Can I Cage My Neighbor’s Daughter?

Can I Cage My Neighbor’s Daughter?

The believer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told this story.

A brown skinned man was sitting in front of his house when ICE appeared.

He was grabbed, separated from his family, put in overcrowded cages with unlivable conditions, and left. His wife and daughter were separated, likewise.

His young daughter was forced to sleep on concrete. Wondering, what no child should ever wonder, “Where are my parents?”

She cried out to God, “Please help me!”

1537297551199-privateprisonmoney

A prosperity gospel believer heard about this. But, he had to envision a better life for himself. He’d like to help. Maybe someday he would. He just couldn’t today.

A pro-life believer heard this news too. But, he had to be consistent with his beliefs.

“I have to defend the defenseless,” he thought. Once moral order is restored, surely, everyone will be ok. All they need to do is wake up and understand like he does.

So, he did what he always did because he knew best.

An orderly believer heard this news too. Surely, he would do something. He found these conditions most unacceptable. He even wanted to help.

“Still,” he thought, “There are good and bad people on both sides.”

He was taught to follow the rules; to work with people. He loved everyone.

So, he waited for the right time. Maybe others will see a better way in his example and change. It isn’t complacency, it is quiet witness.

Finally, there was one last person who heard these things too. A skeptic at best, an atheist at worst.

He wasn’t as together as the first three folks. He was sort of unkempt. He was brash and often joked with his friends, “If I came into church, the walls would fall down.”

Yet, he knew he couldn’t be quiet. People are dying!

He had a young daughter. He wept openly whenever he thought of her alone should he ever feel the need to flee whatever issues were so untenable. Things he couldn’t know or imagine about these other people’s lives but that didn’t matter so much when he looked into her eyes.

He just saw images of scared, abused, people. He saw children. Children like his daughter. So, he did what he could.

He spoke up. 
He refused to be complicit by his silence.
He even protested at great personal risk. 

Mostly, he vowed to fight for change with his voice, his vote, and his actions.

He’d do whatever it takes to stop these things and make sure they never happen again as long as he could help it.

Whatever his actions did or didn’t accomplish, ultimately, he’d do everything he could to protect, defend, and treat others as he would want to be treated.

“Which person do you think followed my commandment above all others to love God and neighbor?” Jesus asked, “Which person do you think followed me?”

“Go and do likewise.”

Love Always Includes Justice. 

Wherever you are this day: Love Accepts You, No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

Note: This story is based on Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10:25-37.

My Wife is No Saint

My Wife is No Saint

“My Heart”
Beneath the surface my heart beats full with thoughts of you
In accepting me just as I am, my life was made anew
You didn’t change me, yet I did
Because love has a special way
Of growing something greater still
Each and everyday

60343616_10213935778689266_1085663940249124864_n

Today is my 10 year wedding anniversary.

On one hand, just like any man, I wonder how my wife puts up with me? On the other hand, she puts her pants on one leg at a time just like I do.

It’s true, I’m just a man. As I coined jokingly at church, “I’m just a man, she can’t expect much.”

Come on, guys, we all know women have the hardest job in relationships.

Her ability to keep going is amazing. Her resilience rivaled only by her heart. Heck, if I get the sniffles, I’ll claim to be dying in a whimpering voice.

You know what doesn’t enter into our relationship? My disability.

If my wife got a nickel for every time someone sainted her for being with me despite my disability, she’d have a lot of nickels!

Just last week, a neighbor approached her sympathetically telling her how difficult it must be to be with me. …The neighbor approached her.

My wife doesn’t seek sympathy just like I don’t seek the latest miracle cure.

This neighbor even closed their conversation, as my wife deflected this line of logic with, “Well, if you love somebody, I guess things don’t always seem so bad.”

I might be difficult to live with some days. But, again, that’s not disability related. On the contrary, we live remarkably ordinary married couple lives.

Yet, it happens again and again, the sad nods to my wife as others pass by.
(Don’t worry. These comments and gestures mostly go over my head, literally.)

That’s if they think we are together as a couple at all. Oftentimes, people assume she’s my caretaker. 

They’re stunned to find out I was married before. Not only that, I brought my now 12 year old daughter into our relationship.

So, here we are, 10 years in.

I love my wife and she loves me. We care for each other.

Not despite my disability, regardless of it.

Here’s to many more years regardless of the bodies in which we live. 
Peace Love and Acceptance

 

Backlash!

Backlash!

“Fortune”
A Fortune of money is what you seek but a fortunate son is not someone like me.
A broken body, down on my luck, while you’re perched on top out of touch.
Running the business,
It’s always the same,
Making a fortune because you own the game

Heart with People

There’s always backlash.

Whenever an existing power structure feels threatened, you get backlash.

We see it in our world and, not surprisingly, we see it in the church.

It can be civil rights. It can be women. It can be the LGBTQIA+ community. Disability pride. It doesn’t matter.

In fact, it’s all of these things.

Wherever someone seeks equity and inclusion, you get backlash.

