Fueling Fear

I have google alerts set to refugees.

Which means I get an email every day with a sweep of the web on anything that comes up with “refugee” mentioned.

I haven’t even dented the pile of news articles, blogs, and other random web findings surfacing the word refugee that I move to a folder to read later each day.

I opened the google alert for yesterday and saw a title that caught my eye.

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I clicked on the Fox News article. I read it. I read it because it sounded odd.

Syrian refugees? Why mention that specific people group? Knowing UK immigration and asylum situations, it stood out as improbable. Also, I had been reading BBC all weekend and nothing refugee-related had come up in relation to the terrorist investigation.

I read the Fox article. It mentioned NOTHING about Syrian refugees in the article.

In fact, the article stated that the couple whose home was raded had taken in hundreds of foster children in the last 40 years. Presumably the 18 year old responsible for the London attacks had been one of the foster children in their home.

There was nothing in the article about him being Syrian or a refugee and nothing about their home being for refugees. It was a home for foster children in the UK.

Why did my google alerts have this title?

How many people are going to read the title and say “See! This is why we shouldn’t allow refugees to come here?”

A lie that will fuel fear and prejudice towards people fleeing conflict.

Yesterday I was advising a group of people about hosting a refugee awareness event and one of the ladies got incensed and stormed out of the meeting. Her anger? The data from the State Department on how refugees are resettled here. All lies she said. “Refugees came in unvetted.” She had read it online.

I am not sure why the online article I pulled came up in google alerts with a title the article didn’t have and with false information that was not in the article nor true in real life.

Filter and think carefully what you read.

Read the whole article and not just the title. And believe reliable sources.

Check reliable sources.

Post-truth does a disservice to everyone.

 

 

 

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E.T.

“Eeeee.Teeee”

I sounded out as the film began, pointing to the letters on the screen.

Sitting on the lawn of a large outdoor music venue in our area, we were bundled up in sweaters or coats, blankets on our lap, bellies full from our strange picnic assortment of halal hot dogs, chips, grapes, watermelon, PB and J’s, rice, naan, hummus from the American grocery store (which never tastes like hummus from a middle eastern country or grocery store), glass cups of Persian tea in hand, we were ready to settle into E.T. as the local symphony played John Williams’ score in person, behind the movie screens.

I had never seen E.T. I feel a bit like a culturally lost child sometimes, when I am out of the loop of pop culture, which is often, it was fun to watch it with my Afghan friends for the first viewing for all of us, and a couple American friends who genius thought up the whole evening.

My friend is a year older than me but has six children. I am still single. I always think this must look so strange to people in her culture. Different languages and different cultures and life stages, you’d think a friendship couldn’t happen but we have managed to communicate a lot considering our limited abilities with one another’s languages.

There is laughter and laughter is a surefire sign of friendship in my world.

“E.T.” my friend repeated.

“Extraterrestrial.” I read. “Oh sheesh,” I immediately thought.

As my friend repeated the word I immediately realized was it was going to be hard to translate, I pointed to the sky.

“E.T. Extraterrestrial.” Then caught myself, remembering I’d point to the sky when mentioning God.

Mmmmm

Pointing to the sky again. “E.T., not Khoda.”

My friend laughed heartily and I laughed because of the whole situation.

“Khoda” means God in her language.

All unsaid but understood was: “I am talking about the alien in the sky here friend, not the sign language for God and you got it and I got it and this is hilarious. This is what we have to work with but we can communicate and we love it.”

After that bout of laughter I settled back to learn the storyline I should have learnt as a child. I looked at the kids huddled under winter coats and blankets, four adults in lawn chairs and just felt love.

As E.T. is getting his lesson in words from the young Drew Barrymore, my Afghan friend suddenly laughed and said: “E.T. learn English!”

“Sara* learn English!” I exclaimed. hahahaha… E.T really was getting similar lessons to my friend.

She started laughing… hard.

“Sara E.T!”

We were done. We laughed until we ached. The people around us must have found us to be such a disturbance.

I didn’t care. Communication comes in many forms. Ours is slow and broken but there is laughter and understanding and there is love.

