Meditation Monday - Jesus' Way of Resistance

Next week I am attending a faith-based conference at Chautauqua, NY. The theme of the conference is "Resistance." There is so much injustice to resist in our own country and around the world. I am grateful for the hundreds of thousands of people who resist injustice in all its forms including those who recently resisted the inhumane family separation policy along our southern border. Resistance to evil has always been at the heart of following Jesus. Yet Jesus' way of resistance as summarized in Matthew 5: 43-48 is most often ignored or ridiculed even by people who identify as Christian. It seems either too idealistic or too radical to be effective:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

A recent episode on the TED Radio Hour reminded me of the power of Jesus' way of resistance. The episode is called "Why We Hate," and here is the link so you can listen for yourself.

The episode is divided into four segments, each one focused on a person who resisted hate in a way that engaged the humanity of their enemies. The people come from different faith traditions including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Each segment also comes from a more extended TED talk. Over the next few weeks, our Monday Meditation will focus on one of these people who resisted injustice and evil in the way of Jesus even though they come from different religious traditions. For this week, please take the time to listen to the TED Radio Hour show "Why We Hate." In a world and a nation filled with so much injustice, we need to find ways to resist that advance justice, bring healing, and refuse to demonize anyone including our enemies. After all, this is the way of Jesus.  

 

Meditation Monday - July 4th's Unfulfilled Dream

Last Wednesday on July 4 we celebrated our nation's 242nd birthday. This annual celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence is a time to give thanks for the principles of freedom and equality at the heart of our national heritage. Yet from July 4, 1776 to the present, there have always been those excluded from the "American Dream." The author of the Declaration was a slave owner as were others who signed that founding document. In each generation, we have struggled with living into the promise inscribed over the entrance to the Supreme Court building "Equal Justice Under Law." As Americans and followers of Jesus, we do not deny or shy away from the reality of injustice in our country. Motivated by the Biblical call to justice, we are called to live as citizens who work to make our nation better by exposing injustice and advocating for greater levels of justice for all people. The African American poet Langston Hughes captured the reality of celebrating our founding principles while at the same time recognizing how far we have to go to fulfill them. Here is a portion of his poem "Let America Be America Again:

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

On this week after the 4th of July, take some time to reflect on the words written by Langston Hughes in 1935 as they relate to the reality of America in 2018. 

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Meditation Monday - The Cornelius Corps is 17 Years Old!

Yesterday, July 1, was the 17th anniversary of The Cornelius Corps. I want to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to God and to the many people in many places who have made it possible for this ministry to continue and develop. From our beginning in July 2001, we have been committed to following God's call to help people experience the deep connection between spiritual formation and racial justice/reconciliation. In those early days, I could not have imagined the deep divisions that characterize our country today. As followers of Jesus, we are called to see and relate to all people as beloved children of God regardless of race, culture, national origin, economic status, or any other barrier that separates people at this time in our nation's history. Our ongoing spiritual formation is the foundation for living the way of Jesus as our primary loyalty instead of identifying ourselves with any administration or political party. I look forward to how God will use and direct our ministry in the days and years ahead. The short video below summarizes the call of God in Christ that is at the heart of our ministry. 

Meditation Monday: The Campaign Continues 1968 to 2018

When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, he was preparing to lead The Poor People's Campaign. The purpose of the campaign was to bring thousands of poor people of all races to Washington, DC to set up a camp on the National Mall and demand that the nation address the injustice of poverty in the richest nation on Earth. Although the campaign took place, it did not reach its potential largely due to the tragic and untimely death of Dr. King. Fifty years later, there is a new version of The Poor People's Campaign. Over the course of forty days in May and June, thousands of people participated in direct action and advocacy in states around the country and in Washington, DC. This initial stage of the campaign culminated on Saturday with a massive rally on the National Mall and a march to the Capitol. I had the privilege of participating in several campaign events in DC including Saturday's rally and march. Moving forward the campaign will continue to mobilize people around the country to raise consciousness about the ongoing and deepening injustice of poverty in our nation and to advocate for systemic change. This is a spiritual movement that is committed to non-violence and embodying God's desire for justice and equality across the social, economic, and racial barriers that increasingly separate people in our country. Here are a few pictures I took at Saturday's rally and march followed by a short video about the campaign. In whatever ways you can individually and in your faith community, I urge you to join the campaign as an expression of your commitment to live the way of Jesus as he proclaimed in Luke 4: 16-19

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

 

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Meditation Monday: From Birmingham 1963 to the Border 2018

Last week the Justice Department used the Bible to justify the horrific practice of separating children from their parents when families were determined to have entered our country illegally. This is happening even before any consideration is given to the families' claims for seeking asylum from life threatening violence in their home countries. In addition to being an inhuman and abusive practice, Attorney General Sessions compounded this evil by distorting Paul's letter to the Romans in the New Testament. He selectively quoted verses from Romans 13 to justify any action taken by governing authorities. Not only is this a distortion of Scripture, it is also antithetical to our nation's founding principles including the right to oppose unjust laws. In Martin Luther King's Letter from the Birmingham City Jail, he addressed the need and the right to distinguish between just and unjust laws:

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern... One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. 

For followers of Jesus, Dr. King's distinction between just and unjust laws is crucial. We have a higher loyalty than the dictates of our own government. In this case, it could not be clearer that the practice of separating children from their families is unjust because it "degrades human personality." If those who went before us did not stand up to unjust laws, we would still be living under the oppression of Jim Crow segregation. It is now our turn to stand up for justice and oppose any law or practice that degrades human personality. Contact your national representatives and voice your opposition to this unjust degrading practice. Join with others to lift up your voice and take a stand for justice that "uplifts human personality." Although they are 55 years apart, there is much in common between Birmingham 1963 and the Border 2018. Reflect on the image below as you discern how you will respond to God's call for justice.

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