Saturday, November 21, 2015

What do American Christians really think about welcoming Syrian refugees?

     In the past week, a large number of United States governors have announced that Syrian refugees aren't welcome in their states.  While I'm not aware of a lost of the religion followed by these governors, most of them are Republicans, with the assumption that most of them are Conservative Christians. In the wake of this, there's been memes chastising Christians for their hypocrisy. Since the Bible- both Old and New Testament- are absolutely clear on how refugees and immigrants are to be treated, it's right to point out to any Christian who would deny refuge to those fleeing terror that they are, in fact a Class a hypocrite. But is that what the average American Christian would do?

     Rather than view the opinions of people like Bobby Jindall and Greg Abbott as representing American Christian opinion, I thought it might be useful to see what the presiding bishops and other leaders of American Christian denominations say. Of course, they don't represent the view of every member of their denominations; on any given day, people sitting next to each other in the pews will disagree on any number of topics. But as elected representatives and leaders of their faith they provide a much better lense than elected government leaders.

The National Association of Evangelicals "Anderson points to a famous story in the Bible, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, who helped a traveler who'd been beaten and robbed after others passed him by.
"[He] came and took a risk, and helped, and invested his own money. People often know the story of the good Samaritan, but they forget how Jesus ended it. And his last words were, 'Go and do likewise.' So he's calling on Christians, his followers, to be good Samaritans," Anderson said.
Anderson said he hopes evangelical churches will continue to step forward and offer to house Syrian refugees. He pointed out that some are Christians fleeing persecution, but he said no one should be subject to a religious requirement to receive help.
"If a child is suffering, if a child, a family, has been forced out of their home, are we really going to put them through a religious test in order to protect their lives? I hope not," Anderson said." (Story here. )
The United Methodist Church  "“Syrian refugees are fleeing violence perpetrated by ISIS ─ violence that has destroyed their country,” McCullough said. “To blame vulnerable people for the acts of their perpetrators is unjust and inhumane. We must react not with hate toward one another, but instead with unity and resolve to see that these horrendous crimes are not repeated.”

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America :  "Yet, we Christians and all others of good will cannot let fear rule the day. Fear paralyzes, divides people, fosters distrust and clouds judgments.  We also stand shoulder to shoulder with people of faith who are firmly opposed to vengeful reprisals and prejudice. In particular, we are concerned for and committed to standing with our Muslim neighbors who are facing threats and acts of discrimination and hate by those who conflate Islam with terrorism.”

The LDS Church : Mormon Newsroom reports that Latter-day Saints around the world have provided aid for the past decade to refugees in the Middle East, in the form of blankets, clothes, medical supplies and food. 
The First Presidency thanks the members for their generous contributions that have allowed the Church to help previously and, to allow the Church to continue their donations, encourages members to continue to donate when possible. 

The Catholic Church  "I am disturbed, however, by calls from both federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. These refugees are fleeing terror themselves—violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization."

Presbyterian Church USA : "Choose welcome, not fear."  These are the words Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the Office of the General Assembly PC(USA) implores in his statement related to the terror attacks that occurred over the weekend of Nov. 13, 2015 and support for Syrian refugees.

United Church of Christ : " It is tragic that our country continues to witness the scapegoating and systematic collective punishment that it has known in the past.  During World War II, those of Japanese heritage were interned.  In former eras it was Catholics, Jews, and repeatedly Asians who were refused entry or inclusion into our immigrant nation. Today we watch still as a new manifestation of Jim Crow leads to the mass incarceration of great numbers of African-Americans.  We have experienced how fear and suspicion lead to institutionalized discrimination and systematic dehumanization of whole communities."

