A Thin Line Between Protest and Prayer

Colin Kapernick kneeled, Jemele Hill of ESPN spoke out, Steph Curry hesitated to visit the White House, and the President turned his racial prejudiced agenda against athletes and those who cover them. To quote Ron Burgundy, “that escalated quickly.” On Friday, the President referred to NFL players as “SOBs” and tweeted that those who did not stand for the national anthem should be fired.

Kneeling

I don’t believe the issue is a lack of respect for the flag or our nation, but the racial bias and prejudice that permeates our living today. The President has made it clear that he cares only about himself. This is the man that has continuously tweeted about crowd size at rallies while making no mention of Puerto Rico being without electricity. When the subject turns to race, he goes to great lengths to defend white supremacists as “nice guys” while calling African-American athletes “SOBs” This culminated in yesterday’s mass protest by NFL players, officials, and owners. Many kneeled, some locked arms, and a few even skipped the whole national anthem all together. The NFL said “enough.”

Walter Bruegemann describes Biblical Christianity as “awed to heaven, rooted in earth,” The wonder of God roots us to what is going on in current time and place. I’ve been thinking about the difference between being driven to your knees in prayer and being driven to your knees in protest. There are times when the line between the two is thin. This is such a time. Prayer is proclaiming that God’s will makes a way when it seems there is none. Prayer is asking that a world more whole than what we currently experience will take root.

All our biblical prophets confronted the evils of empire in their time and place. The stories from the Bible that we read to our children are about heroes who were in tune with God’s will against empire. The one whom we proclaim Lord and Savior was put to death because he confronted empire. Yesterday I thought about where we would find Jesus. I imagine if you looked closely enough, you would have seen him somewhere on his knees, in prayer and protest, proclaiming God’s kin-dom come to earth.

Jesus Wept- In Defense of DACA

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me” Matthew 25:35(b)

It is the easiest parts of the Bible to understand that are the hardest ones to live out. As the Trump administration prepares to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) I have a hard time seeing how Christians would support this action. If anything, people who seek to follow the ways of Jesus should be on the forefront of advocating for rights for Dreamers.

DACA

Immigration is tricky in the United States. In a nation where everyone is from somewhere else, we struggle with what to do about those who desire to do the same as our ancestors.  I’ve spent time building homes in Tijuana and Tecate, along US and Mexican border. I’ve had interaction and spent time with people who live in these communities. The welcome and hospitality is consistently excellent (and biblical). This past Spring, our group meet Eddie. Eddie lived across the street from where we were building. He made it a point to open his home to us each day for bathroom facilities and for rest from the sun. He played music for us while we built. He cut up enough fresh mangoes for twenty-five people each day. I don’t know if Eddie was familiar with Matthew 25, but he sure did know how to live it out. He spoke of the family who had moved to the United States for better opportunities. I remember thinking how I hoped they had been treated equally as well in the states as we had been treated in Mexico.

There are currently 800,000 Dreamers here in the United States. Chances are you know at least one, two, or twenty in some form or fashion. They are neighbors, friends, and colleagues. I suspect that if you took a snapshot of any group of 800,000 people here, you would find that the Dreamers compare very well using the traditional metrics of success. For example, ninety-five percent are either working or in school. In the the wider church I serve, Dreamers offering some of the best ministry the church knows today. Our church will be less whole if DACA is ended. Our nation will be less whole if DACA is ended. Dreamers illustrate the best of what the United States offers not a problem that needs to be solved.

Later in Matthew 25, Jesus points out the consequences for not welcoming the stranger are steep. Rejecting the stranger amounts to rejecting him. While I do think that the ending of DACA by this administration is cruel and has much to do with racial resentment and prejudice, it is not my politics that informs my thoughts. It is my faith. It is my understanding of how Jesus calls us to live that urges me to speak out. A world in which Dreamers are deported is a world that is taking a step away from God’s dream for us. The deportation of Dreamers brings another scripture to mind- “Jesus wept.”

