I woke this morning, rolled over and glanced at the news on my ipad. I should not have allowed this to be the first thing I think about after a good night of sleep. But I did.
Since September, I've limited my news intake significantly. I've stopped watching television news completely. I deleted the facebook app on my phone to avoid click click and wrong information. I've limited myself to long form articles from typically the Atlantic or the Guardian. And I usually follow up my reading of those long articles with quick fact checks from the specific governmental or other sites mentioned or from AP or Reuters.
Consuming the news for me is a disciplined activity.
Now this morning, the article I read was from the Atlantic, so I didn't really break my disciplined intake per se... it was just now going to consume my mind for the first part of my day. Typically, the best part of my day - the part of the day where my mind is fresh and sharp.
Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order "Temporarily suspending US refugee intake." While reading the article, I noticed my breathing had changed to short, shallow breaths. It felt like someone or something was sitting on my chest, pressing on me. I stopped periodically to take longer breaths, catch my courage before it was stifled.
As a leader of the Christian Church, a pastor of the Presbyterian Church USA, I'm horrified by this clear inhospitable action, something that runs contrary to my faith tradition and the faith traditions of those in my community - Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish. The call to welcome the stranger is pervasive in religion. How is this happening to my country, a country of immigrants, that welcomes the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free?
My husband just came in while I was writing to offer me another cup of coffee and to tell me that the executive order is already being set to review by the court of law. He reminded me that we still have law.
I told him though that I'm going at this from a Christian leader perspective. The Atlantic also offered an article, "Which Christians Leaders Are Telling Donald Trump to Keep Out Refugees?" I am certain my denomination has counseled the opposite. In fact,
The announcement was met with immediate backlash from leaders of nearly every Christian denomination, along with those of other faiths. They argue that Trump’s actions do not reflect the teachings of the Bible, nor the traditions of the United States, and they have urged the president to let them get back to work—many of the country’s most prominent refugee resettlement organizations are faith-based.
The article names two faith based leaders who are counseling the President: Franklin Graham and Focus on the Family. I decided to write a quick note to these faith leaders urging them to provide a moral compass for the President. If you would like to join me, here are links to contact forms for these two organizations:
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
Family Policy Alliance (Public Policy arm of Focus on the Family)
And here is the letter I wrote.
Now I'm reasonable enough to know that Franklin Graham and James Dobson aren't going to take a Presbyterian Woman clergy person seriously anyway. So, what is my actual pastoral political response? The next paragraph of the article asks...
If so many prominent Christian leaders reject the notion that their fellow Christians should get preferential treatment, why has this become Trump’s policy? One possible answer is that these leaders don’t necessarily reflect what their flocks believe. Even if they think an open refugee policy is in line with the teachings of Christianity, lay Americans don’t necessarily feel the same way.
You know on Sunday morning I have folks who voted for President Trump and I have folks triggered by President Trump because of past trauma in their lives. Sunday morning is an incredibly difficult, complex place for preachers these days.
We're not on the same page. We weren't on the same page November 9 and we're not going to be on the same page tomorrow morning January 29 when we walk into church together. But my job as a leader is to help people get on the same page.
Sunday morning (or Saturday morning in synagogues and Friday nights in Mosques) need to be a place where we can wrestle with the ways in which our faith makes us uncomfortable.
It's uncomfortable to realize that our faith calls us to places of risk. It's uncomfortable to trust in God who loves the stranger as much as the familiar. It's uncomfortable and downright scary to admit that Jesus, if he were to come today, would not be on the side of the empire but instead would be seeking to tear it down, undermine it, and call people into community - a beloved community of equality and right living.
If this election has shown us anything, it's that the American people want decisive, strong leadership. So, let's lead. Let's get under people's skin and then sit down for coffee to talk through it.
Let's talk about the faith passed down to us by our ancestors - not the nationalistic, empire-driven American version of Shintoism. Let's lead the conversation toward the good news. The good news of Jesus creating a movement for poor people by poor people. The good news of Jesus not letting empire get away with mistreatment and dismissal of those who are hurting and vulnerable. The good news that Jesus was once a refugee himself.