Category: News

Matthew 11:28

I don’t personally, to my knowledge, know any terrorists.  The closest thing i have in my address book are a few friends who are, as the expression goes, “proudly redneck.” But i do have friends and acquaintances from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, India, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and a host of other countries that are far less politically flammable. None of them has ever given even the slightest hint of being a terrorist. Even the Moroccans next door- They may be complete schmukeroons, but they are unlikely to be terrorists (They are so loud, nothing about them is a secret.) If any of them, even the neighbors,  needed a place to rest their head, i would gladly open my door. Without hesitation. Them or their family. It’s the right thing to do for people in need.

This time of year, the story of Mary and Joseph is front and center. Inn after inn turning them away. Mary, on the edge of giving birth, and no one will give them rest. No room. No room at the inn. You can’t stay here. No can do. Keep on walking and take your ass with you.

So Mary gives birth to Jesus in a barn. (It wouldn’t surprise me if the animals in residence curled up close, as many animals are wont to do when they see a baby of any kind in need.) In the beautiful Christmas stories, Mary and Joseph make do and go on with the tasks at hand, without further thought of the innkeepers. But i am willing to bet that they were pissed. And sad. For their own situation, the pitiful start of their beloved son, and the state of mankind itself.  What kind of people turn away a near-term pregnant woman on a cold night? Even in the womb, Jesus must have been shaking his wee head and saying, “No wonder God is sending me!”

We hear the story of Mary and Joseph every year. Lets face it, Christian or not, at least in the U.S., you know how the story goes. It’s part of the reason we are kinder and more thoughtful this time of year.

Theoretically.

But we’ve become terribly hardened and paranoid. The unconscionable attacks on innocents by terrorists, which seem to be on the rise, have us all on the edge of our seats as if we’re watching someone crank the handle on a jack-in-the-box. It’s coming. We know it is. Those fanatics are everywhere and they are out to get us all. Those crazies, with their brown skin and head wraps and accents. Evil. The whole lot of them.  The entire brown population. Up to no good. Because, you know, none of them are average Joes, just trying to make ends meet. None of them go home and read bedtime stories to their kids. None of them are afraid. None of them are human.

So now we have a bunch of refugees clamoring to get into our country. Normally, we’d show off the Statue of Liberty and all her virtues and principles. We’d welcome them. Start charities to help them get on their feet. Help take care of their children. Just like we have refugees of times past. Sure, they’d face some discrimination because, you know, we’re human and all. But we’d help them. These refugees, however, we won’t help. Because they’re brown. Ergo, they aren’t human. So much for our principles.

Nope. No room. No room at the inn. You can’t stay here. Keep on moving and take your camel with you.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m afraid of the crazies just as much as everyone else. ISIS, ISIL, the KKK, the neo-nazis, Westboro Baptist Church, and Tom Cruise all terrify me. But i realize that the crazies are far fewer in number than the average Joes. I also realize that i can’t hold all brown people accountable for the actions of ISIS any more than i can hold all Christians accountable for the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s unfair, and it makes life far less interesting for all.

So, how do we embrace our humanity and find room at the inn without being foolish and unsafe? I don’t think we should be Motel 6 and leave the light on for just anyone. We have a decent refugee screening process, so that helps.  Maybe we should just have them stay in the barn. You know, like the badlands in North Dakota or something. (No, i’m not serious.) (But it’s better than turning them away.) (So maybe i am. ) (A little.) (If i was certain it wouldn’t become a prison.) (But i’m not.)

To be truthful, i don’t have a real answer. All i have is a feeling deep in my heart that it goes against everything this country stands for, everything my Christian friends profess, and everything humane to refuse to help refugees. People need our help. They are as afraid of the crazies as we are. They are also afraid of the people who are also afraid of the crazies. Us. I don’t blame them. I am afraid of us too. But i refuse to let my fear get the best of me.

Come in. It’s cold out. Let me get you some tea. And a blanket. You can stay here. Bring the goat. I will give you rest.

 

We are the same, MacLeod. We are brothers!

