My Thoughts on the Travel Ban

The SC ruled the travel ban was within the legal authority of the Pres. It’s legal. I am glad for our check and balance system and that the courts saw this case. “It is legal,” they declared, and “allowable according to his powers to ban countries from entry,” but does that make his order good? That is what I want us to think about today. Just because it CAN happen, SHOULD it have happened? Is the travel ban good?

He said it was to make America safe. It was to protect America from people who wanted to harm our country. He said it was because of 911. The original order said: “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”

The US was never attacked by any of the countries on the ban list. None of them have terrorized Americans on US soil. Most haven’t terrorized Americans at all. None of the banned countries contributed to 911. All of the countries involved in 911 were never banned and can still travel freely to the US on varying kinds of visas. If it’s based on a lie and misleading information, can it be good? If it keeps families apart is it good? If it keeps out people fleeing war and persecution, is it good? In 2017 the Catholic Herald and Christianity today said that persecution of Christians was at an all-time high. We followed that by banning countries where Christians are most persecuted. The “Muslim ban” has kept out persecuted Christians. The US received 65% less persecuted Christians this last year because most persecuted Christians come from the countries we have banned entirely. If the ban continues, that is no Iranian Christians coming despite conversation being life-threatening in Iran. A friend came as a refugee before the ban and cannot bring her son over despite the time in prison he just did for his Christian faith. Their country is on the ban list. What about Muslims being banned? Is targetting people for their faith American? Racial profiles are never good and lead to injustice. We can look at our own history and grieve over that. I met a girl last week studying here from Iran and she missed her sisters’ wedding two months ago because leaving the country and coming back was too risky. She would likely get blocked out of the US in the middle of her Ph.D. despite having a student visa, so she had to miss her sister’s wedding. A friend of mine who studied in England is Muslim. He and his family started receiving death threats from ISIS because his wife worked at an international school that they didn’t like their ideology, it’s connection to the west or Christians working there too. They were traitors according to total strangers. He messaged me asking for how to do the refugee process and I had to tell him- the US won’t take you. For months I was given the tale of the threats and vandalism and harm that came on his family with little to advise but keep applying for jobs in Canada, or go live in a refugee camp in poverty and leave his job, car, house, and extended family, “my country has no way of letting you come here legally because your whole country is banned.” He’s a professional in the science field.

The rhetoric of fear that led to the statements: “We don’t know who these people are” is powerful. It was powerful to conflate terrorist attacks in Europe with the US even though the circumstances and demographics were not comparable. It was powerful to tell Americans who didn’t understand that refugee resettlement in the US was the safest, most thoroughly vetted travel system for any person to come to the US already, that it was “dangerous and not secure and unvetted.” Most people had no idea how long we had been resettling refugees, who came, the contribution to our economics and growth in our business sector, that they are saving midwest cities, or that no refugee had ever killed an American. But our ignorance is convenient to manipulate.

As a Christian, I can’t be quiet because it’s about truth. It’s about truth versus propaganda. It’s about the persecuted Christian we have just blocked out permanently. It is about my Muslim friend who got here just before the travel ban, her family getting caught up in it a month later, having their tickets canceled and being blocked because of the executive order sweeping over entire countries. They had been vetted and had a plane ticket to arrive here. As my friend’s family waited for nearly a year for the travel ban to be lifted, they were killed a few months ago.

I want us to be a country of laws, of course, but our laws need to be good. The beauty of democracy is a president and Congress are accountable to constituents who can have their say and challenge unjust laws, unjust orders, and unjust policies and say “We want a different kind of America. One that is kind and generous and honest and good towards people being persecuted.” Our laws need to be based in truth and not in political partisanship power plays. We need to be a country that doesn’t forget we long to be “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

What kind of a country do we want to be? Do we want to be a good one or one based on fear and misguided, untruthful, self-protection?

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Bad Theology in America

1. Many Evangelicals in the US teach that the government now (and passively accepting whatever they do ) is analogous to Roman occupation in the gospels. I have seen many Christians VOTE for Trump and then pull out Romans 13 or say “God is sovereign” when he does an egregious sin or his appointees do something that is objectionable or ungodly. That is a poor teaching of Romans 13 and God’s sovereignty and out of context. They are not analogous.

2. The American church in sweeping generalization has terrible Bible handling skills. Many are not taught exegetically or how to find context. There’s often thematic teaching or word studies which easily slips into trying to shoehorn a passage into YOUR point rather than doing the work to find out what God has said in it.

