We’re in a bombed-out church in the heart of Mosul, where ISIS had painted a giant black flag on the cross out front.
Where thousands of Christian homes were marked with the Arabic letter “N,” their lives threatened with the sword, their possessions looted, families ultimately driven out of their ancestral neighborhoods like cattle.
Suffering far outlasts any administration, and our commitment to the needs of those suffering must transcend partisanship. One problem with connecting advocacy to partisan political outrage is that often the needs of the people get lost in the desire to “win.” Jesus’s vision of healing a world in pain begins with blessing, not blame, so that we may keep our focus on those in need of comfort.
When our desire for security is so great that it diminishes our humanity and our capacity, or willingness, to see the world through the eyes of another, we lose a precious part of who we were designed to be. Our hearts are hardened, calcified.
On Jan. 21, I’ll join thousands in D.C. for the Women’s March on Washington. My first stop will be at a local congregation, one of several hosting a prayer service and warming station for marchers. I’m an anti-racist, feminist, Christian, and for me, faith will be part of the day.
I’ve been disappointed with Christian silence, and even active resistance, to social justice imperatives, but my commitments to justice stem from my faith, and that’s why I march.
The backlash to gospel singer Kim Burrell’s homophobic rant was swift: canceled national television appearances and the termination of her local public radio show.
But to those of us in religious communities, it’s important to note that, even as the controversy over Burrell’s statement recedes from the national spotlight, the issue of what goes on in the vast majority of American churches remains a festering wound.
On election night, I hunkered down in my living room, eyes glued to the television, waiting for the announcement. When talking heads announced that Hillary Clinton conceded the election to Donald Trump, my body shook — literally. I could not control it. I had never experienced anything like it. A cry rose from the pit of my stomach and quickly turned into a primal scream.
This sight of poor refugee parents and a humbly born baby surrounded by dirty shepherds and visitors from other religions and races and cultures should jolt us. It’s meant to. The manger shows us a world far different than our own, one that we’re being summoned to create with unconditional love and inclusion.
Chance the Rapper gifted the SNL stage Saturday with a carol to Jesus. Sprinkled over a choir singing the “ooooohs” on his song “Finish Line/Drown,” he sang, “Jesus it’s your birthday, happy birthday Jesus, Jesus it’s your birthday.”
When the choir called, “This water is deep, Jesus rescue me,” he said, “I like when you say his name on network TV like that.”
As Pope Francis officially opened this year’s Christmas Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square, he said Jesus was a “migrant” who reminds us of the plight of today’s refugees.
Francis told donors who contributed both the Nativity set and an 82-foot tree that the story of Jesus’ birth echoes the “tragic reality of migrants, on boats, making their way toward Italy,” from the Middle East and Africa today.
Dec. 4 was a beautiful reminder, in the long struggle for justice, that, no matter how long we wait, God hears our cry. And love and justice will win.
A few weeks ago, Chief Arvol Looking Horse issued an invitation to clergy and faith leaders to stand in solidarity with the people of Standing Rock. He said he was hoping maybe 100 would respond. But I joined thousands, in a procession of faith leaders, to gather around the sacred fire at the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock.
I knew something special was happening here.
Don’t expect a peaceful scene of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus when you open a Christmas card from Doctors of the World.
The British branch of the humanitarian group has opted to set the characters of the creche in the midst of Mideast crises. On one card, Mary and Joseph are leaning over the baby Jesus, as a missile traverses a starry night.
“Christmas is a time people contemplate the world,” the group said in its online introduction to the cards. “Doctors of the World’s cards seek to remind the public that this year war has forced millions from their homes, and they really need our help.”
Canadian researchers are revisiting a hotly debated sociological question: Why do some churches decline while others succeed?
Since the 1960s, overall membership in mainline Protestant Christian churches has been dropping in both the U.S. and Canada.
But some congregations have continued to grow, and a team of researchers believes it now knows why. It’s the conservative theological beliefs of their members and clergy, according to researchers from Wilfrid Laurier University and Redeemer University College in Ontario.
The day after the election, Lisa Sharon Harper nearly gave up the name “evangelical.”
That’s because 81 percent of white evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump for president, a candidate she described as “representing all of the things Jesus stood against — lust for money, sex, and power.” And their vote propelled the Republican nominee to victory.
Americans voted largely along the lines of race, education, and party identification. Nonwhites strongly preferred Clinton, while whites decisively chose Trump. Compared with past Republicans, the businessman received a stunning surge of votes from non-college-educated white voters.
None of this is surprising.
And yet the result upends so much conventional wisdom.
“I think there’s a moment of great creativity for women leaders in the religious sphere,” said the Rev. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, president of Auburn Theological Seminary, and author of God’s Troublemakers: How Women of Faith Are Changing the World.
“I think that we are seeing, in lots of areas of American life, that some of the traditional structures that served well for a long period of time are no longer doing so. … A time of change means there’s a possibility of new types of leadership and new people doing it.”
For decades, people have milked metaphors of baseball and religion beyond what they are worth. It’s not illegal, though there should probably be a special place in hell for those who claim to see the Trinity in baseball’s rule that three outs end an inning, or that the ballpark is a “cathedral.”
The truth is, we can go deeper.
So why did I mention Donald Trump in the title? Because I want to suggest that he has set up his story very differently than Jesus. Across this country Donald Trump has cast Samaritans as “criminals” and “rapists.” He wants to build a wall and separate us. Donald Trump, like Jesus (stay with me, here), is intentionally drawing on the implicit biases of the people listening to him — but in the complete opposite way. Rather than using his position to help people question their biases and reconceive their notion of “neighbor,” his rhetoric is pushing them to deepen their hatred of Samaritans.
Like most interpreters, I believe that apocalyptic thought shaped Jesus’ vision. When he announced the kingdom of God, he meant it (Luke 4:43; 8:1). Jesus understood his ministry as God’s dramatic intervention into human history, a decisive moment that forced people to accept or reject what God was about. Yes, his ministry was meant to bring peace. But in an apocalyptic perspective, peace ultimately follows a period of intense conflict.