This Is Not America, This Is Not Christianity.

I knew this moment was coming, but I never wanted it to arrive. “This moment” being some form of conflict at our southern border between armed troops and unarmed people seeking asylum, or work, or simply another place to live. Today — November 25, 2018 — American citizens, American military, or police, or National Guard troops (it doesn’t matter which) fired teargas at unarmed civilians who may or may not have been trying to climb fence (that also doesn’t matter) into the United States. In doing so, the Americans broke every norm of decency that there is.

For military folks, I think, shooting at unarmed civilians goes against the Code of Honor.  For police, it goes against the idea of “least force necessary”. For the National Guard, shooting over the wall into another country makes them active duty soldiers in an undeclared war.  Americans who used to be proud of our country have lost pride in our institutions.  In a country that prided itself on morality, these acts are the epitome of immorality.

Simply put, there is no moral reason at all for any human being to attack any other human being who asks for help. None. 

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the immoral leaders ignore the man on the side of the road who needs their help. For Jesus, that is evil. We are shown that morality requires offering aid and comfort to those whom others have abused. We know that it’s wrong to kick a bum lying on the sidewalk. We know it’s immoral to mock the homeless and evil to mock the poor.  We know that anyone who does this is — on a good day — a jerk. On a bad day, we know them as “thugs”, “bullies” , “sociopaths”.  Being a Christian is supposed to mean being none of those things. In fact, being a Christian is supposed to mean being the opposite of those things.

There are those in America who claim to be “God-fearing” believers in Jesus and yet support this policy and these actions. These people have aligned themselves with Donald Trump rather than Jesus. They have aligned themselves with those who believe in white supremacy and an “America First” policy. They believe that they are following the Jesus of the United States who is, of course, White. There is no such Jesus.  Nationalism, to someone who created and rules the entire world is to shortchange God, which is what all idolatry does. White Jesus of America is a shallow comparison to a living God. 

For those who wish to claim that this is a Christian nation, there is no Christianity to be found in today’s actions. It is as simple as that. The Jesus who welcomed children did not teargas or threaten them. The Jesus who fed the 5,000  would not turn away the hungry. The Jesus that spoke to women and men from foreign countries would not avoid them or attack them. If Jesus of Nazareth is the “founder of your faith”, the Jesus you’re now serving isn’t him.

The actions that were taken today at the Mexican border are not moral to anyone who has compassion. They are not moral to soldiers. They are not moral to non-soldiers. They are not moral to Christians. They are not moral to non-Christians. They are not moral to people with no religion at all. They are not moral to anyone. I grieve for us and who we have become, but even more, I grieve with those who have been attacked. In a world of ideals, this is not “America, land that I love” and it isn’t a Jesus I would choose to worship.

Resisting with Peace,

John


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The Possibilities Are Endless: An Advent Starter

I was watching what amounts to a comedy round table this morning after watching a political round table show. Of course the comedy was better, but neither was too far off of the other. The lesson that I got from both of them: for the first time in a long while, it’s time to have hope.

A little bit over 2,000 years ago, a baby was born in a little town the powerful didn’t care about — not the politically powerful Romans, nor the religiously powerful leaders in Jerusalem, nor even the locally powerful owners of an inn. Still, the owners of the inn gave what they had, Jews at least knew what “the city of David” was, while Herod thought life was fine and he was in control. The closer to a situation you get, the more important it becomes.

The child would grow up to not travel much, not write much down, not have a house, not marry — not any of the things on most of our “bucket lists”. Ultimately, he would die a failed preacher, a failed prophet, a dead political person, hung on a cross by a world of cynics that felt hope, but submerged it in their personalities so far that they came to hate it.

When he was dead, the people who followed him were devastated. Their world had fallen apart. They had actually held hope in their hands when he touched them. He had talked to them, or listened to them, had paid attention to them and healed them. How could someone so good be killed as an evil troublemaker. Why was their hope a trouble to their leaders? Apparently it was, though, because Jesus was dead. Still, he seemed to be so right about the way the universe should run, and when he was around, it had.

The world now knows the rest of that story and we are the better off for it. God refuses to let hope die. God knows the way the world should run. Jesus told us all about it, and the Spirit helps us recognize it regardless of which side of Truth we are on. Evil does not ultimately win, but proving that takes an act of God — more than we believe we are capable of, but far less than God knows is possible. The Truth of the power of kindness calls to us, and the possibilities are endless if we follow the love in the world that God has said God wants… and it started with a little baby no one cared about but animals and shepherds.

So what does this have to do with Bill Maher, a noted atheist, and Meet the Press, a political round table? And how does that lead to hope? Here’s how: an atheist, a Christian, possible a Jew and possibly a Muslim, a Republican and a Democrat all agreed on something. Capitalists and Socialists agreed with each other that some people can’t be trusted, that actions speak louder than words, and that there’s a lot of work to be done.

Ten or twelve people on two different networks knew right from wrong — and they chose for people’s interests, not profit’s. They called out those who would hurt their brothers, sisters and non-binaries alike. They acknowledged corruption when the saw it and –at the end of it all, Bill Maher said that not all of life is political and we should enjoy our families, even if we disagree politically.

