposed to the elements in tents, subject to fire and disease, famine and cruelty, indefinitely while a war wages in their hometowns?  Does he want us to turn a blind eye to their plight out of fear that one or two radicals may slip through the cracks?  Does God value OUR safety more than THEIRS?

photo via the associated press

GUEST POST: Lee Goff reviews Honest Conversation

(A review of my novella Honest Conversation by Lee Goff, author of the Thunder Trilogy books)

Honest Conversation’ is a novella that wastes no time getting directly to one of the most controversial issues of our day, homosexuality in the church. The story opens with Zoe, an associate pastor in a local church, agonizing over the congregation’s reaction towards a recent addition to their church, two gay men, Kyle and Evan. Kyle is a long time believer, Evan is not. Enter John, the lead pastor for the church, bearing the burden of leading a church in the way he feels Christ would, which at the moment seems to be in opposition to the feelings of the membership.

Zoe, for her own personal reasons that are revealed in the book, champions both kyle and Evan, to the point of threatening resignation if they are not treated as she feels they should be. John, the one called to shepherd the church, tries to find the path that pleases everyone, especially the influential members that strongly oppose the gay couple.

Kay has chosen her characters nicely and writes in a style comfortable and easy flowing. She gratefully skips the ’feel what I feel’ format and leaves the reaction up to the reader. There is not a deep development of the characters, but that is typical in a novella. I confess some disappointment here, but it is a compliment rather than a criticism, as she has given us enough of John and Zoe to want more. In John, we are shown a pastor, the shepherd, as opposed to a preacher. He is more interested in the spiritual health of his flock than he is the potential loss of members, and make no mistake about it, this threat is a real one in our churches today. This is refreshing, and likely contradictory to the reality of many churches. Just my opinion, but his character could serve as an example of how a challenged pastor might handle this situation in their own church.

Zoe, on the other hand, irritated me beyond description. I give kudos to the author in being able to achieve this, since I rarely get this personally involved with characters. Zoe is non-compromising, bull-headed, and seems to ignore the pain her pastor and friend is going through during this time. It is in this view I have of the characters that might just be the most accurate mirror of our church society today. Sides are chosen; an ‘all or nothing’ attitude developed, and because of that, the ability to compromise is gone. Here is where the author makes a difference, and by doing so, sets this book apart from those with a singular agenda owned by the author, and the intent of pushing that agenda on the reader.

I’m not going to spoil the ending, but it shocked me. I expected a neatly wrapped up story with a bow designed by the author and her self-imposed agenda of accepting gays into the church without any thought to the sin that the others feel accompanies the lifestyle. The author, through the wisdom of john, the pastor, gives us what just might be the best way for a church to address this issue. It is not a compromise, it is not a victory for one side only. It is possibly just the way a man that walked 2000 years ago would have handled it.

I do not recommend this book to someone with a closed mind; unwilling to learn. I do, however, recommend it to anyone open to learning something about this issue, and willing to look at it as Christ Himself might have.

One more thing…that criticism. It’s too short. The characters and their personalities leave us wanting more of them. They are who they are due to their past, and I wanted more of that. And in the world of authors, this criticism is perhaps the best thing one could hear.

–Lee Goff

Fear our Love.

Christians are not the parents of this world.  I say that because at times we act as if we are.  We want to dole out punishment and appropriate discipline to all those whom we see as disobeying.  “Hey. single mom, your current struggles are the natural consequence of your actions!  If you’d followed God’s plan your life wouldn’t be so hard!”  Or, “hey, gay person, you’ve got to get straight to get to God or you’ll burn in hell, m’kay?”  Or, “Hey, society, just going to change a few laws over here to keep your Judeo-Christian values right or God is gonna judge us all, don’t want that happening!”

Missing the point, missing the point, missing the point.

We aren’t society’s parents.  There’s a difference between being God’s ministering hands and feet to express the Gospel to this world and being God’s spank paddle.  One, we are called to be.  The other?  We aren’t.  See, the thing is, all of humanity is called to be God’s sons and daughters.  We’re all siblings.  When I tell my son if he throws his toys his toys are going in my closet and he’s getting a time out, his sister is right there to let me know that her brother is stressed and angry and he can’t help it and he needs a hug and if I give him a time out I’m Mean Mommy.  When I tell her that if she doesn’t respond to me because she’s watching a video I’m going to turn off the TV, her brother is right there to defend her.  They’ve got each other’s backs.  And when I dole out the discipline and go into the other room, guess who is sneaking in to hug and kiss and talk their sibling through it?  That’s the way of things.  I, as my gay Christian friends sister in Christ, see my first and foremost job as being their advocate, not being their jury.  I also don’t need to be their voice of conviction because that is why Christ sent us the Holy Spirit.  What they do need is me as their sister, the one who will stay up late to whisper to them.  The one who will argue for them in the face of judgment.  The one who will conspire with them to wreak havoc when necessary.  Their partner in humanity.

