Jesus Wears a Safety Pin for the One Queer Kid Who Will See It

This is why we wear safety pin! It may not seem like much but what it could potentially mean could be everything to someone. For that ONE person who needs it, that safety pin could be life saving!

Banishing Ursula

A queer person found their self surrounded by people wearing safety pins the other day, and breathed easier. “I knew I was among friends, and people had my back.”

Why would this be? Because now, with the election of Donald Trump, we are living in the United States of Fear and the safety pin has emerged as one symbol to demonstrate that the person wearing it is committed to providing safety for those targeted with the hate.

And there is a lot of hate. The Southern Poverty Law Center stays busy daily, tracking incidences of hateful harassment and intimidation since the election.

Incidences of bullying in schools have significantly increased throughout this election cycle, and in the first two days after Trump was elected, calls to The Trevor Project’s suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth more than doubled.

The outcry from loving Americans has been loud. It has also been…

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“Surviving” Wages Are Not Enough

Living wages leave out the “living” part.  Working full time, living paycheck to paycheck is not living; it’s not thriving; it’s barely surviving.  

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus shared the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  The rich man lived luxuriously, feasting every day.  A poor man Lazarus survived by sitting at the rich man’s gate hoping to feed on crumbs from the rich man’s table.  Lazarus was living but so poorly that dogs licked his wounds.  

Many today can relate to Lazarus, hoping to earn their daily bread at a job that barely pays in crumbs.  Still, some would say that the rich man paid Lazarus a living wage because it paid all his basic needs.  This is not true!  A full-time job that only pays for basic needs is barely surviving.  Let’s call it what it is:  a surviving wage.  

Consider Carrie, a single mom who escaped her abusive husband with her two daughters.  With no family, she took a job as a Night Audit/Desk clerk at an assisted living facility.  Working approximately 82 hours a week (yes the equivalent of two full-time jobs), she takes home $647.00 every two weeks and her rent is $750.00 a month.  Her job does not provide paid time off but because she works, she does not qualify for assistance.  Is this really living?  No like Lazarus, she is just surviving.  

Lazarus’ story has a lesson for us.  Both he and the rich man died.  Lazarus was carried to heaven while the rich man was sent to torment.  Seeing Lazarus, the rich man called out for relief.  But, a great chasm separated the rich and poor men.  When the rich man asked to warn his 5 brothers about their own lifestyles, the reply was “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.”  The parable ends stating that even coming back from the dead would be enough to sway these rich men.  

Today, modern prophets warn about the great chasm between the rich and poor.  Some are theologians seeking justice.  Some are economists arguing to stabilize the market.  Some are members of the very group that Lazarus would have eaten crumbs off their table:

Self-proclaimed plutocrat Nick Hanauer warns:  “…if wealth, power, and income continue to concentrate at the very tippy top, our society will change from a capitalist democracy to a neo-feudalist rentier society like 18th-century France. That was France before the revolution and the mobs with the pitchforks.”

As a religious leader,  I do not hope for pitchforks or violent revolutions.  Instead, I seek to bridge the chasm and restore relationships between the rich and poor.  I embrace organizations like Fight for 15 or StandUpKC that seek economic justice in the form of just wages rather than so-called living wages.  

May we all hear the prophets’ call.  

Gun Idolatry

The love of bearing arms has become a dangerous obsession.   Dangerous because it eclipses the ideals of peace and justice.

In 1990, the Presbyterian Church USA at its national meeting stated: “The religious community must also take seriously the risk of idolatry that could result from an unwarranted fascination with guns which overlooks or ignores the social consequences of their misuse”

26 years later, we still haven’t heeded this warning.  Instead, society goes on developing a gun culture forming a religious cult.   Former NRA Executive Vice President Warren Cassidy points out that “[t]he base of the National Rifle Association believes so strongly it’s more a religion.”

But, it is not just the NRA that follows these cult traditions.  Every day people use language that reflects gun ideology.  We “bring out the big guns” when faced with a large challenge.  We applaud people who “shoot from the hip,” and let them “call the shots.”  It seems owning and carrying guns has spawned obsession and dangerous ideology.  

The Bible reminds us that “You shall not worship other gods or bow yourselves to them or serve them or sacrifice to them” (2 Kings 17:35).

But, in the name of safety,  people are normalizing openly brandish guns.  Many states permit openly bearing weapons in workplaces, schools, stores, churches, and bars.  We have taken our love of the gun to a new level.  We bear our guns as they are sacred.  This will backfire.

When our weapons are more important than the people and values they are supposed to protect we have turned them into objects of worship…into false idols.  That something scripture is rather clear on.  Multiple verses of the Bible chastise people for worshiping something beyond their faith.  Today we can add to the list of idols:  the Golden Calf, Amon, Baal to include assault rifles, hand guns, semi-automatics, etc.

I have expressed the apocalyptic realities of gun violence in our society before but let me recap: around 30,000 people a year die from shootings a year in the US.  

30,000 people is:

Imagine the cemetery this idolatry has created.

We must hear the prophetic call to change our understanding of what motivates the need to irresponsibility hold to our rights while ignoring our responsibilities.    

We must uphold our values of justice and peace over our fear and our idolatry.  

