The Political Speech I Want To Hear

great-speakers

Great speeches sink into our souls and linger in our bones. The best writers and orators know how to move our emotions into actions. They convict, inspire, and drive us to move.

Most of the speeches I hear to day are mere rhetoric; empty shells of hollow words meant to anger our enemies, pacify our critics, and satisfy our friends. This is a low bar to reach and a boring one.

The political speech I want to hear invites (healthy) conflict and dialogue. The political speech I want to hear challenges me to think more deeply, to love more courageously, and to admit I don’t know. The political speech I want to hear goes something like this:

Not long ago, a motley band of misfits set out in hopes of creating a new life for themselves. They faced persecution and made the courageous decision to flee. We still see their faces around the world today.

They embraced uncertainty and risked their lives for their children’s children’s children. We are those children. We stand on the shoulders of unnamed giants lost to the anonymity of history. Though their names are forgotten, their bodies long decayed, their sacrifices live on in our blood.

These misfits disagreed on much, but they were united in their quest for something greater than themselves. They were united in their quest for something greater than the world had ever seen.

In the journey for survival, greatness was born. It was forged in battle and nurtured in heartache. Good men died fighting for dreams never realized. Families were torn apart in a war against ourselves and we were faced, once again, with the thought of “will we survive?”

In our darkest times, we forgot that all men are created equal. We denied the humanity of our people and we paid the price; a price we still pay today.

We will not be able to make amends this side of heaven, for what justice can their be for enslavement, rape and murder? Still, we remember and we will fight to right the wrongs we face today – imprisonment, education, rape, and murder.

When we think of the Hassan’s and the Abboud’s and fear rises in our bones, we remember when it was the O’Kelly’s and O’hare’s we feared. We will not confuse peace and harmony with safety and security. To be a refuge, we must accept the refugee.

We will fight; fight to protect our borders and the values dear to us. We remember those who have died to protect these values of freedom, speech, and religion. We will fight the lie that the danger is only outside of us.

We will fight the evil that harms women and children. We will fight the wicked who seek harm and not prosperity; those who use women and children as shields and objects of war. We will take the fight to them so they cannot bring it to us.

We will hold seemingly opposing ideas together and fight for unity, though the force of these oppositions will threaten to break us apart. We will love the refugee and hate the perpetrator who made them flee. We will love women, all women, and stand for their right for life; be they Syrian, elderly, or unborn.

We will disagree with our neighbors and defend their rights to believe it. We will fight to protect those who disagree with us because freedom is greater than homogeneity.

To the villains who use violence to threaten or intimidate others, your time is up – be it in nightclubs, churches, mosques, or abortion clinics; we will not rest until we see justice. We will uphold the values of justice and mercy even when the force of them together threatens to rip us apart.

We, the people, of the United States will stand united in the face of tyranny and oppression; whether they come from within or outside. We have hope because we find our courage runs deeper than our fear.

What to do about Refugees?

refugeesRecent events have once again thrust the values of compassion, life, safety, and responsibility into the forefront of our conversations. After the most recent events in France, the issue of immigration and refugees is at the center of conversation.

To be clear, America has not always been kind to the immigrant or refugee, be it Mexican, Irish, Jewish, Catholic or Sudanese. We are not unique in our circumstances – fear, compassion, and safety have forced many generations to face their ideology. As a nation, we have an ideology that touts compassion, but when faced with the reality of perceived safety vs. ideology we, the people, often choose perceived safety.

I see many posts and statuses (thanks social media) saying some version of a few ideas like:

“If we can’t take care of (homeless vets, children in poverty, mentally ill, etc) in our own country then we should not take more refugees” or “It is shameful that we care more about refugees than our own people.”

and my favorite…

“If I had a bowl of 10,000 m&m’s and I0 were poisoned, how many people would be willing to eat a handful?”

First, let’s make sure we understand m&m’s are not people and they do not bear the image of God and they are not escaping war and terror.

Second, does our compassion for one group of people negate our compassion for another group? One person cannot do all, but all can do some. My question for those in the “care about our own people first” camp is this: In what ways are you already caring for these populations (homeless, orphaned, impoverished)?