Sometimes, when I read Christian magazines and articles online, I start to picture the Bride of Christ as a nagging wife, saying “didn’t I tell you last week if you didn’t stop that you’d burn in Hell?  How many times must I remind you?”  It saddens me deeply.  Our example is supposed to be Christ, the one who came to Earth to advocate for our healing.  The one who gave us freedom from beneath the law.  The one who acted as the supreme advocate, standing between us and our judgment at the expense of his body, his dignity, and his life.  Yet in his name we enforce the law at the expense of faith, bullying, belittling, and threatening our fellow humans, our fellow brothers and sisters, until they turn from the Church with a resigned sigh, throw up their hands, and disavow God.

And why shouldn’t they?  When I punish my children unfairly, without any sympathy, grace or mercy, because I myself am scared and frustrated, they turn from me.  Our words must be selfless.  They must be motivated by love.  They must be tempered with knowledge of God’s grace and mercy and kindness.  They must be modeled after Christ.  They must never be motivated by our own fears.  Let’s be honest with ourselves- a lot of the condemnation the church heaps out is fear-centered.  No gay marriage?  We’re afraid of the consequences to society.  Discipline the single mother?  We’re afraid of the reputation that embracing her would give our church, and afraid she’s going to keep sleeping around, and afraid that she’s going to expect us to help her out and take her responsibilities on ourselves.  Rebuke the tattooed punk?  Let’s be honest, we don’t understand him.  We find his attitude offensive.  We’re afraid of what he’ll act like if he sticks around.  And that gay sixteen year old boy?  If we don’t rebuke him, he might be gay forever.  And we’re terrified of what that might mean.

It’s not God, it’s fear.  And when we reprimand our fellow man in God’s name, claiming that it is love, all we ultimately do is teach them to fear and reject God.  Are we supposed to hold each other accountable in love?  Absolutely.  Just like how my son will whisper to his sister that Mommy said something and she’d better say “yes mom”.  Just like my daughter will tell my son, “If mom sees you doing that she will be SO MAD.”  But that is something done out of charity, something done out of love, something done out of sympathy and a common goal.  It’s done to improve a life, not to condemn actions.  When we intercede with each other we have to do it out of God’s spirit and heart, and with knowledge of the consequences of our actions.

When I see the multitude of people who love God but are ashamed of Christianity, all I can think is that if we truly were doing things God’s way the result of our actions wouldn’t be fruits of bitterness, doubt, and loss of faith.

Somewhere, something has gone horribly wrong.

Act out the Gospel, not a Battle.

“I have come into the world as a light,  so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.  If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.”  (John 12: 46-47)

I once heard someone say that anyone who lives in the United States and does not follow Christ’s teaching has chosen a life of sin over God’s love with no excuse, because no one who lives in this fair country could possibly have missed hearing the Gospel.  I wonder at that kind of attitude.  For one, the Bible is clear that it is nobody’s business judging those outside of the church, they are subject only to the laws of man and should not be judged by God’s law.  Second, the simple fact that they live in this country does not mean they ever experienced God’s extravagant love at the hands of one of His children.  The “gospel” that they’ve been exposed to is likely the sort of contemptful attitude that birthed the judgment now being heaped over them.  No thank you, ma’am!  If that were my primary knowledge of God I’d be an atheist, too.  Third, do you think that God has ever stopped loving them and desiring to express His love to them?  Do you think that God Himself has judged them as unworthy?  Do you think God takes their rejection of the consumerist, judgmental, and self-involved face of American Christianity personally?  Honestly, most of the time when I speak with people who have rejected the American church I hear their words not as an offense against God but as a pretty righteous condemnation of all of the behaviors which the Bible itself warns against.  Should we have church leaders with private jets while there aren’t enough shelters to take in the homeless?  Should we be picketing gay rights?  Should we be judgmental of single mothers, of the poor?  Should we be glossing over the pain that humanity experiences with hyperbolic praise songs?  Should the music we put out in God’s name be so homogenized, bland, and stripped of multi-cultural influences?  Should we be so uninterested in protecting our planet, which we claim God gave to us as a good gift?  And on, and on.

