My Jesus and the 4th of July

***Warning!!! Contents contain my soul wrestling with the intersection of my faith and current political climate. Need to take a pass?  I get it.

I stayed quiet today during Joys and Concerns, that time during our church service when the microphone is passed around and members share what is weighing on their hearts. I felt the push to raise my hand but still I resisted. My concern was too political, had nothing to do with an ailing relative or a healed friend. As the minutes ticked by, the urge grew and still I avoided, knowing that this was not the venue, that my words didn’t belong in church. Yet the powerful message my pastor delivered barely registered, such was my aching soul. Because actually, I think it is time for our voices to be heard. I think the venue has to be our churches, the place where we worship and strive to follow a rebellious man who lived so long ago.

The Jesus I know was filled with grace and love, absolutely, but He also challenged the very systemic wrongs that surrounded Him, that created the environment where people needed His intervention. All those outcasts that He noticed, those people on the fringes of the society He lived in, those are the stories we listen to each week in our worship services. He SAW the woman who was to be stoned because of an unjust, one-sided, narrow-minded belief about the role of half the human race. He set her free, He brought her back. He NOTICED the hungry, the poor, the ones being thrown away by those who had more. He CHALLENGED the businessmen in the temple who were cheating those who had traveled from afar to worship, He CALLED OUT those men who were distorting the purpose of that place and the very message the Rabbis inside were delivering. This, this is the rebellious Jesus my soul responds to. I am the outcast, the one on the fringe, those are my people. In fact our country was created by those very folks who wanted to have freedom in their “temple” away from the tyranny.

We are just a day away from the celebration of our country’s birth, the flag waving and fireworks and picnics that unite us as we proclaim proudly that we are Americans. Every year I dressed my children in red, white and blue t-shirts, purchased the little boxes of sparklers and made potato salad but never have I given as much thought to what it means to be American as I have this year. Maybe it is only in losing something that we really begin to cherish it. Having traveled outside of the U.S., I know the freedoms we have here are precious, that we are not perfect and are still babies learning to walk as a newer country. I truly thought we were on the right track, correcting our ugly history of slavery, slowly, ever so slowly, but still moving forward. Yet only a day away from the big celebration and I am embarrassed to wave a flag now.

Regardless of political affiliation, more importantly is our faith stance. We are broken, in need of grace, all of us. We have become judgmental and hate filled, unable to listen, resorting to name-calling and prone to violence as a means to resolve conflict. If ever there was a time for the church to rise up, isn’t it now? Do we not have a responsibility to rebel in the likeness of Jesus to say what is happening is wrong? If the behavior that we see from the highest leaders would not be tolerated in our Sunday School classrooms, can we stay quiet? The silence is deafening, while the noise of sexist cruelty plays outs daily.

I write almost daily of the deep  love and crazy adventures I share with my grandson. This relationship which has been front and center in our church is not considered legitimate enough to allow for travel as an immigrant, according to the new workings of the ban. I cannot even find words to express the outrage and devastation I feel as a grandmother, imagining that arbitrary decision about the legitimacy of the value Plum and I bring to each other. Jesus calls us to open our doors to strangers, to trust in Him to protect us and guide us. We have surely lost our way.

I am a writer, I am a mother, a wife, a grandmother. I am a woman who fears for other women and those of color and those who dream of coming to our universities.  I fear for those who are trying to speak truths, for those who truly love our country and who love Jesus and those who worship differently.  I spent many years being afraid as a child, then more as a young adult. I thought those days were behind me. Yet I see that if we do not stand up for what is right and those who need our voices, we are complicit in the wrong, just as the Germans when the Nazi Regime began. This is our time, a time we will be forever judged by in the history books and most importantly at the gates of heaven.  Are we listening to the urgings of our souls that say stand up and speak or are we quietly letting someone else claim our flag for their hateful cause?

Today I remained quiet and I feel sick about that choice. I didn’t follow my rebellious Jesus and my soul told me I made the wrong decision. I know He wants me to buck the system when the system is hurting people, to feed the hungry people and to obey Him first. When we obey our own desires or our elected leaders before our God, trouble starts. We cannot trust people before our God, it just doesn’t work. So each tweet, each vote, each decision we make, we have to understand that it is a faith decision as well. I know the quote, “Let your actions preach louder than your words.” Today my inaction, my inability to say what was in my soul, preached volumes to those who are suffering. I need to do better, be better. Grace will cover me in my hesitancy for only so long, I am breaking for those who cannot be heard, who have no opportunity to raise their hands and beg for prayers.

Fireworks exploded into the night as my pets huddled around, shivering and worrying about the noise, fearful and uncomprehending that it would soon end. I could only offer comfort and wonder at what we are really celebrating. Freedom to worship? Freedom to assemble? Freedom to walk our children to school or drive a car or have health care regardless of income? How about Unity? Are we celebrating our togetherness regardless of skin color or green card status or candidate selected on voting day? Just as I didn’t raise my hand to lift up my concerns during church, my soul is telling me I have to take a pass this year as the nation’s big day comes around. Instead, I will be focusing on the work that must be done within the church to extend our grace and show our love in the spirit of the living God to those who are standing outside, awaiting an invitation to the party.


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