Wednesday, December 12, 2018

On Mercy

Four traditional values are typically lifted up in Protestant churches during the advent season: Peace, Joy, Love, and Hope. But a fifth value, Mercy, is often overlooked.

In the Hebrew Bible, there is a group of related words that are often translated as “mercy.” “Ahavah” refers to God’s enduring love for Israel.  “Rachamim” comes from the root word “rechem,” or womb, suggesting a maternal connection between God and human beings.“Chesed,” the word translated as “mercy” in Psalm 85, suggests God’s steadfast loyalty.

(Schmalz, Matthew, “What is the True Meaning of Mercy?” The Conversation. February 8, 2017 Retrieved Dec 10, 2018)

Mercy is foundational to our understanding of the person of God. In the Hebrew Bible, the Psalms refer repeatedly to God’s mercy. The Psalmist loves God because God has heard his cry for mercy (Ps 116). He pleads for mercy when forgiveness is desired, when enemies threaten him, or when judgment is feared (Ps 146). 

Mercy is shown when sin is confessed (Prov. 28:13). God desires mercy, the acknowledgment that the Lord is God (Hosea 6:6). Mercy is acting justly and with humility as one walks with God (Micah 6:8). In many respects the request for mercy is at the core of the argument that God has no choice but to be merciful because God is and has promised to be loving, kind, and steadfastly loyal. The Psalmists and others gently tug on God’s coattails to remind him to behave himself. It is also a recognition that because God is merciful, so should his people be. 

The difficulty with mercy, as we find it in the New Testament, is how subversive it is. In the beatitudes (Matt 5:1ff), "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom belongs not to the wise or powerful but to those who are "poor in spirit," that is, people who recognize their spiritual poverty and their need for divine salvation. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Those who suffer in this life will receive comfort in the next. (Saturday Night Theologian “Matthew 5:1-12” 30 January 2005 Retrieved December 10, 2018 retrieved December 10, 2018)

Mercy becomes problematic in Matthew for two reasons. First, like forgiveness, it is reciprocal. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” “The measure you give is the measure you get.” Judge not lest you be judged.” And here, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” It doesn’t say specifically that the unmerciful won’t receive mercy, but that’s the implication. Mercy appears to9 be quid pro quo.

Second, God’s mercy seems reserved for those on the margins of society who have faith. Mary, who lives there, perceives it keenly. 

She mentions it twice:

46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful of the humble state 
     of his servant,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.” (Luke 1:46-53)

This God is the Mighty One who scatters the proud, brings down rulers, lifts up the humble, sends the rich away empty and fills the hungry with good things. Mercy is for the poor, the beleaguered, the outcasts, the bullied, and the ill-treated. 

“Those who long for inner righteousness and outer justice (the Greek word can mean both) will see their desires fulfilled. There are few who are truly righteous, and many who think they are, are not. … 

“If your heart doesn't ache at the injustice in the world--the poverty, the socio-economic inequality, the racism, the hate, the intolerance of one religion for another--you are falling short of the righteousness that Jesus taught and exemplified.” 

(Saturday Night Theologian “Matthew 5:1-12” 30 January 2005 Retrieved December 10, 2018

Sarah Dylan points out that mercy was much needed by followers of Jesus. They were often the “pushed out.” They ate with and entered into social relationships with the opposite sex and with “sinners.” They were encouraged to abandon their families and follow Jesus. They refused to enter Into contests of honor, forgiving enemies and seeking reconciliation instead of revenge.

 “Such disobedience shamed the whole family, threatening everyone's welfare in the process; small wonder that those who engaged in it were so often pushed out.”

 Dylan says that Jesus gathers in all of these people and he gives them honor. “Their human fathers may have disowned them, but they are children of the God who created the universe, to whom all honor belongs.”

Jesus also gives them family. “They are children of one Father, and that makes them brothers and sisters. They will never be bereft in a community that sees themselves as family, and that cares for one another in ways that show that they take that family relationship with utmost seriousness.” 

(“Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A”  January 25, 2005 Dylan’s Lectionary Blog. Retrieved December 10, 2018.