In the movie The Highlander, Ramirez tells MacLeod, ” You are safe only on Holy Ground. None of us will violate that law.” And law it has been, since the beginning of time. This is why you see those heartwarming news photos of Christians forming prayer circles around Muslim meetings, etc. Men and women from all over the globe, especially here in the U.S., have fought with their hearts and lives so that we as human beings can worship/meditate/truth as we are called to. As we need to. Yes, there are laws on the books reflecting this, but it has traditionally been a law of the heart. Of conscience. Of humanity. From what i know of such things, the law remains. It’s our heart, conscience, and humanity that have disappeared.

Nine people murdered. A staggering tragedy in just those three words. Add in the fact that those people were all members of a single race, and the perpetrator a member of a different race. It has become a “Hate Crime”. (By the way, i despise that term, “Hate Crime”. Murder of any kind is a hate crime, isn’t it? It’s not like we murder people for other reasons.)

Next, add in the perpetrator’s age. 21 years old. Barely an adult. And in the footage of him being escorted to a police vehicle, he is smiling. SMILING. He had made the comment in the church that he was doing what he had to do… But his smile seems more apropos to someone who wanted to make himself bigger britches. There are people who will blame this on gun laws and the fact that he owned one. Nonsense. There are thousands of gun owners in Charleston, many just as young as he, and none of them are orchestrating such horror. The violence wasn’t in the gun. It is in his head. The man is sick. And no, that is not an excuse. Just an observation of an adult male, raised and educated in the Land of Opportunity, who takes actions without heart or moral compass.

Now add in the setting. The man, and i use that term loosely, sat with these people, prayed with these people, in a church. Holy ground. The place where we are all supposed to be safe. All throughout history of mankind, churches (and synagogues, and mosques, and temples) have been places of peace. It is where the hungry go to be fed, the homeless go to be sheltered, the broken-hearted go to be healed. Communing with God/Goddess/Universe should be a time when there is no need to watch the door for crazed gunmen. Or, as i read in an article today, “There is no greater coward than a criminal who enters a house of God and slaughters innocent people engaged in the study of scripture,” (Cornell William Brooks) No greater coward, and no greater violation.

The icing on this accursed cake is the fact that this isn’t the first time a black church has been violated. During the dark periods of our nation’s history, it was “logical” for white supremacists to burn down a black church. If you want to kill black people, go to where they gather without weapons. Machiavelli and Hitler would be proud. The rest of us? We are stabbed straight thru the heart.

Because the rest of us, the bulk of us, anyway, still have a soul. I’m not black. I’m not a Christian. And i’m not from Charleston. But my soul aches for those families. To be honest, i ache for our nation as a whole. Each era has the weak masses, following the indictable leaders like imprinted offspring, abusing the undesirables of the day. Over time, it has gotten easier to stand against the tide of mistreatment and speak up for our assorted neighbors. But one would have hoped that, after all this time, there wouldn’t be a need.

I believe in existential evolution. That, in theory, as our physical selves evolve, so do our minds and spirits. In the face of the Charleston massacre, and the litany of other heartless rampages that have plagued us as a nation, it is difficult to maintain this belief. The overwhelmingly vast majority of people in my life, whether i share their general code of ethics or not, are good people. Honorably intentioned. Truly human. Truly humane. But the regular barrage of bloodthirsty savagery that appears in the news makes me wonder if my friends and acquaintances are representative of the general population, or if i have simply surrounded myself with people whose hearts swell like mine. I know of no one who could walk into a church, sit for prayer, and then slaughter the congregation. It’s as if there are Kurgans among us.

Maybe it’s the media, with it’s greedy eye, that alters my growing dark perception. The joyful stories rarely make it to the headlines. It takes evil and gore to own a time slot. Maybe if journalist gurus gave the angels as much due as the devil, our country wouldn’t seem to be on the fast track to hell without even the benefit of a handbasket. The good in our country surely outweighs the bad. The benefactors outnumber the murderers. The smiles outpower the tears. Humanity usually outshines the merciless. Most of the time, the scale tips to the side of love.

If only it didn’t regularly tip the other way.