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

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In all seriousness, what would Jesus do?

Sometimes I feel like I get upset about the wrong things.  Let me explain, there’s this meme going around that talks about a new pastor’s first sermon to his shiny megachurch.  The story goes that the pastor pretended to be a homeless man and everyone ignored him, even when he begged for money.  He was asked to stand in the back of the church, and when he was finally introduced everyone was horrified, until he preached a really scathing sermon which culminated in his asking the congregation if they were ever going to choose to be disciples.

It seems like most of my Christian friends have been forwarding this meme around.  A lot of people say things like, “wow,” or “so humbling!”

My first reaction to it was to be sick to my stomach.  Then, I was angry.  Then, I was angry-sad.  Then, I had a headache.

There’s a part of me that thinks we all need reminders that Jesus told us that we would be judged by how we treat “the least of these.”  So why don’t I like that meme?

Okay, let’s go through it step by step:

  •  It isn’t true.  This is a story that someone made up, probably to try to put some of the things that Jesus said into a more modern day context, making the church analogous to the pharisees.  I’ve made that analogy myself, so why does it bother me so much in this context?  While I am a little bothered by the meme’s assertion that only a handful of people out of 10,000 would acknowledge the pastor’s presence, I’m more bothered by the pastor himself.  Here we have a well-to-do man with his suit and tie concealed under homeless man’s clothes.  He isn’t really a man of the street that lives off charity, but he pretends to be one.  When Christ said, “What you do to the least of these you do to me” he wasn’t saying it from a comfortable position as a pastor of a megachurch whose tailored suit was hidden under beggar’s clothes- he was saying it as a beggar.  He lived off of the charity and hospitality of others, so when he said, “do it as you would to me” that could be taken quite literally.  If you would welcome Jesus into your home, welcome the beggars in.  If you had food to share with Jesus you had food to share with the lame.  If you would offer Jesus a cup of water, offer it to the sick.  Every offering as such Jesus would accept as an offering to his own person- not because Jesus didn’t need the offerings, but because he did.  These days, we as Christians are far distanced from the reality which Jesus had to live.  I don’t know if we really understand the fact that Jesus didn’t have a pension plan, couldn’t file unemployment, and couldn’t ply his trade while traveling and teaching.  He didn’t have a trust fun he was living off of, he lived off of the goodwill of others.  When we feed the hungry and care for the sick and give room to the homeless, we are remembering that God himself once shared their lot.  This meme?  It doesn’t seem like a humble reminder of that reality, it feels like the opposite.  It treats the reality of Christ’s life that he lived for us as a charade, to be put on and then taken off at the most humiliating moment.
  • It’s a “GOTCHA” moment, not a humble reminder.  Jesus doesn’t deal in shame, so why should we praise those who do?  This isn’t the case of a pastor humbly searching for truth in the guise of a homeless man, like this one, this is a pastor knowingly setting a trap to catch his congregation in.  The whole story hinges off of the judgment that Christians, as a whole, aren’t choosing to be disciples.  That churches do ignore people who aren’t dressed right.  That parishioners with cash in their pockets for the offering basket would give no change to a hungry, needy man sharing their pews.  The pastor, prior to ever preaching a sermon to his new congregation, has already decided they aren’t following Christ and need a scolding.  And rather than, say, inviting actual homeless people in to be cared for, he pretends to be one just to hammer a point home.  No, no thank you.  Jesus didn’t contrive situations to shame his followers.  He lived his life as a genuine example.  Those teachable moments the Bible is full of?  They happened as a natural consequence of how Christ lived.  The only time he set up “traps” for anyone was in response to the traps that had been set up for him.  Jesus didn’t trade in shaming his followers, so neither should we.
  • Who made it up?  What was their motive? We don’t know.  Rather than putting their own name and face to the tale, someone made up a story just to prove their point.  I’m all for parables, Jesus himself was known for them, but this doesn’t feel like that.  This is a lie parading as the truth.  The internet, yes, is full of such things.  Pictures of babies born with deformities meant to shame you if you don’t share them.  Mangled fetuses.  Abused dogs and cats for whom some unnamed stranger will donate a dollar per “like.”  To put it plainly, bullshit.  But this bullshit I’ll take personally, because this bullshit is about the church.  This bullshit about the church hinges off of the fact that no one will question the idea that a congregation of ten thousand are ready and willing to reject a homeless man.

