Archive for April, 2010

Arizona, Part 4

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

I’ll pray against the new immigration law in Arizona with every beat of my heart, but I’ll likely make this my last post on it here — there are so many other things to occupy us all, even if this was the week’s worst. I send this out to all of you who smugly tap into your reservoirs of belief in Christian obedience to authority by asking why immigrants don’t “just trust God” to provide for them in the poverty they find themselves and their families in in Mexico, and who consider their lack of trust in his provision as motivation for coming to the United States illegally:

I’d ask each one of you who think we need to get tough on “illegals” how hungry your kids would have to get, or how threatened your wife would have to be, before you’d do something like cross a border without papers to feed or protect them. Then I’d ask you to consider that you probably won’t ever have to face that situation, and perhaps extend some understanding to those who have.

It’s astonishingly easy to condemn people faced with ugly choices you’ll never have to deal with, but it certainly isn’t very Christlike. And coming as it often does from people who claim to value children highly, it seems odd that their poverty troubles you less than their parents’ attempts to alleviate it.

Roiling With Sin In Arizona, Part 3

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

A friend writes, in response to the enshrined racism of Arizona’s new immigration law, “There is a process, for better or worse, that allows folks that are not US citizens access to the US and to jobs in the US. From what I understand, the AZ law isn’t going after those folks at all. It is focused on the illegal immigrants.”

My response:

It may be “focused on the illegal immigrants,” but it’s “going after” every single Latino-surnamed, Mexican-looking, Spanish-speaking person in Arizona, who will now cease to enjoy the same protections under law that you and I have — for no reason other than fear, fear that suggests that WE will somehow be safer if THEY have to produce proof of legal residency.

Roiling With Sin In Arizona, Part 2 (Even Angrier Than I Was The Day Before)

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Well, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has cast her lot with the bigots, the haters, the anti-Constitutionalism and anti-intellectualism in this country — all in the name of compassion, law and order, states’ rights, and reason — by signing the bill requiring law enforcement to examine the immigration and residence documents of any person who could be here without those papers.

Enforcement is obviously predicated on race- and ethnicity-based “probable cause.” The bill is a civil-rights, human dignity horror of which every American ought to be ashamed. And that’s the thing we all ought to agree on.

Regardless of what people would propose to solve the issues presented by illegal immigration, I’d like to believe that every one of us would recognize bad law when we see it, and would condemn it as such immediately. After all, if there were a bill that required that all gay people be rounded up and deported — that is, all people presumed to be gay by whatever criteria the cops are told to consider as “probable cause” — it would be wrong to respond by discussing, say, domestic partnerships or other issues involving the GLBT community. We would, I hope, vehemently condemn a despicable law, regardless of our views on other issues involving the targets of it. Let’s discuss the issue of undocumented border crossers, but let’s remember that the topic immediately at hand is a markedly un-American and un-Christian bill that ought to provoke our fiercest response. This isn’t one of many reasonable solutions to immigration problems. Let’s not discuss it as though it were.

Before we discuss the “problem” of illegal immigration, shouldn’t we take a huge step back and look clearly at what this law does? Does it concern any of you that under the guise of addressing a legitimate issue, the State has determined that physical, linguistic, cultural and other ethnically-based criteria can be used to make people produce certain documents, regardless of whether or not the subject has done anything to attract the attention of law enforcement? Can you reasonably suggest that there is somehow a non-racial/ethnic aspect to this law? Is this really what you want law enforcement to occupy itself with?

And does it bother you at all that if you’re an Anglo person in the U.S., you’re not going to be asked to produce your I.D. and birth certificate or other residency/naturalization/citizenship papers just because a cop tells you to, using immigration as the reason for his/her demand? Are you at all concerned that my sister-in-law’s family, or my dear friend Hilda, could be forced to produce documentation that shows their legal residency, just because their skin color, last names, or accents appear “Mexican” — even though they’re American citizens? This is a hateful and unconstitutional law that every single American — and particularly our libertarian freedom advocates — ought to greet with horror.

If it continues unchallenged, we won’t be able to blame “illegals” for sullying the values and laws of the land. We’ll have Arizona’s and other state legislatures to thank for that instead.

