Category Archives: Politics

Parable for Trump Evangelical Preachers?

Imagine.  It is Sunday morning, just before you begin the service.  You sit in the padded arm chair behind the pulpit, looking out at the faithful in the hard pews.  The pianist plays “Come As You Are,” and you close your eyes for a moment to pray once more for God to give you the words your flock needs to hear.

As the music comes to a close, you open your eyes and rise from your seat.  You step confidently to the pulpit, filled with the knowledge that you have been called by God to this moment in time.  Just as you open your mouth to welcome both sinners and saints, the doors at the back of the sanctuary open.  You struggle to hide your annoyance at the latecomer until you see the grin on the face at the door.

He is the most affluent man in town, and  at least half your congregants owe their livelihoods to him.  You have invited this man to church at every opportunity.  Now here he is, dressed in a suit that would cost you a month’s salary, his third wife on his arm, clad in an elegant black dress and heels that are more appropriate for a cocktail party than church.  The man carries a shiny, zippered Bible that looks as if it’s never been opened.

Well now, God, you think, just look at that. You grin back as he slides noisily into the last pew.  Some turn to look at the latecomer, but most resist the curiosity and focus their eyes on you.  Certain that you are up to the challenge that God has presented you, you do what you do every Sunday—pray with piety, preach with fervor, and plead with the sinners to heed the altar call at the end of the sermon.  The pianist begins to play “Amazing Grace” as you invite sinners to repent.

A teenager, who everyone knows is abused by her father, shuffles to the altar, sobbing, and you nod to the youth leader, who prays quietly with the girl and wipes her tears away.  You note that your wealthy visitor is unmoved and maybe even a little amused at the scene playing out at the front of the church.  You wonder for the first time why he is here, no longer thinking that your invitations may have moved his hard heart.

Anxious now, you pray the offertory prayer, and the ushers pass the wicker basket.  You note that everyone puts something into the plate, but given the sagging local economy, few are putting in the tithes they once did.  When the offering basket reaches the back pew, your visitor stops the orderly flow from hand to hand.  He accepts the basket from the usher and stands, pulling a check from his pocket and holding it above the basket.

“Preacher,” he says, “Christianity is under attack all over this country. But I can make this church great again.  In fact, I can make it the greatest church in the country.  I’m going to be running for the United States Congress, and when reporters ask me about my religion, I’m going to tell them about this church.  Now my opponent is a liberal who thinks we all ought to say, ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas.’  Now before I drop this money into the offering plate, are you with me or not?”

The church is as silent as a snow-covered field on a wintry morning before anyone ventures outside.  Every eye turns to you.

This man shows no desire for repentance, but he could hold the key to the financial future of your church.  You struggle mightily against the inner voice that tells you this man has not humbled himself at the altar before God.

Will you tell him that salvation is not for sale?  Or will you forge a bargain with the devil?

Let those who have ears to hear listen to this parable for our time.

What Aren’t Our Children Taught in School?

Are America’s schools teaching children to hate their country?

In his speech at Mount Rushmore on Independence Day, Donald Trump asserted, “Against every law of society and nature, our children are taught in school to hate their own country, and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes but were villains.”

Exactly what are our children being taught in school?  Are they learning about hatred?  Yes.  But until recently they were learning about hatred in other countries—about brutal dictatorships in far-away lands.  Ask anyone who paid the least bit of attention in school, and that person could probably name at least a few of the many atrocities from history’s leaders.

A more appropriate question is this one:  What aren’t our children being taught?  What has been omitted from lessons to ensure that our children grow up with a love of America at the cost of being blind to the brutalities of our history?

I am reminded every day just how woefully ignorant many of us are about what it means to grow up Black in this country.  Recently, I’ve been reading Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. As I began reading, I remembered that I had written a paper on apartheid in college, so I knew many of the facts about the history of South Africa.  However, as I did research, not once did any of the opinions available to me at the time suggest a similarity to the institutional racism that is also part of America’s heritage.

