so where do we go from here
i'm on ann voskamp's email list and her email from last thursday was very timely, given the executive order (EO) that was issued by our president on friday. i've included sections of ann's email below, some in bold for emphasis.
The art of really living is giving and our theology is best expressed in the willingness of our hospitality.
“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:34, Exodus 23:9)
I look into Fatin and Zaccharias’ faces — and they bear the image of God. They have survived the bombing hell of Aleppo, they have snatched their children from an imploding, crumbling world of blood-hunting bombs and decapitations and starvation, they have fled the mouth of the ravenous monster that once was their home — and they carry the image of God.
We will never really reflect the image of Christ to the world — unless we really see the image of God in everyone.
And who can trample on their hopes, who can trample on their children’s needs for safety, who can trample on their need to find refuge?
Sitting there, thinking how our Fatin, the woman sitting in front of me, could be buried under the rubble of Aleppo, how her 3-year-old Mohamad could be bloodied and orphaned and eating grass, I had never known it quite like I did in that moment:
There are a thousand ways to deny Christ.
There are a thousand ways to trample on the image of Christ, to walk through the world and be denying the Words of Christ, the Ways of Christ, the Welcome of Christ.
No forces in any era can force us to trample the image of God in the world.
No laws of the state can make you an apostate of your beliefs.
Do I trample on Christ when I walk through the world apathetic to those fleeing war and poverty and oppression in this world?
Little Hyiam sits on the floor at her mother’s feet, colouring — she has cousins in Aleppo who’s tummies are gnawing starved for a couple of mouthfuls of food every other day.
Do I trample on Christ when I am more about protecting my way of life — than protecting others’ very life?
Do I trample on Christ when I walk in ways that care more about my comfort in the world, than the comfort of His image bearers being crushed in this world?
Do I trample on Christ when my steps forward every day are more about my safety, my interests, my economic betterment — than about walking in the self-giving, self-surrendered, self-sacrificing ways of Christ?
The only way not to trample on Christ in the world — is to not trample on the marginalized, oppressed and voiceless in the world.
If my life denies that I am about the oppressed and crushed —- my life denies the gospel and Christ.
I feel small in a small room in a small corner of the world and a small little boy from Aleppo, reaches his hand up, slides his fingers through mine.
And a whole world of people will decide who Jesus is — by who we are.
A whole world of hurting people will decide what they think about Jesus — by how we decide to respond to the hurting.
There can be more compassion in our hearts than fear in the world, and now is the time to care for Christ.
this email tore me up inside. and i actually didn't read it until saturday. at that point i had been devouring news about the EO. i posted about it on instagram, the part that stopped the admission of all refugees to the states for four months, syrian refugees indefinitely. i've been working on a partnership between our church and samaritas since last fall. we had a planning meeting earlier this month. the samaritas outreach coordinator shared all about samaritas and the process people go through to become refugees. i learned how the refugees entering now applied 3-5 years ago. and when i heard that this EO would affect refugees on airplanes at the moment it was implemented, that some were detained at airports, some were prevented from boarding planes to the states - i just broke. i can't even fathom how those people felt and are feeling. to be on your way to a new life after as little as three (three years! no short time!) and as many as five years worth of processing. to be able to taste that new life. and then have it stripped from you with the stroke of a pen.
i read stories. i read about a woman who had been separated from six family members for 14 years, waiting to be reunited. six family members hanging in the balance who finally all obtained visas. caught in the crossfire. an iraqi man and his family. they sold everything, took their children out of school, were ready to start their new lives in america. caught in the crossfire. and i broke some more.
last night we had dinner at my dad's house. i sat around the table with my dad, step-mom, husband and daughter. my husband was holding my daughter and we were asking her "where's mama? where's daddy? where's grandpa? where's grandma?" and she would point out each of us and smile.
