I don’t have brown skin

Skin Brown Skin Brown Skin Up Close Skin Up Close

As we’ve talked about showing compassion for immigrants, a number of people have wondered why people who are here legally would be anxious about an uptick in immigration enforcement.

I’d bet most of those people don’t have brown skin.

“Aha! I knew you’d play the race card sometime.”

When discussing immigrants, even Latino immigrants, there shouldn’t be a race card to play. “Latino” or “Hispanic” aren’t races; they are ethnicities. That is, there are white Latinos, black Latinos, yellow Latinos, and brown Latinos. And there are plenty of people with brown skin who are neither Latino nor are they immigrants.

But we know who the brunt of this enforcement will fall on. When my friend Carlos was arrested for not having papers with him, he was merely the passenger in a car driven by someone who committed a violation (a U.S. citizen). Yet Carlos “looks Mexican” and was asked to prove his legal status. Unable to do so, he was arrested.

What documentation do you carry with you to prove your legal status? Ever been out with a friend when you weren’t driving? Did you worry about carrying your “papers” with you? Do you often carry your passport or other documentation showing your citizenship?

If you don’t have brown skin, probably not. If you’re one of the 2/3 of Hispanics that live here that were born in this country, you probably haven’t thought about that either. Yet I’ve had Hispanic friends who were asked to show their green card, even though they were born here. Why? They are Hispanic… and look like what most people think Hispanics look like.

My son probably doesn’t have to worry about it, even though he was born in Argentina and identifies as Hispanic. He doesn’t have brown skin. He’s okay.

Let me use an example from Argentina. Different country. Different laws. But maybe the illustration will help some. We had two young men in our congregation who regularly got around on motorcycles. One was stopped several times a week by the police to have his papers checked and his backpack searched. One was rarely stopped and never searched.

Can you guess the difference? The first young man was from the north of Argentina and looked “Bolivian” to most Argentine eyes. The other was also from a different Argentine province, but he and his family looked very European.

I don’t expect things to reach those levels here, but I do know if police are tasked with looking for illegal immigrants, they won’t be tapping me on the shoulder and asking for my papers.

I don’t have brown skin.

Links to Go (February 24, 2017)

Study: Venezuelans lost 19 lbs. on average over past year due to lack of food

In a new sign that Venezuela’s financial crisis is morphing dangerously into a humanitarian one, a new nationwide survey shows that in the past year nearly 75 percent of the population lost an average of 19 pounds for lack of food.
The extreme poor said they dropped even more weight than that.


Do We Really Have to Politicize Everything?

Put those two developments together: (1) the idea that your consumer choices express your identity and (2) the idea that your political views are the essence of who you are. What happens next?
Everything gets politicized.


Words are Not Neutral

I wrote recently about my “grumble fast” that I started, which in some ways is more difficult than going without food. Grumbling and complaining are idle words released from an ungrateful heart that if not repented for, we’ll have to give an account. Complaining and grumbling was so serious to God that some of the Israelites were destroyed because of it (see 1 Cor. 10:10). When I started this fast, I began to recognize just how deeply embedded ungratefulness was within me.


Latinos and the New Trump Administration

According to the new survey, which was taken before Trump’s inauguration and the reported rise in deportration concerns, Hispanics are split in their concern about deportation. About half (47%) of Hispanic adults, regardless of their immigration status, say they worry “a lot” or “some” that they themselves, a family member or a close friend, could be deported, while 52% say they are worried “not at all” or “not much.”
Worries about deportation among immigrants are greatest for those who do not hold U.S. citizenship and do not hold a green card: 67% say they worry a lot (45%) or some (22%) about the deportation of themselves or someone close to them. And among immigrants who are lawful permanent residents, 66% say they are worried about deportation of themselves or someone close to them. Both of these groups are potentially subject to deportation. By comparison, one-third (33%) of U.S.-born Hispanics say they are worried about deportation of someone they know, while 55% say they worry not much or not at all about deportation.


Democracy and The Demonization of the Good

That democracy is increasingly unable to bring about these compromises is because when two rival goods repeatedly compete in the public sphere the desire to have one good triumph over the other good causes the parties advocating a good to trivialize, demean, and diminish the rival good.
Democracy, thus, leads to the demonization of the good, making compromise and civic discourse increasingly impossible. Instead of a compromise between two rival goods, the political fight is transformed into Good versus Evil.
At this point, when good is called evil, democracy is doomed.


Rules Without Reasons

If I’m being honest, there are some things in the Scriptures that I simply do not get. Some positions which I believe are biblical still make me a bit uneasy. At times, I simply do not understand why God set these things up the way that He did. But I’m asked to obey them nonetheless. And it feels a bit like I am back in the Garden of Eden with God saying something like, “Don’t eat the fruit…if you do you’ll die,” but not really giving me reasons for the rule.


Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds

The Gormans, too, argue that ways of thinking that now seem self-destructive must at some point have been adaptive. And they, too, dedicate many pages to confirmation bias, which, they claim, has a physiological component. They cite research suggesting that people experience genuine pleasure—a rush of dopamine—when processing information that supports their beliefs. “It feels good to ‘stick to our guns’ even if we are wrong,” they observe.