Roiling With Sin In Arizona

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Allison Johnson, campaign coordinator for Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, says it better than I ever could. From SojoMail/Sojourners community, an evangelical social justice ministry, April 22, 2010:

“In Arizona, the harshest piece of anti-immigrant legislation in the country sits on the desk of the governor, awaiting her decision whether to sign it into law. This controversial bill would wreak havoc on the Latino community of Arizona by requiring law enforcement officials to question people about their immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person might be undocumented.

The law is a recipe for racial profiling, distracts police from focusing on crime, and will breed a dangerous distrust between the Latino community and law enforcement – making witnesses and victims of violent crimes afraid to speak to police. Our nation and neighborhoods are still recovering from a similar distrust in the African-American community that was birthed out of the Jim Crow era, and we can’t allow such fear to be fostered by law again anywhere in our country.

Perhaps the most offensive aspect of the Arizona bill lies in the implications for the church. Under this law, those who “knowingly transport or harbor” undocumented immigrants will be at risk of arrest. Daily ministry activities like driving people to and from church or offering shelter or food to those in need will be unlawful. This law is a direct attack on the body of Christ, because it makes it illegal to love your neighbor and care for “the least of these” in Arizona. Many church leaders have already told Arizona politicians, “we will not comply.” (SojoMail, 4/22/10)

Thank you, Sojourners, and God bless you, Ms. Johnson. This law is a despicable piece of slime masquerading as “immigration reform,” and I say this as someone who immersed herself in ministry to undocumented immigrants for more than a decade, from January 1990 ’til the end of 2001. I did things that under this bill would be illegal, and I would do every single one of them again in a heartbeat. In Arizona. With gratitude to God for the privilege of serving him in it all.

Dale Courtney and his pals might consider Christian service to be best accomplished by guffawing over nakedly hostile “satires” against immigrants. The Arizona State Legislature might consider their work a valuable weapon in the arsenal against lawlessness. But those who love freedom and justice, not to mention logic and rationality, ought to shudder, and Christians can only be profoundly grieved that an entire people group in our country would now be subject to the grossest abuse of their basic rights, and often in the name of our Savior.

This is hatred of which the Church must repent. The Legislature in Arizona isn’t, of course, the Church of the Lord Jesus. But that Church has too often joined, heart and hand, with those people and institutions who desire to harm Christ’s own people, and if his Church accommodates this law in any way, if it is signed by the governor, it will commit a grave sin. Because the State might outlaw ministry to “the least of these,” as Wallis rightly points out, but the Church can never acquiesce to laws that strike at the heart of the Gospel.

I ministered passionately, boldly, and publicly, and I would do it again, every part of it, should the Lord lead me. May thousands of saints in Arizona insist that for their part, they can only serve the Lord, and may we all pray that this bill languishes unsigned on the desk of Arizona’s governor, and the stupidity and hate behind it withers under the Light of Christ’s Gospel.

Contempt. It Doesn’t Look Good On Church Elders

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Christ Church Elder Dale Courtney, on his Right-Mind blog, continues his crusade against Christian character with a fun little satire about Americans moving to Mexico with “demands” mirroring what Courtney sees from undocumented Mexican immigrants.

You know — Swallowing up social services. Disobeying traffic laws. Whining about racism and abuse. Mocking the prevailing culture, scoffing at taxes, and demanding tax cuts, Social Security, and turn-down service, with chocolates, from the government every night. American immigrants “demanding” all of this when they move to Mexico, just like they do when they come here! Isn’t that a riot? And aren’t there some sobering truths in this witty little screed?

No. There aren’t. I’ve known literally hundreds of undocumented Mexican immigrants, having ministered — loved, served, taught — for more than a decade among them. I recognize neither the demands nor the attitude satirized, and I’d love to hear Courtney’s first-accounts of his personal relationships with “illegals,” because it would be unthinkable that someone would unleash this kind of contempt onto people with whom they’re not personally, individually, relationally familiar.

Right?