So what does that tell us about the person who wrote the story, and what does it say about those who share it?

Judgment, and shame.  We’ve all judged the church as having fallen on it’s sword, and we all believe that it needs to be shamed.

What.

 

The.

 

Hell?

 

I spent one of the most fulfilling years of my life working as the site supervisor for a homeless shelter.  That shelter operated based off of the goodwill and cooperation of a couple of handfuls of churches surrounding a relatively small, but active, community.  Volunteers stayed with our guests overnight to make sure their needs were met.  Volunteers prepared and delivered hot meals for them twice a day.  Volunteers cleaned up after them.  Volunteers often picked them up and drove them to church on Sunday mornings.  Volunteers talked to them.  Volunteers let them know about job openings in the community, sometimes offered them small jobs, brought gently used clothing to hand out, made Easter and Christmas baskets, and donated thousands of dollars every night to pay the staff who served them.

None of those churches would have ignored a homeless person on a Sunday morning.  Quite the opposite.  Their attention and interest brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it to this day.

Let’s be evenhanded.  If we all agree that most churches don’t give a crap about the people who walk in their doors, what does that say about us?  Our faith?  Or, even more important, what does it say about our belief in God?

Essentially, what that meme says is not that we need to be reminded that Jesus asks us to care for the “least of these”;  what it says is that faith is pointless.  That no one is getting anywhere.  That two thousand years after Christ’s death, the church is useless.  That Christians are, as a whole, hypocrites.  (With the exception of a few self-righteous pricks waiting around for “gotcha” moments to humiliate us all and remind us how little we’ve grown.)  The meme doesn’t remind us of Christ’s love, it reminds us of our own selfishness.  What it offers isn’t hope but condemnation.

I have seen a pastor preaching shirtless in the streets because he gave the shirt off his back (literally) to a street kid.  I’ve seen a poor woman wander into a church in the middle of a service and seen everything stop while the congregation found out what she needed and got her help- including people running to the store to buy her baby diapers and formulas, and her having so many lunch invitations she had to choose who to turn down.

That’s my faith.

I’ve seen people give away the dinner they just cooked for their family and have toast for dinner instead because they heard that someone down the street lost their job and couldn’t get groceries.

That’s my faith.

I’ve seen families take in kids whose parents were arrested so that those kids wouldn’t have to go into foster care.

That’s my faith.

I’ve seen so many people show up at the hospital to pray for a sick relative that some of them never even got in the room.

That’s my faith.

That’s my church.  And I’m not just speaking about one church, but many.  All of the truly genuine people whose example brought me back to the feet of God after I thought I’d left him forever.  I may speak about the judgment of the church making me question my faith in God, but never let it be forgotten that it was the genuine love of the church that brought me back to him.  This is a sword that cuts both ways and cannot be ignored.  Yes, some Christians are assholes.  But there are still many who truly seek to follow Christ and emulate his love, and the only cure for the one is the praise of the other.

If we want people to stop being assholes, we shouldn’t be assholes towards them.  We should seek to be as loving, open, genuine, and kind as they are not.

The solution for a church that ignores the homeless isn’t a heaping helping of condemnation- it’s a loving example of the proper way.

*

Do I sometimes have harsh things to say to other Christians?  Yes.  I believe some of the attitudes I’ve seen towards the poor, towards single mothers, towards gay people, are incredibly destructive.  But I speak against it not because I believe the majority of Christians are selfish assholes but because I believe the opposite.  I believe that if most Christians realized the impact their attitudes had on others, they would willingly and quickly change.  And guess what?  In the six years I have helmed this blog that is what I’ve seen, time and time again.  I have so many stories of hope and change and trust and love that I could spend the rest of my life writing about them, and I’m only just getting started.

So, yeah, I had an allergic reaction to this particular meme.

That’s not my faith.

You, dear reader, you are my faith.  And you deserve better than to be shamed by a lie.

