I’m not exactly sure what it is that I should we writing about today. I am on a train from London to Brussels, it is a beautiful day in England. The kind of day blanketed by low, gray, quickly drifting clouds, the sun adamantly sending his bursts of light through every time he has an opening. It is late January, and despite the cold, the English countryside is still green. I’ve never quite understood how this happens. The trees are bald, the air is frigid, and yet the grass remains a thick, lush blanket of green laid ever so neatly across the rolling hills in both directions for as far as the eye can see.
And yet, in the midst of all this beauty, my heart is breaking. Each morning I wake up and reluctantly turn on the television or pop open my laptop to see that my home, the country that I love, continues on a downward spiral toward hate, bigotry, and fear-based isolationism. It is such a stark contrast to the community that has been played out around me, here in London. It is the Chinese New Year, and people from all over the world have been flooding into the streets of London to celebrate. Each night, whether during my time in Cambridge or London, I have sat at dinner listening to more languages than I can count. Men and women from all across God’s creation, seated at tables and bars together, enjoying this wonderful place, this amazing holiday.
I won’t pretend that the world is what it used to be, or even what it was when I was a young boy. I understand the fear that is driving our President. I’m not blind or naive to the cruelty on display by ruthless men who want to wipe Christianity from the earth. The evil emanating from this regime is rivaled only by the atrocities we saw in Nazi Germany in the 30s and 40s. And yet, our country is allowing our fear of terror to pull us into a cruel, bigoted evil of our own. It is like I am watching a bad movie or reading some type of dystopian epic every time I turn on the news or open the paper.
I’ve been pretty vocal in my opposition, and I have offended a lot of people, worst of all my family. But my offenses come not out of some childish, petty need to be “right.” I feel truly powerless here. Disconnected. On this issue, I have chosen to use this blog and social media as my theater for protest, my Berlin wall on which I throw my digital graffiti.
Many people that I love have continued to downplay the protests and demonstrations going on around the world as unnecessary sensationalism. “It’s not as bad as you are making it out to be. Our President’s actions are only temporary actions for the greater good,” they say. And while I understand the desire to not panic, I can’t help but think of my own family in this situation. Airports all over our country are turning away families who have come here in search of a new life, a new reality. Should we as a Christian nation not welcome them with open arms?
I believe very strongly that EVERYONE, regardless of their country of origin should be closely vetted before they cross any border that is not their own. But to turn men, women, and children away simply because they come from a tumultuous part of the world goes directly against everything that our great nation supposedly stands for. Our President is acting in direct opposition to our Constitution. If you would like to challenge that notion, I’ll gladly sit down and talk with you.
But moving beyond the legality of these decisions, let’s consider the humanity of them. Our willingness to allow such close-minded thinking when it comes to securing our borders simply tells the rest of the world that we value our life above theirs. We designate our dreams, hopes, and aspirations as more important. And for many people, this is fine. “We’re protecting our interests, our safety,” you might explain. And to that I ask, as followers of Christ where were we commanded to “protect our own interests?” We have been lulled to sleep by the comforts of our existence. And i say WE because I am the chief sinner when it comes to this. I admit my guilt. I admit my prejudice, my side glances when I am sitting on a plane or train with someone that LOOKS Muslim. Even as I type this out it sickens me that my mind works this way. I ask God to forgive me for this.
I’ve been reading through a great little book that my cousin Tyler is writing. Truth be told, I’ve spent far too long editing it for him. He has put together a practical walk through the book of Galatians. One of his chapters is on the first part of Chapter 6.
“Brethren, if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”
Each one looking to yourself. That smacked me in the face this morning. Tyler goes on to end the short chapter with a prayer of petition to God.
“God, I pray that I would be a loving keeper over my fellow brothers and sisters, but I also know that I am need of a keeper. Lord, use me to keep others, and bring someone to keep me.”
I mention Paul’s words to the Galatians above, simply to ask anyone reading this to know that I am begging believers to see how our view of these refugee families stands in direct contrast to the heart of God. In this, I feel strongly that I am attempting to call out sin in our lives. But I also recognize that I have not always done this with the “gentleness” that Paul calls us to. For that, I am sorry and I ask your forgiveness. I also ask that you would be for me the keeper that Paul describes. As much as I tend to respond harshly to criticism on social media, please know that once my flesh gets out of the way and I have a chance to read your words with a renewed calm, I appreciate them.
As followers of Christ we are commissioned to spread his Gospel to all people. We are tasked with caring for the marginalized, the war-torn, the poor, the widowed, the hungry. Nowhere in my Bible does it say “…unless the marginalized come from a country that does not share our interests. Or, unless they belong to a people group that we fear.” Did Paul not boldly set his feet toward Rome, knowing it would be his death? And yet, when the lost come begging at our borders, we turn them away.
This morning as I sit on a train bound for Belgium, a country that will openly accept me at her borders, I beg my family, my brothers and sisters in Christ, my acquaintances on Facebook to ask yourself, “What right do we have to put our own safety and comfort before the safety of another?”
In a few days I will land in Atlanta. I will stroll easily through customs, will have a casual conversation with the security officer about my purposes abroad, and then I will walk, unquestioned, through the terminal to board my plane home. Why? Because of where I was born. Because of my skin color, a product not of my doing but of my ancestors proximity to the equator. And as I look to my right, here on the train to Brussels, I know that the woman with whom I share my seat would not be afforded the same luxury. I thank God she is traveling to Brussels and not to our border.
photo courtesy of mondo photo