After college, as a teacher in an oral communications class in the years before apartheid ended, I listened as many of my students gave speeches railing against apartheid.  All of them had a tone that suggested, “Why can’t South Africans do what the Civil Rights Movement did in our country?”  At the time I couldn’t enlighten them because I held much the same view of America.  I was the blind leading the blind in a very white world.

In his introduction to Part III of the book, Trevor Noah says this:

In Germany, no child finishes high school without learning about the Holocaust…As a result, Germans grow up appropriately aware and apologetic. British schools treat colonialism the same way, to an extent. Their children are taught the history of the Empire with a kind of disclaimer hanging over the whole thing. “Well, that was shameful, now wasn’t it?”

In South Africa, the atrocities of apartheid have never been taught that way. We weren’t taught judgment or shame. We were taught history the way it’s taught in America. In America, this history of racism is taught like this: “There was slavery and then there was Jim Crow and then there was Martin Luther King Jr. and now it’s done.”  It was the same for us. “Apartheid was bad. Nelson Mandela was freed. Let’s move on.”  Facts, but not many, and never the emotional or moral dimension.

After nine years of teaching English in southern West Virginia, I moved to Maryland to teach in a school in the D.C. suburbs with an overwhelmingly white population.  A few years later I was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for an independent study of women novelists who were largely unrepresented in the literary canon.  That summer I read Margaret Atwood and Anne Tyler, but, more importantly, for the first time I encountered Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, and Toni Morrison.

Reading these women and learning about the context in which they wrote changed forever the way I taught English.  I had never read a novel by a Black female author, and I vowed that I would try to ensure that no student who ever spent a semester in my literature classes would be able to say the same.  I didn’t always teach those works well, but I tried.

The experience also changed the way I taught other works.  I distinctly remember one young Black man whose parents asked that he be given another book to read while the class read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  He told me that he’d like to read the novel so that he could see for himself whether it was racist, so I called his parents.  I told them that I would be happy to provide him an alternate reading, but I laid out the case for reading Twain.  They agreed, and I introduced the novel by having the class read arguments for and against the novel.  Looking back, I now know I could have done more.

The magnitude of what I wasn’t taught—and what, for a long time, I didn’t teach—is staggering.  I don’t remember the first time I heard the name Emmett Till—and for very good reason.  While Jet Magazine published the images of Emmett Till’s face, white publications protected their readers from the most graphic of the images.

A few months after the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened in Washington, I was invited to join a group of mostly African-American friends when they had an extra ticket.  When we got inside, some of the elevators were broken, and the lines to get into the exhibits on the lower floors were very long.  Our group decided to walk up the escalators and start on the floors that celebrated the accomplishments of Black people, including a wonderful exhibit of President Barack Obama.

I wasn’t fully prepared for what came next.  We went to the lowest floor, where exhibits displayed artifacts from slave ships.  I will never forget my astonishment as I looked at the countries listed on the walls, with the names of the ships and the number of the enslaved who were lost during the voyage or sold as slaves in the United States.  One ship had only a single survivor by the time it reached America’s shores. And nearly every European country was complicit in the slave trade.

But when I got to the events of the 20th Century, the Emmett Till exhibit flattened me.  As a mother, I cannot fathom Mamie Till’s pain or the courage it took for her to demand that America look into the face of her son.

I cannot fathom, either, how it’s taken another 65 years for righteous anger to erupt in the streets of America—an anger that demands that this time, white people like me do not look away.

And yet many of us are still looking away, even as the cameras roll.  Two years ago, on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, NBC released the documentary Hope and Fury: MLK, the Movement and the Media, and at the beginning of June, the network made it available online.  Black journalists say in the documentary that they don’t know a single Black person who hasn’t heard the name Emmett Till or seen that image—that it’s their Kennedy assassination or 9/11 moment—that they can tell others where they were when they first saw the image.

Dr. King and every Black in this country has stared injustice in the face for far too long as whites have retreated to the comfort of looking away.  Fifty-seven years ago next month, Dr. King stood on the mall and, in his “I Have a Dream Speech,” stressed “the fierce urgency of now.”

