When Jesus was Homeless and a Refugee Too

Donald Trump was elected in part by tapping into the fears of a white culture which is projected to cede majority status by 2040.  This along with rapid changes in the economy and shifts in social norms left many feeling dislocated.

Mr. Trump seized upon the fear by creating scape goats. With broad strokes he identified Mexicans as ‘pouring over our borders’ and sending ‘rapists, murderers and drug dealers’.   He’s called for a national registry of Muslims and a halt to accepting immigrants and refugees from Islamic countries.

Of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country,  he’s called for mass deportation.  In Nov. 2015 he called for a ‘Mass Deportation Force’ to deport or incarcerate those deemed to be illegal.  In November 2016 he set a policy within his first 100 days in office, to begin deporting 2 – 3 million undocumented neighbors with police records.

The result will be families and communities torn apart.

By making undocumented neighbors and refugees our collective enemy, Mr. Trump can divert attention from underlying issues that confront us: A globalized economy, environmental stewardship, inequality of: wealth, education and health care.

How are faith communities responding to such fear based rhetoric?

Many of my fellow Christians have embraced Trump’s message.  Evangelical leader Franklin Graham (son of Billy) has gone so far as to say that ‘Donald Trump’s election is of God’.

Really?  What are we to make of the following passages:

God calls people of faith to remember that they once were strangers in a strange land and they must, must welcome the stranger as an expression of covenant faithfulness (Leviticus 19:33-34)

  We must “learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17)

  We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27)

The church I serve, First Baptist in Beverly,(https://www.fbcbeverly.org) takes such passages to heart.  We’ve chosen to reject fear and embrace those whom others would cast aside.  This Christmas season we’ve placed a banner by our entrance:  Immigrants & Refugees Welcome.

photo-refugees-welcome

This banner is our response to the anti-immigrant/refugee/Muslim rhetoric that has coarsened our public life.  Inspired by the Christmas story in Matthew 2:13-23 we remember that Mary and Joseph were homeless when Jesus was born.  That the Holy Family fled persecution by King Herod and found refuge in Egypt.

Today untold millions are seeking refuge from violence, violence, misery.  Minority groups within our own nation feel under threat.  How can we not offer welcome?

We don’t know how the next few years will unfold.  But we do know that we are guided by an ancient story that has captured our hearts, expanded our imagination and graced us with courage.

Courage to say ‘yes’ to love and ‘no’ to fear.

Christmas is coming yet again.  Hope reigns. Praise God!

(For more information on how you or your faith community can get involved for causes of justice: http://faithfulamerica.org/  or, https://sojo.net or, http://cwsglobal.org or, check out Beverly Multifaith Coalition on Facebook or,  look for partners in your local community)

 

Post Election Reflection: Not Going Back

Ours is a divided nation.   The rhetoric of this election has highlighted and inflamed the differences within groups and regions and sometimes even within families. We wonder whether we can be restored as a nation.  

We think of the vision celebrated in our Pledge of Allegiance ‘one Nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all’. We are aware that many feel justice is denied them and many feel left behind. An underlying sense of fear and even hopelessness permeate our psyche as a people.

My concern is that our divisions not be glossed over simply in the name of unity.  Rather I hope that we may come to understand the causes of our division…and perhaps in our understanding, we may begin the essential work of addressing what separates us.  Only then can we form what Abraham Lincoln called ‘a more perfect Union’.

A big part of our work is acknowledging the pain caused by harsh words and thoughtless rhetoric during this long election process.   For Mr. Trump to be successful in his presidency (which for the sake of the nation I hope he is) he needs to take the lead in stepping away from the harmful rhetoric that helped him get elected.

Women and girls have been exposed to his misogynistic language.  People of color feel marginalized.  Immigrants, legal and undocumented feel vulnerable and exposed.  If Mr. Trump wishes to truly be a president for all the people he needs to apologize for the words he used and offer safeguards to those who feel marginalized.

Whether he has the capacity or desire to bring people together is an open question. For the sake of our country I hope and pray he does.

I say this in particular out of concern and love for the generation of my children.  The millennials  will soon surpass in size my generation, the boomers.  Millennials have already begun to take on the mantle of leadership and by the next election will be the largest voting block.

Millennials were raised believing in racial justice and full inclusion of LGBTQ neighbors.  They believe too in full rights for women even as they confront the persistent reality of misogyny in our nation and world.

What gives me hope is knowing that the millennial generation will not go back. They will not accept the ‘locker room talk’ of a man who is now our president-elect.   Nor will they allow voter suppression by race to stand. Nor will they allow a government to control their reproductive rights.

photo-of-hope

Nor will they stand idly by while immigrant neighbors, legal and undocumented, live in fear.  Last night in a 60 Minutes interview Mr. Trump said he will move to forcibly remove or incarcerate up to 3 million undocumented immigrants who have a police record http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/60-minutes-interview-president-elect-donald-trump/ar-AAkfQd7?OCID=ansmsnnews11.

I wonder who will be picked up in this massive dragnet in addition to the ‘violent criminals’ that Mr. Trump speaks of?  Will this include people with parking tickets or other misdemeanors?

The reality is that families will be torn apart.  As people of faith will we take to heart these words in Leviticus 19:34?

The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

To a large degree our young people have been awakened.  A question to my generation and to people of faith…have we been awakened too?

I will stand up for the hopes of my children. To demand that we become ‘ a more perfect union’.  If need be I will turn to the non-violent example of Dr. King and work to hold our elected officials accountable in our shared pursuit of ‘liberty and justice for all’.

Mr. Trump will have a successful presidency to the extent  he understands that he has bridges not walls to build.  Bridges between generations, regions and cultural groups that make up this great nation.