Shame on David D., who forwarded this litany of lies to the ravenous Courtney, whose blog consists of almost nothing original but ballast of regurgitated far-right viciousness. Shame on Courtney, who, like a bitch in heat, sniffs the air, finds a stench, and comes a-running toward it. And shame on Christ Church, which is in no way accountable for his behavior, but stands condemned only for theirs in continuing his eldership.

As always, I extend an invitation to talk with Dale. As before, he’ll mock it. That’s his choice. It’s also his choice to foul the office of eldership, just as it’s my imperative to call him on it. He’s done his part to provoke my own.

Democracy: Coyotes, Lambs, and Chinese or Greek?

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Doug Wilson, who chose to mark the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing by furthering his blog crusade against the “tyranny” and “plunder” of the Obama administration and the mandate for Christians to “resist,” doesn’t think much of democracy. He and his fellow patriarchs often compare democracy to the notion of two coyotes and a lamb deciding what to have for dinner.

The lamb doesn’t fare well in Wilson’s fable, and thus determines democracy.

It is, of course, a stupid analogy, given that within the framework of a democracy would be a prohibition against killing dissenters. Under a democracy, the coyotes couldn’t turn on the lamb, rip him to shreds, and gloat about their electoral triumph without swift, sure punishment. The framework of a democracy — and Wilson knows this — is more akin to two coyotes and a lamb deciding together if they want Mongolian beef with pea pods or spanakopita for dinner.

Please take note.

This little tutorial is provided for those who wrongly turn to Douglas Wilson for wisdom in all things political, and who blindly follow him in all things theological. Does that sound hateful? Or simply foolish, coming as it does from a self-educated homemaker such as myself.

It’s not hateful, and I’m terrifically unconcerned that some find it foolish.

It’s an urgent call for a measure of mature and sobriety of judgment, although I acknowledge that it looks “hateful” and mean-spirited because the target is Wilson, not some made-up enemy. “He who must be obeyed” is not above legitimate criticism, and that criticism from me is more judicious and more circumspect than what he dishes out against the President. That Wilson is allowed to continue spewing venomous lies without censure is the fault of his elders, co-pastors, and allies in ministry.

His free pass ends with me. I’d rather be a lonely, foolish-sounding voice speaking truth than an obedient, mute spiritual sycophant. I think perhaps there’s value in the former, even when it makes the Anglo-Celt patriarchs at Anselm House guffaw into their manly beards.

A Nod To Confederate History Month, From Frederick Douglass

Monday, April 19th, 2010

By now, most of you have read of the Virginia State proclamation regarding Confederate History Month, and I’ve spared you the entire text here. It’s what you expect — a call for the importance of studying the past; remembering the context, which for me would be the “sin is sin, racism cannot be excused” context of Scripture; appreciating tradition; and an acknowledgment of what some in Moscow can’t quite grasp, that slavery was an unequivocal historical evil. As a review of history, it’s forgiving; as an analysis of society, it’s tepid; as a call to repentance, it’s just what you expect from the State — no call, no repentance.

I was hoping for a wholesale condemnation of neo-Confederates and their attempts to whitewash history and, worse, integrate Christianity with the Confederacy, but the more “Christian” the State and the more Southern its location, the less likely that would be. Still, it’s not just the paleo-, neo-, and historical Confederates who claim that their corner of the United States was the “Amen corner” of the Lord’s. Constitutionalists exalt the founding documents as God-inspired in intention if not rhetoric, and Christian homeschoolers gorge themselves on stories of the founders’ fervent evangelicalism, which was neither fervent nor evangelical. The fundamentalists who revere the Bible as the revealed, inerrant Word of God and who would consider the deism and immorality of the Founding Fathers an affront to Christianity now embrace for the Constitution what they proclaim of Colossians and elevate Deists to a historical diaconate they’d deny most of their neighbors.

(Last year even saw the publication of the American Patriot’s Bible, “a version of the Bible targeted the spiritual needs of those who love our country.” This is an embarrassment of revisionism, idolatry, and wishful thinking that ought to cause mature believers to retch at the interweaving of the Gospel of our homeless, Semitic, itinerant Jewish Messiah with the interests of slaveholding patriarchs, but with mid-term elections coming up, it should be a monster seller. It’s already a monster shame).