If you’re white and you’ve been turning away, read the stories, watch the videos and the documentaries—if you have the courage.  If you have an ounce of human compassion, you will come away changed.  And that is exactly the sort of patriotism your country needs from you.  Now.

Do Black Lives Matter?

Of course all lives matter. But whites, and in particular white Christians, must stop using that response as an excuse when others say that Black Lives Matter.

The Apostle Paul, speaking to the early church in Galatia, expresses this concept well when he says, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NRSV).

Paul writes this letter in response to his critics’ attacks about the way he is teaching what it means to be Christian in this fledgling movement.  There is absolutely no question, however, that the free people of his time enjoyed privileges that slaves did not or that men enjoyed privileges that women did not.

And yet how often we Christians forget that the foundation of our faith is that Jesus died fighting for the poor and the disenfranchised to be heard and cared for and that he commanded us to do the same.  We keep repeating history because we fail to grasp the notion that while all lives matter, our charge is to see that those who are ignored and swept aside get the attention that free, white, wealthy males have enjoyed since the beginning of civilization.

Just 52 years ago, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., died preaching the same message.  Five years before his death he was jailed for protesting in Birmingham, and like Paul, he wrote a letter to his critics.

From that jail, like Jesus and Paul before him, Dr. King responds to the clergymen (yes, pastors and, yes, all men!) to address their claim that he had no right to be in Birmingham.  In part, he writes: 

I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.  Just as…the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town…It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In a new century, when Blacks are still denied privilege and even justice by a deeply ingrained white power structure, Christians are still commanded by the Christ we follow to seek privilege and justice for the powerless.

Even poor white Christians must follow this command.  Let us not forget the story Christ once told of a poor widow:

He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12: 41-44, NRSV).

He watches the rich people give, as they are certainly expected to do, but he doesn’t praise them for their largess.  Instead, Jesus points to the poor woman as an example of how we should all behave.  As a woman and a widow, even in the dominant culture, this widow certainly had little privilege, yet she feels a responsibility to give.

Black lives matter.

Not because they matter more than poor whites who also struggle for survival in the wealthiest country in the world.  They matter because race ensures that they must strive harder to get privilege and justice.

As a white child of poverty who once lived in a house with an outdoor toilet and no hot water, I was still privileged in ways that Blacks in my first hometown were not.  Yes, I worked hard in school to escape poverty.  But now that I am securely ensconced in the upper middle class, I do not have to worry about how I’ll be treated by police if I’m pulled over for speeding or for having an expired registration.  I have several black male friends, also firmly upper middle class, who cannot say the same.

In his book Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates tells the story of how his friend Prince Jones was killed by police yards from his fiancee’s home by a policeman who didn’t even work in the jurisdiction where Jones was killed.  In the book and the recent film Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer for the Equal Justice Initiative, gives a harrowing account of being stopped by police, who hold a gun to his head solely for the purpose of intimidating him for his work on the case of an innocent man on death row.

These are not unusual stories.  This is why Black Lives Matter.

As long as our skin is white, even if that is the only privilege we have because we are part of the lower class, we still have a responsibility to those who are even less privileged.  Until those who are poor and white understand this, those in power will continue to divide and conquer to maintain the existing power structure, which benefits them little more than their brothers and sisters of another race.

In her book White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, Nancy Isenberg, a historian on the faculty of Louisiana State University, recounts the consistent ways that those in power in America have used race and class to stay in power.  She concludes the book in this way:

It was just as easy to ignore inequality by claiming that certain breeds could never be improved. As W.E.B. Du Bois explained in 1909, southern politicians were lost in the vacuity of illogic. They had fallen to arguing that any form of social intervention was pointless, because man could not repel nature’s force; some races and classes were invariably stuck with their inferior mental and physical endowments…[America’s poor] are drummed into the worst jobs, the worst-paid positions, and provide the labor force that works in coal mines, cleans toilets and barn stalls, picks and plucks in fields as migrant laborers, or slaughters animals. Waste people remain the ‘mudsills’ who fill out the bottom layer of the labor pool on which society’s wealth rests. Poor whites are still taught to hate—but not to hate those who are keeping them in line.

