What is happening to my country?

Every morning for the past week I have awakened with this question…”What is happening to my country?!”

It has not been perfect, and yes, there have been issues that I believe need to be corrected. But suddenly I feel like I’ve been transported to another, extremely unfamiliar place–one that has the same language, places, forms of government that I have come to know, but that somehow is off kilter.

And I am just sick.

I spImage result for coventry cathedral crossent some of my younger years in a country that had been devastated by the second world war. One of the places we visited–and that had a powerful impact on me–was Coventry Cathedral, a beautiful building that had been bombed out. But at the front of the ruined building was an altar with a cross…and a prayer: “Father, forgive.”

Forgive our inhumanity to each other…our fear of “the other”…our desire for dominance…there were so many things to pray forgiveness for.

And as a world, we swore we would never let anything like that happen again.

But we did. In Bosnia-Herzegovina…Rwanda…Cambodia…

And again we said, we would never let it happen. We had learned our lessons.

But we haven’t…and I’m fearful that we’re taking the same road…again.

How did those countries get to that point? There are ten steps on the road to genocide. They’re not inevitable; the process can be stopped…but the further a society goes down the road, the more difficult it is. Here are the steps:

  1. Classification – separating people into “us and them” by various categories (ethnicity, race, religion)
  2. Symbolization – giving names or other symbols to the classifications
  3. Discrimination – using law, custom, and political power to deny the rights of other groups
  4. Dehumanization – equating members of a specific group with animals, verman, insects, diseases…using hate language against the group
  5. Organization
  6. Polarization – driving the groups apart, again by using hate language
  7. Preparation – often done using euphemisms to talk about what is being done
  8. Persecution
  9. Extermination
  10. Denial

As I watch the news, I’m afraid we’re heading down that road…and I’m scared. Not so much for myself, but for friends…and for my children and grandchildren. What kind of world are we creating for them?

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Seeking to understand

When I was working, we took some training in Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits for Highly Effective People. While I don’t remember a lot of it, one of the steps has stayed with me: “Seek first to understand.”

Sometimes that’s difficult…and it’s proving to be so for me in our current political climate. So that brings me to the point of this post…

I know I have friends who voted for and/or support Donald Trump as president. Why? This isn’t a “gotcha” question or the opening move in “who can post more talking points or memes to prove my rightness.” I really want to try to understand.

Especially if you consider yourself to be a follower of Jesus Christ…why?

What is there about this man that called to you?

I will freely admit that there are many aspects that turned me away from him:

  1. His history as a businessman of “stiffing” contractors out of money he had agreed to pay when he signed contracts with them.
  2. His adultery and infidelity.
  3. His seeming willingness to lump all members of a specific religion into the category of terrorists.
  4. His seeming willingness to categorize all members of a specific race as rapists.
  5. His belief that as a “star” he is entitled to do whatever he likes to women and they have no right to object.
  6. His use of divisive rhetoric.
  7. His lying (even when there is proof to the contrary).
  8. His unwillingness to share his tax returns (as every other president for the last 40 years has done), even though he said he would.
  9. His unwillingness to remove himself from his business dealings in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

These are certainly not all the things that concern me–but they are a start. So much of this goes against the values I hold and my understanding of what it means to follow Christ:

The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)

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. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49)

I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. (Malachi 3:5)

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)

So…please help me understand. Why Trump?

 

The power of love

We’ve been watching the Harry Potter films recently. We saw them when they first came out and I’ve read the books…but it’s been a while, and we were just in the mood.

I have to admit that it’s been interesting watching them as the United States has been leading up to the inauguration of Donald Trump as president. There have been a lot of parallels between the two universes…

But one thing keeps coming through…and that is the power of love.–

Yes, there are dark times in the movies–and many of us fear that the United States is facing a dark time. Harry and his friends found themselves caught up in a conflict between those wanted power for themselves and those who wanted to help others be what they had the potential of becoming. Some of us wonder if we are dealing with a similar conflict.

We have struggled with language–and yes, there is a quote from Professor Dumbledore that speaks to me about that:

Words are in my not-so-humble opinion, the most inexhaustible form of magic we have, capable both of inflicting injury and remedying it.

We have seen injury inflicted on individuals…can we find words now that will remedy it? Again, another quote from Professor Dumbledore:

We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.

So who are we? really?

Are we facing a situation like Harry and his friends when Professor Dumbledore challenged them with this quote?

Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is easy and what is right.

I don’t know.

But the power of love…that’s what will get us through. We see that in Harry Potter…and for those of us who are followers of the One called Jesus, we see that in him.

And so…as we move into a new era, I am reminded again of the power–and the importance–of love…and another quote from a wise man of our own time–Martin Luther King:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

May we live in the light and power of love.

We are better than this…

Yesterday I saw a story in my Facebook newsfeed that shocked and disappointed me. It was about a pig’s head found in front of a new mosque. Apparently that has not been an isolated occurrence (as I found when I googled to confirm its veracity). There have been several incidents.

What really shocked me, though, were the comments. There were cheers and praise for those who committed this hate crime–and no expressions of outrage or sympathy for the worshipers. (Before you ask me why I didn’t post, I wasn’t on a device that would allow me to–and I haven’t been able to find that post since in order to post my response.) And I had to wonder…is this who we are?

I have always believed we are better than this.

Yes, I know there have always been some who are virulently opposed to any religious perspective other than their own. But now it feels like I am seeing and hearing the deepest, darkest thoughts that people have kept hidden for years…but now feel free to release.

I am a committed follower of Jesus–but I have also learned respect for the ways in which others worship…and I have often learned from them as well.

The God I worship does not live just in a box labeled “Christianity.” The God I worship is larger than that–and I realize I may never come to completely understand who that God is. That’s why I find it valuable to try to understand others’ perspectives.

One of the things that concerns me is that I see so many who claim to be Christian making hateful comments towards those who worship differently…who look different…who may speak different languages. And yet…there are so many scriptures in the Bible that Christians claim as their sacred book that should make us behave otherwise:

Exodus 23:9 (NRSV)

 You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 24:22 (NRSV)

You shall have one law for the alien and for the citizen: for I am the Lord your God.

Numbers 15:16 (NRSV)

You and the alien who resides with you shall have the same law and the same ordinance.

Deuteronomy 1:16 (NRSV)

I charged your judges at that time: “Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien.

Deuteronomy 27:19 (NRSV)

“Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.” All the people shall say, “Amen!”

Zechariah 7:10 (NRSV)

Do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.

Malachi 3:5 (NRSV)

Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

Matthew 25:43-35 (The Message)

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

“Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

“He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

Hebrews 13:2 (NRSV)

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

We can be better than recent news stories have shown. My faith tradition believes that God still speaks to God’s people today–and in recent revelation this was shared:

God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.

We are better than recent news stories have shown. We must be…for the good of all.