So if the United States isn’t now and has never been a “Christian” nation, and the Confederacy even less so, it seems good to inject some context here. I was profoundly moved by Greg Boyd’s “The Myth of a Christian Nation,” and I’ll be commenting on it more, but I think the words of Frederick Douglass, the Christ-following former slave, should tide us over until next year’s Confederate History Month, or whenever the next outburst of patriotic piety seizes the Right:

“Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference — so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked . . . I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity.” (1845, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself”)

Let God be true, and everyone a liar who would dare align him with the sinful kingdoms of humankind.

Strange Bedfellows, Shameful Priorities, And The Awful Merging Of The Two

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Moscow’s Vision 2020 community discussion forum, and some off-line comments directly to me, are abuzz with talk of the Tea Party movement, particularly as tax day April 15 came and went with the earth still spinning, providentially and assuredly, on its axis.

Even with Obamacare in the works, even with an original Obama U.S. birth certificate that you haven’t seen, and even with the recognition that you haven’t seen your original, either.

And my most recent blog entry had to do with the TP but also what I see as the gross hypocrisy of the love affair between the Religious Right and the Republican Party, a pairing offensive enough even without the increasingly common revelations of sexual escapades that ought to cause discerning Christians to examine if this relationship — political power infused with public piety and spiced with partisan pejorative — is worth continuing. Or alliterating. I touched on the reality that whatever good and decent goals some — some — Tea Partyers have for our country, their movement has, since its inception, become a boarding house of sorts for the far-right, faux-Libertarian fringe — the God, guns, and grains folks who appear downright circumspect and erudite next to the Sovereign citizens, birthers, and die-hard John Birchers, racists, and conspiracy nuts.

This isn’t surprising. I think any organization whose primary raison d’etre is being against something, while its founders are angry, feeling marginalized, and behaving in ways that not only confirm their marginalization but make it understandable, is bound to shatter. I’ve seen this in charter schools and church splits; when people feel beleaguered and marginalized, they can either respond with coherence or maladjustment. I’ve seen examples of coherence in charter school-administration and church splits (or plants), and I’ve seen in both very real examples of utterly reckless, angry chaos. Those words — utterly reckless, angry chaos — describe the current movement to a “T.” Or “Tea.” But never a Church.

Angry, beleaguered, maladjusted people, when they band together, tend to attract other angry, marginalized, maladjusted people, and the focus so crucial to the formation of any cause or goal gets lost. The facts and realities of both their perceived marginalization and a positive, reasonable solution to end it — in other words, a defined cause and a defined method of redress — never quite floats to the top. “They hate me and wanna take my stuff and my rights and I’m pissed,” while an effective rally cry, is somewhat lacking as a political manifesto. “Zoos Have African Lions And We Got A Lyin’ African” can’t propel common cause, but it’s tremendously effective at spreading hate. Which, then, becomes a common cause of its own, as I believe we’re seeing.

That’s why I’m critical of evangelicals who are also easily seduced by the GOP. A Gospel whose political expression seems to consist primarily of disgust over same-sex marriage, the cheerful acceptance of even the most insipid, impotent expressions of public “Christianish” behavior, and frozen-heart regard for the poor, is a Gospel not likely to attract anyone to Jesus Christ. That it actively repels people is a badge of honor for too many on the Religious Right; it’s a mark that resembles, I think, another foretold in the Word, one that will eternally separate those who bear it from their Savior, because it’s so clearly not a fruit of Christ’s Gospel.

That Gospel, in its proclamation of Christ’s sacrifice for my sins and yours, is offensive to sinners. The GOP-spel, on the other hand, seeks to offend sinners and acquire the power to do them harm while preserving the privileged state of its proclaimers. The difference is as clear to you as it is to me, but when we fall into idolatry and prostitute our testimonies and our lives because political power feels so good and costs so little, it gets as twisted and muddled as the sheets in a forbidden tryst.

In the same vein, Christians who have been utterly silent in the face of obvious, grotesque, and foul injustices against this nation’s poor and vulnerable have suddenly found their righteous indignation and their prophetic voice — because they perceive, and perceive wrongly, that somehow THEY will suffer, or already have suffered, under the policies of the Obama administration. Evangelicals who flock to the Tea Party because they believe they can find Biblical support for what the Tea Partyers clamor for — namely, an economic system that continues to privilege them and their own, are condemned not only by their earlier silence, but by their cries now.

