Let Our Prayer Be More Than a Hashtag

Syrian refugees in Slovenia

Syrian refugees at the Slovenian border in September. Photoman29 /

God’s been telling the story of restoration since Genesis when we were created selem Elohim, in the image of God. We were created into perfect communion with God. From Genesis 3 until the end of the Old Testament, we see a narrative of a people in exile and God giving opportunities for reconciliation and restoration of relationship that humanity is incapable of accepting. Reconciliation is an exchange of something worthless (our condition of sin) for something immeasurably worthy (communion with God).

In the New Testament we see a biblical narrative through Jesus of now-but-not-yet restoration. In Jesus we see the coming of the Kingdom of God and get to be reconciled back to God. We even get a glimpse of an eternity where there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

If we truly believe we are the image of God, it changes how we approach the image of God in the world. Our call then is to actively partner with God in taking the world somewhere.

Moving from Fear to Hope

Vigil for Paris

A candlelight vigil outside the French consulate in New York City on Nov. 14. a katz /

My son’s public school is amazing. The community is everything I had hoped it would be. There are several parent and grandparent volunteers who come in and out of the building daily to help in the classroom, playground and lunchroom. At first, I had wanted to make a big fuss about security and locking the front door during the school day. I thought that was going to be my platform, my soapbox. But after the crying incident, I decided that something in me had to change. I didn’t want to live in fear anymore. I didn’t want to let fear drive me. After some reflection, I had to shift that fear and move to a place of hope and love. Hope that this kind of violence would never touch my school community. Belief that our community is strong and committed and that love would ultimately win and have the last word.

How Not To Respond to Grief

Image via Magnus Wennman/

All of us are understandably sad about Paris — devastated. Many people have used striped profile pictures, candles, and flowers to express our collective solidarity. But in the wake of tragedy, almost half of the governors of the U.S. have responded with fear, announcing that they will do whatever they can to thwart the acceptance of Syrian refugees — from cutting funding for nonprofit resettlement agencies, to demanding religious screening tests.

If there’s one thing I learned from some of my friends who are refugees, it’s how to respond to grief. And there’s no one approach and they didn’t always get it right. But sometimes they did: Some refugees, in the shadow of shocking sadness, sang more than usual, prayed louder, invited more friends over for dinner, cooked their parent’s recipes. None of them responded with terrorism.

In the Wake of ISIS Terror: Mourning, Lament, Discernment

If we count up the number of people killed or wounded in the ISIS Paris slaughter last weekend, and add all their families and friends, the level of human mourning is staggering. Then include the many other victims murdered in Beirut just days before, or the legions of those raped and killed in Iraq, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, Egypt and Turkey — who never receive the same attention as Western victims — and we see human devastation that is utterly evil.

From a religious perspective, the hardest thing about confronting evil is the painful human tendency to only see it in others, in our enemies, and not see any on our side because of the blurred vision caused by the specks in our own eyes, to paraphrase the gospels. In discussing ISIS, we should clearly use the language of sin, the enormous sin of the ideological hate of ISIS finding its victims all over the world.

Air Force Whistleblowers to Obama: 'Drone Strikes Fuel Terrorism'

Image via  /

The joint statement — from the group who have experience of operating drones over Afghanistan, Iraq and other conflict zones — represents a public outcry from what is understood to be the largest collection of drone whistleblowers in the history of the program. Three of the letter writers were sensor operators who controlled the powerful visual equipment on U.S. Predator drones that guide Hellfire missiles to their targets.

…The four are represented legally by Jesselyn Radack, director of national security and human rights at the nonprofit ExposeFacts. “This is the first time we’ve had so many people speaking out together about the drone program,” she said, pointing out that the men were fully aware that they faced possible prosecution for speaking out.

After Attacks, Muslims in Paris Fear Being Targeted Anew

Image via Elizabeth Bryant / RNS

Shortly after the string of deadly, near-simultaneous attacks around the French capital, Faical Ouertani got a call from distraught friends in Tunisia.

“Their grandchildren were out celebrating a birthday,” the French Muslim said of two youngsters, also Muslims, who were shot by the assailants at a restaurant.

“They were probably among the first victims. Today, one is in the hospital; the other one is dead.”

Christian Groups Censure GOP Over Syrian Refugee Crisis

Image via ekvidi/

Christian groups are strongly condemning the anti-refugee rhetoric coming from top GOP leadership this week, reports POLITICO.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, many in the U.S. media speculated that one or more of the attackers had entered France as refugees from Syria, prompting state senators, governors, and even U.S. presidential candidates for the GOP to vow to close U.S. borders to Syrian refugees altogether.

These statements are being decried by Christians nationwide, including those with more historically conservative positions on immigration and foreign policy. 

To Whom Does God Offer Refuge?

Holy Eucharist

Holy Eucharist, Thoom /

I’ve thought about this obedience to vulnerability in light of the current conversation our nation has been having about the refugee crisis, in particular since the attacks in Paris this weekend. The fearful calls to close our border have been disheartening, especially as we begin to enter the season of Advent. Jesus, as God incarnate, saw our sin and flaws and darkness — our hostility even — to the Light and still made himself vulnerable to live among us and die at our hand. Through the cross he offered a generous hospitality to us while we were still enemies of God — a feast of himself, for us to taste and see that God is good.

It should not be any different for us as followers of Christ. As any Christian knows, being part of the Body of Christ is often a dangerous proposition. We are in danger of getting hurt any time we come into contact with another person. We will sin against each other, we will experience conflict, and if we’re doing it right, we’ll bear each other’s suffering. We are knit together with people we may not typically associate, people who view the world in ways we may find misguided at best and dangerous at worst. It doesn’t matter — we’re still invited to the same feast and we’re still joined together in the same family, drinking out of the same cup the way family members and close friends do.

ISIS, ISIL, Daesh — Explaining the Many Names for Terrorists

Image via Public domain / Wikipedia / RNS

Q: Al-Qaida is al-Qaida. Hamas is Hamas. But the Islamic State can be “ISIS,” “ISIL,” and “Daesh.” Why so many names?

A: Put the group’s Arabic name into the translation machine, and you get different renderings in English.

The first part of the original name — Dawlat al-Islamiyah f’al-Iraq w Belaad al-Sham — is straightforward: “Islamic State in Iraq.” But you’ve got some room for disagreement on “Sham,” which can be “Syria” or “Greater Syria” or “the Levant.” Go with “Syria” and the acronym becomes “ISIS.” If you choose “Levant,” your acronym is “ISIL.”

You could also say the “Islamic State,” the name the group now prefers. But many call that wrongheaded or offensive or both. It is not a state. And there is nothing Islamic about it, said Imam Sayyid M. Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America.

“It’s misusing the name of Islam in such an ugly way,” he said.