My experience has shown me that the people who are actually working with at-risk populations are the same people advocating to bring the refugees into our community.

Now, let’s be clear. I am not saying we should abandon our due diligence in screening those who want to immigrate. I am not saying we should have open borders. I am not saying our actions are without risk. I am not saying we should not seek justice for the perpetrators of terror.

It should be remembered that without welcoming refugees fleeing terror, the United States would have never known Albert Einstein, Madeleine Albright, or Sigmund Freud. Also, if you are of Anglo-Saxon descent then at least one of your ancestors was likely fleeing religious persecution in some form.

Immigration, war, and refugees are complicated issues that deserve complex and diligent thought. We cannot afford to be either bleeding heart liberals or closed-minded conservatives.

Most of us are not in a position to directly influence public policy (we are a republic, not a democracy, after all) so I will not address the issue of public policy. What I do know is that there are already immigrants and refugees in almost every community in our nation and there will likely be more. Isolation, poverty, and lack of opportunity are 3 main drivers of radicalism in any culture (neo-Nazi, IRA, radical Islam, to name a few). Perhaps the way we combat extremism is not through isolation and fear, but through community and relationships.

If you are a believer in Christ, then you must examine his word and let his authority determine your actions. We have been sent as sheep in the midst of wolves, to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. We are immigrants in a foreign land, longing for home. Our actions and beliefs should reflect an ideology greater than personal safety and deeper than political dogma. We should seek both justice and mercy, safety and sacrifice, wisdom and compassion.

When we think about an issue let’s think deeply, slowly, and be willing to say “I don’t know.”

If You Say You Are Pro-Life

Throughout history there are a few moments that truly changed the course of the world. The invention of the wheel, Pax Romana, and the declaration of the Magna Carta are a few such events.

In 1215, for the first time in history, a governed people demanded and assumed certain rights given to them by God, not the king.

562 years later, following this same logic, the founders of the United States of American declared independence and began a revolution that changed the understanding of government and human rights forever.

Life. Liberty. Pursuit of Happiness. To the founders, these ideals were unalienable – unable to be taken away or removed from the possessor. Most of us would say we support these ideals. We want healthy kids, social mobility, freedom of religion, choice, guns, and speech. Yet far too often, we want freedom when it works for us. We want liberty for us. We want life for us and those we care about.

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care for unborn lives. We cannot take away the life of a child because it is inconvenient for another person.

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care for the teen mothers,  mothers addicted to crack,  fathers dealing drugs and their children. We have to act on behalf of kids in foster care. We have to be willing to get messy, dirty, and hurt. Being pro-life means caring for all lives-including the ones we would rather not.

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care about the 14-year-old girl with an unwanted pregnancy. Should she abort the baby? Should she place her in foster care with a waiting list of over 200 needed families in one county in SC alone? Should she try to raise him herself? Should she go on welfare? What would you do?

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care for the immigrant and refugee. We have to welcome the refugees with open arms into our abundance. We have to be willing to lose so others will gain. Our fear cannot overpower our faith.

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care about black men incarcerated at a rate of 6x greater than white men. We have to fight against a penal system that seeks not justice, but punishment and often assumes guilt, not innocence.

If we say we are pro-life then we have to care about the child being bullied because he is gay. We must teach our children that to differ in opinion is not an excuse for violence, hatred, or separation. We are to defend those who cannot defend themselves; even when we disagree.

If we say we are pro-life then we must care about the men and women on death row. We cannot decry the killing of a life in one scenario and then celebrate it in another.

If we say we are pro-life then we must care for the weak, the poor, the immigrant, and the orphan. To do so means we will lose. We will lose strength supporting those weaker than us. We will lose money to provide for those poorer than us. We will lose resources to welcome an immigrant with merely the clothes on their back. We will lose sleep caring for children not our own.

If we say we are pro-life then our own lives should reflect our beliefs. In a world of political black and white, we must embrace the gray. Caring for life is never easy. It is most often inconvenient, disruptive, and difficult. There is little tangible reward, great pain and many unknown answers.