Black Lives Matter.  And that all lives matter cannot be an excuse for inaction.

White Christians, in particular, whether rich or poor, have a responsibility to follow the example of Christ.  We are still commanded not to hate, and we need to remind ourselves daily that the greatest commandment is love.  And like the poor widow, we are still commanded to give what we can and to root out poverty and injustice when we are witness to it.

Like Jesus and Paul and Martin before us, we must live lives worthy of the calling we have accepted. 

An Epiphany on the Epiphany

In this season of the Epiphany, I wait for an epiphany.

I attended church yesterday morning to sing “Joy to the World,” with these familiar lyrics:

He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love, and wonders of his love, and wonders and wonders of his love.

Where, I wondered, are truth and grace?  Who is making the nations prove the glories of God’s righteousness and the wonders of God’s love?

In a world where a president I don’t trust tells us to trust that he is trying to protect American lives in killing an admittedly terrible leader in Iran, I want to demand that the president prove it.

In a world where many evangelicals still support a president who, according to fact checkers, has told over 15,000 lies in three years, I want those evangelicals to tell the truth and show more of God’s grace. Instead, they host a rally in a mega-church and defend Trump as sent by God and recognize none of the hypocrisy when Trump says, “For America to thrive in the 21st century we must renew faith and family as the center of American life”—this from a man who has not shown a single shred of evidence that Christ is the light of the world or the center of his life.

In a world where a president appoints unqualified judges to the judiciary in anticipation that they will rule in his favor when he flouts the Constitution, I want more of Lady Justice—that symbol of justice as blind, balanced, and swift to pronounce an impartial ruling. I want the courts to show a little more righteousness—to prove that they are worthy of the trust we’ve invested in them to ensure that justice is balanced and true, no matter the political affiliations of its judges.

I am not alone in these hopes and desires.

A week before Christmas one of the most conservative Christian publications in the country, Christianity Today, published a sorrowful indictment of Trump.  Its editor later commented in an interview with the Washington Post that Trump was like an abusive husband:  “When that husband starts to become violent and physically abusive, the scales don’t balance. It’s time for him to get out of the house. That’s what I’m saying about the Trump presidency.”

In a prescient chapter of her book Inspired, Rachel Held Evans wrote a chapter before she died last spring called “War Stories,” in which she states, “If you really want to understand what makes a community or a culture tick, ask the people in it what they believe is worth dying for, or perhaps more significantly, worth killing for. Ask the people for their war stories.”

This week, Evans’ questions seem particularly pertinent, in light of Trump’s actions in Iran.  But she ultimately drew this conclusion:  “If the God of the Bible is true, and if God became flesh and blood in the person of Jesus Christ, and if Jesus Christ is, as theologian Greg Boyd put it, ‘the revelation that culminates and supersedes all others,’ then God would rather die by violence than commit it.”

On Sunday I watched the news with increasing anxiety. A president I don’t trust has carried out an action, without informing Congress, that many countries around the world are calling an “assassination” and a “war crime.” In the aftermath, this president now threatens the destruction or desecration of cultural sites, many of which have been in existence for thousands of years and have survived reigns of terror from rulers who committed horrible atrocities but still respected the reverence and importance of revered historical sites.

I went to bed last night, sober and sobered. I prayed.  And yet I didn’t know what to pray for.

But I did have an epiphany of sorts.  As I tried to chase sleep, these thoughts crept into my troubled mind:

None of the horrors I feared came true today, even though I let them color my day with darkness.  I need to remember that Christ is the light of the world and the center of our lives, and I need always to look for that light. I need to remember that the wise look for the light and for an epiphany.