In the Gospels, then, mercy has the character of a rescue operation, throwing a protective cover over those who have been forced to the margins of society. They become an echo of Onesimus, once considered worthless but now useful, worthwhile to God. (Phil 1:11) Mercy is God’s response when people yell “Uncle,” when conditions are so bad that when Jesus meets them on the road they cry, “Have mercy! I give up - save me!” And he does.

Paul takes things a step further. He wasn’t out on the social margin, he was at its center. And mercy wasn’t granted because he followed Jesus. He hadn’t reached out to Jesus for healing or even for forgiveness. It wasn’t promised because he had declared his faith and now deserved to be saved. HIs only contribution was to fall on the ground and go blind for three days (Acts 9:3ff). Mercy was given to make an example of him - Paul was the worst of sinners: “But for that very reason I was shown mercy” (1 Tim 1:6).

God displayed his immense patience in Paul’s life as an example for those who would come to believe in Christ. Paul’s reasoning in retrospect was that as the worst of sinners, the persecutor of Jesus and Christians, all others’ sins would pale in comparison to his. And those others, in turn, could see that by example God’s patience, and likewise God’s forgiveness, was being extended to them. God isn’t impatient; God is merciful.

The prospect of this sort of mercy is a surprising offer to those of us who realize that we, like the rich ruler (Luke 18:18ff), have at some point been dipped in an anesthetic. We only vaguely recall that we may have stolen, but only a little, lied, but not grievously, lusted, but not openly, and retaliated, but not murderously.

We are the ones who still mimic the rich ruler’s shortcoming: we haven’t loved because we don’t know how. Instead we are business people who have treated competitors deceptively, not of honestly. We are politicians who have sought revenge instead of reconciliation. We have chosen power over others instead of community, and wealth over giving. We have been dismissive of strangers instead of welcoming, and we have objectified members of the opposite sex, seeing them only as opportunities for physical satisfaction, as having no personalities of their own that we recognized or that we cared about. 

Paul, the undeserving recipient of mercy, opens the door to God’s mercy for us. As Abraham Joshua Heschel says, “This is why we pray, ‘Purify our hearts so that we may worship Thee in honesty.’

“It requires a great honesty to realize before whom we stand, for such realization is more than having a thought in one’s mind. It is a knowledge in which the whole person is involved, the mind, the heart, the body and soul. What is left for us to do except to pray …and even if such prayer is tainted with vanity, His mercy accepts and redeems our feeble efforts.” 

(Essential writings, “Out of the Depth We Cry for Help.” Orbis books, Maryknoll, NY, 149-150)

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

May I be Excused? I Want to Watch Us Gas the Children

It’s a unique opportunity. I was never able to watch Israel in action against the Palestinians first hand, and events happened so quickly In Ferguson that the tear gassing was over almost before it started. But now I have my opportunity. The chances are good that the military will continue this long enough for me to see it up close.

I’ve plotted a route from Oregon to Tijuana. 1082 miles; 17 hours, 3 minutes. Two 9 hour days or one straight run. If I take I-5 I can see the poorly maintained California forests that should have been raked. And then the excitement that comes from watching hopeful immigrants scatter in all directions. At least some of them will scatter.

“Designed to force people out from behind barricades and trenches, tear gas causes burning of the eyes and skin, tearing, and gagging. As people flee from its effects, they leave their cover and comrades behind. In addition to its physical consequences, tear gas also provokes terror.’” (1)

So most will run, but in Tijuana some - the children - couldn’t or didn’t. If a person can’t flee there is the danger of getting whacked in the head with a gas canister - a substantial blow. One news report said, “Children screamed and coughed in the mayhem of the tear gas. Fumes were carried by the wind toward people who were hundreds of feet away, not attempting to enter the U.S.” But some were admittedly trying to bypass the fences and barbed wire in an attempt to get into the US. What did they expect, anyway?

So I imagine it will be exciting if the gassing continues. The excitement will be generated by panic. Lots of people running around screaming have that effect. It will be accompanied by fear on our side of the border, because after all, these folks have been labeled terrorists, gang members and criminals. What if they actually bypass the troops? Surely they will overrun our cities, steal our jobs, and rape our women.