We Needed This

I was a skeptic. It’s hard to not be skeptical when some days it’s hard to tell the difference between the news and dystopian fiction. Is anyone else waiting on the Quarter Quell Hunger Games to be announced? (I’m joking, only slightly). So, I didn’t get why people were buying funny glasses, driving all over creation, and doing whatever necessary to see the eclipse.

Eclispe

I admit that I was wrong. The solar eclipse was cool. The darkening of the sun, the temperature drop, the chirping of bugs who believed it was nightfall. Everyone in our building ran outside to wear funny glasses so that we could stare at the darkened sun for just a moment. For a moment, we all were captivated with wonder from a spectacle straight from the creation of our solar system.

Yes, the physical phenomenon of creation was truly breathtaking, but what was truly breathtaking was how people were drawn together in collective wonder. Just for a moment, we stopped long enough to be a part of something much bigger than ourselves. People from many different places who came to places in the path of totality (that would be a great band name, wouldn’t it?) for a shared experience. In reality, the darkening of the sun brought light to a nation in need of light.

Friends, we needed this. We badly needed this. We needed something that reminded us of the power of shared experience. We needed something that reminds us that our lives are much bigger than just ourselves. We needed a reminder of a creation that continues to fill us with wonder and amaze us at every turn.

I am grateful. Grateful that just for a moment we could come together. Grateful that we shared  a glimpse of not only the darkened sun, but the light of who we can be together.

The Thing About Monuments

I spent my childhood in the shadow of a large monument to the Confederacy. We often walked through the woods from our neighborhood to Stone Mountain Park. We spent many a night in the summer at the Laser Show, watching laser images projected over Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee. My first job was as a train conductor, riding around the base of the mountain. I even fell off the train while trying to impress a girl (which is a totally different story for a different time).

Following the Charleston church shooting in 2015 and the events in Charlottesville this past weekend, politicians, religious leaders and community leaders called for the monument to be taken off the side of the mountain. Predictability, this sparked strong passion from those who believe differently about the carving and other such monuments to the confederacy. “It’s heritage, not hate; We can’t just erase our history.”

Stone Mtn

A little research will tell you that the carving on Stone Mountain has very little to do with heritage and a lot to do with hate. The Klan held regular rallies not far from the entrance to Stone Mountain. The Venable brothers, who owned the mountain at the time the carving was conceived, were leaders of these Klan rallies and their family continued organizing these until they were stopped in the early 1960s. Although the carving was not completed until the early 1970s, it’s beginning was rooted in the desire to purpurate and advance racial oppression.

I confess that as a child I never stopped to think about what one of my best friends as a child, who is African-American, thought every time he looked at the mountain and saw these three figures who believed he was less than human because of the color of his skin. I’ve thought a lot about this in recent years. I know that I was treated differently than him because of my skin color. In many ways, I’m still treated differently today because of the color of my skin. The lingering effect of the racism and hate spawned by the Confederacy is a root cause of this treatment.

The three people represented on the side of the mountain and in countless other statues across the land sought to tear our union asunder so that they could continue to oppress people based on their skin color. The pain they caused is still manifest in people’s lives, in our communities, and in our institutions. Their cause has been taken up by new groups who have the same heinous beliefs and disregard for God’s children.

Here is the thing about monuments to the Confederacy. They aren’t erected to remember heritage. They aren’t even erected to so that we might remember history. They are erected to remind the oppressed who always has been in charge. They are erected to remind the powerless who has traditionally held power. They are built to remind the oppressed that their oppressors are still lurking just around the corner.

We should remember our history. It doesn’t mean we have to honor it.

 

Harry Potter

We just unpacked our collection of Harry Potter books. They are considered valuables in our household, with our nine-year-old making her way through Chamber of Secrets as we speak.HP Post

It’s hard to believe that the first Harry Potter book was published twenty years ago today. J.K. Rowling blessed us with this magical world that teaches us much about our lives and our world. Plenty of people will write wonderful things about the insights Harry and friends have given,  but one overarching theme keeps coming to my mind. It also happens to be the overarching theme of the Bible- Love wins. Love always wins. Love conquers all, even death.

