Politics, Christianity, and the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Today I was planning on writing about foster care. I was going to extol the importance of families opening up homes to the “least of these”, welcoming the little children into their homes and hearts for as long as as they are with them, then either supporting them as they return to their home of origin, go to another forever family, or adopting the children themselves. This is an extremely important subject, I spend my working hours every day dedicated to creating permanency for children and as another person in my job said, “I wake up and the first thing I think about is permanency for children.” Most days that is true, and I will write about foster care this month, but today, my heart is somewhere else.

This morning, I woke up and the first thought on my mind was the Syrian Refugee Crisis.

I began mentally plan on how to get to Europe to start helping people, what agency to contact, how to get leave from work, obtaining a passport… and realized that perhaps I was not the best equipped person to go (or at least go quickly). Plus, if I go, who would do my job of finding permanency for children in foster care, people also in need of safe homes? While I am not discounting going myself, at least for a short trip, I realized a more immediate way of helping was to use my voice to speak out and my wallet to help fund those who can go now and are equipped to serve well (you know, young or retired people with time and energy, who travel well and have passports).

I hadn’t planned to write about the Syrian Refugee Crisis. I had liked other people’s posts supporting the refugees, but I was afraid to write or even share a post myself. As I have shared before, my biggest roadblock to writing is fear: fear of exposing too much, fear of offending someone, fear of multiple grammatical and spelling errors. This time the fear was different. I started to think about why I was afraid of writing about the refugee crisis. I generally am not afraid of people disagreeing with me. I am a pro-life feminist, LGBTQ ally, Evangelical, creationist. Seriously, no one agrees with me about everything and a lot of people are pretty vocal about it.  But when I started to explore that fear this morning, I realized that I felt so strongly about this issue, I was actually afraid that someone close to me, someone that I loved and respected, would speak hatefully about the refugees and I would lose respect for that person. I decided to face that fear and write anyway. If someone seriously responds with hatred, perhaps a natural consequence is a loss of respect.

I scrolled through my Facebook this morning and saw that what feels like the majority of this country is slamming the door shut on people in danger, in need, who are fleeing for their lives. I am angry about the reaction of this country, but I don’t have much sway over what the government of this country does. What truly made my heart sink, what made me feel sick to my stomach, and what made me burst into tears of frustration was my fellow sisters and brothers in Christ using their Christian platforms to say we shouldn’t welcome or care for refugees.

It is one thing to say that politically, it might be unsafe (although statistics highly dispute that).

It is another to use a Christian platform to state that we should not care for refugees.

The more experience I have with politics, the more I am absolutely convinced that the goals  of the political are diametrically opposed to the teachings of Christianity.

Politics are about power about protecting the interest of the country.

Christianity is about becoming a servant and taking up a cross and following Christ.

Politics are about gaining and keeping wealth.

Christianity is about sharing what you have and giving up to everything you have to the poor.

Politics are about gaining popularity.

Jesus said the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

Politics are about having bigger guns and a bigger army than the other guy.

Jesus said to love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you, and turn the other cheek.

Politics are about protecting the status quo.

Christianity is about an upside-down kingdom of heaven where the meek shall inherit the earth, the peacemakers are called the children of God, and those who mourn are comforted.

What really fucks up Christianity is when we mix it with politics.It is then that we see Christianity used to support hatred, fear, bigotry, violence, power, wealth, and privilege.

I don’t care about individual politics and what may or may not be right politically.

What I know is that if you are a Christian, you already have your marching orders, straight from the mouth of Jesus, who was once a refugee, when his life was threatened by a King, his family fled to Egypt.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40 NIV)

 

For ways you can provide practical help to the refugees:

Five Ways to Stand up & Be the Church in the World’s Worst Refugee Crisis Since World War II

 

Imperfect Hospitality: A Month of Practicing What I Preach

I wrote a few weeks ago about how my mother’s mismatched plates help her teach me a lesson about not having to be perfect to be hospitable. Over the last month I have been given the opportunity to practice what I preached by being really imperfect but incredibly blessed by enjoying thirty-two of our wonderful family and friends as they stopped by, stayed the night, or stayed the week at our home. All of them (so far) have survived the expierence even with all of the imperfections. 