*This cannot be overstated.  If you want a church to take interest in the homeless, the best way is to bring the actual homeless into the church and take care of them.  People respond to love with love, and when they see you loving others their natural response is to do the same.  This is far more effective than shame could ever be.  Give the church an example to be like Christ, and if the church is full of Christians, it’ll happen.

 

Culture and Faith.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the affect that culture has on faith.  It seems impossible to divide the two with any cleanness.  Why?  We are human.  While we may conceptually believe that there is one fundamental, immutable, unchangeable truth and that God is the embodiment of that absolute, how can we ever fully understand it?  We do not have divine minds.  We have human minds, and inevitably any taste of the absoluteness of God’s nature we have, we interpret through fallible brains.  We judge and mold our faith based off of what we feel is right, a feeling that is the culmination of what we’ve experienced.  Our experiences, those things that mold our understanding, are basely human and only remotely touched by holiness.

If you doubt for a moment that is true, just consider the Bible.  In Biblical times if a woman was raped but didn’t scream, she should be stoned.  It’s what the Bible demands.  Do you feel like that is right?  If a man punched a pregnant woman in the stomach and she miscarried as a result, she should be paid a pittance.  Yet today people will cry out that fetuses are human life as valuable as the born- if God feels that abortion is murder, should abortion by violence really be something that one can pay off with shekels?  Why would God say that it is?

It goes beyond that.  There’s also the fact that so many of the fathers of the faith, so to speak, had multiple wives and concubines.  Jacob’s marriage to both Leah and Rachel is often preached as a sermon on the value of faith and persistence, with the fact that he favored Rachel’s bed to the detriment of Leah and her just inheritance is glossed over.  There’s David, the man after God’s heart, who had how many wives and concubines?  Of course he took Bathsheba wrongly but the Bible is clear that his sin wasn’t marrying one woman too many- it was coveting what rightly belongs to someone else and murdering to get it.  Solomon, the wisest of all kings, had so many wives and concubines he couldn’t have slept with each more than two times in a year.  Yet how do we interpret all of that in light of this current day’s conviction that God intended for marriage to be between one man and one woman?

The truth is, we simply ignore the history that is there and rewrite it.  The idea that marriage should only be between one man and one woman is one that evolved as a response to cultural pressures.  If you married your daughter off to a wealthy man to ensure your family’s inheritance, you wouldn’t want that being fudged up by his later picking a superior mate and bequeathing that inheritance to her spawn instead of yours.  Polygamy died out not because God gave a new word, but because people rationally decided it isn’t a sustainable social system.  Nowhere in the Bible does God say, “one man, one woman.”    He says for this reason a man leaves the home of his parents and becomes one flesh with his wife, but that isn’t a statement of doctrine, it’s a euphemism for sex.  Clearly the people that wrote that part of the Bible didn’t interpret it as “one man, one woman” or they wouldn’t have praised Solomon for marrying more women than he could bed.  Besides the fact that if bucking that law leads to the deterioration of society and God revoking his blessing, why would God have so blessed Jacob?  Solomon?  The myriad of men who kept harems of wives and lovers?  It simply does not stand up under sustained thought, and that isn’t the only place where people start to mold faith to culture.  It’s just one that really stands out in my mind.

I think about these things a lot, because when I start to question why God gave the directives he did I start to question how I dress, feed, and raise my family.  I start to feel like prepackaged foods aren’t “clean” or worthy of my consumption, I start to feel like if God laid out the Levitical code today he’d condemn clothes made out of cheap materials in sweat shops.  I start to wonder about a lot of other things, too.

My point is that we can’t just blurt out what we “sense” is true about our faith without applying history, knowledge of culture, and the caveats of our own fallibility.  After all, we don’t know what God said, we know what people interpreted Him as having said.  Yes, we have the Bible.  That doesn’t mean that we understand it.

We interpret it.

And we, as humans, often only interpret what we want to hear.

and then the rocks cry out.

So I’ll be gone for a few days taking my son camping, which always leads me to think down the same old rabbit trails.

Nature speaks.  I think that all creation teaches us things, desperately wants us to understand things.  That is part of why eastern religions have always had so much tantalizing appeal for me.  You see them taking their lessons from nature.  Entire dialogues can be based off of watching an ant work.