These Christians were silent, or even applauded, when others suffered the injustices that helped to maintain their privileged status. Shame on us — shame on me — if our voices are raised not in defense of the “least of these” of Jesus Christ, but in protest over perceived threat to our economic security. May God have mercy on a Church that largely applauded the wars that plunged us into massive debt, but only now find debt immoral — even when that debt, begun under George W. Bush for the cause of killing, is now added to because of previous neglected funding of programs to save lives.

Dear God.

I cannot find reason for hysteria or hate when I begin to grasp the reality that millions and millions of my neighbors in the United States who have not had access to decent health care will, under Obama’s plan, finally enjoy a measure of security for their families. I fail to see how government aid to poor people is somehow a frightening manifestation of incipient socialism, but tax cuts and corporate welfare aren’t. And there’s no terror for me in a Black President, but I fight feeling terror for him because he’s the object — the motivating force, really — of much of what passes for political discourse these days, and not from cooler heads.

I’m concerned about the treasury deficit; I’m even more concerned about the deficit of wisdom, integrity, and compassion that fed it. Until we have a bipartisanship movement that address that, the crippling effects of debt could swamp this nation in ways far beyond the economic. A prophetic evangelical call from a Church committed to calling for and modeling competence, justice, and integrity in the public square could roust us from our preoccupation with bedroom sins, and outrage over the unrighteous privilege enjoyed by some at the expense of the many could unite us to the Gospel. Give me a public square full of Christ-followers like that, and not only will the angels rejoice, but the nation will flourish as well.

Jennifer Knapp, Phenomenal Christian Recording Artist, Acknowledges Her Sexuality

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

The news that Christian rocker Jennifer Knapp has come out as a lesbian has been picked up by the gay-oriented magazine The Advocate and the evangelical beacon Christianity Today. I suspect a tug-of-war brewing between their respective readerships and hurried potato-sack races to condemn her from the Christian side. With any luck, I’ll be able to avoid it.

I liked her first album, Kansas, very much. In fact, that’s where “phenomenal” comes from in the header — it was unlike anything I’d heard in Christian music and very much like the best stuff I’d heard from secular music. I saw her in concert about five years ago and thought she was a breath of fresh air. Her stuff is edgy, and I never thought she was cut out for the Prairie Muffin, Diva-Lite, or Earnestly Relevant categories most female Christian artists find themselves shoehorned into.

So she’s acknowledged who she is and that she’s in a committed relationship. Let’s do the radical thing and assume that our sister Jennifer is dearly loved by a God who will guide her through the Spirit now as before, and just as lovingly, urgently, and completely as he does you or me.

True Colors And Strange Bedfellows

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

When it comes to the Tea Party movement, I’m trying. Really. I don’t call them “Teabaggers,” because they find that offensive, and I think it’s politically stupid, not to mention mean-spirited, to dismiss them all as ignorant blowhards, foaming-at-the-mouth bigots, and purveyors of testosterone-soaked, Porky’s-style judgment and restraint.

But work with me here, Tea Party. Because stuff like this keeps happening in your ranks, and it’s becoming nearly impossible to take seriously your politics when your movement is marked with behavior that makes me want to undertake a ritual cleansing bath after every news clip, sound bite, and press release. Today, for example:

Tea Party NY Gov Candidate’s E-Mails Exposed: Racism, Porn, Bestiality

“An online news outlet in New York state has obtained dozens of emails,
many of them racist and sexually graphic, which it reports were sent by
Carl Paladino, the Tea-Party-backed Republican candidate for governor of
New York, to a long list of political and business associates. One email
shows a video of an African tribal dance, entitled “Obama Inauguration
Rehearsal,” while another depicts hardcore bestiality.” (Associated Press, April 12, 2010)

(The article continues, but after more than 400 original blog posts, I have managed to not discuss filth of the kind represented by our Tea Party pal here, and it’s a record I intend to keep. I think it’s enough to suggest that Paladino has a thing for girls who want a pony for their birthdays . . . )

But it’s not just the Tea Party that’s behaving badly. It was just a couple of weeks ago that Republican Chairman Michael Steele caught fire for GOP leadership’s $2,000 tab at a bar that featured lesbian sex and Beer-Nuts with Johnny, Jack, and Jim — that’s Walker, Daniels, and Beam, lubricating our nation’s self-appointed political and religious guardians of bedroom morality, probably none of whom were, you know, watching the sex show as part of a Sociology 101 class . . .

