Friday, November 20, 2015

Where I Stand....

I try not to get involved in politics, either as a pastor, on my personal social media platforms, or even blogging. I don't really think either political party has a market on righteousness, and I think both parties exists to please their special interests and donors more than to do what is right. Having said that, there are issues where the life of faith, culture, and politics intersect. There are some issues as a Christian, a minister, and decent human being I cannot keep silent. I like to think in the past I would have sided with civil rights protesters, the abolitionists, the small percentage of Christian missionaries that advocated for rights of indiginous people or supported women's sufferage in Jesus's name. I like to think I might have housed persecuted Jews, or supported their immigration to the United States. Today, there seem few social justice issues that cut and dry. But, the welcoming of refugees from Syria might be such an issue for our time.

Listen to the Word of the Lord:

"35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Listen to this parable. I don't think this is so hard to understand. It is not easy, but it is not difficult to comprehend. God has united himself with the cause of the refugee, and how we treat the refugee from Syria is a measure of how much faith we have in him and how much his love truly resides in our hearts. To be against welcoming the Syrian refugee is a decision to push Christ away, and to say we don't want Christ among us. As a matter of fact, if we are completely against welcoming the refugee, we should also finally banish the idea that America is a "Christian nation", and just admit we are at best a bunch of angry, greedy, frightened pagans, and at worst a bunch of bigots that simply don't want people that have a different skin tone and speak a different language living among us.

If you doubt this bigotry is a factor with some, I encourage you to watch this video, and compare it in your mind to the things people said about African Americans, both in terms of reasons not to free them from slavery or to grant civil rights, mixed together with a few things people are saying about Latin American immigration. The arguments against immigration from this video so far are, so far as I can tell
  • These refugees will rape your women and children
  • They have poor hygiene and diseases
  • They are loud and obnoxious
  • They are ungrateful that we keep them in internment camps and give them crappy food
  • Therefore...we can't trust these people cause they are so dirty and different.  
The interesting thing is, this brief parable I quoted earlier was not a new teaching to Israel. Biblical teaching speaks of welcoming strangers, and in fact being strangers at times throughout the Word of God. In other words, Welcoming people from other places central to Judeo-Christian ethics that are guided by Scripture. 

The Hebrew people were refugees in the desert for 40 years after they left Egypt. God is constantly reminding his people to care for the alien and the stranger (Ex 22:21, Lev 19:33-34 et al.) Deuteronomy 10:18-19 says "loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt." Jesus and his parents were refugees for violent political persection (Luke 2). Jesus said at the core of his mission was to "proclaim liberty to the captives and to let the oppressed go free" (Luke 4 copied from Isiah 61). The book of James tells us that faith without works is dead, and constantly links true faith with reaching out and offering help and hospitality to those in need. 

Colbert covers this well. Be advised, I do think he uses the word for the place of divine punishment once in a profane way. But he  makes his point, which is the same as mine: 




Do we have any guarantees of safety if we let in refugees? Nope. But we don't have any guarantees of safety if they are not here either. Heck, we have kids shooting up schools, crazies shooting up movie theaters, religious zealots attacking black Christians in bible studies in Charleston, cops killing black kids for petty crimes as they scream they can't breathe, people bombing abortion clinics, white supremicists attacking worship services, shootings at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, and of course Timothy McVeigh bombing the government building in Oklahoma City.

So instead of obscessing about being safe, lets do everything we can to be faithful if we are Christians to the gospel of Jesus and begin to let a few gatherings of "huddled masses" come to our shore. Then, instead of living in fear we can live by faith.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Book Review of Joy In the Journey by Steve and Sharol Hayner




Joy in the Journey: Finding Abundance in the Shadow of Death
by Steve and Sharol Hayner
ISBN 978-0-8308-4447-0
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I picked up this book, expecting to skim it. Instead I read it cover to cover in one day. Steve and Sharol share a powerful testimony of facing cancer and death in this brief, easily readable book. Joy in Journey is sure to become a reference for Christians for decades about what it means to die well, and leave a legacy.

This book is simply put together. It is actually a neatly organized transcript of a Caring Bridge journal, (Caring Bridge is an online blog that allows persons with health concerns to communicate with loved ones). Throughout the journal, the Hayners do a substantial amount of spiritual and theological reflection, and give witness to the joy that comes from being a follower of Christ,even in heart-wrenching circumstances.

Please pick this book up and read this. I cannot recommend it highly enough.