The Episcopal Church  "The children of Abraham have ever been reminded to care for the widow and orphan and the sojourner in their midst, who were the refugees and homeless of the time. Jesus charged his followers to care for the least of these and proclaim the near presence of the Reign of God – in other words, feed the hungry, water the thirsty, house the homeless, heal the sick, and liberate the captives. We cannot ignore the massive human suffering in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, nor in Asia and the Americas. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and our lives are bound up with theirs. The churchwide ministry of Episcopalians has included refugee resettlement since the refugee crisis of World War II.  It continues today through the leadership of Episcopal Migration Ministries, and I urge your involvement, action, and support. Read about their work below, and share these opportunities with friends and co-workers. You will discover anew the power of good news in the face of the world’s tragedies. "

American Friends  "We encourage governments to support the UN call for humanitarian relief funding for displaced Syrians. All international parties should act before the refugee flows further destabilize the region."

Southern Baptist Convention : "The resolution concluded, "We affirm that while Southern Baptists, like other Americans, might disagree on how to achieve just and humane public policy objectives related to immigration, we agree that, when it comes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to His church, the message, in every language and to every person, is 'Whosoever will may come.'""

It seems to me that the leadership of American Christianity and the people they lead,  overwhelmingly proclaim welcome to Syrian refugees.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

I have been called to be prayerfully affirming

(Note- all links will be marked with an asterisk and will be footnoted)

     As we have (mostly) all shared and grappled with our own and others' responses to the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality, I've done my best to  sharing my own views in a positive manner, and quietly passing by differing views. I've found much more effective to stand by my own views, respectfully, and wait until others respectfully ask for engagement before doing so. That's where real change occurs.

     Not everyone takes that route, and the rainbowing of my facebook profile picture drew ire from one of my co-religionists, who felt I should not have overlaid our church with this symbol of inclusion.
Our 2015 Mexico Mission Team, before leaving to serve an orphanage in Tijauana

     The more I meditated upon it, the *more* I felt it was right and proper to do so. Of the people picture whose opinion I know (I don't know all their opinions), they overwhelmingly some down on the side of equality. And even if I didn't know some personal stories, anyone looking at a group of people that says should know that there must, statistically speaking, be gay, lesbian, or bisexual people present.
I feel this rainbow is right and perfect.

     But such opposition is about so much more than a photo. It's about people. Real people, who leave the church because of hatred and consider suicide in numbers much greater than the general population. Can we afford to respond with anything BUT love? And for people of faith, any faith, it's about faith. The two can't be neatly separated. I was made keenly aware this past weekend with my own and others' experiences at Seattle's Pride Parade.

     This is my second year walking with Open Door Ministries, a local ELCA ministry dedicated to full LGBTQ inclusion. Before the Pride Parade, I visited worship at Central Lutheran Church in downtown Seattle, where our Northwest WA Synod bishop, Bishop Unti, shared the message. In his message, he stated that "as we walk today, we will be proclaiming the Gospel." Powerful words! We then all walked to the staging area together, and as we waited for over an hour, photos were taken and I had the joy of saying hello to a pastor who was a former youth worker in our congregation.

Local ELCA pastors who came to proclaim God's radical love with their feet.

     As we walked along the parade route, I stay along the outer edges as I like to connect with people. There's a lot of high-fiving and hugging. I was carrying a simple sign: just some old mountboard with "GOD LOVES EVERYONE" written in rainbow crayon. As I high-fived spectators, one woman held onto to my hand and said "God loves everyone! I really needed to hear that now!". She kept holding onto my hand, near tears. Somewhat unusual for me, I felt it was right to ask, "Can I pray for you?" She said "YES!" and threw her arms around me. Another woman who was with her placed a hand upon each of our heads. I prayed that she would know she is a precious child of God, that she would know nothing but love and acceptance, and that she would never forget that God made her and loved her as she is.

     And then I went on my way.

     I don't know anything about her story, but I feel certain something meaningful to her happened in that moment.

     Of course, Lutherans were not the only religious people who joined Pride. On the bus to Seattle, I got to converse with an elderly, gay, Vietnam vet who was joining his Episcopal congregation. He spoke of the double hell of coming out, switching congregations, AND being a vet of a war so many disagreed with. He spoke of how the congregation he originally left after coming out now has their Believe Out Loud status. It was such a privilege to hear this saint's stories.

