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“This” Is Who We Are But It’s Not Who We Have To Be

The Flight into Egypt - Matthew 2:13-18
The Flight Into Egypt (Jesus Mafa)

In speaking about the current administration’s interpretation of immigration and border control policies to mean that it is legal and appropriate to separate children from their parents, a woman said to me, “I don’t believe this. This is not who we are.”

I understood what she was saying, but I wholeheartedly disagreed.   This is who America is.  We have been “this” for the entire history of my ancestor’s presence in this country.  American slave holders  separated black children from parents and sold those children off in front of their parent’s eyes for over two centuries.  That’s just an example of who American has been.  Pay attention to the lived experienced of other marginalized people in this country.  They have stories that affirm this is who America is and has been for centuries.

Just because “this” is who America has been does not mean that “this” is what America will always be.  We don’t have to be this way.  America can grow up.

While I appreciate the many right-wing, right leaning and other religious leaders who have condemned this interpretation of policy, for some of them – not all – their condemnations ring hollow.  Some of them hailed the election that brought this president into office.  They championed this  administration’s dismantling of protections and safety nets programs for poor Americans. They were and are silent about this president’s global shenanigans.

Yet all of these issues are fundamentally connected.  You can’t condemn hatred and violence in one place while you ignore it or condone it in another.  You can’t say that separating children from their parents at the borders is “anti-family” while you close your eyes to the harassment experienced by children who speak against American gun policies. You can’t nuance child-harming policies because the real Jesus – the one whose family fled the massacre of children and escaped to Egypt because shoring up King Herod’s insecurities became domestic policy; the one who restored a son’s life to a widow; the one who warned of the consequences of thwarting the lives of children — that Jesus said so.

In a harkening back to the theologies that served to undergird the American institution of slavery, Attorney General Sessions has been quoting Paul. Quite frankly, ain’t nobody asked Paul nothing.  I agree with Howard Thurman’s formerly enslaved grandmother who believed that Paul was not to be consulted on some matters of liberation.  Listen to Jesus.

I’m heartened by the statements from religious leaders. I really am.  It’s something. At least.  More than statements – that the likes of AG Sessions is not reading — what is needed is for religious leaders to gather up the shards of lives scattered about in the wake of the tanks that came before this border evil.  Put your bodies on the line. Educate your members.  (If this is your conviction, put your canons where your mouth is.)  Do something. Or – shut up with your version of useless “thoughts and prayers.”

Some Statements:

“Catholic bishops rebuke Trump’s asylum changes, suggest ‘canonical penalties’

Southern Baptist Convention’s resolution calling for immigration reform that maintains “the priority of family unity:

“Franklin Graham Blasts Trump’s Immigrant Family Separations at Border”:

“AME Church condemns use of scripture by Attorney General Sessions to separate immigrant families”

U.S. Interfaith Leaders Urge Government to Keep Families Together:

And – Attorney General Sessions is a United Methodist.  Here’s a word from his bishops.

The history of America being America:

alternative narratives Christmas carols David Jesus' Way subversive The Way

Christmas Still and Not Embarrassed….

It’s July but my soul has been thirsty for the Christmas story. My children tease me and are prone to fits of embarrassment and anguish right now —“OMG, really Mom?! Really?! Blasting Christmas carols in the car! In July?! Dad, get your wife, please!!” (Don’t worry, I’m not intimidated. I remind them that they can control their own soundtrack on the B49 bus and are welcome to hop that baby at anytime!”) But I digress…

I need a story to counter the heat of the world. I really like the one that begins with “Once, in Royal David’s city stood a lowly cattle shed…” It then goes on to introduce us to a poor baby.

Those of us who know the backstory also know that he loved his mom; that Joseph gave him protection and cover and life skills…and that this poor child probably struggled against rumors of illegitimacy within his faith community. (Ah, the back stories….!)

The last three verses of the carol arrest my heart every time I hear the words, and by the last word I am in tears. Not because of sentiment or melody, but because I can see the amazing arc of a human life that has made all the difference in the world.

We can be like him:

“For he is our childhood’s pattern
Day by day, like us he grew.
He was little, weak and helpless
Tears and smiles like us he knew.
And he feeleth for our sadness,
And he shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see him
Through his own redeeming love
For that child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above.
And he leads his children on
To that place where he has gone —
Not in that poor lowly stable
With the oxen standing by
We shall see him, but in heaven
Set at God’s right hand on high,
Where like stars his children crowned
All in white shall wait around.”
(last three verses of Once in Royal David’s City)

I’m hungry for this narrative because I feel broken by the world’s story. It tells us over and over again that children and poor people are not worthy of our best work – they have nothing to offer us. Of course, we don’t come right out and say that. The title of the world’s story may say one thing – but the chapters are filled with policy decisions, budget decisions, community actions and legislation that tell other stories.

Here’s a counter to that.

This One broke into the world small, poor and helpless. He grew just like us and knew tears and smiles. His life was hard but meaningful, not because of what he earned but who he touched. He chose to associate with the vulnerable. He set children in the middle of one of his greatest lessons to adults. The “little things” he focused on were his generation’s greatest issues. In fact, those little things still matter to us now a few thousand years later.

His death and the new Life he offers to us – rich or poor – says “no more” to the ways human beings hurt each other.

Our work in giving witness to this poor child’s Way is not “destiny” — it’s laying claim to destination.

Let’s not just be on a merry-go-round of work-madness. Our lives are headed toward a crowning. We need to be reminded to live our lives like they matter – as if the obstacles, hardships, joys, troubles, fights, battles and victories….children…people…along the journey shape us for the coming ceremony where we will exchange the stained clothes of struggle for a new garment; one fitting that celebration that is taking place around the Throne. (Another digression – about that crown thing: I’ve not worn hats, believe it or not. Not that kind of first lady! But I will get my big head fitted for this crown I’ve been hearing about…sounds like you need it for the celebration!)

I need – we all need to be reminded, even in the dog days of summer, that this child has given us an amazing gift of redeeming love. Who would have thought that could be the outcome of that stinky stable story?

Christmas carols will be on blast. I don’t think these young people are going to be hopping the city bus. I am, however, hoping the story gets stuck in their heads and works it’s way into their hearts.

Yeah, Mom’s a little subversive….hehehehe…….