Reminder that we never have to let others control us or define us…
By Chris Pepple – 2017
When did it become
When did it become
forcing me to choose
When did we divide
our allegiances into terms
that say if you love them,
you can’t love me…
or if I speak for them
then I must not be able
to speak also for you?
Where’s the us
in it together?
Where’s the global humanity
that’s biblical and moral and just?
Where’s the understanding
that I can love them
and love you and
call people back
together as us?
By raising my voice for one,
I am not raising my voice
Hear the call that
all can be healed
all can be whole
all can have justice
all can be loved
…it’s not about choosing
which people to stand with…
I’m just standing and helping all
rise up and stand…
It’s together…not against
©2017 Chris Pepple
Dear Christians, we have a long and complicated history of those of us claiming this name. I don’t think there has ever been a time when we all agreed. Even Paul and Barnabas had their disagreements. We all have to look to Scripture to find Truth, but that can be complicated because of the many ways to interpret some things. So we have to stay in community to discuss together what Truth looks like. And we look back to history and tradition to see when we have gotten it right and when we have gotten it wrong.
I keep reading posts quoting preachers like Franklin Graham that seem to justify seeking our own comfort and safety over the lives of others. I have a lot of respect for the Graham family. Don’t get me wrong on that—I am not calling them evil or intending disrespect to any of their ministries. But just like you and I are flawed, are sinners, so are ministers. They can get it wrong at times and history is very clear about that in the following examples that I think you will agree with:
First, look at who Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote the Letter from the Birmingham Jail to—Christian ministers and leaders. It was his response to a public statement of concern and caution issued by eight white religious leaders of the South. They wanted to keep their churches safe and their white members out of harm’s way. Outside of that, these were respected ministers doing very good work in other areas. Look at the wording—the ministers were calling the Civil Rights Movement “unwise and untimely.” They were also calling for a ban of the “outsiders” (King and his colleagues) coming in to their communities. Sound familiar?
“Just as the eighth-century prophets left their little villages and carried their ‘thus saith the Lord’ far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid. Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea.” –Dr. Martin Luther King—History has proven this minister right and the other ministers of that day wrong.
And then there’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer—another minister like King who got it so right. He was a German minister and theologian who came to America to study. While here, Hitler began his rise to power. Bonhoeffer could have stayed safely in America and lived out the rest of his life here. Instead, he returned to Germany and spoke out against the injustices towards the Jews and eventually was executed for his stand. While alive, he begged Christian churches to hear the cries of the Jews and take a stand.
“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. ‘The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared’ (Luther).”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community
We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.
Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.
Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power, and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear … Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now.
There is no way to peace along the way to safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture.—Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship
Let’s be clear: If you read the Bible from front to back as a whole, you will see that there is nothing logical or safe about Christianity. Every call to follow God’s will through the entire Bible calls for actions that don’t fall into line with human reason and logic. Nothing Jesus did was logical. Nothing tells us to worry about ourselves first. And if we put our nation above God’s will, that is idolatry. True Christians throughout history risked their lives for others in Jesus’s name–hiding Jews in their homes at great personal risk. The white Christians who finally stood with Dr. King. Think of all of the heroes of our faith. Think of Corrie Ten Boom. Think of the people whose names we will never know. Read about Rahab who hid the spies in her house. Read about the wise men who refused to return to Herod and tell him the location of the child. Read about the people who brought Paul into their homes all of the times the authorities wanted him dead. Think of the person who hid the disciples in his upper room when everyone was sure Romans and Jews would kill any sympathizers. That is Biblical. Think of the displaced Americans on 9/11/01–their planes had to land in Canada when our airports closed. It’s a beautiful story of 7,000 stranded, unvetted travelers who landed and the people of a small town who took them in and fed them and cared for them not knowing if some of the travelers were ones who might cause harm.
Some people will confuse the facts about who is a refugee—a refugee has that name because he/she has proven to be persecuted because of faith, race or location of their home. They are wanted dead by those who hate them not because of the refugee’s actions but because of the hate in the heart of the hunter. These people undergo extensive vetting. These are not people seeking a visa to get a job. None have attacked us. None caused 9/11. These are people trying not to be killed just because of who they are. Tell me you don’t really think Jesus would say, “Now, you people over here be safe. Let somebody else help if they want to.” And Jesus never told us to just send money. He said go. He said heal. He said love above all else. He said put your life on the line, Peter, Paul, John…Christians. He said take up your cross. It may kill you, but I will reward you. That’s Biblical.