Right now I consider Trump my enemy and my country’s enemy…but Jesus commanded me to pray for my enemies and for those who despitefully use me. I have done that but not consistently.  I’m never quite sure how to pray for Trump, but I am called to do so.  I thought about Nancy Pelosi, and I wondered what she says when she prays for him.  I decided to be honest with God.  “God, I don’t know what to pray for.  I want to pray that you’ll smite him down the way the Old Testament leaders prayed for the destruction of their enemies.  So, instead, I’ll simply pray that you will hover over him in a way I can’t possibly understand.”  As Bud Thomas said in his book 10 Things Your Minister Wants You to Tell You (But Can’t Because He Needs the Job)trying to understand an unfathomable God is like trying to get a dog to understand Euclid’s geometry.

As I continually try to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, I realize that if God loves everyone, then God loves even Trump, so I can’t allow myself to be overcome with hatred for him. I can, however, speak the truth in love to power, just as Christ did to the leaders of his time, at the cost of his life.

When I feel helpless, I need to remember that Christ assured us that we would do greater things than he did (John 14: 12). While I might have a hard time believing I could ever do greater things than Jesus, if God is with us, then it must be possible.  The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus’ light shines in the darkness and that the darkness did not and will not overcome it.

And so, on this Epiphany I pray for understanding and direction for our leaders and for Christians and people of other faiths in the world who seek peace every day.  If the Epiphany teaches us anything, it’s that Jesus made a difference in the world, even though he died without seeing the peace he so desperately wanted for us.  Can we offer anything less, then, than proving the wonders of his love?

Should Northam and Herring Resign?

Where are the black faces in this image from Gone With the Wind? What do we learn from visual images?

If a child is taught, either overtly or unconsciously, that racism is acceptable, is it possible to change?  This seems to me to be the question at the heart of the crisis facing Virginians as they decide how to respond to the revelations this week that Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to appearing in blackface as young adults.

The debate continues to rage more than a week after one or more of Northam’s medical school colleagues, incensed about the governor’s comments on late-term abortions, called media attention to his yearbook page.  Given that his classmates had known about the photograph for 35 years, the release of the photograph seems not to have been done out of any concern that Northam might be racist.  That, in itself, speaks volumes about the culture that gave rise to the photograph.

Opinions on whether Northam should resign are not as black and white as the painted face and the robe in the yearbook picture. Continue reading Should Northam and Herring Resign?

Kavanaugh and the Virgin Defense

1797 Cartoon by Isaac Cruikshank

“I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter,” Brett Kavanaugh attested, claiming he was a virgin until well after high school in a Monday interview with Fox News’ Martha McCallum.

She followed up by pressing, “So you’re saying that through all these years that are in question, you were a virgin?” Continue reading Kavanaugh and the Virgin Defense

Are Trump Supporters Deplorables?

Almost two years have passed since Hillary Clinton delivered the gift of her “basket of deplorables” speech to her opponent’s campaign, so why do Democrats continue to make the mistake of tossing all Trump supporters into a single category of despicable people?

Little has changed in the way most Democrats view Trump’s base since Clinton gave that speech at an LGBT for Hillary fundraiser in New York City on September 9, 2016: Continue reading Are Trump Supporters Deplorables?

A Rational Abortion Argument?

As an English teacher I became so frustrated with students for being unable to offer a rational abortion argument on either side that I ultimately refused to let them deliver an argumentative speech on any aspect of the issue.

Abortion was the only topic, among a host of complicated issues, which I ever banned when I taught public speaking.  But I didn’t know what else to do.

I told my students when they were choosing topics that they should either avoid topics they couldn’t do justice to in five minutes, or they should narrow the speech to a single aspect of a topic. Most students followed my advice.

One passionate student, however, decided that her view was worth the risk to her grade and decided to tackle the whole of the abortion issue in spite my cautions.  She defied the time limit and argued passionately but irrationally for nearly ten minutes, and at the end of the speech, nearly every student in the class was angry.  Those who disagreed with her arguments were furious.  Those who agreed wanted a class discussion to continue the debate.  And the moderates and rule-followers in class were indignant that I hadn’t stopped the speech at the five-minute mark. Ultimately, that speech convinced no one of anything.