Caring for 6 month old twins in foster care is not easy, but it is good.
Bringing a teenage mother into your home is not convenient, but it is right.
Welcoming a refugee into your community is not glamorous, but it is merciful.

If we say we are pro-life then we can’t just yell and protest with friends. We can’t just vote for the guy who promises to make America great again or promises to bring us back to the good ol’ days (spoiler alert: taxes were a lot higher then). We must act in the unseen places; bedrooms at 2am to nurse a hungry child not our own, recovery centers where no instagram filter will make reality look better,  the housing projects alongside rats where the most recent immigrants are eking out life. It won’t be pretty, but it will be right.

 

To the SC Assembly, Take Down that Flag.

confederate_flag

Today, our state leaders face a momentous decision. It’s been a long time coming. Today is the day South Carolina law makers will vote to (hopefully) remove the Confederate Flag from State House grounds. This cannot come soon enough.

As a native of South Carolina and Columbia, I have driven past the State House many times and seen the flag flying both above on the dome and below on the ground. It never ceases to disgust and anger me. There is no doubt in my mind the flag represents hatred, promotes racism, and is a painful reminder of a shameful past.

Yes, some claim it is a relic of history, a story of heritage, but is that the heritage we want to celebrate? Admittedly, many Christians, blinded by their own cultural narrative, twisted the Bible to suit their desires – and this was done to their own detriment.

If we claim Christ, we must let his words speak for us. Our ancestral narrative does not trump our narrative in Christ. When one member of the body suffers, we all suffer – regardless of our physical bloodlines.

We must continue to move beyond symbols and move to action. We must speak up when we hear racism, even seemingly benign, in conversation. We must advocate against the alarmingly high incarceration rates among black men. We must not mistake our situational advantages resulting from our zip code of birth for merit, reward, or favor. We must stand against unjust systems even when we are unknowingly the beneficiary of the systems.

The same fervor that drives us to fight for the rights of unborn children should drive us to stand alongside and fight for our African-American brothers and sisters. Symbols are powerful – just ask any Christian with a cross hanging around his/her neck.

If we want to remember our heritage, let’s remember our heritage in Christ; the shame, scorn, and humiliation that comes from hanging on a thief’s cross. Let’s claim the murderers, adulterers, poor, and outcast as our own. The unwanted, foolish, and illiterate are our friends. The orphans and widows are our family.

We don’t celebrate that which hurts our own. It’s time to remove a flag that hurts many and helps none.

Just Do It

Y’all, I am riding a social justice high right now. We had an amazing meeting two nights ago with our little task force. Our merry, merry band of abolitionists is fired up and ready to go! It is so encouraging to be with friends who are committed to fighting injustice. Though I’ve only known most of these women for a short-time, it felt more like a reunion rather than our first meeting. I left with the same energy as after meeting with an old friend for coffee. These women are smart, creative, passionate, and committed to making a difference in our community and around the world.

Social justice has always been a passion of mine ever since I was a little kid. In kindergarten, I led my class in a protest to save the sea turtles – their habitats were being disrupted by coastal lighting which caused babies to go away from the ocean after birth and then die – normal kindergarten stuff, no? Often times, this bent towards social justice can feel disjointed and exhausting. Each new cause brings an onslaught of hope and despair, passion and fatigue. However, with trafficking, the passion lines up with my passion for orphans and vulnerable children, particularly those in foster care, and a great wave of passion is born! I can simultaneously fight for trafficking (and potential trafficking) victims while also advocating for orphans locally and globally. I may not be in a position to foster or adopt right now, but I can support foster and adoptive families, purchase my Christmas presents from slave-free vendors, and I can raise awareness in my community.

One commitment I’m making this Christmas is to focus on the gifts I give and learning where they come from. If, to the best of my ability, the origins of the products or their materials are unknown or likely sourced from slave labor then I’m not buying. Yes, this means spending more and yes, this means planning more, but hey! one of my goals is to have all of my gifts by the end of November and that means I’m already on it!