     But the story that brings me the most joy? My dear LDS friend who walked with Mormons Building Bridges. My friend and her husband did not always advocate for LGBTQ equality. But then, about the time our state was voting on marriage equality, she began asking sincere questions. She had conversations with people of all opinions. Before too long, we knew her oldest child had come out. I watched her position evolve. She made plans to join this year's Pride. Her facebook friends learned that her next oldest child was also gay. My favourite, very favourite photo from all of Seattle Pride is that of my dear friend with her arms around her gay son, who was wearing his LDS going-to-Temple clothes with a rainbow bow tie and a sign proclaiming "I know my Savior loves me". Yes, yes, yes! May the love and acceptance they felt follow them as they face Testimony in church this week.

     So to my fellow Jesus people I say- May the radical and inclusive Love of God be with you all. Everyone of you. And may you extend it to all.

Related Links:

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton's Letter on SCOTUS ruling

Open Door Ministries on facebook

Mormons Building Bridges on facebook

Thursday, April 02, 2015

A Maundy Thursday Reflection On "Deeply Held Beliefs"

I've been thinking a lot about Indiana's religious "freedom" bill, and why I oppose it. I'm a Christian, and all my part time jobs take place in the context of church childcare and teaching. I'm a private preschool teacher, work in my church nursery and two others, and provide MOPS care for two churches.

I meet a lot of parents in this context and to be frank, there are times their practices and beliefs are in opposition to my own deeply held beliefs. In contrast to Indiana's situation, discriminating against or treating LGBTQ people as second class citizens is against my beliefs about how Christ would treat these people, yet I serve people who WOULD discriminate. I serve parents who are against public assistance and socialized medicine, and we KNOW how Christ treated the hungry, poor and sick. Don't get me started on parenting. I have my own deeply held beliefs there, too, but I know to just keep them so myself. To use an example that's probably less personal to most others, anyone who knows me knows how I feel about disposable anything. Yet I don't turn parents away and tell them to come back with cloth diapers.

Because that's the thing about service-about being a SERVANT- which those of us in the Christian tradition celebrate on Maundy Thursday. Being a servant means being a servant to all- in love, without condition. Have Indiana's fundamentalist Christians forgotten that?

I'll leave you with a quote from Steve Inskeep on today's "Morning Edition" :
 I wonder if there are people who are uncomfortable as a matter of conscience with gay marriage who might, with reason, take that position - that their job is simply to sell flowers, that their job is to take photographs, that their job is not to judge either way, that none of us are put on Earth to judge, actually, that their job is not to judge the people in front of them necessarily.

(Full article here. )


Saturday, March 07, 2015

Superheroes, national treasures...children's librarians!

When I was the mother of a preschooler and toddler I was planning to home school, I discovered the Friday morning story time at one of our local libraries. It wasn't the closest library, but it was the most easily accessible by bus, which was important as we were a one car family.

Years passed. We added a baby and a minivan, and the preschooler and toddler became school age children. Story time remained one of the most important parts of our week: not only did it serve as the first practice sitting still in a group that my kids experienced, but we formed friendships with other homeschooling families that formed the basis for co-ops and playdates that provided the important social experiences my kids might otherwise have missed out on. As time wore on, the older kids would wander out and pick their own stacks of books, eventually novels, while the youngest still enjoyed story time.
Once, Friday fell after an ice storm and we tried to start out over an inch of ice for story time. We got stuck and a stranger had to turn our minivan around and point us back toward home. The kids all cried to miss storytime.

But all good things come to an end. Sooner or later, you give in and move on from preschool story time. The friends moved away, and I added first one, and then two mornings of work a week. With two high schoolers, I knew I wanted to ease my way back into the work force.