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”  (Luke 19:39-40)

In the Bible there are many times that it talks about nature speaking.  Jesus says that if his disciples don’t declare the kingdom coming, the rocks will cry out.  In other places it talks about nature groaning like a woman in labor, or the land crying out that blood has been spilled.

When I go into the mountains, I feel like every wild flower is preaching a million word sermon about God’s grace.

Sometimes when I see the harshness of society, all I can think is that if people listened to the mountains they might not act the way they do.

This world is a miracle we too often take for granted.  Out there in the hills somewhere there is a meadow that is singing a thousand praise songs,

and here, online, if I click on Facebook I’ll see a hundred Christian brothers and sisters beating each other up because they don’t all hold to the same political ideology.

We are supposed to be the crown of God’s creation, you know.

Yet the mountains are crying louder, and louder, and louder in my ears.

What business does a Christian have being a Conservative?

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.  For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  (Romans 12:1-3)

I say, what business does a Christian have being a Conservative?  Yet what I really mean moves beyond that.  What business does a Christian have being a (big C) Conservative or a (big L) Liberal?  What business does a Christian have being a Republican or Democrat?  What business does a Christian have becoming embroiled in any political argument that involves taking sides and casting stones at the opposition?

This has been on my mind a lot lately.  There was a time, on this blog, where the tag line read something like, “YES!  I am a gay-affirming tree-hugging liberal Christian bleeding-heart left-wing-loony environmentalist nutjob!”  That was back in the day when both this blog, and I, were much younger.  I took on all of those titles as my own because they were initially cast at me as insults in comments on my post, and rather than being offended I just said, “yes!  I’m all of those things!  And I don’t care what judgment you make of me as a result, I’m proud to have earned your insults.”

Yet I was being naive, and if I could go back and do it all over my approach may have been different.  After all, those accusations said more about the person commenting than they did about me, and my response was in it’s own way a judgment.  Why throw up my hands and behave as if there was nothing I could do or say but simply agree, “yes, I’m a liberal nutjob.  So what?”

All of those labels refer to things of this world.  They refer to political stances and loyalties that come out of our government and political debate.  They have nothing to do with faith or adherence to God.  By allowing myself to be labeled, or labeling myself, I ceased to be speaking just as a Christian and instead became just another voice in the gay-affirming tree-hugging liberal Christian bleeding-heart left-wing-loony environmentalist nutjob crowd.  Even with “Christian” thrown in there, the label of Christian didn’t really reflect my own identity in God, it reflected a series of assumptions about who I must be that the world cast on my and I continuously fought against.  There were times where I found myself fighting against my self-assigned tags.

I know Christians who espouse some liberal views, but those views are rooted in their faith.  I know some Christians who espouse some conservatives values, and those values are rooted in their faith.  I know some Christians who espouse some liberal and some conservative views simultaneously and don’t feel that there is any conflict between the views.  I also know Christians who identify as (big C) Conservatives and (big L) Liberals, and this is where things get sticky.  The Conservative crowd and the Liberal crowd out there in the world do not reflect the intent of God.  They have a platform and a list of loyalties that are at their very core worldly.  By fighting to defend Liberalism or Conservatism you inevitably end up in a position where it becomes about weakening and demoralizing the other side.  I cringe in my very bones every time I see a Christian saying something like “liberals just want more government handouts” or “conservatives will take away your rights.”

Excuse me?

When you say something like that, you just took off your Christianity.  You are not speaking words of love or redemption.  Your mind isn’t renewed.  You are in the world, speaking of the things of this world, and your loyalty in those words is not to the Creator who wishes the redemption of all creation but to a political party.

The conservative platform, while in parts reflective of God’s nature, does not contain the entirety of God’s will.  How could it?  It is of the world.  The same is true of the liberal platform.  In fact, both of those platforms (as well as the Republican and Democratic) eventually come to the point where what they ask you to adhere to is antithetical to adhering to God’s word.  Not only that, but to take on the label at some point there must be an assumption that one group is right and the other is wrong.  Such haughtiness contradicts the kind of attitude a Christian is supposed to have, one of ‘not thinking better of one’s self’ and seeking God’s mind above our own.