And excitement will be generated in us by the knowledge that corporations are profiting from this approach. “Over the past two decades, sales of tear gas, and less-lethal weapons more broadly, have grown substantially. Just as tear-gas salesmen in the 1920s monitored news headlines, today’s chemical executives receive  market reports informing them, for instance, that civil unrest has become commonplace in many regions of the world, from protesters in Brazil to activists in the Middle East. Governments have responded by purchasing record amounts of non-lethal weapons.” (2)

Finally there is the recurring hope that the Wall is truly coming. We entertain our dream of it in the knowledge that Donald Trump’s erection won’t be just a barrier to keep the criminal elements out. It will provide order for a government that is sadly under-equipped to process more than ten or twelve immigrants a day, even though they have valid reasons for seeking asylum and the legal right to enter the country. 

A wall will help us maintain a white population in the face of a growing citizenry of non-whites. It will reinforce our notion that we are strong, even invincible, in the face of international criticism, and that the executive branch is more powerful than the judiciary. And finally it will reassure us that we don’t have the resources to embrace 2,000, or even 20,000, refugees. I personally don’t want to be reminded that churches all over the country would welcome a family or two and help them resettle. Or that what we might spend erecting a few miles of a wall would accomplish the same thing. Or that the cost of sending thousands of troops to the border is much higher than setting up a tent city, with beds, restrooms and air conditioning to house a lesser number of refugees. I can hardly wait to get there.

(1)  Feigenbaum, Anna. “100 Years of Tear Gas.” The Atlantic: August 16, 2014
(2) Ibid

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Compassion is a Balancing Act

In seminary we spent an inordinate amount of time discussing theological jots and tittles, such as the need for the adjective “personal” when referring to the Savior, as in “I have accepted Jesus as my personal Savior. Some said the modifier was unnecessary; Jesus made salvation possible individually and communally. Others contended that through Christ God met us personally, one on one, uniquely addressing our sinfulness and our need for forgiveness., and we should be clear about it from the beginning. I confess to being in the former group. I was more concerned with the result than I was with God’s methodology, and for me these conversations about a personal Savior joined a long list of topics that couldn’t be proved one way or another. 

That was true until recently, when I began to see God as my personal antagonist. The awareness surfaced in worship when our pastor, Steve Fawver, addressed the subject of compassion. For the past several weeks he has focused on portions of Henri Nouwen’s book, With Open Hands. The chapter “Prayer and Compassion” states, “Prayer can never be antisocial or asocial. Whenever we pray and leave out our neighbors, our prayer is not real prayer.” (82)

The message coincided with the horrific fires burning in California, both north and south, where a multitude have lost their lives, thousands have lost their homes, and thousands more are under evacuation orders. But to understand my sense of God as my personal adversary I need to step back several years.

In 2012 fire ravaged the Mountain Shadows neighborhood where we lived in Colorado Springs. In what was an historical event at the time over 350 homes were destroyed. The number was record-setting. If I were to identify pivotal life moments, the fire in Mountain Shadows would be included - with our marriage, our children’s births, my ordination (1973), and my first car (a 1965 Ford Fairlane).

And our home, along with 5 others on the street, survived the fire. The rest of the subdivision lay in ruins. We had substantial damage, but our insurance covered it all. For those whose homes had burned I had a great deal of empathy. I thought that was enough. But as Edwin Friedman points out in A Failure of Nerve

On the one hand, there can be no question that the notion of feeling for others, caring for others, identifying with others, being responsive to others, and perhaps even sharing their pain exquisitely or excruciatingly is heartfelt, humanitarian, highly spiritual, and an essential component in a leader’s response repertoire. But it has rarely been my experience that being sensitive to others will enable those “others” to be more self-aware, that being more “understanding” of others causes them to mature, or that appreciating the plight of others will make them more responsible for their being, their condition, or their destiny. (137)

An incident from the California fires stresses the point. I heard about a woman who was driving through the flames trying to escape when the traffic came to a stop, the fire came toward her, and she finally called her husband on her cell phone and said, “I don’t think I’m going to make it. I’m going to die here.” He said, “Don’t die without fighting. Get out and run.” She did, and she survived. It was empathy with stern advice. I believe in the aftermath of the Mountain Shadows fire I was very empathetic, but less concerned about being actively involved. I felt bad for the fire victims. I really did. I even gave them some money. Such generosity. I could have done more.