The idea for this realignment came from a book I read in college, Everyday Justice by Julie Clawson. In it she states, “Justice, at its very core, deals with relationships – our relationships to God, to each other and to the world […] Whether we intent to or not, our everyday actions hurt others and damage those relationships. Through anger and malice, self-centeredness and greed, we deny the image of God in others […] using them as objects that can be exploited for personal gain […] or simply ignore them.” (Clawson 20)

The time for silence is over. I will not be silent this year. I will use my voice and my dollar to fight for justice and freedom.

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. – Eli Wiesel

Modern Day Abolition

SONY DSCNot long ago, men and women fought to end slavery in the United States and British Empire. Heroes like William Wilburforce, Angelina Grimke, Harriet Tubman, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglas fought tirelessly against an unwitting society. Their efforts ended what we know as the trans-atlantic slave trade and improved the lives of millions of individuals.

Unfortunately, like many evils, slavery has manifest itself into another form. Be it sex slavery, labor trafficking, or white privilege, the devaluing of others still exists today and in many ways. There are more slaves today than there were during the trans-Atlantic slave trade and oftentimes slavery and trafficking go unnoticed. Hotels and internet chat rooms are the new auction blocks. Side streets and main street are the new cotton fields. Organizations like Slavery Footprint help you estimate the number of slaves working for you. For the record, mine was 43 – and that’s a conservative estimate.

Tonight, I am joining alongside 6 other women to fight child-slavery in our community. We will be discussing ways to raise awareness, educate children, and fight systemic injustice – all from my kitchen table, but we are fighting alongside thousands of other abolitionists through Love146. Love146 is an organization dedicated to abolishing child-slavery worldwide. They work alongside other incredible organizations like IJM to rescue, protect, and provide survivor care for girls and boys victimized by traffickers.

We are fighting to end child trafficking in our community and in the world. Will you join us?

January Goals: A Review

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My view half way up Table Rock Mountain 

If you’re new here, I confirmed I am, in fact, crazy posted my goals for the year. As someone whose strengths are Achiever and Discipline, I really like goals. Goals keep me focused, motivated, and constantly improving. Of course, there’s also the downside which I wrote about recently.

My goal for January was to pray daily for women living in Muslim contexts in the Middle East, North Africa, and South East Asia. I would say I was about 70% successful in praying daily. More than the task itself, this goal refocused my attention and broadened my daily awareness of God’s blessings. I found myself appreciating my freedoms and privilege more regularly, like having enough food in the refrigerator or working heat in the winter.

When I began to pray, I wasn’t really sure where to start. I don’t know any women from these contexts, I’ve never been to the Middle East, Africa, or Asia, nor do I know much beyond my reading of fiction and non-fiction, including news sources. I felt very disconnected initially, my prayers seemed more like a recitation – what I was supposed to pray instead of my heart’s desire.

However, this all changed in week 2. I was challenged to pray the attributes of God in my “regular prayers” and I began to pray these for the women too. All of a sudden, God’s all-powerful, all-good nature became much more meaningful. My prayers gained weight and substance previously lacking. If I could trust God to act powerfully in their life – why should I doubt his power in mine? If God is merciful enough to redeem me, a broken and selfish person, then He is also merciful to ransom their lives too. Instead of feeling distant, contrived, and separated from my own life, my prayers merged into one prayer.

My compassion, concern, and prayers for the women were neither singularly spiritual, nor singularly physical – just like my own life. I do not pray only for my heart or the hearts of my friends and family, but for our physical needs as well. So, too it came to be with these women.

I don’t know what will come from this month. I know I have no power to change the living circumstances, the hearts, or the minds of the women in these areas. I do know, incredibly, God is not only powerful enough, but is already working! My own weakness, in yet another area of life, is an opportunity to showcase God’s power.

My one regret is I did not pray daily. Too often, my prayers centered around myself and immediate needs. I would get distracted in tasks and to-do’s or hyper-focused on my small desires. I crave the strength gleaned from uniting my heart with God’s heart beyond my own microcosm of the Universe.