If our minds are renewed, we ought to transcend such petty labels and the arguments they birth.  While our lives as Christians may at times demand our involvement in political debates, we cannot forget who we are.  Our loyalty to God and each other must, at all times, be first and foremost.  When two people who claim allegiance to the same creator start tearing into each other as Republicans and Democrats, the faith is shamed.

It’s something to think about.

A Call to Arms.

The church has been usurped to be used for political means.  This CAN NOT stand.

If you think that Chick-Fil-A day was just about Free Speech, you have been misled.  We cannot trust those who pose as authorities in our faith, the faith has been compromised.  Mike Huckabee stated that Chick-Fil-A day was about “basic fairness” and that people needed to “stop being afraid someone might have a different view than them.”  Huckabee, and others speaking similarly to him, posed the whole debate as if it was just about free speech.  The dialogue portrayed liberals as intolerant people who want to quash the conservative voice because they didn’t want anyone disagreeing with them.  The issue was made primarily about Cathy’s affirmative statement towards “traditional” marriage.

Many liberals, sadly, played into that hand just enough to make Cathy’s supporter’s argument for them, which is tragic.

The issue was never about Cathy’s personal views.  The issue, for the gay community, was always about where he spent the WinShape foundation’s cash, the WinShape foundation being funded by Chick-Fil-A’s money.

That issue is inarguable, and central to the topic of Christianity being co-opted for political means.

Now, picture this:  hundreds of thousands of people in the liberal vote are steaming mad because they find out that a little portion of every dollar spend at Chick-Fil-A goes to fund groups that say things like “gay people are more likely to molest your children” and have actively worked to keep sodomy laws on the books.  It may only be a minuscule portion of each dollar, an nth of a penny, but that isn’t what matters.  What matters is that in a free society there are still people who want to keep consenting sex between two adults of the same gender illegal, and that Cathy has either knowingly or unknowingly contributed to the continuation of such work.  What matters is that there are people who believe that gay people are more likely to molest your children, have mental illness, and commit other kinds of crimes.  That people use faulty studies from over forty years ago done in prisons to back up wildly misleading statistics, and they actively work to educate people in a way that is at it’s best deeply flawed but at it’s worst purposefully misleading.  That the church turns a blind eye to such actions being taken out in it’s name is appalling.  There is no other word.  It is flawed silence such as that which contributes to the openly defended bigotry so many gay people are injured by, and it is that bigotry that builds the foundation of fear, contempt, and self-hatred that leads such a disproportionate amount of gay teens to commit suicide.

Gay people have every right to be angry that people are blindly funneling money into making sex with their partners and spouses illegal and to prevent more states from allowing gay marriage.  But if that was the only issue, I think that there would be a lot less vitriol in this argument.  There should be no one, Christian or non-Christian, gay affirming or same-sex-marriage-not-wanting, who would agree that it is good to continue to spread literature which claims that science proves that being gay is a grave disorder which threatens society, posing gay people as frightening bugaboos who will tear your community to the ground, literature which the Family Research Council relies on to scare people into funding it.

This sort of literature is antithetical to the call to love your neighbors.

It is judgmental at it’s core, breeds only condemnation, and leaves no room for redemption to be birthed.

It does fall within the province of free speech.  The Family Research council has a right to produce it, and Cathy has a right to fund it if he chooses to.

But do Christians have an obligation to defend it?

Is it, as Huckabee claimed, an issue of basic fairness?  Is the gay community’s opposition to such literature being funded an issue of not tolerating anyone having a different point of view than them?

When thousands of people lined up around street corners and bought so many waffle fries some stores had to close early, what the gay community saw was not a redeeming love.  They didn’t even see Christians lining up to show support for their brethren’s right to free speech.  What they saw was an attack.  They said, “we don’t want money going to make more hate speech preached under the guise of science and Christian education”, and they saw thousands of people line up to say, “we’re going to throw as much money at that as we can.”