And excessive empathy wasn’t my greatest shortcoming. It was a lack of humility. Down deep I reasoned that our home survived, and it was our effort that made it so. We had taken out a “good” insurance policy, one that covered all the possibilities. We had worked hard to have enough money to make the payments. I even had a back-up plan. I took pictures of every room, all of our belongings, just in case the house burned and the insurance company quibbled with us. Woe unto those who don’t photograph their stuff. 

When we had to evacuate the neighborhood we had friends who took us in, who fed us, who gave us a room to stay in, because after all we were good, nice people whom others would feed and shelter. We knew we had a safety net. 

And most important we had stood, prior to the evacuation orders, in our driveway with other friends and prayed for our home and our safety before we hopped in the car. Surely not everyone had done that, and surely it was a sign to God of our faithfulness. A part of me (that I prefer to keep hidden) felt we had been rewarded in kind. Their homes burned and ours didn’t.

Then God the Antagonist began to show up.  In retrospect the first appearance was last summer when California was previously burning (It seems California is always burning) and I started with the snarky prayers. “Lord God, the smoke from these fires is making me really uncomfortable. It’s annoying. It makes my eyes water.” And God said, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Your attitude is not good, and your priorities are out of whack. Maybe I should show you really watery eyes.” 

Recently, as the destruction in California has become greater and the death toll has increased, God’s presence has become more frequent. God my Antagonist. I can’t decide if God has gently taken my chin in hand to look me in the eye, or put me on the ground with a divine foot on my neck. Maybe it’s some of each. This is the God about whom the Psalmist said, “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me,” (139:5) and has said to me, “You can do better than this. Three hundred and fifty homes are a pittance, and yours in Colorado certainly wasn’t at the center of all things. Neither are you.”

I am more and more convinced that compassion is a balancing act. It is empathy and action. Or as 1 John puts it, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (3:16-18)

Pastor Mike

Monday, November 12, 2018

Now I'm a Mobster

I was warned that retirement could involve a challenging transition, especially for a Christian pastor who was used to being in front of a crowd much of the time. In fact the words of caution carried more truth than I imagined. Retirement  would mean jettisoning my identity as a person in charge, the one others came to for advice, someone frequently called on to speak publicly. Now I would have to take more of a back seat.

At first I became, unwillingly, a medical patient. I was hospitalized with a heart condition, had surgery, proceeded with physical therapy, and then was treated for prostate cancer. The recovery process wasn’t terribly difficult or frightening, but I did become accustomed to being waited on and having friends, even strangers, ask, “How are you doing?” or “Can I get you anything?” Yet after reassuring them several times that I was just fine and no longer needed help, that attention dwindled.

Falling into the identity void once again, I decided I would relate to others as an artist. In the past I had painted several watercolor pictures and I resumed the hobby. I even felt a sense of accomplishment embracing this positive sense of self. I recognized that I was indeed a creative person. And it was good.

Then came a cruel awakening. I was labeled a mobster. I was given no advance notice. Instead I had this epithet thrown at me because I was, in fact, an advocate for people on the margins of society.   I had often mingled with Democrats. Been one who empathized with legal protesters. And the accusation was directed at me repeatedly by certain politicians, including the President and his followers. I was part of an “unruly mob,” angry, left wing, inclined to riot and to overthrow any sense of law and order.

Being troubled by this description (I’ve always considered myself a  good citizen, albeit a pacifist) I searched my past for any behavior that would place me in this violent anarchistic category. And then it became clear. During the summer I had attended what amounted to a civil insurrection. It was disguised as an ecumenical worship service at the Sheridan, Oregon prison. It was promoted as a protest of the illegal imprisonment of a border-crossers. But what appeared peaceful on the surface was obviously a mob action.