As far as my other goals for the year are going, I already broke my “only books by dead people rule.” I mistakenly believed Harper Lee had already died and I read To Kill a Mockingbird. I do not regret it at all. This is perhaps one of the most poignant books written and was even more touching because I live in the South and was challenged on my own prejudices and bias in praying for the women in MENA, SEA. If you haven’t read TKAM since high school or within the last 5 year, I would highly recommend it. I’m also reading Plato so I feel like that makes up for it too 😉

In January, I also had my first day of solitude and it was worthwhile. I learned I must tire my body out first, before my mind, heart, soul will be still. Fortunately I went hiking and was able to do both! It was a great way to start the month and I felt a lingering “refreshment hangover” for several days. That’s right. I just compared a spiritual solitude to a hangover.

On the negative, I have not prayed through any of my notecards nor have I really started learning the arabic alphabet. I have downloaded the sheets though, so that counts for something, right?!?!

My goal for the month of February is no personal social media-pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum of importance from praying daily for Muslim women in MENA, SEA, but hey! it may actually be harder. Wish me luck!

The Dark Side of the Super Bowl

A repost from 2012:

As I sit here after the Super Bowl, watching the celebrations, regretting the last 2343 helpings of chips and dip, I can’t help but think about the dark-side of the Super Bowl. No, not watching Tom Brady lose (or Eli win, depending on which side you’re on), but the issue of human trafficking and sex-slavery that surrounds the Super Bowl.

Each year thousands of young GIRLS are brought into the Super Bowl host city to umm, service, the thousands of men pouring in to watch the Super Bowl. These are not grown women choosing to “take advantage” of the situation, (although, I can hardly call selling one’s body an advantage) but often girls as young as 13 who are illegally brought as prostitutes and forced to have sex with men.

This is the dark side of the Super Bowl. The issue that no one is talking about. While many fans are celebrating in the stadium, at bars, and in living rooms around the nation, thousands of young girls are in fear for their lives, begging to be set free from the hell they are living. Most of these girls are runaways who have been preyed upon by older guys and tricked into believing that they will be loved, cared for and protected only to wake up and realize they have been stripped of their identity, their clothes and their dignity. If they are uncooperative they face physical abuse, forced drugs and death. Sadly, many of these girls will be charged for prostitution rather than treated as victims that they are.

This is not just a problem in big cities. It happens all around the nation, in I dare say, millions of living rooms each day. That’s because the pornography industry is fueling the demand for young girls and perverting our idea of sexuality; devaluing it to a commodity readily traded just like cars, only the cars receive better treatment than the girls.

Sex sells. I learned this lesson at 15 when my soccer team hosted a car wash to raise money to travel to Germany. We had a number of beautiful girls on our team and they held signs on the side of the road while the cars turned in in droves. (There was another car wash across the street with guys and they left before lunch because not a single car turned into their lot). If I had to guess, I’d say at least 50% of all commercials have a beautiful woman selling something; men desire her, women want to be her. Toddlers are paraded around in skimpy outfits for beauty pageants, looking more like Miss America than a 3 year old – all in the name of beauty.

We cannot escape our sexuality. It is part of who we are. It is a gift from God. What we cannot do, however; is pervert it into something it’s not. A woman’s sexuality is not designed to please a man. It is designed to bring glory to God. In her sexuality we see a side of God that can only be seen in a woman. It is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, too many women (moms, teenagers, college students, school girls) have been robbed of the power and glory of their sexuality. The Super Bowl is one of the most watched events in the world. Shouldn’t we take advantage of this opportunity and fight for the women who cannot fight for themselves? It starts at home. Pornography is not just a guy’s issue. It harms real women, with real lives. It is NOT just an image on a screen.

Amidst all the flashing light bulbs, confetti and crowds, let’s take a moment to remember and do something about the dark side of the Super Bowl.

For more information regarding human trafficking, sex-slavery, and how you can get involved, please check out these sites:

The Justice Department                                                                   International Justice Mission                                                                         Not for Sale                                                                                          Nefarious

Good Intentions, Pie, and The Hunger Games

I love me some info graphics and educational videos. Some of these will eventually wind up as their own post if they haven’t already. Until then, enjoy!

How a Pastor Fuels Global Missions from Desiring God on Vimeo.


