It is the week of giving thanks. The US holiday of Thanksgiving is tomorrow and most of those in the country will be doing their cooking, baking, basting, and often traveling to be with family and loved ones, to celebrate the holiday or at the very least, to enjoy the time off of work. It is one of those magic holidays where, regardless of your beliefs, religion, or stance on any issue, being grateful for what you have and giving thanks for things is a universally recognized virtue.
It seems rather ironic that, at such a time, there is now a raging debate in the United States about whether or not to welcome and care for refugees fleeing from atrocities in their homeland that most of us cannot even begin to imagine. The governor of my state, along with many others, issued a decree that our state would not welcome these refugees until such time as the federal government “made assurances” that proper security measures are being followed. While I often refrain from posting and commenting on political issues, this one seemed to jump out to me as being an issue that is neither political nor difficult to understand, but rather, a crystal clear moral issue at its root – whether or not to welcome and care for refugees who have abandoned everything they’ve known and risked their lives to ensure the safety of their families and loved ones – and yet it is sadly being used as political fodder, religious rage, and fear mongering. What is most disturbing to me is the response I have seen posted on social media and in the news from “Christians”, who have vehemently stated that such refugees should NOT be welcomed and cared for by the United States, UNLESS they are proven to be of no threat, or, even more unbelievable, ONLY if they are also “Christians”, in which case they would be considered “safe.” I find myself wondering at times…often, actually…if I believe in the same “Christ” that these other loud voices believe in, or if there is some disconnect with the words and the Man and how that is lived out. The times are very strange, and so, to be as informed and certain as possible, I have read factual documents on refugees and the processes they must go through to legally enter the US, and I have also reviewed the Gospel writings and saying of Jesus as well, to be sure that I understand what is written and what He told His followers to do, and you know what…I still can come to no other conclusion than that it is a fundamental responsibility of anyone claiming to be Christian to care for those that seek help and to welcome them.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” – John 10:10-11
***An initial disclaimer… This is not a post that is intended to stir up political debate, but rather ask some hard questions. It is also targeted primarily at any who claim to follow Jesus and identify as Christian. ***
As a rule, I am not an overly political person. I dislike labels and boxes and in general, work hard to be, as the Apostle Paul said, “all things to all people.” (1 Cor. 9:19-23) This is not to be flaky or to dodge having to answer tough questions when asked them, it is more out of a simple desire to meet everyone where they are at in life, and to make no assumptions about their heart, motives, or beliefs before truly getting to know them as a person; in essence to see everyone not as “the other” or an object to be dealt with, but persons to be loved.
I mentioned in my last post that I have, at times, struggled with depression and anxiety due primarily to loss and grief, and also to poorly managing my own mental health as I ought. It wasn’t until I walked through that valley with my own two feet however, that I truly understood how others who struggled similarly felt on the inside, no matter their exterior demeanor. Life has a way of kicking the crap out of you and leaving you beat up, bedraggled, and bleeding on the ground. This is not news to anyone who’s lived for some time and suffered any sort of loss. The difference on this side of the fence is that, once you’ve walked through the “valley of the shadow of death” or experienced “the dark night of the soul”, you often find that things are now cast in a completely different light, and if you let it happen, hopefully you find yourself a much softer and more compassionate person. Continue reading
“Without your wounds where would your power be? It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.” – Thornton Wilder, The Angel that Troubled the Waters
Yesterday, September 16th, 2015 marked the 4th anniversary of the miscarriage and loss of our son, Aidan Daniel. His death at 12 weeks was a devastating blow to my wife and I, for many reasons. First and foremost, his was the first and only pregnancy for us, after, at the time, 9 years of marriage, and trying for children, fertility testing with the diagnosis that nothing was wrong, and no idea why “this isn’t happening for us.” Second, we had just said goodbye 1 year prior to 3 of our Godchildren who’d lived with us for 3 years and brought us joy beyond measure or understanding, making us a family that we will never forget, and bringing out some of the best parts of us as individuals and as a married couple. Finally, with his conception being an unexpected and seeming “miracle” for us, his loss seemed like an immeasurable cruelty, and caused us both to question our faith and belief in the Divine, especially for me more than my dear wife, whose faith runs deep and wide, and I often found myself crying out in both sorrow and anger, raging against the injustice of it all. Continue reading
“One of the greatest dangers for Christian mission is that we become forgetful in the practice of the cross and create a comfortable type of Christian who wants the cross as an ornament, but who often prefers to crucify others than to be crucified himself.”
– Archbishop Anastasios
During Holy Week in the Orthodox Christian church, we hear all of the Gospel readings where Jesus derides the religious leaders of the day, for their strict adherence to their traditions, laws, and practices, while having cold and closed hearts and unable to have mercy on those they lead. Every year, hearing these, I can’t help but wonder, often, are we Christians the modern day Pharisees or are we still followers of the gentle Man from Nazareth? What would the Christ have to say to us if He came back today? I read Matthew 23 and substitute “Christians” every time Jesus says “Scribes & Pharisees”, and then I meditate on that…and I lament and ask for mercy and help because I see parallels everywhere and am convicted in my own heart that truly, often we are they, as “they” were the “us” of their day. I fear that, as Dostoyevsky wrote in “The Grand Inquisitor”, if our Lord returned today, we may not recognize Him, or worse, denounce Him because He’s not acting “Christian” and is interfering with the mission of our Church, and we no longer have need of Him or His miracles and mercy.
Continuing on from my last post, I’ll say again, that I’ve noticed a lack of genuine dialogue amongst people of differing beliefs.