Clueless in the White House

To those who wonder whether our President has racist and nativist tendencies, here is your answer.  A quote from today’s New York Times:

President Trump on Thursday balked at an immigration deal that would include protections for people from Haiti and some nations in Africa, demanding to know at a White House meeting why he should accept immigrants from “shithole countries” rather than from places like Norway, according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation.

Where does such arrogance and callousness come from?  Perhaps he has never met people who live in a developing nation or live in poverty here in the States.

If he did he would meet people who work incredibly hard in difficult situations to provide for their family.  He’d meet young people of great intelligence, who dream and aspire.  He’d meet moms and dads who worry and weep for their children who lack access to clean water and medical care.

If he did perhaps he’d learn some humility and compassion.  This man who was born to great wealth and given every opportunity.

To refer to those who struggle and aspire as living in ‘shithole countries’ is an insult to the beautiful people I’ve met and served with in developing countries.  His callousness is an insult to my great-great grandmother  Sarah,  a single woman who gave birth to her son in a work house in Manchester, England in 1867.  A place where the poorest of the poor went, when no one else would take them in.

In 1869 Sarah emigrated to the United States with her two year old son.  A single mother, dirt poor.  She made a way for herself by working in the textile mills of Rhode Island.  I am here because she had the strength and courage to make a new life.  I am here because the United States said there is a place for people like Sarah and her boy.

For Mr. Trump to disparage those who struggle and strive against overwhelming circumstance, to provide for their family, is a disgrace.  A disgrace to what it means to be an American. A disgrace to what it means to be a Christian.  A disgrace to what it means to be a human being.

What will we do?  As citizens will we allow this callous and shallow man to redefine who we are as a country?

As people of faith, inspired by the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:40 ‘whatever you do unto the most vulnerable of my sisters and brothers you do unto me’… what will we say?  What we will do?

In my Christian tradition this is called a ‘come to Jesus moment’.  It is time for my fellow Christians, who have so freely embraced Trump, to stand up and say ‘no more’, ‘not in my name’.

We as a nation and as citizens of the world, deserve better than this man who lacks humility and a shred of compassion.  The eyes of the world are upon us.  What will we do?



Christian Hypocrisy and Roy Moore

Hypocrisy.  There’s no other way to describe the decision of many Evangelical Christians to stand with Judge Roy Moore.

Moore has seen his campaign upended by accusations from seven women that he sexually harassed or assaulted them as teenagers.  Moore is the Republican candidate for an open Senate seat from Alabama.

Judge Moore made his political career insisting that the 10 Commandments be engraved in stone and placed in the Court House; that homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of God; that same-sex marriage undermines the sanctity of traditional marriage; that abortion should be outlawed; that the Second Amendment has no limits.

It’s ironic that Moore who made his political bones on the basis of moral self-righteousness, is now accused by credible witness’ to sexual abuse of minors.  In his hometown it was an open secret  that Moore in his 30’s preyed upon teen girls.

Why then do so many Christian pastors and voters say that they are standing with Roy Moore?  The answer seems to rest with the growth of the Religious Right as a power broker in the Republican party.

For a growing number of conservative Christians the ends justify the means.  Their agenda includes:  Packing the Supreme Court with conservative justices; outlawing abortion rights; rolling back gay and trans-gender rights; limits to immigration; support for NRA.

Why these limited issues?  Why not advocacy for civil rights and social justice?

Consider the many societal  implications of Jesus’ teaching: “Whatever you do unto the most vulnerable of my sisters and brothers you do unto me.  When you clothe the naked and visit the prisoner, feed the hungry…it is as if you are doing it to me.” (Matthew 25: 31 – 46).

There is a lot of cherry picking going on within the Christian community. Choosing to focus on some issues to the exclusion of others.  Some choose to wrap their faith in the flag of nationalism and even nativism.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Imagine hearing the words of the Hebrew prophets and the teaching and witness of Jesus with fresh eyes and ears.  Imagine approaching the reading of Scripture with humility.  Humility in knowing that we each bring a cultural bias that effects what we hear and to see.  Imagine allowing the Spirit to open our hearts, minds and imaginations to what is possible.

In I Corinthians 13 the apostle Paul says, ‘now we see in a mirror dimly, but one day we will see (God) face to face’.  Our call is to approach our faith with humility.

I don’t know about you but I’m wary of those who say ‘behold sayeth the Lord’. Particularly those who condemn, exclude and divide.  Annie Lamott says it best:  ‘When God hates the same people you do then rest assured you’ve created God in your own image’.

The Christian faith teaches that we catch a ‘glimpse’ of what Paul speaks of when we see love, forgiveness, justice and compassion put into practice.  These are the voices we long to hear.  May it be so.







Foolish Wisdom

I serve a church in the downtown section of a small city.  City leaders are working hard to spiff up the downtown.  A retro theater from the 1930’s has been refurbished, restaurants are opening and artists are moving in.

In short the community is being rediscovered as a place to live and relax.  Just a few blocks from the ocean we are attractive to tourists.  We are fostering community development that is sustainable, that attracts a critical mass of people who will spend money.

In the midst of this carefully crafted image is a neighbor I’ll call Bryce.   He’s a character that defies expectations.  Bryce is a street person who lives in alleys, in the woods and occasionally on a friends couch.  His belongings are kept in a shopping cart.  This in itself isn’t unusual.  Cities large and small have neighbors who struggle due to economics or mental health issues or addiction or a combination.  Such neighbors are familiar.  Easy to look and walk past.

