Dancing with the Devil

The great sin of our nation is racism. It has been with us since the beginning.  Think of the subjugation of Native Americans, an economy built on slavery and legalized segregation into the 1960’s.   Think of reoccurring waves of anti-immigrant sentiment in our nations history.

Racism is sometimes tamped down but always reemerges.  The latest manifestation was Charlottesville on Saturday as hundreds of white supremacists, ultra-nationalists and neo-Nazis strode through the streets of this small southern city.

 

 

That many carried Trump signs is concerning. That the President initially refused to specifically condemn the hate filled messages of the white supremacists is particularly alarming.  In response he offered a general condemnation of violence with an implication that the counter marchers were equally to blame.

Certainly people voted for Mr. Trump  for many reasons.  Many I’m sure condemn the message of those who marched with torches held high.

But what is apparent to me and many others is that Mr. Trump in his run up to the election and as president, has  played to a racist portion of his base.  He has regularly played the fear card:  ‘Mexicans crossing the border are murderers and rapists’….’Muslims are Islamic extremists’…’the undocumented are raising the crime rate and must be deported’….’Obama was not born in America’….and the list goes on.

In the midst of a society that is racially and ethnically more diverse and with a shifting economy that leaves more people behind, Mr. Trump has chosen the time-honored path of a demagogue… division and fear.   Division is easier than finding a positive way forward as a united people.

The crowd that marched through Charlottesville, for the most part were outsiders to that community.  They marched through this progressive college town with a message of hate.  Carrying torches they reminded us of the KKK in the days of Jim Crow.   They shouted ‘blood and soil’ as they marched, a fascist slogan of the Nazis in pre-World War II Germany.

President Trump’s response was muted and muddy.  He chose not to condemn those who helped him get elected.

It’s been said: ‘You can’t dance with the devil and not be tainted’.

In the Bible we hear:  ‘What good is it to gain the whole world but forfeit your soul?’ (Mark 8:36).  Mr. Trump has made his choice as to what kind of man and leader he will be.  He has chosen to align himself with those who promote bigotry and division.

The choice is ours.  Who will we dance with? What kind of America do we believe in and seek to be?  Being silent or complacent is a choice with consequences too.  Who will you stand with?

On Sunday evening I gathered with approx. 200 of my neighbors.  We were brought together by a woman named Jena Beers who decided to act. Jena was horrified by the images of violence in Charlottesville.  Her heart broke as she saw a racist drive his car into a crowd of peaceful marchers, killing a young woman and injuring many more.   She decided to act.

On Sunday morning via social media she invited her community to gather that very evening,  to say no to hate and yes to love, no to racism and yes to diversity.   200 plus neighbors gathered to speak to the best part of who we are as a people. Hundreds of such groups took place in villages, towns and cities across our nation.

President Lincoln said it is incumbent upon each generation to ‘become a more perfect Union’.  Our time has come.  Who will you dance with?  What message will you add your voice to?  Who will you stand and march with?

 

 

Cherry Picking the Bible

Rev. Franklin Graham, an evangelical pastor and the president of the international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, sees no problem with the White House executive order that prevents refugees fleeing war-torn Syria (and other majority Muslim countries) from entering the United States.

For Graham, it’s simply “not a Bible issue.”

The Huffington Post spoke with Graham and asked whether it’s possible to reconcile Trump’s ban on refugees and limits on immigration with the Christian commandment to welcome, clothe and feed the stranger, and to be a Good Samaritan to those in need.

Graham said he doesn’t believe those two things need to be reconciled.

“It’s not a biblical command for the country to let everyone in who wants to come, that’s not a Bible issue,” Graham told HuffPost. “We want to love people, we want to be kind to people, we want to be considerate, but we have a country and a country should have order and there are laws that relate to immigration and I think we should follow those laws. Because of the dangers we see today in this world, we need to be very careful.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/frankling-graham-refugees_us_5889049ce4b061cf898c6c42

In the past, Graham has drawn criticism for making inflammatory remarks about Muslims and the faith they practice. He’s demonstrated an inability, or a refusal, to understand the difference between ISIS, a terrorist group, and Islam, a religion followed by 1.6 billion people around the world.

For Franklin, “It’s simply not a Bible issue.”

Really?

My question is: ‘Franklin, how do you respond to the Scripture which advocates for those most vulnerable?’ To do otherwise is to ‘cherry pick’ from the Bible to support one’s own bias.

Leviticus 19:33-34:
“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

Deuteronomy 10:17-19
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and 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.”
Matthew 25:42

“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.”

For Christians like me who look to the Bible for guidance, how can we not stand with the refugees and against our president’s immigration policy?

Jesus in Matthew 22: 20 – 22 was asked how we are to navigate between our life as a citizen and as a person of faith. In affect he is asked, ‘what do we do when Caesar asks us to do one thing and the teachings of our faith would have us do the other’?

Jesus responds: ‘Render unto the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and unto God the things that belong to God’. Of course, that’s the rub. Discerning where our allegiance rests.

Rev. Graham in saying ‘this is not a Bible issue’, is choosing to bow down to the emperor. That of course is his right. But to say ‘it isn’t a Bible issue’, is simply not true.

Refugee woman with baby

No one wants to be an immigrant or refugee. We become immigrants and refugees because circumstances of war, violence, poverty force people to make a terrible choice. To leave one’s homes in the desperate search for stability, safety and hope.

President Trump is effective in playing the ‘fear card’. But in reality our welcome of refugees is paltry compared to Europe. For example in 2015/16 Germany a country of 80 million people accepted 950,000 refugees (majority from Syria). In contrast over that same period we accepted 15,000 Syrian refugees and we are a country of over 300 million.

In the face of the President’s executive order(s) to close the borders, build a wall, institute a religious litmus test (Christians first) and impose ‘extreme vetting’ on refugees who have fled violence and terrorism… I ask my fellow Christians: ‘Who will you follow?’

Note:  For information on President’s Executive Order of January 27th and the subsequent effect: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/29/us/politics/white-house-official-in-reversal-says-green-card-holders-wont-be-barred.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=1