From Poverty Cure: On Global Aid today


From Nasha Lending: Lisa’s story about Marvelous Pies


From The Resurgence – You can read my opinion of The Hunger Games here

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=27096230&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=00adef&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0

The Chalmers Center from The Chalmers Center on Vimeo.

A Review of The Hunger Games

Over Thanksgiving I had the good fortune of having lots of free time to read, run and hang out with my family and friends. As promised, I am going to provide a personal review of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I am still allowing this blog to evolve as I refine its purpose. As an avid reader, I think I would be remiss to not share my thoughts on at least a few of the books that I read. Now, lest you think that I only read best-selling, non-fiction books, I assure you this is not the case. I love reading. period. However, The Hunger Games lends itself to book review. I even remarked to my Mom, “These books would be so easy to write a paper on!” Nerd, I know, but I think we have already established that fact.

SPOILER ALERT – This post will contain some spoiled content.

The Hunger Games details a futuristic society that is a great, great, great…great grandchild of the United States. At some point in history, the districts, of which there were 13, rebelled against the Capitol only to be brutally squelched. In remembrance of the rebellion, every year each district must send 1 male and 1 female “tribute” between the ages of 12-18 to participate in the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are a fight to the death between the tributes of each district, 24 in total as district 13 no longer exists, with only 1 winner surviving. Enter, Katniss. The heroine, protagonist and an all around bad you-know-what. Katniss is ultimately the female tribute selected from District 12 to participate in the Hunger Games.

Throughout the novels there is constant tension between the “collective good” of Panem (the nation-state), as determined by the Capitol, and the needs of the residents of each district. The Capitol represents all that is frivolous and fleeting. Their lives are nothing more than eating bon-bons and keeping up with the latest fashions. In contrast, the districts are all suffering to various extents and in many cases are literally starving.

Most of the tension in the novel stems from the collective good vs. the good of the individuals. Through no fault of their own, many of the citizens are suffering at the hands of the few. They are unable to provide for their families and are at the mercy of the decisions of the elite Capitolists. 35.9% of the population of South Carolina is considered “Low-Income Working Families”. What does it say about our society that over 1/3 of the population that has a job still live at 200% below the poverty line. The systems that cause poverty and promote injustice are multi-faceted and have spanned generations. There is no simple fix inside or outside of the government. Yet we see throughout history and in modern day that as the income gap rises (Gini coefficient approaches 1), tensions in society also rise. I am NOT advocating against capitalism or making money. I am challenging that we need to re-asses our values and our systems that are causing injustice. My apologies for that brief interruption. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

Katniss is the ultimate survivor; providing for her family after the death of her father, surviving 2 Hunger Games and waging war against the Capitol, beating the odds at whatever she does. She is often confronted with the raw, base instincts of human nature, which are all ugly. There is no truly pure character portrayed, save perhaps Prim, Katniss’ younger sister. All characters fail morally and ethically at some point. It is here that Collins draws her final conclusions about human nature and society.

As the districts topple the Capitol in the hopes to bring about true change for the good of the citizens, the idea is broached as to whether or not to hold a Hunger Games for the children of the Capitol (Capitol children were exempt from previous games). Give them a taste of their own medicine, is the basic argument. The irony is almost too thick to handle. Here is a society that has just endured 75 years of forced murder by and against children yet they almost instantaneously turn around to do the same to another group of people. Katniss and her mentor are left to cast the final votes and surprisingly (to me) they vote yes. I expected Collins to wrap around to a storybook ending, with each character redeeming themselves and society in the end. While this occurs to an extent, the message is clear: at our base, we are all no better than the Capitolists. We would all willingly sacrifice another’s child for our own twisted sense of justice.

I am constantly amazed by the many people who believe at their core, human beings are good. Perhaps I am overly cynical, but the world today screams to me that we are NOT good. In fact, we are the opposite of good. I am glad that Collins did not gloss over this fact. Katniss does not get everything she wants. Her sister dies, she is estranged from her mother, she is torn between 2 people she loves and the memories from her times in the Hunger Games haunt her for the rest of her life. Yet, despite all of this, we feel she has won. The book turns out as it should. Despite the tragedies in her life, the story ends well.