later that night i sat in bed thinking. why do i have the blessing of sitting around a dinner table with my family, safe from harm? why do others not? how can i enjoy my blessings when my heart aches for those who do not share them? when they do not share them simply because of where they were born? and i have them simply because of where i was born? and i broke some more.
i contemplated going to the protest at the detroit airport. i was glad to see such turnout at other protests across the country. i was pleased when my step brother explained what the ACLU emergency stays meant. i printed off postcards and mailed them to my senators. i talked to my former supervisor at UT austin biomedical engineering. i posted sections of ann voskamp's email on instagram. i reached out to a family member who works in immigration to hear their side of the story. i found myself on the brink of tears multiple times this weekend. i cried sunday night thinking about the PEOPLE. the HUMAN BEINGS. i was frustrated that it seems we have to care for either american citizens or immigrants. if you care for one, then you don't care for the other. why can't it be both? and in the news i saw faces.
in austin i worked with graduate students. many of them were international students. i taught ESL for a year and a half part-time at night when we first moved to austin. i had to quit because it was too much working full-time at UT austin as well. i started an ESL conversation group that met every other saturday morning at the library in our neighborhood when i left teaching. i wanted to stay plugged into the community. international students and immigrants were a big part of my life. they were my kids. MY. KIDS. i wonder how they must be feeling. i know that the reaction to the EO has been called hysteria. but given the rhetoric we've received from the president during his campaign and after the election, not to mention the poor implementation of the EO, it's no wonder that there has been hysteria.
i've been wrestling with this the last three days. what is the purpose of government? to protect its citizens? provide humanitarian relief? how do my faith and politics interact? should faith and government interact? what is the church's responsibility in all this? how do i honor authority that i do not respect when i'm called to honor authority as a christian? how do i approach the problem of misinformation? where do i find truth and reliable sources? do they even exist anymore? who can i trust?
i found myself reading the president's twitter account and looking things up for myself. he said the new york times apologized. so i googled "new york times apology" and found something that was not an apology but rather a thank you to its readership. i went on NPR's website and read their fact checking of his tweets. for someone who consistently asserts that the media is publishing fake news, he sure produces a lot of his own. how did this person become president? i feel like he resembles my 19 month old and her tantrums more than a dignified leader. but as a follower of christ i am not to slander, and i am to submit to government and its officers. however as a follower of christ i am also called to care for the oppressed and the crushed. our country is at odds about who that is right now. and some of the people who voted for this man who is our president are people i love and respect. so how did this happen? what is happening?
and i'm haunted by ann voskamp's words: if my life denies that i am about the oppressed and crushed -- my life denies the gospel and christ.
so what does this mean? how SHOULD i be feeling right now? what SHOULD i be doing?
i know the comparison to hitler continually comes up and i know those on one side of this debate hate the comparison. but the principle stands. the movie "spotlight" haunts me too. i don't want to be guilty of being a "good german." i do not want my life to deny the gospel or christ.
so how do i respectfully resist? resist fear. resist apathy to those fleeing war and poverty and oppression in this world. resist caring more about protecting my way of life than others' very life. resist caring more about my comfort in the world, than the comfort of his image bearers being crushed in this world. resist being more motivated by my safety, my economic betterment than about walking in the self-giving, self-surrendered, self-sacrificing ways of christ. may my life be about the oppressed and crushed. may my response to the hurting be enough. may i not turn my back on the fleeing and so turn my back on christ. whatever my government may do or not do, i can love god's image bearers. i can care for the least of these. nothing is stopping me from serving those around me. they're here. i'm here.
so on wednesday i am attending a volunteer orientation so i can start serving refugee families through samaritas. my church isn't ready to move forward yet, but i am. and i can get to work as we work out the details of the church's involvement. i will not let fear dictate my actions. an EO doesn't keep me from doing my part to love god's image bearers. so god empower me to see the need and let me love well, wherever i can, however i can, whoever i can.
and i'm going to teach my little to do the same.