3. Mile wide and inch deep theology abounds. We were the country that incubated and housed and exported the “prosperity gospel” which is no gospel at all but rather heresy. In other times in history, the Church would be excommunicating people for such dangerous teaching but in America, we put them on tv.

4. Even the Christians with better Bible handling skills have bought into the lie that we are being biblically faithful when we are “not being political” so you will never hear sermons that touch on anything that might be in the news in politics. What is God not Lord over? What issue does he not have a say on? People don’t know their church history and that there were plenty of faithful -speaking-truth-to -politics men and women out there (Wilberforce, Esther, and Spurgeon come to mind). They don’t know that this view came from around the time of the Civil War when preachers in the Baptist and Presbyterian churches refused to take a side so as not to divide their congregations over the ungodly racism that entrenched this country in slavery. Was it to keep numbers high or to keep tithes in a church bucket? Either reason is ungodly. If the people in the church leave because you are preaching God’s Word and offending them when their sin is confronted, let.them.leave. You have been faithful.

Charles Spurgeon, the famous English preacher would not commune with slave-holding men for their wickedness. The US Southern church BURNED Spurgeon’s books and sermons because of their disagreement in his abolitionist views.

“I do from my inmost soul detest slavery . . . and although I commune at the Lord’s table with men of all creeds, yet with a slave-holder I have no fellowship of any sort or kind. Whenever one has called upon me, I have considered it my duty to express my detestation of his wickedness, and I would as soon think of receiving a murderer into my church . . . as a man stealer” (Pike, The Life and Work of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, p. 331).

My concerned friends from around the globe ask what they can do. I have always believed what comes out of a man is what is IN a man. A worldview matters. Christians disparage about secular worldviews but we don’t take the time to look at holes in our own worldview. When the Church passively or actively supports policies and politicians that do wicked things,  when we believe things that are not honouring to what the sovereignty of God is, when Scripture is pulled out of context to support evil, we are culpable before God as a people. Bad theology leads to bad practice and bad practice locally leads to bad policy nationally. All people, whatever their worldview need to be campaigning for better policies in the US on a national level, particularly all things to do with our heinous treatment of humans made in God’s image related to immigation right now. But Christians around the globe, we need your theology. We need your good Bible handling skills. I’d love to see a global ad campaign on the American church. Facebook and snapchat ads pointing to sermons and blogs sorting out peoples bad theology. Pastors, Bible teachers, Christians who know their Bibles around the world, we need some blogs, ads, education, sermons on Romans 13 to challenge some nonsense-out-of-context-theology floating around in America. Go.

 

 

On Ethics and Justice

We are living in strange times. There have been assertions lately from certain legal teams that the president has the power to pardon himself or herself.

No, no sir, the president cannot pardon himself. This was decided long ago by the Department of Justice.

“Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the President cannot pardon himself.” – DOJ August 5, 1974

The logic should reason for itself that unless we were living in a corrupt country more akin to a dictatorship, self-pardoning would be a gross misuse of power.

We are all, after all, under the law and not above it.

 

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Reading Through the Rhetoric – Caravans and the Mexican border

Here is some current events homework for you.

1.) Google “asylum seekers” so you know what it means.

2.) Look up “US policy in Honduras and Central America” so you know our contributions negative or positive to people fleeing their country.

This is an interesting non partisan report from the Wilson Center exploring the history and US policy: Crime and Violence in Central America’s Northern Triangle 

3.) Ask yourself why a caravan of 1000 asylum seekers we knew were coming who told everyone they were seeking amnesty and walked across Mexico (which is no safe feat.) are being painted as “dangerous to the security of our country.” Scapegoats are good rhetoric tools when you have stirred your base into a fearful frenzy. However who has the legitimate fear of safety here? Should America or the asylum seekers from Honduras be more afraid is what we should be asking.

Why are they leaving Honduras? What does it cost them? What risk did they take to walk through cartel monitored lands? What does it cost them to stay in Honduras? Why are we talking about asylum seekers like they are criminals? How many asylum seekers commit violent crimes? Do you know the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee? What do refugees bring to the US? The New American Economy has some interesting reports. As we weed through the rhetoric, we should be asking these questions.

 

Read more here at the BBC.

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The Real Olympic Winners…

My bestie creates beautiful charts and data for the Olympics every time they role around because as she says, “a medal table isn’t nearly enough.”

 

If you are a nerd with numbers or just like the Olympics. Or are like me and struggle with math but like other people making math pretty, I give you, Hannah’s Olympics’ charts:

via Winter v. Summer – Dollar Dollar Bills Y’all

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.

 

 

 

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.