For pastors and theologians , hope is born because they’re asking the right questions. People are not asking about party or political expedience, they’re not gaining more power or more wealth. They are talking about people (our species) and they are talking about right and wrong, good and evil (our area of expertise). Personally, I long for the days when we could preach about justice and humility and peace without someone saying “You can’t say that about my President!”, even when he-who-shall-not-be-named …wasn’t.

This past election cycle has brought me more and more hope as the winners have been announced, because of the people who are represented in Congress. We listened and took to heart the message of teens who were shot at. We elected people who aren’t lawyers or stockbrokers or White Supremacists (for the most part). We elected women so their experience can be heard. We elected Muslims and Native American people so their experience can be heard. We elected poor people (or relatively poor) so their voices can be heard. I can’t tell you how excited about that I am or how healing I believe it will be!

As I said earlier, the closer to a situation you are, the more important it becomes. The people who have stepped forward bring wisdom that comes from experience. Yes, they will have blind spots. Yes, they will make mistakes, but their intent is to care and to do the right thing. In the old days, we used to complain that Republicans and Democrats were basically the same. Today, former Republicans are joining with newer Democrats to agree on right and wrong — on morality, with or without piety.

For those who grew up in the past 40 years or so, the new/old questions being asked will require different answers, answers which cannot be found on Google or on Wall Street. The answers they seek can only come from thoughtful discussion by loving people seeking a loving Way. We in churches have that. I think we need to prepare for what happens when they come looking because there’s a lot to be done in the name of this Spiritual revolution for more and more people. The pendulum of hatred and mistrust has swung a long way in the last 40 years or so. The Spirit calls us back the other way. Let us make the most of it, celebrating people’s experience and wisdom, seeing people’s value as God sees it. Let us celebrate the new day treasuring those the powerful have yet to see.

Resisting with Peace,

John

(People With) Guns Kill

This morning, I heard that there had been a mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California. Because it was a mass shooting (20+ people), I assumed that there was an assault rifle. Apparently, there wasn’t. As luck would have it, I had meant to say something at least as clearcut as “Can we at least admit that guns kill, or is that too much reality?”. I decided to tone it down to something more reasonable, something more palatable to more people. Once again, my liberalness (“Be nice, John. Reach out. Don’t be so negative ) got I’m the way of my true feelings (a collection of expletives, punctuated by disbelief, followed by more expletives, followed by something between rage and deep sadness).

So, here is what I want to say: Guns kill people. Guns kill many things. That’s what they are designed for. Sometimes those “things” are people. Guns do damage. Guns do damage to anything they are aimed at. That’s what they are supposed to do. Sometimes those “things” are people.

Put another way: tires roll, hammers hit, scissors cut. That’s what they are supposed to do when working right. If tires started killing people in droves, we’d do something about it. If people were attacking each other with hammers, we’d make laws against them or at least regulate them in some ways. If scissors were the weapon of choice, we’d do the same. Why can’t we regulate or outlaw — yes, outlaw– gun use? Pistols are used for killing people — in self-defense or otherwise. That’s what they do. Can we ban them, please? Aren’t there other ways to defend ourselves? In relation to the whole “only criminals would have guns” thing, what if we simply didn’t make them? Then no one would have them, because they wouldn’t around to be had.

On the other side of the spectrum are the assault rifles, which are designed to cause major damage. You don’t need them to hunt animals. You need them to take over countries. I know all the rhetoric that says you can hunt with them, but really, there’s not enough meat left afterwards if you do. If you want to take over a country, it probably shouldn’t be your own. If you try to take over a country and it’s not your own (and you aren’t part of an army), you’re called a terrorist. That’s as it should be. You are causing terror among the people that you are shooting at. That’s why it’s worse if you shoot your own people. You’re killing people that you believe are on your side.

So, what if we didn’t make or sell pistols or assault weapons? That would leave rifles. For those who hunt animals or see it as a sport, rifles are ideal. For walking across town undetected, they are not. If the police see a person with a rifle, they can avoid trouble before it starts. If there are no police, you can at least run away from a rifle, again preventing trouble before it happens. This is common sense gun control.

At this point, I hear all the gun nuts screaming in my head, “I have the right to own a gun! The Constitution says I do!” Yes, you do. I have no argument for that, except this: the Constitution also acknowledges that we are “endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Does your right to own a gun over-ride my right to live, or vice-versa? No, No it doesn’t.

If you can own a rifle, I am allowing your right to have a gun, while I keep my right to life. Seems fair to me.

I suppose people might have a right to own a pistol or an assault rifle. People have the right to do all kinds of stupid things. That doesn’t mean they should do them. At this point in our history, human beings haven’t shown that they know how to use pistols or assault weapons in any responsible way. Maybe because there is no way to use a pistol or assault weapon in a responsible way or maybe I’m just not seeing it. But wouldn’t it be best if only people who could prove they were responsible in the first place could have guns? Isn’t that a better way to think about it. Let’s start by limiting the number of guns out there, and make you earn the right to use one. Common sense requires common people to be sensible. Right now, as people die more and more often, we can’t seem to manage that. Something has to change.

Resisting with Peace,

John