Now, Republicans aren’t Tea Partyers, and Tea Party supporters say they loathe Republicans as much as they do Democrats. But the Tea Party is stumbling all over itself trying to fend off charges that much of their anti-Obama fury is race-based as it faces the reality that bigots of the most offensive stripe have found a home in the Kingdom of Beck, Baldwin, Palin, and Dobbs. Trying hard in that high-integrity way that announces, for example, before scheduled Tea Party events that “outsiders” will infilitrate and use bad, racist language to make the Party look bad.

So much for the concept of “personal responsibility.”

I’m sure there are sincere, principled, intelligent and egalitarian Tea Partyers, and I wish them luck as they try to purge the movement of militia men, Light Footers, sovereign citizens, birthers, racists, Birchers, and the God-Guns-Grains crowd. Then the ones still standing, the kind, intelligent, and egalitarian Tea Party fighters, can spend their time in a single booth at Denny’s . . . wondering where all the cameras and microphones went. Because it appears, and this was true even before New York’s Paladino pulled his pants back up, that there’s no “there” there in Tea Party land, just a sad parade of uninformed, frightened white people wondering where in the hell their country — and their privileges — went.

Legitimate grievances against government, and there are many, really can be separated from the rage of spittle-flecked slugfest fans in funny hats. If in politics you’re known by the company you keep, you’re condemned as well by those hangers-on who insist that their particular brand of bigotry and stupidity are just what the movement needs. Unfortunately, the Tea Party’s resistance to leadership and hierarchy means that anyone who presumes to speak with authority against the haters finds himself or herself with all the power and potency of a fifth-grade hall monitor hushing the bullies between classes.

Meanwhile, the GOP, in what appears to be a politically strategic goal of demonstrating to the rest of the world that rich white guys get drunk and horny, too, finds itself entrenched in a long season of sexual misbehavior from its standard-bearers. Could it be that video clips of the Republicans’ last presidential convention, a solemn, strait-laced looking assembly of older white folks and sweater-vested Patrick Henry University grads, frightened the GOP? The Democratic convention looked fun; I even saw dreadlocks. And people of color. And movement, and art, and while it wasn’t Woodstock, it also wasn’t easily confused with the Lutheran Women’s Coffee Klatch once-a-year Husbands’ Dinner.

Has the suave Mr. Steele convinced his leadership that the donor base, heavily skewed toward the Religious Right, would appreciate any attempt to look far out in a happenin’ way? See, too many GOP leaders and politicians appear to be hell-bent for leather, or leather bars, in their pursuit of power and their pride in potency. Is that the plan — to show their support for hetero-normative sexuality by cheating on their wives with prostitutes, or demonstrate their magnaminity to “alternative lifestyles” by forking over donor money to watch women do what some women do in bars full of men who find it necessary to “understand” them? Because a lot of folks, myself included, find the hypocrisy unbearable. Wrapped in the flag and clutching a Dobson-signed Bible, it’s a bit much to have to listen to the Religious Right, synonymous too often with “Republican,” to the benefit and disrepute of both, pontificate about the “sanctity of marriage” and “values voters.”

In the Tea Party movement, we have determined know-nothings; in the GOP we have raging charlatans. Not a real hope-stroker, that. Democrats have their hypocrites, too, but it’s not the Democratic Party these days wailing plaintively that “their America” has turned all Sodom-like. And while the Democrats are hardly like the poor man beating his breast at the Temple door while the Pharisee boasted in his righteousness, the Democrats do appear to be somewhat less inclined to set themselves up as moral guardians and then fall with such a splash into the churning waters of sexual hypocrisy.