Over a hundred people were present, a mob by any measure. They carefully hid their anger at the authorities by maintaining benign looks, but they were clearly on the verge of violence. Some looked accusingly at the razor-wire fence around the prison, while others whispered, perhaps scheming, among themselves. Prison guards warned us not to talk to prisoners through the fence, but some in the group hovered near the razor wire certainly looking for an opportunity to converse with those confined criminals.

Our gang of imposters was organized by members of the Sikh community, a group that supposedly embraced “non-violence” but had engaged in public protests before. At this gathering they chanted, encouraged the raising of hands, and provided hypnotic music. The crowd participated willingly. Many in attendance carried metal objects camouflaged as lawn chairs which could have been wielded as weapons. Speakers from various religious groups spoke forcefully about the need to resist the actions of the government as part of this imprisonment. Then, thankfully, the crowd quietly dispersed.

So now, unavoidably I am part of an unruly riotous group of mobsters. Indeed, I am an American Baptist/Quaker mobster. Like a convicted sex offender I will have to live with this identity for the rest of my life. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Imagination and Thoughts on Confession

What are the things we as Christians are to do with one another? Love one another, forgive one another come to mind. James says we are to confess our sins to each other. Unfortunately confession is often understood as one of the things we must do to appease an angry God. In reality it is part of prayer, which James describes as being good in all circumstances. It is also part of the interaction that is to take place in the body of Christ. It is intended to be a blessing.
We are priests to one another. We remember Peter’s words, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5) We are mediators to God for one another, and mediators to one another for God. We embrace confession because it removes the clutter of the past and lets us move forward as servants of Christ.
Walter Brueggemann, at the 1999 Ministers’ Convocation at the Claremont School of Theology, quoted Paul Ricoeur as saying that “changed obedience follows changed imagination.” People can’t change what they do (obedience) until they can see for themselves that there is some other possible way of acting. At that same lecture, Brueggemann described Sabbath rest as an opportunity to imagine one’s life differently.
Is confession connected to the sabbath? The sabbath is a day of rest in keeping with God’s commandment, remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, set apart, reserved space for God. Brueggemann’s point is we can’t take part in what he calls prophetic imagination about the future if our attention is cluttered with regrets and anxiety about the past. Or as the Apostle Paul puts it, Not that I have already obtained all this … but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
Imagining correctly involves walking with the Spirit of God. Luke says early in his ministry Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. Jesus embraced the imagination of God when he let the Spirit have free reign. 
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:14-19)
Do you notice his imagination isn’t realistic? It doesn’t follow common sense. That’s what imagination does. It embraces a different reality. It’s fantasy. Fantasy to think the prisoners will be free, that the blind will recover sight, that the poor will receive good news. Fantasy to think death can be overcome.
What do I imagine for our congregation? I imagine us accepting fallibility, in ourselves and one another. I imagine us avoiding black and white thinking and quick fixes, because we know life is filled with gray areas, and any change that is worthwhile takes time.
I imagine us confessing our sins to each other even in general terms and praying for each other so we can be healed. I imagine us remaining open to the work of the Spirit changing us, because we can’t change ourselves or each other. 
Some of that has already come to the surface at church. A caring community. Welcoming. Diverse. Affirming. Open. So what is the next step? As Paul Ricoeur said, our actions can’t change until we’ve imagined something different.
So I imagine a group of people who can share freely with each other. Call it confession if you wish. I imagine us having the courage to speak out against racism and government hypocrisy. To reach out to the marginalized in our community. To grow into the faith that knows God to be present in us and among us.
Where does your imagination take you? What actions will change if you follow it? What behavior will shift as you begin to see yourself and those around you differently, imagining them in a holy light? My faith is that as we imagine rightly Jesus will say to us, well done, good and faithful and imaginative servants.Come and share in my master’s happiness.

Pastor Mike

Sunday, March 11, 2018

What Would Happen?

