Breaking a Promise

I told myself I wasn’t going to do it.

My kids agreed it was a good idea to stay away from it.

My cousin proved by his comments on my Facebook posts that it wasn’t going to be easy.

But, I’m currently attending a seminar at church (well, from my basement) on healing racial trauma.  One of the things that was brought up was Dr. Martin Luther King’s book, “Letters from a Birmingham Jail.”  He is “down” in Birmingham helping them fight back against segregation and he gets thrown in jail.  No surprise if you ask me.

Well, while he’s in prison, he can’t talk to people on the phone, can’t e-mail, can’t do much.  So he wrote letters.  One set of them got turned into a book – “Letters from a Birmingham Jail.”   It was written on April 16, 1963.  There is a lot of good stuff in this book.  I mean there’s a lot of good stuff if you want to try to make a difference in the world.

That book, particularly the part that I quoted right below this paragraph, is a large part of why, even though I said I wasn’t going to talk about race and the political situation, I am.   But……

First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate.’’’

I’m going to talk more about some of the details Dr. King brings up, but for today, I just want to share one point

I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace…..

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Letters from a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

I believe, from this relatively close to middle age white guy, that there is no better or more well respected leader of the civil rights movement from that time.  And when he says the moderate Christian is his biggest stumbling block it would do well for the church to sit up and say, “Who me?  We’re always supportive of Civil Rights for all people?

Are you really?   Are we really?  Are we really prepared to step out of our comfort zones and be more of a neighbor to those who don’t look like us?   According to Dr. King, no we are not.

According to Dr. King, we are worse than the Ku Klux Klan.

Ouch

You know those guys who used to ride around on horses in the middle of the night, plant burning crosses in the front yard of black families and then haul out the men and/or boys, tie them up and lynch them.

He said we’re worse than that?  Yes, he did.

We are just over a month away from the presidential election.  Some call it the greatest freak show on earth, some call it the most amazing transfer of power in the governments since the time of, oh I don’t know, the Crusades?

Presidential Debate

Between the natural disasters, the medical disasters and the political disasters, there is a LOT of stuff going on.  And it’s time, actually it is past time to engage these issues and try to make a difference the way God would want us to.

I’m going to talk about this more in the coming days and weeks, but I firmly believe that we have a huge problem on our hands – the problem of the one issue voter.

You know the guy, he says, “I’m going to vote for _________ because he was endorsed by the NRA.”   Or “Mr. Smith is pro-abortion and so I will never vote for him.”   When someone does that a couple of things are happening:

  • They are totally ignoring the rest of what that person stands for.   You might like this particular policy but are you really willing to put control of _________ in the hands of someone who has never __________?
  • Mr. Smith says that he’s pro-life.  He says that he would only allow an abortion to save the life of the mother.   What’s his stance on the discrepancy in funding and everything related to that for schools – where, on average, black schools get, I believe, close to half of what white schools do?
  • Does he support reform in the mental health and adoption/foster care areas of life that both need substantial reform?
  • What is his or her stand on immigration?
  • What is his or her stand on healthcare?

There is a lot more to being pro-life than just being anti-abortion.  So, when someone says they are going to vote for ______________ because of his stance on gun control, then you are ignoring a lot of very important issues related to guns, related to domestic violence, related to immigration, related to free elections that all are impacted by someone if they say they are pro-life.

So if someone says they are opposed to adoption, ask them what they think about the kids being “warehoused” literally, in vacant Walmart stores.   If they aren’t really upset about that, ask them how they can be pro-life and not opposed to that?

The world is complex.  Very very complex.  We are in the first election in my lifetime where you can no longer say,  “If they say they are a _________________ then you can vote for them because they believe the same.”

It doesn’t work that way right now.   If you vote for someone who meets your rules for one issue, they might be totally against what you stand for in other ways.

Don’t look only at one issue.  Don’t look only at whether they say they will or won’t raise taxes.  They can say one thing now and then something else later.

Don’t be a moderate one issue voter.   Look at multiple issues and also those other “things” like character, flexibiliy, truthfulness, respect, treatment of those with disabilities and the list could go on, but there’s too much other ground to cover in the next month (and beyond.)

Thanks for reading, stay tuned.  I don’t know what all we are going to talk about, but I know it will be “interesting” to say the least.

Respectfully,

Tom

A Few Thoughts on Building Bridges

So, there is this church leader who made some comments this week about how it is more Christian (not to be confused with Christ like) to build bridges than it is to build walls.

It touched off a firestorm of controversy and media frenzy because many people felt it was aimed at a US Presidential candidate (and I use the term loosely).  

I want to share a few thoughts on another way that the church can be more Christ-like by building bridges. 

Orphan Care – Orphan Care is what you’d call a hot button issue in the church right now.   How can you not want to help poor vulnerable children?   Of course you do and of course we must, as a church follow the call of James 1:27 and “care for the orphans…..”

But wait a minute, I want to ask you a couple of questions about that:

  • Yes, the church must care for orphans, but is the church really willing to look at the communities where these kids are hurting and do what it takes to meet their need right there?    Are we willing to build a bridge to the hungry and the hurting and the struggling to help them and their kids?   Even when it’s messy?
  • Is the church really willing to take on what is necessary to help the kids after they have been adopted?   Have you ever noticed how, when someone says, “We’re going to adopt,” everyone is so happy for them and so excited and so impressed and so…….   But is the church willing to accept the fact that most adopted kids have been through more than any of us would wish on anyone and consequently they are going to have some battle scars – and those scars make parenting them hard – often way harder than adoptive parents had ever imagined.   Are we, as a church, willing to build a bridge and come alongside those parents who are struggling?   Even if we can’t solve it, just to sit there with them in their pain?
  • Is the church willing to build a bridge to the adoption community and essentially say, “We don’t know what we don’t know, so tell us how we can be the hands and feet of Jesus to your children, to you, to the children of our community?”   Unfortunately, the number of people I’ve talked to who say that their church is willing to do that on a long term basis (after the honeymoon period is over) is very very small.