Here’s some of the things I have learned during these weeks.

1. Patio furniture can easily double for dining room furniture when necessary.

2. A massage chair is instant entertainment for most children and can keep them occupied for hours.

3. Dogs are also very entertaining but will wear out before the children do. Petting the cat with an iPhone is also very fun.

4. Water, flour, milk, and eggs can make most of both breakfast and dinner when there are fourteen people to feed.

5. It’s a good idea to clear the children from the area when your washing machine starts leaking again and your husband is fixing it.

6. Patrick will always over-estimate how much people can eat.

7. Luckily, leftovers can be easily turned into lunch for the next day.

8. Do not bury the box of legos in the back of a closet under 15 blankets, five picture frames, six jackets, twelve dolls, and a plethora of tangled chords if you want to get to it without an 8-year-old commenting “hmm… that seems to be a problem”.

9. The TV has seen much less use and the dining table much more use in the last month because people are much more interesting than TV.

10. There is nothing quite as joyous as a house full of people, laughing, talking, eating and enjoying each other’s company.

The Lesson of the Mismatched Plates

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My brother Joshua took this picture recently of the cabin we grew up in. Check out his other amazing photography by clicking the picture.

When I was a child growing up in our tiny homestead, it was often my job to set the table. I would tip toe across the cold linoleum floor of our kitchen, reach up into the cupboard and pull down a stack of plates. Most of the dinner plates were different, gathered from here and there. As the children in our family accidentally broke one, another would be acquired from a yard sale or a thrift store.  My mother had a gorgeous set of china that my father had brought her back from Vietnam, all matching with a single pink rose painted across them, but those were only brought out for special holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter.

Most of the time, I set out the mismatched ones. Some white with little brown crown like designs on the border, some tan with dark brown fleur-de-lis in the middle, some cream with something that reminded me of mushrooms, but probably were pansies.  I set them around the table often waiting for guests to arrive.

There were seven of us regularly at that table for the five years between when my little brother was born and my oldest brother graduated. I think the table was about three feet by five feet but I remember playing under that table, running little matchbox cars on the decorative bottom, so I may be off on the dimensions. Things appear so much bigger when you are little. How we fit all seven of us around that table was a miracle in itself, but often we would have guests over for dinner.

My dad would invite Spit Rats, young workers on the slime line in the cannery who would live in tent villages on the Homer Spit. They would come in their xtra tufs and knit hats, always smelling vaguely like fish and campfire smoke. My parents would invite ABIers, Bible students who came to study for free at the Alaska Bible Institute and were far from home and often penniless.  They would invite singles or couples from church over for Thanksgiving. I remember counting out 13 or 15 plates for the people who would be coming over. I have no idea how they all fit in that cabin.

I remember those times being joyous: sitting around a full table with a huge bowl of air-popped popcorn and hot chocolate;  playing Dutch Blitz with a teacher from ABI who was too busy analyzing the symbolism of the numbers to play the game;  my mother’s delicious roast receiving compliments as people passed around the plate for seconds.  We were privileged to get to know people from all over the country with different backgrounds and ideas .

My mom told me that she was once embarrassed to have mismatched plates when she would have guests over until another woman told her that it wasn’t the plates that were important. That became symbolic in my eyes as I watched my parents employ their gift of hospitality.  Things didn’t have to be perfect because they never would  be. The fact that they had an outhouse for a bathroom, no couch, a 12 inch black and white TV and a wood stove did not stop them from asking people to share their home and food with them. There is no way some mismatched plates would.

For a few years, we have been in a transition point in our house with the floors unfinished. Because of this, I have been hesitant to have people over because they will see the mess. We finished up most of the floors in the spring and have been having guests over all summer and sometimes people drop by when there is laundry baskets out and dirty dishes in the sink and no quick edible food to be had. I am learning to remember the lesson of the mismatched plates. They have not come over because my house is perfect. If I am waiting for that day, I might as well lock my doors permanently. There is simple joy in opening our home, learning the stories of others, sharing laughs and sometimes disappointments, breaking bread together, and sharing a  glass of wine or cold beer.