The Resuscitated Church

Now, it’s difficult, and most churches that try to self-resuscitate fail — presumably because they still have the same problems that nearly killed them in the first place. But for those churches that managed it, here’s what they did —

  1. A prolonged period of prayer.
  2. A covenant to forsake self.
  3. A willingness to kill sacred cows.
  4. A commitment to see through the eyes of the outsider.
  5. An agreement to connect and invite.
  6. A decision to move beyond the negative naysayers.

Good Intentions, Lack of Plans Mark Church Response to Domestic Violence

When it comes to domestic violence, Protestant pastors want to be helpful but often don’t know where to start.
Most say their church would be a safe haven for victims of domestic violence.
But many don’t know if anyone in their church has been a victim of domestic violence. And only half say they have a plan in place to help if a victim comes forward.


5 facts about crime in the U.S.

  1. Violent crime in the U.S. has fallen sharply over the past quarter century.
  2. Property crime has declined significantly over the long term.
  3. Public perceptions about crime in the U.S. often don’t align with the data.
  4. There are large geographic variations in crime rates.
  5. Many crimes are not reported to police.

Texas hunters who claimed they were shot by ‘illegal aliens’ shot each other, authorities say

After being airlifted to the hospital, the men told authorities that immigrants who crossed the border from Mexico wanted to steal an RV some of the hunters were using. In statements made through friends and family, they went further, suggesting that the assailants wanted to kill everyone in the party, as the Albuquerque Journal reported.
A GoFundMe page set up by a family friend to cover Daugherty’s medical bills raised $26,300 from more than 200 donors.
The story was harrowing, to be sure, not to mention rife with political implications. The Texas Agriculture Commissioner even shared it on his Facebook page, saying it underscored the need for President Trump’s proposed border wall.
But authorities say it was all a lie.


When in Abilene, minister to Abilene

I’d like to ask you to skim my post from yesterday. As you do so, I’d like you to read it with this question in mind:

  • Who are the hurting people in our congregation?

I feel like many people read yesterday’s post with a political eye. They were asking questions like:

  • Should there be undocumented immigrants in our churches?
  • Is current immigration enforcement being carried out correctly?
  • Who is to blame for the fear in the Hispanic community?
  • Are the U.S. immigration policies just?
  • Are we taking into account the hurt caused by some who are here illegally?

While those questions have a place at other times, they miss the point of yesterday’s post.What people failed to note was that I was addressing a situation in the University Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas. A church where a significant portion of our congregation is directly or indirectly affected by what is going on with immigration. A church that Sunday affirmed a Hispanic man and his family as being an integral part of our congregation (via a baby blessing).

Interestingly enough, that sort of illustrates something that happens in biblical interpretation. When we read the New Testament epistles, we often forget that many of them were written to address specific situations in specific churches. That’s what several readers did with yesterday’s post.

This wasn’t about what’s going on with the church in Laredo, Texas. This wasn’t about what’s going on with the church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It wasn’t even addressing a situation at the Oldham Lane congregation in Abilene, nor the Highland congregation. It was about us and how we respond to hurting people in our congregation.

Someone asked if we also weep with those who live on the border and are suffering at the hands of people coming illegally. While we sympathize with them, it’s hard to minister to people we don’t know. Surprisingly few people drive up from the border to worship with us on Sunday.

As you skim yesterday’s post, think about your situation. Maybe you have Hispanics who are frightened and upset; maybe you don’t. Maybe you are in South Dakota and know people who have been impacted by the Keystone pipeline decision. You are to minister to them in ways that I can’t. Maybe you have families of Syrian descent who have relatives who have been displaced. Lay aside your thoughts on allowing refugees into this country, and go sit with them. Weep with them. Pray with them. Maybe you have a significant number of blacks in your congregation who feel threatened by recent events. Maybe you have families in law enforcement who feel disrespected and equally threatened.

Someone asked about families who lost relatives at the hands of immigrants driving drunk. My response was that the grief of those families would be the same whether or not the guilty driver were an immigrant or not. At a time like that, our response shouldn’t be shaped by politics. It should be shaped by love.

Our first responsibility is to those in our congregation. We spend far too much time scouring the Internet for news about terrorist attacks in Luxembourg when we need to be seeing the person down the pew from us whose heart is hurting. We post things on social media attacking this group or that group without considering how our words affect someone who pulls a cup out of the same communion tray we do on Sunday. That’s why yesterday’s post had the title it had. That’s what many failed to see when reading that post.

Here are two principles to start with:

  1. Love God.
  2. Love your neighbor.

Work out from there. If you do that, you’ll travel a long ways before arriving at partisan politics. If you start with the politics, you’ll have to go a long way before arriving back at the center.

Who is hurting in your congregation? Go minister to them today.

If we are members of the University Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, we should be hurting today

Everyone in our congregation should be concerned right now. Everyone. The same probably goes for your congregation.

I don’t really care what your thoughts are on immigration policy, at least not today. Today is a day to think as a Christian, not a Republican or a Democrat.