Mental Illness – I think it’s improving, but I think this is another area where the church needs to do a lot more in building bridges to people in their family, in their community.    There are a lot of people who are struggling.   They are struggling with mental illness and in many cases, if not most, they aren’t able to talk to people in their church about it.    “How are you today?”   “Fine.”    We need to be more comfortable with saying, “No, I’m not fine” and in order to do that, the church needs to be more comfortable with building a bridge and meeting the people who are not fine where they are at.

But what?   You say you don’t know what to say to someone who is struggling with depression?    You don’t know what to say to someone who just had to admit their child into an inpatient mental health facility?   May I offer a couple of suggestions on what to say?

  • I’m sorry you’re going through this struggle.
  • Can we pray about it right now?
  • Nothing – don’t say anything, just be there.
  • Would you like to talk about it or tell me more?

If people in the church can step out of their comfort zone and become uncomfortable while welcoming the hurting, it builds a bridge and that’s the type of bridge building I believe Jesus wants us  to do.

It’s not easy.   Actually, it’s very hard and it’s way outside of most people’s comfort zone, but it’s two places where the hands and feet of Christ really meet the needy and the struggling.

May we all build bridges in our lives and in our churches to meet and reach those who are struggling, and in reality, we’re all struggling.

TJV

Social Justice–The Locust Effect

I read a book that changed my life forever.

I couldn’t finish it.    It was too painful to read.

I’m talking about Gary Haugen’s “The Locust Effect.”   locust_effect

As he describes it on his website:

“Uncover the Hidden Plague the World has Missed.”

What plague is that?   It’s the plague of social injustice.   It’s the plague of so many people in our time and our world who do not have a justice system that protects them.   It’s the plague that keeps so many people in poverty.

It’s the plague that creates more and more poverty orphans.    More and more children who don’t get to live with their parents because their parents can’t keep them safe and care for them.

It’s the plague that sent literally over 50,000 children from Central America on foot to the United States (without their parents) because the violence was so bad that they would have been killed otherwise.

Gary Haugen runs International Justice Mission (www.ijm.org) IJM Logowhich fights against child trafficking, social injustice, slavery and abuse all over the world.    In his book, “The Locust Effect” he tells story after story of how social injustice has devastating effects on the poor.  

He also tells story  after story of what IJM is doing about it.  

The scope of the problem is massive.

The size of the church is massive.

If the church truly wants to respond to the orphan crisis, it needs to be concerned about social justice.   It needs to stand up for the oppressed, it needs to care for the victims.   It needs to be concerned about human trafficking.    It needs to be concerned about violence and genocide that is happening around the world.    It needs to be concerned about issues of social justice.

It needs to support the work of places like IJM.

That’s part of God’s call to care for the widows and the orphans.

Tom

The Church and The Economy?

So, let’s follow this line of thinking……

It is estimated that somewhere between 100 million and 125 million of the orphans in the world are “poverty orphans.”

What are poverty orphans?    They are children who are orphans because their biological parents (typically there is only one still around) aren’t able to care for them – strictly because of economic struggles.

So, the birth parents are forced to give up their children for adoption in order for them to have a life.   A life where they can get enough to be able to survive.

The church needs to invest in job creation in the “third world.”    They need to support organizations that are involved in job creation in places like Ethiopia, Uganda, Haiti, Guatemala and more.  

The church needs to realize that everything they do to “help” has two ways to be done:

  • With local funds, with local resources and with local jobs – even if it is funded by  the 1st world.
  • With “stuff” that comes in from outside and doesn’t help with job creation, doesn’t help bring funds into the local economy.

Guess which one has a better chance at helping create jobs and enabling people to care for their families?    Yeah, you guessed it.

Here are four ways that the church can help grow the economies that are tough and can enable families to keep their children with them:

  • When you are supporting an organization that is working “in the field,” ask them what they are doing to encourage and create local jobs.   Are they using local staff whenever possible?   Are they bringing in work crews or could they hire local people to meet that need (keep in mind that not all local staff have the skills to do it)?
  • Promote and advocate for organizations that are running export businesses in “those” countries and are creating jobs.    Want an example?   Google “Apparent Project” and you’ll see an example.    They create jobs that enable parents to care for their children.    They create opportunities for people to feed their children.    Rather than buying a necklace at Target, buy jewelry from Uganda or Ethiopia or somewhere that is providing jobs in the 3rd world.
  • Buy coffee – many countries that desperately need jobs to keep families together also make some of the best coffee in the world.  2014-06-09 18.41.41 - Copy
  • Be concerned about organizations that export things to the United States – do they treat their employees fairly?   Are they encouraging and creating additional employment opportunities that are helping keep families together?   Or are they running child labor sweat shops?

Many of the orphans in today’s world are orphans because they are stuck in an economic situation where their parents can’t care for them.   The church needs to do what it can to invest their resources in ways that will help create jobs and improve the economic condition of families who are struggling.

That’s when the church keeps children from becoming orphans.

TJV