Though I didn’t ban abortion from arguments in writing classes, I did caution my students, as I did about all topics, that when I evaluated arguments, I would read their papers as though I disagreed, whatever their stance, and I promised them I would be as objective as I possibly could in reading their arguments.  This wasn’t always easy, and the top students always wondered how I could give two papers on the same topic an A when they had such divergent views.  I told them that the A arguments were always the ones that showed some recognition of the nuances of the topic.

This wasn’t always easy for me as a teacher, but I felt a responsibility to encourage students to consider all aspects of a topic, using sound sources, and then to allow them the freedom to draw their own conclusions without forcing my own views on them.

But on the abortion issue, I had no good answers for students then, and I have no good answers now for how we can have a civil, intelligent discussion of the nuances that are crucial to this discussion.

Here are two views that I’ve actually heard former students (and adults) at the two extremes say:

  • “Life begins at conception, and all abortion is murder. It should always be illegal, even in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother.”
  • “As long as a fetus is still attached to a woman’s body, it’s a parasite. And if a woman chooses to abort it, that’s her right and nobody else’s business.”

Most Americans don’t espouse either of these views. In survey after survey, a significant majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade, even though most of us couldn’t tell you exactly what the opinion says.  The complete transcript of the majority opinion isn’t easily available online, and many don’t realize that the decision in 1973 seemed to be based on the doctor’s right to privacy, without mention of the rights of women.  In the decision for the 7-2 majority, Justice Blackmun wrote:

The decision vindicates the right of the physician to administer medical treatment according to his professional judgment up to the points where important state interests provide compelling justifications for intervention. Up to those points, the abortion decision in all its aspects is inherently, and primarily, a medical decision, and basic responsibility for it must rest with the physician.

In the years since, some aspects of the decision have been struck down, including the original guidelines for the trimesters at which abortions can be performed.  Yet we continue to discuss this issue in the public arena as if only the two extremes matter.  (A guide to the key aspects of decisions related to abortion can be found at the Chicago—Kent College of Law’s Body Politic Project.)

We live in a country where the majority is supposed to rule, even though recent presidential elections where the Electoral College and the U.S. Supreme Court have ruled for the minority have called that principle into question.

Surveys of citizens’ attitudes about abortion consistently reveal widespread majority support for Roe v. Wade.  In January of this year, before the current uproar about the Supreme Court vacancy, Pew Research reported that 57% of Americans support legal access to abortion, including a wide variety of religious groups. Even among some evangelical denominations, over half of members felt that the law should allow access to some abortions, even if they personally opposed it.

This week, after the announcement of another Supreme Court vacancy, a number of polls are showing even more widespread support for Roe v. Wade.  A Kaiser Foundation poll showed 67% support for the law, including 43% of Republicans.  A Quinnipiac University poll on a variety of issues showed 63% support of the ruling overall, with virtually no gender gap in the results.

So why are we Americans being held hostage to the wishes of a small minority at the extremes of our culture?

In a more perfect union, where the majority does rule, the rights of the minority should be honored.  But since we don’t live in a utopian state where consensus is always possible, where does that leave us?

I never felt good about banning abortion from class discussions.  But I sometimes want to do the same thing in the discussions that are taking place in the public arena.  Even though the people at the extremes are in a small minority, they seem to have the loudest voices, and because they get their information from the most biased media sites, the cacophony they create takes me back to the day a single student with a loud voice held my class hostage for ten minutes.

Right now Roe v. Wade is the best we have.  I was a junior in high school when that decision was made.  I remember well, in the years before, the stories of girls my age who were mutilated or who died at the hands of abortion providers who took their money and destroyed their bodies.

Here is the single lesson I took away from that time:  Wealthy people will take their daughters out of the state or the country to get a safe and legal abortion.  Poor women or girls who are too ashamed to seek help will find a way to have an abortion, even if it may maim or kill them.