 

 

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*Name changed because, ya know, privacy.

Something is wrong with the Church when…

I am gravely concerned with large portions of the American church. Particularly the bits that make the news.

Whatever is driving the current climate: boastfulness, arrogance, bigotry, fear, self-righteous nationalism, pick-and-mix-handling-of-scripture, forgetting that entire cultures and regions of the world that we despise are made up of millions of people that are made in the image of God, forgetting that Christ loves and died for the Muslim, the agnostic and the secularist.

When a Christian university’s student body cheers over someone who is introduced as “the man who bombs the middle east.” I am ashamed. I am ashamed to call them my fellow believers. I also wonder how they can know the same Jesus that I have spent years telling my friends about.

One theory is that there is a shallowness to our understanding of Scripture, or maybe people aren’t reading it at all. We cannot read God’s word and not be convicted to our soul that this is ungodly to its core. Perhaps the issue is people are Christian in name but do not know the Christ they claim at all.

Jonathan Merritt responded to the articles about that cheering Christian university with this: “The English language is insufficient to explain how much damage this does to the cause of Christ.” 

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Good work environments:

“Research shows that people want someone to know what they are doing, they want to contribute to something that is moving forward or winning, and they want to know how they are doing.”

(Patrick Lencioni, The Truth about Employee Engagement).

 

Do you feel known, needed, and like you have a future with your workplace or ministry?

The Slippery Slope to Losing Our Free Press

“A free press was born when America was born. It was not handed down or inherited. The concept of press freedom was deliberately constructed by the framers of our Constitution to instill the spirit of independence as an absolute, crucial ingredient in the creation, existence, and survival of a free society.” – Jerry Friedheim Executive V.P of American Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation, 1986

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Amendment 1:

“Congress shall make no law….abridging the freedom of speech; or of the press…” 

Do you know how important it is we have a free press?

Nations rise and fall on this.

A free press means the press can critique our leaders and hold them accountable without being discounted, censored, sent to jail or killed.

It is also really closely linked with free speech (a clause later) which has major effects on being able to share the gospel freely. I love to share the gospel freely. I love the rest of that amendment.

I am concerned.

Actually, I want to jump around and point and shout and do a little dance and say, “ARE YOU WATCHING?!!?!? THIS IS DANGEROUS!”

There are those in this country that are undermining our freedom of the press.

Right now.

Discounting it and censorship are the first steps.

Having people that only ask the questions you like or make you look good is BAD. Always. That is a type of censorship.

I don’t know if anything could be worse for democracy. What would be the result if there was no check on those in power by dissenting voices who could question, critique, and challenge them? You can see those governments around the world today. They exist in plain site.

I filled out a national survey last week. My background as an undergrad was communication, sociology, and comparative religion. The social science nature of the degrees I collected meant we had to take classes on research methods. I had to take classes on statistics (I am really bad at statistics). Those disciplines have an accountability to studying a subject or population and teach methods to gathering data well. They were the most boring classes but probably the most important.

Wording a question in a confusing way or disguising it will not help your data be accurate.

Playing on people’s’ prejudices with sweeping statements not backed up with fact is a bad way to write a question. It will sway data.

Leading questions are not good when creating surveys or trying to gather accurate data.

The survey I filled out, the national survey I filled out,  that came from the leaders of the land was about the press and it was almost entirely filled with leading questions.

There were some scary questions but one that disturbed me because I could almost say yes was this one: “Do you believe that people of faith have been unfairly characterized by the media?”

Well, yes. Christians are usually portrayed as idiots. (Though some that claim Christ totally are idiots.) But this question is asked to what end?  Do I want to force the press to conform to my worldview? That is not healthy. Do I want to cut off their voice of critique of my faith? It makes me sad when they don’t represent me well, however, free press means free press.

We need to remember history and that it never bodes well for the Church when we go to bed with power. There always is a watering down of the gospel, a syncretism as we become blind that we are adding any particular cultural views of the day to our Christianity and saying they are the same thing.

Power and Christianity are diametrically opposed.

Our King laid down his life for people. For his enemies.