As Christians, we should hear the argument against the church not as an attack by enemy combatants who need to be neutralized immediately by any means necessary, but as an opportunity to learn and grow.  Too often we label anyone who reacts with skepticism as an “enemy of the faith”, sometimes going as far as to name them as an agent of Satan.  Who benefits from this?  The Bible does not command us to destroy our enemies with words, but instead:

Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.  (2 Timothy 2:25-26)

Even if you do believe that anyone who speaks against your beliefs is an agent of the devil, the Bible still doesn’t justify the kind of hateful rhetoric that colors Christian debates.  (Especially debates with non-Christians.)  We are commanded to gentleness and love, and prayerful consideration.  Always.  We are to lead people to a place where God grants them repentance, not to hammer it into their faces with the Bible.

I am frankly appalled at the tone of some of the discussions going on in the church.  Gay people, poor people, and people of different ethnicities are metaphorically strung up as if they were terrorists who need to be tortured into submission before a metaphorical bomb explodes and destroys our society.  What is the defense for this?  Are they not also Gods children?  Are they not also people who are capable of recieving God’s conviction?  Are they not also desired and loved?  This is the Gospel, not warfare.

It is to be spread through love, not with fists.

 

Yes, I call that judging.

I was recently asked “when did disagreeing with a lifestyle become being judgmental?” I think this is an important question, and one that I want to give the best possible response to. I respect the fact that Christians need to honor their convictions, and that many Christians believe that the Bible is clear that homosexual acts are sinful. I have no desire to tell people with that conviction that they are wrong. So I will ask that as this post is read that anyone with that conviction keep in mind that I will honor it, and don’t simply respond, “but it’s sin.”

Let’s look at a not-so-hypothetical situation. “Jim” has an anger problem, and everyone knows about it. Jim often goes off in rages, to the point that it embarasses his wife and children. He’ll scold his kids loudly in church and he’ll admonish his wife to the point of tears in front of others. It seems fair to make a judgment that Jim needs to deal with his anger, right? In that situation a lot of people would say it would be appropriate for the pastor of Jim’s church to call on Jim and offer him up a big heaping helping of conviction.

Here’s the problem: Let’s say that the pastor takes Jim out for lunch and tells Jim exactly how his rage issue goes against God’s plan for his life and that it needs to change. What happens then? Let’s imagine for a minute that his rage stems from something far beneath the surface. Jim is addicted to pornography and has for years been neglecting his wife and even his responsibilities to his children to feed his habit. He has a hunger that is not sated by anything and his rage stems from that need that he seeks to meet through porn- but porn isn’t enough. So he rages at the world, and as he digs himself deeper into the cycle the explosions of his hurt and need and anger become more intense.

So the pastor meets with Jim. Jim doesn’t respond in brokeness and repentance, he responds in even deeper rage. Because his rage is just an expression of something else, a far deeper chasm between he and his Savior. By judging Jim, the people in his life neglected to discover the true place of need in his life. They cut themselves off from God’s heart for Jim and made Jim’s alienation even worse. Imagine a different situation, one in which the pastor simply acknowledged that Jim needed to feel God’s love in order to be convicted. One in which the pastor pulled Jim aside and lovingly stated “things seem awful rough for you, want to talk about it?” One in which Jim’s deeper need, the need for intimacy and regard, was met. One in which Jim was made safe enough that he could open up about the true wounds that drove his rage. What could happen, in that situation? Who could Jim become?