This year, I made a major life leap and took a job three days week teaching preschool (while maintaining my two MOPS jobs). When we started planning our community helpers units, I asked Ms Gerry, our children's librarian to grace our class with her presence. She ended up giving a 40 minute story time for our whole school, and it was a thing to behold. Energy crackling from her like a superhero of literacy, she kept nearly fifty kids from ages 3-5 engaged for that entire time. As I sat on the floor of my class room with about 5 little kids squished onto me, I felt transported back in time. And another thing- watching her, I knew most of my own circle time came from those story times of over a decade ago. I have stolen from the best.

If you know, our your children know,a children's librarian, know that aside from you, they may be your child's first best teacher. If you're an adult or close to it,stop into your library and thank your children's librarian. They are truly one of our national treasures, and our first line of defence against illiteracy.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What I Mean When I Say I'm Not A Sports Fan

I live in the Seattle area, so I'm surrounded by rabid Seahawks fans, literally everywhere I go. I LITERALLY cannot escape it.
 As I was relating to a couple of friends my struggle to find a place to eat that would NOT be showing today's game, I was asked why. Was I just not a Seahawks fan? Did I not like the noise? When I said I am not a sports fan, I was asked to elaborate further, and the analogy I used was, "When I say I'm not a sports fan, it's like Richard Dawkins saying he's "not really a religious man", and for many of the same reasons".

Now, I do try to keep my mouth shut about how I feel about Sportsianity. I like to treat other people's religions with the same respect I'd like my own to be treated with. But for these past couple of years, living where I do during football season makes it hard not to let it out.

So why am I not a sports fan?

Opiate of the Masses: Karl Marx referred to religion as the opiate of the people (  "Die Religion ... ist das Opium des Volkes" ). There can be little doubt that pro sports serves the same purpose in American society. Racial injustice? Environmental degradation? Rape culture? Who cares, there's a playoff!

Domestic Abuse: The past year has seen serious questions about how the NFL deals with domestic and child abuse among it's players. The questions remain. Perhaps this shouldn't be surprising from a game where men violently slam into each other.  Like other high profile, lower level sports cases sch as Penn State and Steubanville, one can easily feel that a player or coach can have a blind eye turned on them or get a mere slap on the wrist if the teams' performance is at stake.

 Brain Damage :  Again with the slamming together. Football players of all levels have a high level of concussion risk: the NFL last year paid out $765 million to settle cases against former players who suffered lasting effects from these concussions. This is such an issue, that the question has been repeatedly raised about the ethics of watching a sport so detrimental to the health of it's players. (Christians, read this also.)

Disrespect of Indigenous Culture: That team from the other Washington. Enough said.

Disproportionate Pay: IN 4/5 of our states, the highest paid employee is a coach. This makes coaches the mega church, gleaming mega pastors of our country. 

This doesn't seem quite right to me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

In support of giving a

It's a current trend to not give a Care is not the word people use, but I work in children and youth ministry, so I watch my language. Not giving a is seen as a good thing, a thing we should admire. I know my visceral, negative reaction has something to do with my image of the person who doesn't give a care as a rude, sweatpants wearing slacker. I've tried reading essays on the subject-I really have- but they lose me with their language usage.

I did get through enough of one essay to hear that , at least in the words of one writer, it's not about indifference, but about not letting the little things get to you.
It still seems a bit dispassionate and unenthusiastic to me.

For me, I'll risk caring too much.

I'm sure in the eyes of some, I care too much, about too many things, and about things not worth caring about. But that's OK. I wouldn't trade it, because I have an an energy and enthusiasm that comes from giving cares. (Or I may just be implacable). I'll keep caring. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Noise is wonderful- a reflection

I know some people hate noise- such people count among my family and coworkers. I love noise, and I'm reflecting on why I love the noise today.
Right now, in my house, the dishwasher, clothes washer, dryer, and heater are running. So is the fan in the bathroom where I just took a hot shower. There's noise from the game system we can provide our children, and just minutes ago noise from the vacuum cleaner I used to make our room clean. We live in an area that has at least one power outage a winter, and I am grateful when I can be surrounded by this noise again. May I never take it for granted.