Post-Truth Bears No Fruit

A society that upholds the values of justice, freedom, equality, or peace does not take truth for granted.  

There are so many “blessings” we take for granted simply naming the over some turkey and dressing once a year.  Truth is not a blessing any of us can risk taking for granted.  

Something else I had taken for granted in the last year is “fact.”  My social media outlets were inundated with articles.  I took for granted that these articles would hold to ethical standards.  I took for granted that they would be somewhat based in reality.  I took the truth for granted.  

I confess my sins of sharing articles that I did not check their information.  I confess that I was not skeptical enough and most likely shared lies.  Worse, I am not the only one.  Even worse, there are even those who make a profit selling fake news.  The misrepresentation of truth has become an epidemic.

This epidemic has spawned the Oxford Dictionary to make the word “post-truth” 2016 Word of the year.  

 

Are we a “post-truth” society?  Not if we are to uphold our most important values.

 Jesus did not demand blind faith.  In fact, he invited us to question things, even to the point that he was not immune to skepticism.  John the Baptist questioned Jesus.  In response, Jesus sent messengers to John to ease his skepticism.  “Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them” (Matt 11: 4-5).   These miracles were incredible and Jesus knew they would require fact checking.  

Today, we don’t always have the luxury of first-hand accounts or direct information.  We have to look at our news with skeptical eyes.  But how do we know truth when we see it?  By its fruit.

“Be aware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?  In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire.  Thus you will know them by their fruits.”  (Matt 7:15-20).  

That means looking at the ground an article is planted in.  Looking at the article with a critical eye.  Professor Zimdars at Merrimack college has taken on this issue.  She has made a list of ways to assess media articles to help and made a list of websites with ulterior motives beyond fact or truth.  

Beyond that, I am taking part in a pledge to be impeccable with my writing, speaking and social media usage:  

  • I pledge, in my writing, my speaking, and my use of social media to strive to fact-check every source twice before I quote or pass it on, using reliable fact-checking resources such as factcheck.org or snopes.com that list their own resources on their websites.
  • Bearing in mind that statistics are often blatantly manipulated, I will do my best to avoid using intentionally biased or misleading numbers.
  • When I am able to identify a fake news source, I will make an effort to contact that source and register my strong objection. I will expose fake news sites without passing on their untruthful information.
  • I pledge to do this to the best of my ability because a “post-fact” and/or “post-truth“ nation is no nation at all.

I make this pledge whole-heartedly.  I encourage my fellow bloggers, speakers, writers, or anyone else in the public sphere to do the same because I want to make sure that we plant the right ground to bear good fruit.  

UPDATE:  This exact pledge was the idea of Susan Thistlewaite together with the input of her Public Theology Class at Chicago Theological Seminary.  I am honored to a part of this class and to sign this pledge.  Won’t you join us?

To sing the pledge look here.

 

 

Jesus’ Great Commission to Our Islamic Siblings

Hate crimes in the US that specifically target Muslims have increased 67% since the presidential election.  The hateful rhetoric employed by certain candidates has galvanized people and has created a fear for those outside the WASP community.  There is a moral obligation to address that rhetoric and those actions taken up because of that rhetoric.

As Christians, we are called to follow the teachings of Jesus, even when it is hard or dangerous.  When it comes to our Islamic siblings, we seem to have forgotten a lesson or two.  

The Gospel of Matthew ends with Jesus’ “Great Commission” of the disciples to go out into the world and teach.  In that Gospel, it is the first time anyone but Jesus is given teaching authority.  Up until then, they had only been learning.  I wonder if we have learned his lessons well enough to enact them in our lives now.  We certainly have forgotten the story of the Good Samaritan.   Jesus teaches that a man is robbed and left for dead on the roadside.  He is passed over and over again by fellow members of his faith, indeed leaders in that faith.  Instead, an outsider, an “other”, someone of a differing faith and ethnicity, rescues this man and goes above and beyond even putting the man up until he has healed.  Perhaps the Samaritan was teaching us who he truly is and what his faith means.  

In my hometown of Kansas City, there is a group called the Crescent Peace Society who is speaking out about the truth of the Islamic faith as one of Peace.  Kareen Talib, a founding member realized that the over 30,000 Muslims in Kansas City had a calling to teach about their faith:  “We realized that we had not done our part…We came to this country and we started working very hard. We were living our lives, and we were taking care of our kids. We didn’t have time to think about it.  Then we realized that one element was forgotten, and that was educating others about who we are.”   

My seminary education, my church life, indeed even bartending has taught me that we have a call to listen to those who are being accused even oppressed because of their faith, skin, sexuality, etc.  Why?  

Because as a Christian, I know that Jesus was a man who spoke up for those accused of being outside the norm.  He was a threat to the Roman empire’s standard not because of his violence but because he called out against the oppression of people.  He was deemed “enemy combatant” and was executed because he defended the rights of a religious group.  Our Muslim siblings are being painted as “enemy combatants” when those who truly practice their faith are peaceful.  It is up to us to learn the difference rather than paint with broad brush strokes of hatred based in fear.  

Our Great Commission is to learn and to teach.  It’s time we relearn some forgotten lessons.