Meditation Monday - Sharing Grief and Love With Our Muslim Brothers and Sisters

People across the world are sharing grief and expressions of love for the 50 people killed and another 50 wounded in the horrific shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Once again people gathered to worship God (Christians in Charleston, Sikhs in Wisconsin, Jews in Pittsburgh) became the victims of hate and intentional violence on the part of a man committed to white nationalism/supremacy. Although this attack was not in the United States, people of faith in this country are called to share grief and love with the Muslim community in our country and throughout the world. For Christians in the US during this season of Lent, we need to confess the part that our nation has played in promoting Islamophobia over the last two decades in general and during the current administration in particular. It is not enough for any of us to say “I am not a racist” without also actively standing up in love for those who are regularly stereotyped as the “other who is not one of us.” Our shared faith in one God can empower us to meet and defeat hate with love. This kind of love means seeing the image of God in each other across any barriers that would otherwise separate us including race, religion, or national origin.

As an expression of grief, I invite you to Click Here to read an article about one victim of the Christchurch violence - a 3 year old boy named Mucaad. Each victim was a beloved child of God whose life was precious to God and to others.

As an expression of love, I invite you to Click Here to read an article about a recent service at a mosque in Northern Virginia where the larger community came together in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters.

For any of us who are people of faith, the one thing we know for sure despite any theological differences is stated simply in the Bible by the author of I John, " Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (I John 4: 7-8).

Meditation Monday - What the Hospital Taught Me About the Church

Last Monday I missed writing this weekly reflection, because I was in the hospital. Thankfully all went well and I am fully recovered. During my brief stay there, I experienced a great level of both medical and personal care. A bulletin board in my room featured the hospital’s concise mission statement, “Passion for Excellence, Compassion for You.” As I reflect on that statement and my experience, two things come to mind:

  1. I am aware that not everyone has access to this kind of healthcare. Because I have insurance, I received wonderful treatment. This should be available to everyone as a basic right. Our nation has the resources to make this possible if we have the will to do so. Any of us who believe that all people are made in the image of God need to advocate for this.

2. It also occurred to me that this statement should also apply to the Church. My ordination is in The United Methodist Church which recently concluded a General Conference that was deeply painful and divisive. Groups with different theological and cultural perspectives could not agree on how to maintain unity within diversity. In particular, there was division over full inclusion of our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. Once again, seeing the image of God in each other and accepting each other regardless of sexual orientation is consistent with the way of Jesus as I understand and practice. When I was in the hospital last week, no one inquired about my sexual orientation before providing excellent and compassionate medical care. Can the Church live up to the witness of the hospital? I hope so.

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Meditation Monday - The Danger of Traveling While Black: Then and Now

The Oscar for best picture of 2018 went to Green Book. The movie is based on the real life story of the black concert pianist Dr. Don Shirley and his white driver Tony Lip as they traveled through the South confronting the harsh realities of segregated public facilities. The title comes from The Negro Motorist Green Book which was a resource to help African Americans find safe places where they could eat, find gas, and stay overnight while traveling. It was developed by Victor Hugo Green of New York City and published annually from 1936-1966. While the movie draws attention to this important resource, the limited focus of the story does not include the fact that segregated facilities were a reality throughout the country and not just in the South. African Americans faced not just inconvenience but danger just for exercising the right to freedom of movement. The video below provides a more complete glimpse into the world of the Green Book.

The danger of traveling while black is not limited to the world of the Green Book. Tomorrow is the seventh anniversary of the death of teenager Trayvon Martin. On February 26, 2012 he was shot and killed while walking through his neighborhood in Sanford, FL after being confronted by George Zimmerman who thought Trayvon looked dangerous by being a black male wearing a hoodie. Trayvon was unarmed and carried only some Skittles and iced tea. Zimmerman was eventually acquitted on all charges. Since then, the tragic and unjust killing of unarmed black men and women has been repeated many times. While the world of the Green Book is history, we still live in a time when African Americans have legitimate fears about exercising their right to freedom of movement in our society. Ask any black parent about the need to give their children “the talk.” As Dr. King famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

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Meditation Monday - The Danger of Dehumanizing Detention

Tomorrow is the 77th anniversary of a sad and tragic time in American history. On February 19, 1942 President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 resulting in the detention of over 100,000 citizens of Japanese descent in isolated interment camps for nearly three years. The following brief description comes from the feature “This Day in History”

Ten weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of any or all people from military areas “as deemed necessary or desirable.” The military in turn defined the entire West Coast, home to the majority of Americans of Japanese ancestry or citizenship, as a military area. By June, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans were relocated to remote internment camps built by the U.S. military in scattered locations around the country. For the next two and a half years, many of these Japanese Americans endured extremely difficult living conditions and poor treatment by their military guards.

On December 17, 1944, U.S. Major General Henry C. Pratt issued Public Proclamation No. 21, declaring that, effective January 2, 1945, Japanese-American “evacuees” from the West Coast could return to their homes. During the course of World War II, 10 Americans were convicted of spying for Japan, but not one of them was of Japanese ancestry.

In our present challenge to develop a comprehensive immigration policy, this anniversary of Japanese interment calls us to never dehumanize any group of people, especially those who are in the minority or who are marginalized. Our current President’s declaration of a National Emergency in order to obtain more funding for a wall at our southern border along with the previous disastrous policy of family separation combine to dehumanize many men, women, and children who are trying to exercise their legal right to seek asylum in our country. This should be an especially urgent concern for any of us who profess the Judeo-Christian belief that all people are made in the image of God. True justice is never dehumanizing.

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Meditation Monday - Sitting Down for Justice

February 1960 was a pivotal month in the modern civil rights movement. Yet it is often overlooked, because it is not associated with a major campaign led by Martin Luther King, Jr. Instead it started on February 1 when four African American college freshmen at North Carolina A&T decided to sit-in to be served at a segregated lunch counter at the Woolworth’s in Greensboro, NC. Although they were not served due to the racist policy that was common throughout the South, their witness spread to other cities where college and high school students participated in similar sit-ins. In Nashville, TN students from four local schools led sit-ins that resulted in desegregated lunch counters in that city by the end of the month. The Nashville sit-ins were also notable because of the leadership of several people who continued to give leadership to the national civil rights movement including John Lewis, Diane Nash, and James Lawson. The video posted below is a brief summary of the Nashville sit-in movement that emphasizes their commitment to training and practice of non-violence as the key to the success of the sit-ins. This is a powerful witness to living the way of Jesus in the face of hate and violence. As we continue to face and deal with the ongoing legacy of racism in our time, the witness of these young people reminds us that it is possible to confront injustice and advocate for justice with a spirit of love.