I was taught that it’s best to avoid talking or acting in a manner that 's bad, ugly, demeaning or accusatory. Those behaviors are the result of self-centered conduct. They also result in immorality. But what if the conversations were conducted differently?
What would happen, for example, if congressional and governmental representatives refused to be cowed by threats from military and armament marketers to cut financial campaign support if they don’t receive more funding? Perhaps we would have enough money to better care for the poor, the children, and the aged in our midst.
What would happen, for example, if the president appointed a cabinet whose members were composed of something besides old rich white men and women who insist on dismantling the very agencies they head? Perhaps we would have a viable State Department, or Department of Education, or Department of the Interior that would truly serve the citizenry.
What would happen, for example, if employees of ICE affirmed that breaking up the families of illegal immigrants is immoral, and refused to continue doing it? It would be impossible to fire all of them at once for disobedience, and some ethical and decent actions could be initiated. And perhaps those immigrants could become good citizens by attending English and Civics classes, and paying a minimal fine for crossing the border illegally.
What would happen, for example, if the White House staff stopped making excuses for chaotic presidential decisions and demeaning accusations? Perhaps they could arrive at a consensus that our elected officials are obliged to serve the entire population of the country, and not just the minority that put them in office.
What would happen, for example, if we could have some truly open discussions about the way our government has acted in the past at the expense of whole groups of people: Native Americans, African Americans, Vietnamese, Cubans … and consider what could have been done differently? Perhaps it would head off that kind of behavior in the future.
Conversations and actions can proceed in ways that foster what is good and desirable. Not just for a select few, but for the majority of our citizens, for the common good. The challenge is for us to put aside self-interest, show some courage, and speak and act responsibly.

Pastor Mike

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. - Isaiah 1:17

Friday, February 23, 2018

Why the Dreamers Must Go

The dreamers must go for the simple reason that they are dreamers. Over 800,000 of them have dreamed in concert since they broke the law as infants and children by entering this country illegally. Their parents aided and abetted their crime by holding their hands en route. Now they are threatened with exile because part of the vocal culture in this country can’t abide those who dream like they do, especially when almost a million of them do it together.

They dream of a different, more hopeful future than the one the government has planned for them. Those in power don’t prefer a different future, especially a cultural one, because it will be, well, different. And the promise of those in power is that things will not change, they will remain the same. As Walter Brueggemann puts it, “Moreover, for all the talk of ‘individual freedom,’ the force of homogeneity is immense – partly seductive, partly coercive, partly the irresistible effect of affluence, in any case not hospitable to ‘difference.’” [1]

What does the different dream look like? It isn’t a dream of being forced to return to a country they don’t remember, whose language they can’t speak, a country that persecuted them and perhaps threatened to kill them several years ago.

What does the dream look like? It is terribly sinister. For some it means remaining in this country to care for aging parents and to remain a family. It may mean continuing a career based on an education partly or already completed. Most nefariously it may mean wearing the clothing and celebrating the holidays and speaking the language and worshiping in the same manner of their previous culture, and remembering their sacred history. It is a dream of hope.

Dreams aren’t easily realized, nor do they come cheaply. We recall Martin Luther King Jr.’s words: “I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream – one day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” I have a dream.” But it isn’t yet a reality in many places.

Hope is made of dreams.
To us of this generation who have walked through the ruins of aborted dreams and desecrated ideals … the supreme question is: How does the road sign read: Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. Or: To despair is to betray; at the end His mercy will prevail.

The one road sign may be almost everywhere, the other road sign is revealed in the lives of those who would rather suffer than bear falsehood, who would rather be exposed to torture and living in jail than to remain silent in the face of lies, blasphemy, and injustice.[2]

So despite the promises of the legislators and all the president’s men, the Dreamers will in all likelihood be quietly and slowly sent away. The recent school shooting in Florida, with endless arguments about gun control, will serve as an adequate cover for the promises to be broken and the exile to begin. After all, who can possibly focus on two issues at once?

[1] Brueggemann, Walter. The prophetic imagination (xvii).
[2] Heschel, Abraham Joshua, “To Despair is to Betray”. Unpublished manuscript.