The Hispanic community in Abilene is upset. Nervous. Both those who are here legally and those who aren’t. They are uncertain about what the coming days bring for them and their loved ones. They know they are in for a time of distrust and suspicion, no matter their status. They are hurting right now.

This is true for Hispanic members of the church. They are scared. They are nervous. They are hurting.

We should be too.

But I agree with Trump’s immigration policy! (you say)

OK. That’s not the point of this post. This post is about weeping with those who weep. This is about compassion.

We can feel compassion even when we feel that someone is suffering because of something they’ve done wrong or that their family has done wrong. We can hurt for the alcoholic, whether or not we think they are to blame for their condition. We can hurt for families going through divorce, no matter what we see as the cause of their situation.

We don’t have to be pro-enforcement or anti-enforcement to hurt with those who hurt and weep with those who weep.

On Sunday, we had a baby blessing at our church. The father is Hispanic, the mother Anglo. Mom admitted that she would have preferred to do the blessing in the chapel where our bilingual group meets, but agreed to do it in the main auditorium because she had been told it would be encouraging to the main congregation. Everyone wanted to see that our congregation has young families that are growing.

When we have baptisms, we often do them during worship time, even though that’s very disruptive for the bilingual group. Why do we do that? So the whole congregation can rejoice together upon seeing a new birth. (Over the last few years, a disproportionate number of the baptisms at church have come from the bilingual group)

We want to rejoice with our Hispanic brothers. We want their joys and their triumphs to be the joys and triumphs of the whole congregation.

Therefore the whole congregation needs to be hurting today. We need to weep with those who weep. We need to feel the pain of the children who don’t understand legal and illegal; all they know is that Mexicans are being rounded up and sent away… and their parents are Mexicans. Kids don’t understand the difference. Their peers will still taunt them and bully them about being taken away by immigration. You may think that their parents are at fault, but you can still hurt for the children.

We can’t have it both ways. We can’t claim the joy and not claim the hurt. We can’t share the laughter if we aren’t willing to share the tears.

I don’t really care right now what you think about immigration policy. I do very much care what you think about Hispanics today, both those inside the church and out. How we react to them today, how we treat them during these hard times, how we talk about what’s going on… all of that will affect the church’s outreach for decades to come. And will affect our brothers and sisters today.

Weep with those who weep. Hurt with those who hurt.

Talk to school teachers. Hear their stories about the confusion kids are feeling right now. Think about the Hispanics you know who are working in restaurants, doing construction, laboring on farms. Whether or not they are here legally, they are going to face increased scrutiny, increased suspicion, increased discrimination. Feel for them. Embrace their pain as your own.

All of UCC Abilene needs to be upset and hurting today. All of us need to be nervous about what’s coming in the days ahead. Today, I don’t care about your politics; I care about your compassion.

If we are members of the University Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, we should be hurting today. (Those of you in other churches should consider your church’s situation)

Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.

The Bible and inspiration

Yesterday’s post reflects a concern I have, the observation that the church is increasingly de-emphasizing the role of the Bible and proportionately giving more weight to the voice of experience. There is a growing distrust in the human authors of the text; I’ve given plenty of time recently to that idea. The Bible is seen as a very human book; interpreters are free to embrace or reject each passage as they see fit.

As society clamors for religious experience outside of religious institutions, there is an increasing focus on God’s Word beyond Scripture itself; the Bible is seen as part and parcel of organized religion, so those dissatisfied with religion in general seek to find Jesus apart from the written word. This idea is often expressed as focusing on the red letters of the gospels above all else, thinking that they represent the purity of Jesus’ teachings.

Much of it comes down to our view of the Bible and our view of inspiration. If, for example, the apostle Peter was merely the N.T. Wright of his day, then we’re free to agree or disagree with what he says (though there seems to be greater hesitancy to disagree with Wright than to disagree with the biblical authors!). If the epistles are nothing more than a historical curiosity, preserved in a sort of textual museum, then we may read what they say and shake our heads in pity at the inadequacy of their understanding of Christianity.

I don’t believe in divine dictation; I recognize the humanity behind Scripture. But I also believe that God was at work in the production and preservation of the writings of early church authors; I believe that these men wrote God-breathed, Spirit-aided, Christ-honoring texts. Though not perfect men, I believe their writings reveal God’s words to us.

I believe in the unity of the teaching of Scripture. I don’t pit one author against another. I don’t see one book as a corrective to another book, nor one verse as fixing what another says. I do see differences, both differences in narrated details and differences in outlooks on doctrinal themes. But even when the biblical melody isn’t always sung in unison, I believe it’s sung in harmony.

I also believe that the church was guided by God in the selection of which books to keep. The purpose was not to preserve a historical record of the church’s beginnings; these writings were selected because of their ongoing value to the church. What Paul said to Ephesus was seen as being relevant to the church two hundred years later; I believe it’s still relevant two thousand years later.

This is a deep and complex subject, one that I can’t fully explore in 500 words. I’ll try and summarize with this: I firmly believe in the truth and inspiration of the Bible, even the uncomfortable parts. When experience, church teaching, or personal emotions conflict with Scripture, I’m sticking with Scripture.

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