This Saturday, Dec. 15, I will be joining a group of 400 people of faith in San Diego and Tijuana as we take part in a religious observance called Las Posadas, which will enable us to transcend the politics of fear regarding our broken immigration system. I will be accompanied by a Sojourners team that will document the events and speak to families directly affected by the United States’ cruel immigration policies on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Anything can label itself as being “Christian,” so we must always look to the person of Christ to guide us, because he already laid out a life for us that perfectly reflects what it means to be God incarnate on earth. Christ is everything.
My life depends on Christians announcing the good news AND that Muslims are not demonic worshippers of some foreign God. My life depends on Christians having those complex, emotionally exhausting conversations during the holidays with uncle Harry when he makes a derogatory remark. My life depends on you, as Christians, being willing to be uncomfortable in your own spaces and not being silent when someone says something Islamophobic.
I’ve been undoing this cycle for years now, grasping for whatever bits of myself I could salvage and building a whole woman with these fragments, gently weaving them together with truth, with pride, with love, and with hope that I now know. Because for all the ways America has taught me shame and taught me to hide, the people of America have taught me hope. That hope has filled in my gaps.
Practicing silence can be counter-intuitive among progressive Jesus-followers who want to usurp the Trump-supporting, fear-mongering, Fox News version of Christianity. We’re emboldened to speak up and out, responding to next oppressive policy, the next breaking story, the next call to use our privilege to work on behalf of those who have little or none. But we risk something in this cycle: the development of a savior complex that loses touch with God’s direction of our call because we are too busy working to hear it.
Migrant people hold the now and the not yet in tension. In the midst of waiting to make it up north and taking their turn for a credible fear interview at the border, life continues. People find ways to feel alive, to keep hope alive. At La Casa del Peregrino, holding on to hope looked like doing karaoke, coloring banners, and making beaded bracelets. They were not devoid of life.
Dr. Denis Mukwege, who has just received the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, shows us one example of what global Pentecostalism can look like. Mukwege is sharing the award with Nadia Murad of Iraq for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.
Mukwege’s Panzi Hospital, located in Bukavu at the heart of the conflict-ridden South Kivu province, treated over 50,000 survivors of sexual violence during the last 20 years. Mukwege has also repeatedly criticized the Congolese government. In 2012, he was almost assassinated and his family was held at gunpoint.
The group, called Shut Tornillo Down Coalition, says that the center adds to the abuse of vulnerable children by imprisoning them and separating them from their families and causes them deep harm by compounding on already existent trauma.
Lee: I would like faith communities to stretch themselves. We are being called to stretch. So much is being tested and contested in our political world and in the world that we're living. Some faith communities are feeling it very directly and some may be insulated from it, but I think our invitation to faith communities is to be willing to take some leaps of faith and to step off the curb. Get out of our comfort zones. These are extraordinary times and we're going to have to push ourselves to respond to these extraordinary times with equal measure. That’s going to mean trying things we haven't done before.
Every year from Dec. 16 to 24, Las Posadas begin in many Latin American countries and immigrant communities in the U.S. Roughly translated, posadas means “inn” or “shelter.” Las Posadas recalls the events in Luke’s Gospel leading up to Jesus’ birth. It’s a Catholic Christian observance with a sung liturgy that’s performed on the streets rather than in church.
A posada begins with a street procession that reenacts Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter at an inn. Those playing the protagonists of the story, Mary and Joseph, are dressed in costume and carry candles as they follow along a prescribed route, knocking on doors. At each door they ask, through special posada songs, for room at the inn. In rural areas, Mary may even ride on a donkey.
I believe the remembrance of the life of George H. W. Bush this week and going forward give this man one final mission: to demonstrate the values that reveal who genuine leaders are, contrasting the values (or lack thereof) that reveal who are not. What does a leader do or not do? What are the markers of true public service that differentiate it from public exploitation?
The dimming of the Advent wreath also reminded me of civil rights activist Valarie Kaur’s poignant question: “What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?” “Remember the wisdom of the midwife: ‘Breathe,’" she says.
Everyone is supposed to love Christmas and the holidays. It’s supposed to be a time of family and gratitude. But I dread them. I dread the weeks leading up to Christmas, starting the day before Thanksgiving when Christmas carols begin permeating the radio and stores and build to a crescendo through Christmas Eve. The growing darkness in the absence of daylight saving time doesn’t help.
We hope that the suffering we’ve seen on our social media feeds will provide consensus. We convince ourselves that this moment, this tragedy, this picture of suffering will provide the common denominator that will spark people’s compassion. How can anyone look at the picture of a child running from tear gas and not feel compassion? By calling to mind these images in our sermons, we hope to open people up to hearing about different political solutions to the problem at hand. If anything, we’ll all agree that we must do something.
Like Chau, I wanted to be a missionary from the time I was a teenager. I too gorged myself on the stories of Bruce Olsen and David Livingstone. Inspired by their attempts to spread the Gospel around the world, I graduated from high school a year early and enrolled in a two-year missionary school in Florida. Jesus, I believed, would not return until every people group on earth had received the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus. Someone would have to go. If not me, then who? This is one of the exact questions Chau left behind in a letter to his friends and family.
Roaring lions that tear their prey, open their mouths wide against us. They beat us, arrest us, incarcerate us, shoot us, then blame us. We are poured out like water, and all our bones are out of joint. Our hearts have turned to wax; they have melted within us.
When I was in the police academy, each of us recruits were sprayed point-blank in the face with oleoresin capsicum (OC), a cayenne pepper-based spray. This was done for two reasons: first, this experience would help us to know what it feels like when we use it on someone so that we would use it only when truly necessary; second, in case we ever were sprayed unintentionally, we had to still find our radio or a way to safety. Indeed, I’ll never forget the excruciating burning sensation and excessive mucus that put me out of commission for much of the rest of the day.
This bill is very aptly named. The First Step Act is just that and no better — a first, extremely modest step on what will need to be a much longer path of extensive reforms to a deeply broken system. That system can best be understood, as Bryan Stevenson and others have so clearly pointed out, as the direct evolution of slavery into the system of mass incarceration.
As I’m reading this scripture with my friend on death row, he asks me to repeat the scripture again and takes my Bible to look at it himself. When you are on the row, it is almost a requirement to build up walls all around you so that you ensure that you are not inflicted with even more pain and suffering — death row is enough. He talks about all of the walls that he has built up over the years. He has become a fortified city. He wants to break free. He wants the walls to come tumbling down. But he worries what will happen if he is that vulnerable. So he looks at me and says, “I am glad God writes my name on his palm even though I have all of these walls around me.” “Me too,” I say.
Last week, the world was introduced to John Allen Chau, the U.S. American “adventurer” and missionary who was killed by an indigenous group on North Sentinel Island. According to a statement from missionary organization All Nations, Chau was a “seasoned traveler who was well-versed in cross-cultural issues” and had “previously taken part in missions projects in Iraq, Kurdistan and South Africa.” Now, Indian police have begun the dangerous mission of trying to recover the body even though a tribal rights group has urged officials to call off the search, claiming it puts them and the indigenous group in danger.