This is a word that we so desperately need to hear. J.K. Rowling created a world much likes our today, where some used the coercive power of fear to control and wield power. Voldemort used fear to the extent that most were afraid to even speak his name. Harry though, had no fear is saying his name. Dumbledore has none either. At the end of The Sorcerer’s Stone, Dumbledore offers these wise words, “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”

The theme of fear and death verses life and love is the central theme throughout the story. Harry spends his life learning what it means to truly embrace others. He spends his life doing what Jesus calls his followers to do, losing his so-called life so that he may find true life. Harry shows us what it looks like when one seeks justice above all else, no matter the cost. He shows us what it means to care for others, no matter the cost. He shows us what it means to seek life, no matter the cost. We learn through his actions what it means to live for others, and the true gifts we find in living for others.

In the end, it is indeed life and love that has the final word. Even when it would have been far easier to choose fear and death, love still wins. Dumbledore offers Harry (and us) this piece of wisdom; “do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and above all, those who live without love.”

Thank you J.K. Rowling for reminding us of the Gospel truth- love wins.  

New

 

Danny, we will start in the deuce court.tennis-courts-1024x768

I’ve made three major changes in my life in the few months.

First,  I begun a new ministry with the Pension Fund of the Christian Church.

Second, our family relocated to Carmel, Indiana

Last, but not least, I started tennis lessons- at the intermediate level.

We’ve been knee deep in new lately.

I’ve had to learn lots of new words in the last month. A new job brings a new daily language. I use words and acronyms daily that I have never used.

We’ve lived in Carmel but there is still lots of new. Lots of new roundabouts to be exact. It is very important here to not only know what a roundabout is but also how to use one.

Tennis- I have played on and off, but never at this serious of a level. I’m convinced our instructor is prepping us for the US Open at Flushing Meadows.

It occurred to me on the tennis court that faith forces us to learn a new way of speaking. Faith calls us to new understandings. One of the great promises of the Bible is that God is always moving us forward. God moves us forward in our understanding who God is and what God would have us do. Encounters with the holy call us to see and to understand the world differently. Some embrace this while others fight it. New comes easier for some than it does for others. You can hold onto the past but the consequences of doing so are great. New life is found in what we are becoming, not what we have been.

I decided that I am going to figure out which side of the court is the deuce court and which side is the ad. My guess is my game will improve with new understanding of where to begin.

Grace and peace

A Reflection on Gun Violence in Virginia

I need to write something, perhaps for my own sake. I need to DO something, yet I don’t know what to do. I am reminded of the verse in the book of Romans that states, “the whole creation is groaning together.”  There are few things more American than baseball in the summer. Add in members of Congress practicing for a game against the other party and it becomes very American.

Unfortunately, stories of tragic gun violence are also becoming so American as well. This time it happened with the Capitol police standing guard. Even they couldn’t stop someone whose heart had been filled with hate and intended to do harm to another. Well-meaning, well-trained, and well-armed folks could not stop someone who had the seeds of hate sown into his heart. Hate, fear and the like are powerful weapons.

I find it hard to fathom that the answer to the epidemic of gun violence in our country is more guns. I can’t dismiss the role that our current administration plays in our culture today. Social media has given the President the means to dismiss, marginalize, and insult those who do not agree with him. An office that should be used to unite us around what truly makes America great is instead being used for something far less.

Where do we begin? Do we give in to fear and arm ourselves further? Do we need more “good guys with guns?” I believe the answer to these questions is “no” but I know many who would disagree. I do know is that we need to stop sowing the seeds of hate, fear, and violence in our collective hearts. That’s what we need to do today. Yes, I am frustrated with those who seem to hold their understanding of the 2nd Amendment above all else. Yes, I am frustrated with those who turn a blind eye to those suffering with mental illness. Yes, I am frustrated with the way this administration conducts itself. I know I can’t find solutions to these frustrations today. I do know that my faith calls me to do something today.

I know what I can do is watch how I interact with others.

I can use my voice to sow the seeds of love.

I can advocate against hate, fear, and violence every chance I get.

I can work to build a more just and equitable society

I will engage with those whom disagree with me so that we might find common ground