This is the problem with saying, “gay people live in sin” or “poor people are lazy and deserve it”. You make yourself their judge, you simply do. While in essence your statement may be truthful, at least in your own eyes, you still aren’t justified in making it. There is simply no way to make such a statement without the inference of motive. If you want to say, “gay people live in sin”, you infer that they know and understand that their actions offend God and don’t care. I don’t know of any gay people for whom such is the case, many of them express an intimate relationship with God that I am frankly jealous of, and feel a deepness of love and acceptance I am in awe of. Many of them state, and I believe them wholeheartedly, that if they had even the slightest inkling that expressing their sexuality offended God they would set it aside in the second. The problem with saying, “they are sinning” is that it implies your own personal knowledge that they need to stop. That comment is often followed by a second comment that we are meant to judge the behaviors of our brethren. That likely comes from verses like these:

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)

Context: those verses follow a statement that it is known that one of the members of the church is having an affair with his father’s wife. Paul calls it something “even a pagan would not tolerate”. While I will admit that in some extreme cases where the actions of one person are so extreme, they ought to be expelled so that they, as Paul said, “hand him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh so that his spirit may be saved.” But that was a case of incest, not a case of gay. While there are some verses that caution Christians to judge the actions of each other, the Bible is far more full of verses that caution against it. Such judgments are only to be made, as 1 Corinthians 5 stated, in mourning. Jesus himself said, “You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one.” (John 8:15) If God’s own son was reluctant to judge, how much more reluctant should we, as sinful humans, be?

We can’t just idly judge entire subsets of our population and feel that we are justified in doing so. We must seek after God’s heart first and foremost. We must take on a mantle of mourning when we are called to judge, knowing that seperation from the Church brings destruction. If your heart, reader, is for the destruction of the gays or the poor then you bring condemnation on your own head. I, for one, withhold any judgment. I will speak God’s love until my dying breath, knowing that in my own life more conviction has been birthed from love than from judgment.

Gleanings for the poor.

The ancient Israelites had a welfare system which God himself implemented:

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.   Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you.   I am the Lord your God.”  (Leviticus 23:21)

In Leviticus 25 God also commands a year of Jubilee, where people are to return to their clans of origin, debts are forgiven and the imprisoned are to be set free.  One has to wonder why God made those commands.  What was His plan, His intention?

Let that simmer for a minute while we talk about something else.  In contemporary American churches there is a line of reasoning that goes like this:  some poor people are hard pressed and definitely deserving of charity, but other poor people choose to be poor and depend on the government, they “game” the system so that they are able to live quite comfortably without having to make much effort, and they ought to be cut off.  The idea is that there are some poor out there who would change their circumstances with the right support, and we need to cut off the undeserving poor so that we can help the poor who are able to be helped.  Oh, isn’t that thought tempting?  It has an allure, a taste which is so sweet when it leaves one’s lips.  But don’t fall for it- God himself made no division between the poor whom did or didn’t deserve to be helped.  In fact, God said something which seems to contradict that idea:

There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.   (Deuteronomy 15:11)

God doesn’t say, “be openhanded with the poor because in that way they will become middle class and productive to our society, but don’t bother with those who don’t show potential.”  God says, “there are always going to be poor”, and then commands the Israelites to be generous.  That makes me wonder if the generosity is not ever supposed to be about eliminating poverty, but about something else.  Perhaps the reason the generosity is commanded is not just for the benefit of the reciever, but for the benefit of the giver as well.  There are practical reasons to reduce the burdens of poverty:  reduction in crime, better standard of living for everyone, raising the bottom for the betterment of all society.  But, there’s something else there too:

 Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.  (Proverbs 28:27)

Maybe the reason generosity to the poor is commanded is not just about God’s love for the poor, but also about His love for the rich.  The Bible does say some very negative things about laziness, and curses for sluggards.  The poor who are poor by nature of their own choices have brought their own curses down on their heads.  They live out their punishment every day, there is no reason to bring further condemnation into the arena by judging them ourselves or withholing our aid because we feel they are undeserving. We should give freely and leave their punishment to their own hand, and their judgment to God.  You see, by giving we change ourselves.  We become more like Jesus, who died for the sins of an undeserving world.  The Bible is full of talk of the decietfulness of wealth and cautions against the love of money.  We should not love our money more than we love our fellow man.  We should be generous for the sake of generosity, but also understanding that through generosity with our money we purchase something that we could never buy through spending on ourselves.  Jesus understood this when he told the Parable of the dishonest manager, and cautioned that what is seen as shrewd in the eyes of man is detestable in God’s sight, and said:

“I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”  (Luke 16:9)

Often, I hear people decry the government instituting a welfare program because “it’s the job of the Church.”  That brings us into another argument about the Church and State and the contradiction of claiming that the government was instuted by God but somehow cannot do the Lord’s work, but that is a distraction.  All I really want to say is that we need to decide what matters as a society.  Why can’t we pay our taxes and bless them as they go, to honor God, and not begrudge the poor of our society the gleanings of capitalism?