Homeless neighbor

But Bryce is different. He refuses to blend into the background.  Bryce wrestles with a variety of mental health issues.  On occasion his behavior is belligerent.  But those times are the exception.

What makes Bryce stand out is his love of beauty. With an inability to differentiate boundaries he is apt to commandeer a flat of flowers and plant them  in front of the Fire Station.

It’s not uncommon to see mini parks emerge at traffic roundabouts  festooned with American flags, trinkets, tinsel and flowers.   All Bryce’s work.

Where he gets his treasurers is anyone’s guess.  A police officer with a smile told me of Bryce walking into the station with freshly baked cookies.  He offered the cookies with words of thanks to the officers for treating him with such kindness.  Later it was discovered that the cookies had been taken from a local bakery when a worker had turned his back.

This is Bryce.  A neighbor who functions on a different frequency. A neighbor who often amuses and confounds those he crosses paths with.  It’s hard to be too angry with such a person.  But not impossible.  One lady I met was furious at the mess he made by throwing bread to the birds in the local park.

Some consider Bryce to be a fool.  People avoid him or make fun of him.  Yet fools have a purpose. The fool serves as a mirror to our own character, the person we strive to be.

Jesus often took on the role of the fool, the poor, oppressed, unlovely, unlovable.  He said: ‘Whoever shows compassion and kindness to one such as these, shows kindness to  me.  For these fools, these broken ones, these deemed untouchable…these are my family.’ (paraphrase of Matthew 25: 31-46).

Bryce is a gift.  A frustrating gift on occasion but a gift nonetheless. He invites us to bring beauty into places we wouldn’t think of.  He invites us to question our own carefully constructed boundaries.  He offers us the choice to include or exclude.

Bryce in his irrepressible way says: ‘I belong.  I too have a place in this community’.

Bryce knows my name.  He always greets me with a smile.  And sometimes with a warm cookie or fresh flowers…which have come from God knows where.



Who is Your Neighbor?

I recently moved to a new community. The neighborhood I work in has a bustling downtown. Cabot Street features restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques that invite people to browse and visit. Often I cross paths with people I know, sometimes we offer a quick wave, often we stop and talk. One of the things I enjoy most about my neighborhood are the people I’m getting to know as friends.

Within the downtown are those less visible. They are our neighbors who are homeless. It is not uncommon for people to walk past the homeless as if they weren’t there. Perhaps we walk past because we think that their story is so different from our own? Perhaps we walk past because they remind us of our own vulnerability?

image of homeless

The church I serve has long been seen as a hospitable place for our neighbors on the street. We serve three meals per week for guests who are homeless or live on the margins. This past week we partnered with another church to house three families with ten children. Soon the winter weather will come and our most fragile friends will come seeking warmth,to use the restrooms or plug in a cell phone.

Providing hospitality isn’t easy. Some guests are active in their addiction or struggle with mental health issues. Sometimes we have to set boundaries for appropriate behavior.

Some churches lock their doors and see assistance as enabling. Some cities seek to criminalize the most vulnerable and force them into jails or to the next community.

I’m grateful for churches and communities that strive to provide a warm welcome and practical assistance. Gradually I’m getting to know the names and stories of my new neighbors on the street. I’m reminded that our stories have much in common.

Jesus in Matthew 25 says, ‘whatever you do unto the most vulnerable of my sisters and brothers, you do unto me’. Jesus identifies with the most vulnerable at the deepest of levels and invites us to do the same.

Recognizing one another as a neighbor has all sorts of implications. As we get to know and care about each other, we begin to see the complex issues that bring someone to the streets. We begin to explore what social services are necessary for a healthy community to provide, so that all our neighbors are treated with dignity. But it all begins by simply knowing each other’s name.


Sacred Work of a Time Traveller

My friend Ben is a time traveler. He is a young man whose passion and values hearken back to an earlier time. In our hyper busy culture, his calendar is seasonal. In our technologically driven society, he is most attuned to subtle changes in the weather (moisture level, wind, temperature). Like our ancestors 100 years ago, he seeks to live in harmony with the natural world. Ben is a farmer.

photo 1 (4)

Ben also seeks to walk in harmony with a wisdom teacher named Joshua, who lived 2000 years ago. This teacher was a healer and prophet who sought to show us how to live in harmony with the Creator, one another and with creation.

How does a time traveler like Ben live in the present? How does he take values gleaned from the past and put them into practice today?

The answer is found in watching Ben do his work as the site director for the Food Project in Beverly, Massachusetts. There Ben and his team of young people work several acres growing produce from seed to fork.

Food Project is a six-week youth development program that uses sustainable agriculture as its foundation. Teens from a diverse economic, geographic and racial mix come together to learn sustainable agricultural practices, working as a team and honing leadership skills.

They help to raise the 250,000 pounds of tomatoes, squash and field greens that will eventually be donated to hunger relief organizations, sold in neighborhood farmers markets, Community supported Agriculture Shares (CSA) and restaurants.

Food Project farms are found on one acre sites in inner city Boston and in a North Shore community like Beverly. While Food Project is not religiously based, my friend Ben integrates his love for the earth, love for healthy affordable foods and his love for Joshua, also known as Jesus.

2000 years ago, Ben’s teacher said: “Whatever you do unto the most vulnerable of my family, you do it to me.” For Ben taking care of the earth, providing healthy affordable food and empowering young people to work for the common good, all this is sacred work.

Ben’s good work inspires me to be a time traveler too. He reminds us that sometimes our best examples for living well in the present, are to be found in also living in the past.