What I saw, from my lonely corner of the world, was thousands of people being manipulated into creating a political schema for the upcoming election.  What I saw was a framework for the Republican candidate being able to call liberals whiny and intolerant and unwilling to let capitalism work for the other side.

What I saw was the church falling on it’s own sword.

How many people do you think took the time to actually talk to someone on the other side of the problem?  How many parroted what the powers that be told them and believed it whole cloth with the naivete of a child.  As if there was no one who could possibly want to take advantage of their belief that Christians ought to trust one another.  We were told that we needed to defend Cathy’s right to tell the truth.

The truth is it’s own defense.

If Cathy told “the truth” and was boycotted as a result, he’d be storing up treasures in jars of clay regardless.  It was not our job to defend him.  God is his defender, the lifter of his head, his strong tower.  Cathy didn’t need thousands of people ordering chicken sandwiches.

Gay people did need to know that God loves them, and doesn’t want them to be caused pain.

Truth was not defended.

Truth was ignored.

The call to arms should not have been to spend money at a capitalist establishment to defend a right that had never been infringed on.

The call to arms must be to reach out to the other side in love.

Chick-Fil-A and Christian Identity, revisited.

In light of the recent Chick-Fil-A controversy I’ve been thinking a lot about Christianity and it’s role in society.  As easy as it is to get caught up in discussions of free speech and religious persecution, there’s a far more important issues that seem to be getting ignored.  It’s not about what other people are doing or saying about Christianity: it’s about who was as Christians are.

Ephesians 5 is a popular passage because it tells wives to submit to their husbands.  Yet here we find the foundation for instructions not just to spouses but to families, masters, and slaves.  It’s about Christian identity and what a Christian’s role in society is based on.  Do you know what these passages say?  They say “Live as children of light (for the fruit of light consists of goodness and righteousness and truth).” They say, “Be careful then how you live.”  They say “Always give thanks to God for everything.”  That’s all in the first few paragraphs, where it also commands Christians to “walk in the way of love”.

It’s interesting, because as much as most people know that the Bible commands wives to submit, the overall tone of the passage is passed over.  It doesn’t just say “Women, BOW DOWN!”.  It tells husbands to love their wives as God loved the church (oh, and ladies- submit some, m’kay?) and it tells slaves to honor their masters, but it reminds masters that God is the master of all.  I mean, pretty much it says, “hey, that’s actually God’s slave.  So you aren’t the boss.”  Just like it tells women, “submit to your husband as you would to God, because after all he is expected to live every day as a mission for your benefit.

You may be wondering right about now why I would be writing about any of this in a post that starts out with Chick-Fil-A.

It’s because we’ve forgotten who our identity as Christians comes from.

Our Salvation doesn’t make us the boss.  We aren’t in charge.  Our role in this world is one of sacrifice, abandon, and honor towards the real master.  Our calling isn’t to beat the world into shape, it is to honor all others above ourselves with the true understanding that God is the Lord, King, and Judge of all.  He’s the redeemer of husband and wife, of child and parent, of slave and of master.  He has commanded us to live as light in this world and He reminds us that the fruit of light is goodness and righteousness.  If we live as the light, we won’t have to beat anyone else down to make righteousness prosper in our wake.  Obedience, conviction, and submission to God are the natural impulse when touched by a true and redeeming love.  If we spread that love with every day of our lives people will be drawn to God like fish to a stream.  Since God’s spirit is the only spirit that can birth conviction, redemption, and change, if we live every day in love we do not need to become distracted by the sinfulness in this world.  By loving our neighbors, we will have already done everything in our power to win their redemption.

It’s just that simple.  The fruit of light is goodness and righteousness.  We produce righteousness if we walk in love.

So why does Chick-Fil-A taste like dust and ashes in the mouths of my gay friends?  Can someone please explain to me how the special sauce of condemnation is supposed to redeem them?

For the life of me, I can’t seem to understand the Christian point of view on this one.

Ephesians 6:12  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Our fight is not with flesh and blood.  It isn’t with society or the evils of society.  It certainly isn’t with the gays.  It isn’t with people who boycott our establishments.  It’s with the powers of darkness and the spiritual forces of evil- and do you know where the first battleground is?

Look in the mirror.