Many of the people who protest in front of abortion facilities weren’t born yet when the Supreme Court issued that decision on Roe v. Wade.  A few of them weren’t even an egg in their mothers’ ovaries or a sperm in their fathers’ testicles yet because even their parents hadn’t been born.

Perhaps only when their sisters and daughters and friends die after an abortion in a dirty and dark room will they realize the folly of not having a sensible abortion law.

Is Jesus Being Flogged in the Public Square?

Jesus is being mocked and flogged in the public square this summer.  His attackers, as they were 2000 years ago, are an angry mob that has been whipped into a frenzy by the leaders of the day with the full support of the nation’s leading evangelicals.

Here are just a few of the instances when Christians have acted in distinctly un-Christlike ways in recent months:

  • Immigration officials, acting at the behest of leaders who rationalize cruel policies by citing the Bible, ripped families apart while the evangelical leaders who advised them remained conspicuously silent.
  • A Walgreen’s pharmacist, citing his Christian beliefs, refusedto provide a drug for a woman who had been prescribed the drug to expel a fetus that had died inside her womb.
  • The leaders of a church in Sterling, Virginia advocated abuse of children and used church members’ tithes to start a “racecar ministry” and purchase a collection of expensive motorcycles and cars. They have also been accused of sexually abusing women and girls in the congregation.
  • Evangelical leader Paige Patterson defended his decision to advise women to endure their husbands’ abuse and to pray for them to come to God.
  • Religious leaders who have spent their careers decrying the state of the family and the moral decline of our nation continue to defend Roy Moore, a candidate for Congress who was repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct, including incidents involving underage girls.

The Christian leaders who have condoned these and other acts or who have remained silent in the face of such abuse, including many abuses of people of color, are no better than those who cried out for Christ to be crucified.

I had this realization when I read today’s Gospel Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary from Matthew 20: 17-28. Jesus tells his disciples that he is about to be “mocked and flogged and crucified.”  Even among his followers—who have watched him serve the poor, the lame, the disenfranchised for three years—the possibility of losing him as a leader causes a scramble for power.

In the scene that follows this news, the writer of Matthew tells us that two of the disciples bring their mother to Jesus and that she kneels before him and asks that they be able to sit on either side of him in his kingdom.  It is not an unreasonable request for a mother to make.  If her sons risk dying for him, don’t they deserve something in return?

The other ten disciples are understandably angry when they hear what the brothers have asked.  After all, all of them have sacrificed everything to follow this man. All are equally deserving of any power that comes to them as a result of his movement.

As he’s done so often in his ministry, Jesus uses this as yet another teachable moment.  He points out that they are not like other leaders who have become tyrants over them.  No.  He reminds them, as he’s told them before, “It will not be so among you; whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.”

Our nation’s founders set up a government that they thought would ensure against tyrants.  But, increasingly, our leaders are acting like tyrants—lying to the people, abusing the disenfranchised, and adding riches to their own coffers.

Where is the Leader who will sacrifice and save us? One would think that Christian leaders who have a public presence would be crying out in the face of injustice. But no.  They, like the chief priests and scribes in this story, have condemned what’s left of Jesus in American Christianity to be mocked and flogged in the public square.

Separating Immigrant Families is un-Christian!

How can anyone look at pictures of their own children and think separating immigrant families is right?

In the wake of news about separating immigrant families at the U.S./Mexico border in recent weeks, the silence from Trump’s evangelical advisory board as children are being ripped from their parents’ arms has been deafening.  Pastors have a Christian duty to hold Jeff Sessions and his boss to account, especially in the wake of Sessions’ claim that Romans 13 supports such abject cruelty.

In fairness, some conservative religious leaders are speaking out.  Franklin Graham, surprisingly, said in an interview last week with the Christian Broadcasting Network, “I think it’s disgraceful; it’s terrible to see families ripped apart and I don’t support that one bit.” However, he rendered his criticism impotent in the next breath by saying he still supports Trump and blaming politicians of the last 20 to 30 years for creating the mess that has led to the current policy. Continue reading Separating Immigrant Families is un-Christian!