I love you and am glad we are on this journey together.
To the daughter of Mary (a blogger)
To the daughter of Mary (a blogger whose post is being passed around):
Your mother wrote that when you grow up, she has a lot to teach you. I’m glad that she cares about you and wants the best for you. I have two daughters, and I love them very much, too.
Your mother wrote that she didn’t march for you because there was no need to–that everything is fine for women in the United States. Her quote was, “I’m writing this letter to tell you that what some people are yelling very loudly today (and will continue to yell very loudly for years to come) are lies.”
Oh, Sweet Girl, I wish that was true. I wish you and my daughters both lived in a wonderful world with no pain, no abuse, no harassment, no rapes. She is right about some things in her post–men can be abused, too, especially young boys. But the march was about stopping all abuse and bringing abuse into the light so we can work to end it together. None of us want anyone to be abused, but if we don’t talk about it, how will we end it?
But here’s what someone besides your mother will have to teach you. If you or your friends are ever raped on a college campus, you as a woman will find justice hard to come by if things stay as they are right now, Your mother would know that if she friended young rape victims or just listened to their stories that have been proven true.
Here are some stats:
11.2% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students).
Among graduate and professional students, 8.8% of females and 2.2% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
Among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
4.2% of students have experienced stalking since entering college.
Here are some links to articles that show that women on campuses struggle to find justice:
There are many others sources you can find. Until both men and women can be safe on our campuses, all of us must speak out. It’s the just, loving thing to do.
Also, let’s talk about domestic abuse against both men and women. It’s time we bring reality into the light. I can tell you my story if you want to know it, but let me just say that I fought the legal system for 11 years. As a woman, I was told over and over again that his wishes mattered more than my rights. I raised my daughters to understand that the Circuit Court system needed to be revised to hear the voices of all people, (A male judge asked me once when my abuser was $96,000 behind on child support: “His lawyer is a nice guy. Why don’y you just make a deal with them and let’s end this?” It’s all in the court record–very provable.)
Maybe your mother will take the time to volunteer at a rape crisis center or get to know women struggling to leave domestic abuse. Maybe she will get to know impoverished children whose mother struggles to get them fed and cared for. Maybe your mother will have lunch with a survivor of traumatic abuse and hear her story.
It’s easy to say, “My life is good so people are crazy if their life isn’t good.” It’s harder to see that Jesus understood. He walked with the outcasts, not with the privileged. Jesus believed and cared about and healed the bleeding woman, the woman at the well, the blind beggar, the lepers…God put their stories in Holy Scripture.
Read the Bible yourself and see that God tells us to feed the hungry, be a voice to the hurting, love the outcasts. To one wealthy questioner, He answered: Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21).
Please honor your mother. She is your mother. But hear the voices of those she is calling a liar. Get to know people and you will see what God sees–the tears of His people, the scared rape victims, to beaten wives and children (and beaten men).
You blog, too, one day, but use your voice to end suffering. When we listen, we grow in our understanding of the lives of others and the realities in this world that we may have never experienced. When I read social media posts, I see the pain that so many people experience when their stories aren’t heard. People try to tell their stories so we can try to understand what it’s like for them as cancer patients, as people with special needs, as people who grieve over a loss, as people who face hate or violence of all types, as people who struggle with depression or addictions or pain of so many types.
I’m sorry for all of the challenges you face in your nation. I know that many in your nation face daily struggles that I cannot imagine. I think of the Biblical stories from my faith tradition where Jesus reached out to the neighboring areas with love and compassion. Know that some of us in America care about your people. We are all part of this global community–in the struggle together. My faith tradition tells me that God created the world–not just America.
I am sorry you are being bullied with a tough choice–take money desperately needed by those in your own community–needed for education or help with the drug wars or help with healthcare–the choice to use billions of dollars to help your nation or build a wall because some people here have been misled by fear and prejudice.
I hear your struggles. Please know I will pray for your nation and will also look for practical ways to make us both healthier nations–more loving, more peaceful, more just and merciful.
I hope you can #resist the bullying and know that at least some of us care.
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