Thursday, November 26, 2015

About the Refugees....

Articles, memes and opinions about the refugee crisis have been lighting up my facebook for the past few weeks. A lot of the stuff is clearly….bullshit….and is based more on knee jerk reactions than truth. Some of the links, though, lead to insightful, informative and thoughtful articles. Some of the opinions are balanced and not hateful. I am going to post some of the diamonds I found in the dung heap.

Two articles that might be helpful for Christian trying to make heads or tails of the situation were, of all places, on the Desiring God website. That is John Piper’s website. I’m really not all that fond of Piper or his Calvinist theology. He didn't write either of them. One of the articles was written by D. Glenn; the other by David Crabb.

We shut ourselves off so that we only hear voices from a narrow slice of the political spectrum, and then we listen to these voices day after day and week after week, so that they begin to shape our thinking in profound ways. 

How would we view Muslims if we were steeped in God’s words so that we were thinking his thoughts after him? What would be our perspective on the refugee crisis if the Bible, and not our favorite news channel, was guiding our thoughts and directing our behavior?

Good question…..

The article by D. Glenn ponders Eight Words from Jesus in a World with Refugees

Reminders of what Jesus actually said and how we might apply it to orphans, widows, sojourners, foreigners and enemies.

And I found the following comments in a short post written by Harry Monroe on his Facebook wall....

However, while I agree with those that insist ad nauseum that compassion is not the final word, I wonder why they don't acknowledge that it must be at least part of the equation. The fact that the second great commandment requires thought with regard to present realities does not mean it can be ignored: it only means that we must wrestle with realities in light of our convictions. God's Word is intended for the place where the rubber hits the road. Christian thinking must be both hard nosed and warm hearted in facing a depraved world as a redeemed people.

Remember Jonah? He didn't want to go to Nineveh, because he FEARED God's MERCY. God might be so merciful that he would have the audacity to hear the Assyrians' repentance and forgive them. Jonah didn't want that to happen. And, for all his faults, he was honest enough that he admitted he preferred that the Ninevites be damned. I read many of my friends essentially saying the same thing,

Me, too. There are people who post the most hateful messages about Muslims....all Muslims....and about their go to "love to hate" guy....Obama.

And another article I happened upon on FB….written by Scott Hicks, an immigration attorney (and UMC pastor)….details the vetting process for refugees. It is a realistic look at what the requirements and time frame for the process really are. He explains the interview process for refugees with very little documentation. It is rigorous and repetitive. Families are interviewed multiple times, together and separately, by trained investigators. He also talks about the much easier and quicker ways to gain entrance to our country if you are bent on destruction and terrorist acts.

Frankly, there is more screening of refugees than ever happens to get on an airplane. Of course, yes, no system can be 100% foolproof. But if that is your standard, then you better shut down the entire airline industry, close the borders, and stop all international commerce and shipping. Every one of those has been the source of entry of people and are much easier ways to gain access to the U.S. Only upon passing all of these checks (which involve basically every agency of the government involved in terrorist identification) can the person actually be approved to travel.

And check out the comments. While most were overwhelmingly positive, there were a few “Obama is a liar” ssdd remarks and some have even tried to get his post removed from Facebook. If the Facebook link does not work, you can read his comments within a blog post on Patheos.  

I am still sorting and pondering. The authors of these articles are all Christians. They write from a Christian perspective. I think as Christians we have to remember that we are not merely citizens of an earthly kingdom...but also of a heavenly kingdom that holds us to a higher standard of love and compassion.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Holiday cups…and stuff….

Here we are….right around the corner from another holiday season. Christmas 2016. My FB feed has been ablaze lately with talk of “the cup.” Starbucks recently debuted a new holiday cup for the 2016 holiday season. A plain red cup….bright red with shades of maroon. And of course, the Starbucks trademark logo, which, if you ask me, is kind of creepy….but whatever.
So online pastor took offense to the minimalist cup and made a video about how Starbucks is taking Jesus out of Christmas. He came up with a plan to not only force Starbucks to write Merry Christmas on these plain, red holiday cups…but to even make them say it. Out loud. His new name is Merry Christmas. YOUR new name is Merry Christmas. At least it is if you have even a shred of Christian decency and happen to find yourself in a Starbucks ordering coffee.
So far the American Family Association has been silent on the matter. Oh, the 2015 “Naughty and Nice” list is posted on their website but the only mention I could find of Starbucks was their name listed among the other marginal retailers. Retailers are judged on several criteria and are placed on one of three lists. Green - Christmas friendly, the Nice list. Yellow - the Marginal list. Red - not Christmas friendly, the Naughty list. According to the AFA standards, Starbucks made the yellow list. So did Walgreens, Best Buy and CVS. Among those on the Naughty list this year are Office Depot, Staples, Family Dollar….and the list goes on. Disclaimer....the list is fluid. A retailer can move to and fro on the list depending on their advertising etc.
But about the cup thing.....the outrage seems to be lopsided. It does not appear to be even steven. As my daughter Emily observed in a text message, “Honestly, I have seen more outrage about the outrage than I have seen actual outrage.” And she is right. My kids are so smart. I glean valuable insights from them all the time.
The folks on the left…the progressives, the liberals, the atheists, the non religious….are making a bigger deal out of this than the conservatives, evangelicals, fundies, religious - the folks on the right. Were they pre-preemptively shamed at the first peep of offense....the first accusation of taking Christ out of Christmas? Perhaps it is an overreaction to witnessing the battle they wage each and every year in response to the "war on Christmas." The mantra for many Christians this time of year could well be, “Me, me it’s all about me.” Grudgingly other holidays have been allowed to exist during the holiday season….but please, do not expect your Kwanzaa or Hanukkah or whatever second rate holiday you celebrate to upstage CHRISTMAS. This year, however, the pushback has been bigger than the push. At least so far.
I write about this every year. Every year I get more fed up. I repost the Christmas letter from God to His children every Decemberish. Perhaps it didn't take much to instigate a reaction from me and other like minded folks. 
Or maybe far right, fundamentalist, evangelical Christians are getting smarter. They realize boycotts and such really do not work. The companies they target (like Disney, the Ford Motor Company, Crest toothpaste, Tide laundry detergent, Ellen, Desperate Housewives etc. etc. etc.) go unscathed by their boycotts. 
Whatever the reason, it is a welcome change. Stay tuned to see if it is a trend or an anomaly.
This Washington Post opinion piece, Most Christians do not actually care about Starbucks cups, is worth the read. It also includes a link to the video that started this whole thing.