I think I answered the question yes, but that I’d rather the press have the freedom to be unfair to me than to have its voice censored.

There is a difference between having a different opinion or worldview than me and being discounted as fake or censored out every time they say something that offends someone. We need to not mix the two up or we will make ourselves vulnerable to tyranny.

I am a Christian and know that many parts to my worldview are not popular in society. How do I respond to people’s criticism to a Christian worldview is more important that how they respond to mine. I can respond in light of the gospel that I believe is true, or I can respond with defensiveness. I can apply the Bible to every situation, for one, know that those who do not know Christ, should not be expected to filter their worldview through His. I can be kind. I can remember that Christians will be persecuted.

But should those who do not know Christ like I do conform to a Christian worldview? Why on earth would they? I expect journalists to think I am weird. I can faithfully love and follow Jesus and serve others and the most interesting stories will be me living out the gospel. I do not expect them to interpret the world from a Christian point of view.

 

If I am treated unfairly, I should remember Jesus SAID that would be the case.

 

We do not go after the press and try to limit their function. That is dangerous ground.

 

We NEED the press. It is common grace (that’s a Biblical idea). We need their difficult questions to be asked. We need them to not be written off because they do not have the same worldview as someone they are interviewing and questioning. We need to remember that the press is one form of a check in our country that helps safeguard us from the natural bent of humanity towards the sin of selfishness or even tyranny over others.

Critique is worthy and necessary for a free country.

“The press must be free; it has always been so and much evil has been corrected by it. If government finds itself annoyed by it, let it examine its own conduct and it will find the cause.” Thomas Erskine Scottish jurist [1750-1823]

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Becoming British

Becoming British is not for the faint of heart. It requires a subtlety with words, humour, and nuance that I was not born possessing.

 

“Subtle as a brick” my friend and co-worker Ross would say of my direct and to-the-point nature.

 

After a few years in the UK, I came to believe that God sent me to England to torment British people.

 

I am direct, passionate, usually speak my mind (always), and cry at the drop of a hat. I possessed all the traits that could make anyone on the island profoundly uncomfortable. There is no such thing as emotional repression when it comes to my feelings towards anything. My fellow staff used to turn around at conferences with impish expressions on their faces when someone shared a personal story of coming to know Jesus or of someone else coming to faith. I would be a flood of tears within minutes.

 

I cry when I am happy, joyful, sad, confused, and angry.

 

After my first 7 months in my second assignment of Newcastle, a friend and future housemate decided I deserved a trip back to the States to see my family,  because “I had worked hard” according to her. She got forty students to chip in £10 each with her so they could give me a check large enough to fly home that summer. I burst into tears and made every Brit in the pub feel incredibly awkward as a giant card with signatures was handed to me and a check. I had to hug everyone on the card of course, with my snotty, crying self. Way too much emotion for that pub.

 

Did God send me to England to tell people about Jesus or help people with their emotional repression? Mmm, it could be a coin toss.

 

When I moved to the UK I knew it would be different from the US. I think expecting that difference helped me last much longer than most Americans who are whacked in the face by culture shock as soon as they step off the plane and discover Britain is not as we expect. “Different” turned out to be a good expectation.

 

I eventually became British, literally. (Yes, I still say liT-trally) I have the red passport. It is one of my proudest possessions.

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However, I am discovering that despite the fact that I always stood out as an American in Britain, now that I am an American in America, I am actually feeling and experiencing a bit more of being a  Brit in America. 

 

I am not sure when exactly it happened, but somehow along the way, I became British. Kind of. A little bit.

 

Reverse culture shock stories to follow.

 

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Fact and Fear and Refugees

“As a Christian, I do not believe Jesus died for us so that we could live comfortable lives behind walls, indifferent to the suffering of others. In fact, he explicitly modeled through his life radical compassion for the poor, the vulnerable, the stranger, and even for his enemies.” – Tim Breene, World Relief

 

There is what is explicit in the Bible.

There is also the outright lies on refugees from those with platforms.

Both truth and obedience to God are lacking in the refugee conversation. Check some good words here from my friends at World Relief.