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Saturday, January 28, 2017

I’m Not Trying to Proof-text, But…

I have to be honest.  I woke up, this morning, upset about immigration reform.  Before I had even made my cup of coffee (and this is a big deal, because I haven’t had coffee in weeks), I was already thinking about what could be done to bring some compassion, mercy, and reason to this process that seems to have imploded overnight.  I knew, when I sat down to read through the daily office, that I might project my feelings about this onto the Scriptures.  Maybe I’ve done just that.  If you think so, go ahead and call me out.

Last night I saw something that indicated that the vast majority of people (I think a study showed 92% or so) don’t actually care what clergy have to say about social justice.  This falls squarely on us.  This is a failure of clergy and the Church at large.  I apologize.

I read Psalm 55.  The whole Psalm is certainly worth your time, but here are a few verses that stood out to me:

“Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words, for I see violence and strife in the city.  Day and night they prowl about on its walls; malice and abuse are within it.  Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets” (v. 9-11, NIV).

Then, Mark 7:1-23.  Again, I would highly suggest reading all of it, but for the purposes of this post:

“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules’” (v. 7, NIV).

“Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that” (v. 13, NIV).

“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them?” (v. 18, NIV).

“He went on: ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them.  For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder,  adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and defile a person’” (v. 20-23, NIV).   

May God help us, we seem to have forgotten that the problems we have are internal ones.  In Scripture, this is almost always the way it goes down.  Jesus confronts those who are on the inside—those who live in comfort and prosperity.  Far too often, the response is, “Oh, it’s not me.  It’s not us.  Look at all of those dirty outsiders.  Heck, Jesus.  It’s you.  You are the problem!  Leave us alone so we might build our walls of protection and exclusion in order to be safe!”

Safe from whom?

Quite frankly, I have experienced more backstabbing from within the walls than from outside of them.  This is always… always… where I get myself into trouble with people who identify as religious.  Many years ago, when our family started saying things like, “Everyone is welcome here,” we found out rather quickly that this was a sore spot for the religious elite.  Interestingly, we have suffered abuses at the hands of those who hold themselves in high esteem, but I know quite a few drug dealers, prostitutes, widows, orphans, inmates, and people riddled with disease who would give me the shirt off their backs if I needed it.  Something is wrong with this picture.  Really, really wrong.

Now, I want to be extremely clear that I am not comparing refugees to any of those listed in the categories above.  If there is any comparison to be made, it is simply that we have marginalized them as people.  That’s my point here.  We have decided that they are somehow worth less than we are, because they are unlike us.  Even though they are fleeing in fear for the sake of their lives and their families, we are the ones who are afraid of them.  But I can’t figure it out, because it’s backwards.   We should have no fear of what is outside of ‘the wall.’  The evil comes from within.

My heart is so broken, today.  As I have indicated before, one of the biggest dangers in this is that I will think I have done something to help just by being sad.  Please, let’s not fall into that trap.  I have a friend who is an immigration attorney, and I am anxiously awaiting her suggestion for how to move forward with some practical steps to make a difference.  In the meantime, I have an online friend (who is friends in real life with people I know personally) who offers great insight into what is happening with Syrian refuges in Hungary, where she lives.  Her blog can be found here.  It both touches and breaks my heart every time I read it.

I certainly don’t know everything about every organization that is reputable, but I know that if you donate to Nazarene Compassionate Ministries at this link, the funds actually go to help Syrian refugees, in Hungary, right now.

I hope to have word on an action plan that will make a difference locally, in the near future.  For me, it’s a both/and proposal.  Help now, where you can.  Keep helping as new opportunities arise.  And then, when you’ve done something practical, it’s OK to break down in tears for awhile over our brothers and sisters, over their babies, over the sad state of a world in which the people on the inside don’t understand that we are the problem.

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