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There have been very few times in my life when I’ve actually been speechless.
But something happened over the weekend that defies words. In fact, it defies logic. Humanity. The bounds of decency.
President Trump wrote an Executive Order banning immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries.
This seems like the action of someone out to prove a point. Perhaps he was irked by the recent women’s marches or fired up about his contention that the popular vote was rigged to make it seem as if most of the country voted against him.
Just as it’s never a good idea to discipline your children when you’re out-of-control with rage, it’s not prudent to issue edicts on the spur-of-the-moment and without knowing all of the facts.
As we all adjust to this new reality – the “reality” of “alternate facts” and grudge matches between officials with the power to declare war on countries and on whole groups of human beings – I’m gaining strength from great gurus, such as our own SueBE and Lori, and I’m meditating on their wise words.
Taking solace in this quote from FDR:
“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
Enjoying the irony in these words from John Steinbeck:
“My whole family has been having trouble with immigrants ever since we came to this country.”
Nodding in agreement with the wisdom of Margaret Mead:
“The discrepancy between American ideals and American practice — between our aims and what we actually do — creates a moral dry rot which eats away at the foundations of our democratic faith.”
And leaving you with these words from an Enlightened Encourager, the great Mother Teresa:
“The more I traveled, the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.”
“And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” Mathew 4:19
Growing up, this Bible verse fascinated me because one of my uncles was a commercial fisherman working Missouri’s rivers. I fished with my father, casting my line, reeling it in and catching the occasional bass or blue gill. Dad had bells that he could put on the tip of the rod in case he dozed off. In my mind, fishing was a relaxed, lackadaisical affair.
This past weekend, Pastor Sean gave a children’s message on this verse. The first thing that Sean reminded us, the children and the adults alike, is that the men Jesus called fished with nets. Net fishing is illegal in Missouri so we don’t know much about it. We don’t consider the implications.
Fish with a net, and you pull in everything. Everything. You get fish that are good eating, catfish, bass and crappie. You also get the ones that aren’t so great, carp and pike.
Christ told a group of fishermen to fish for people or, more directly, to bring people to Christ. But remember that these are net fishermen. Christ wasn’t telling them to bring just good, upstanding Jews to Christ, the people that you’d want to see at temple. Bring them all. Jews and Gentiles. Tax collectors. Romans. Centurions.
What implications does this have for the other missions that Christ has given us? You know things like helping the orphans and the widows? The refugees and the foreigners?
Just this week, the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, the director of the Presbyterian Church USA Office of Public Witness joined with other faith leaders for a press conference (read the announcement here). His topic? The least of these – the refugee.
“Nearly 60 million people are displaced by war and persecution; 30 million of those are children. Eleven million displaced Syrians cannot go to school, tend to their land or raise their children in the place they know as home,” said Hawkins. “They are spending months journeying, sleeping outside and praying for a future for their families in a place that is safe from conflict. Our nation has historically stood for hope and welcome for those fleeing war and persecution. We cannot turn our backs on them now.”
Hawkins issued a call to those of us who fish for people. “Rather than follow our most basic instincts of fear and hatred,” he said, “we must send a message of hope and healing, of peace and justice to those fleeing desperate situations.”
Do you dare accept the challenge to pick up a net? If so, let your voice be heard.
There was a women’s march last weekend. Then, there was a backlash. (Of course there was a backlash.) Most of the content of that backlash centered on the marchers themselves — specifically, their looks. Certain male politicians characterized these women as “ugly” — a word often consigned to feminists — or “fat.” These men know how to push buttons. They know exactly how to hurt us.
And yet: To look at these naysayers objectively, it is clear that we are not dealing with young Paul Newman lookalikes. There is nothing beautiful, graceful or aesthetically pleasing about them. They are, as my mother would say, “as homely as a mud fence.” You could tell these men that, but they wouldn’t care. Because it doesn’t matter. A man doesn’t have to be beautiful. His entire worth to society — to the world — isn’t bound up in his looks.
But ours (as women) is.
Why? Why? The question keeps ringing in my head like a plaint. Because you see, I know women who marched — in D.C. and other areas. They are beautiful inside and out. More importantly, they are smart. Most importantly — and I use this adjective with the gravity it deserves — they are holy. Which is a darned sight more important than beautiful. Which is, in fact, much harder to obtain.
I vacillate between gentle, head-shaking wonder and furious rage when I examine the dichotomy between what we say we are as a nation and what we do. Politicians, especially conservative ones, like to call us a Christian country. But what would God think of building a wall to keep people out? I’m talking about the God who sent his son to say, “What you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.” What would God think about denigrating whole swaths of people, trying — quite calculatedly — to shut them up and shut them down?
I have been told a hundred times to “accept” what is happening politically. To smile and accentuate the positive. But this isn’t about policy differences. It’s about opposing what I see as evil. I will never back down from opposing evil. It is my moral right — my moral imperative — to oppose it.
It is also my imperative to disabuse the notion that a woman’s looks define her. Until we are all judged by the content of our souls, no one here — or anywhere — is free.