As we also often witness, you get cross sectional power players working together too. Think for a moment about how the powerful never seem to clamor for separation of church and state when they are colluding.

The power players all want to be in cahoots then.

It’s only when equity comes into play, such as when the church desired exclusion from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), do power players scream.

There are numerous examples here. Disability is my primary marginalizing experience but, it’s no different with regard to the other people mentioned initially.

You don’t have to go very far to notice the powerful orchestrating together.

I could name names, however, I suspect I don’t have to if you’ve read this far. They’ll even use us as tokens if we’re not careful.

Most of us won’t do this, of course, but it does happen and it only takes a couple for it to become some insulating justification for those in control. However, there is a better way forward.

When working within the existing power structure doesn’t work, and I believe that time is now, the rest of us need to build together too.

I’ve seen some of this, though, not nearly enough. In many cases, I’ve witnessed the opposite with divisions and factions.

The powerful know this and they’re happy to let it continue and even encourage it. If we minimize each other, they can continue their dominance over all of us.

We need to work across communities as allies for each other.

We need to lift up advocates in each their respective areas.

Whenever possible, we need to empower voices of those who are intersectionally marginalized. (Those who face more than one marginalizing identifier.)

I say this because I do believe you can be marginalized by one trait (as I am with my disability) while also being privileged in other ways (as I am as a white man.)

Yes, there will be times for me to speak. There will also be times for me to yield the floor.

There is time for both and too many times for all of us as it is today.

That’s the backlash to seeking equity. The truly powerful, the ones dominating our world today, will not go easily, quietly, or willingly. That’s where we are.

It’s also why it’s important for us to work together, building each other up. Because, they don’t have to tear us down if we do it for them.

Next time, I’ll look at how Jesus and his early disciples resisted the powerful in their time.

I hope you’ll check back because I believe this is an important lesson for us no matter if you believe exactly as I do or not. Solidarity.

Wherever you find yourself this day, thanks for journeying with me and remember in the world of Justice and Love, Love Accepts You No Exceptions.

Peace Love and Acceptance

 

 

 

If Your Faith Excludes You’re Wrong

If Your Faith Excludes You’re Wrong

“Love: Our Universal Truth”
If Love is our universal truth, then why is it so hard?
We keep each other far away as if to stand on guard.
But Love calls us to open up if we long to be set free.
And, in this way we share a Love that connects eternally.

Love Wins Wheelchair with Stole

I wrote these above words a few days ago because I believe Love and kindness is the key to everything. Love saves whereas hate destroys.

Yet, we live in a word so often characterized by hate. Even worse, just as we sometimes see, hate can be a great unifier for people. It can be a unifier that is, until it destroys and, make no mistake, it does destroy. Hate always needs something to consume.

Sure, it will destroy your identified target at first. Only, it doesn’t stop there. Hate is a scourge. It destroys everything. Eventually, it will even destroy itself.

Those, united by hate, will hate each other when nobody else is left.

Love on the other hand is different. Love saves. Love provides life. As a Christian specifically, and as a person of faith more broadly, I believe in this message.

This is what I find so troubling about people who use religion as an instrument of hate.

Since I’m a Jesus follower, I will speak directly to those who claim my faith tradition. It may be a universal truth, but I have a special responsibility to speak to my people. It’s also what I see most often in the world directly outside my font door.

If your use faith as a tool for hate, you are doing it wrong.

Put another way, you can’t rightfully claim to be a Christian while also supporting people and systems of hate and exclusion without being wrong.

As I wrote on social media,

“It would be nice if power hungry, exclusionist, patriarchal, lock up children, people of color, the disabled, and others Christians gave more consideration to the upside down and interdependent nature of the biblical narrative instead of using it as a tool for hate.” (1Corinthians 12:21-27, Matthew 5:1-12)

Love seeks justice.
Love uplifts.
Love supports.
Love sustains.
Love always expands to include people on the margins.

Love takes the force of power and hate and turns it upside down. That’s the message of Jesus.

Furthermore, yes, Love will win but we also are charged with living it into our world today. (1 Corinthians 13, Luke 10:25-37)

Maybe you still want to hate and exclude but, you can’t claim to be a Christian while doing it.

Peace Love and Acceptance

Education and Exclusion

Education and Exclusion

The following guest post from my friend, Tim Vermande, is a continuation in a series of discussions on Inclusion and Exclusion. You can read more about this in my last post, Do You Struggle with Legalism? I plan to continue this discussion, following up from Tim’s words and continuing to focus on disability, next time. Tim’s original post and other work can be found at Flying Kitty Monster.

What does it mean to be “educated”? The author of this meme on Facebook has an idea:
59845774_2401633766535083_3806936720570580992_n
As most people will tell you, education is not just being able to spout information (or misinformation) in response to questions. While that kind of learning can be profitable, as recently watchers of “Jeopardy” might know, it does not mean that one is able to discern how these things happened (as watchers of the same show also found, at least until a librarian with discernment learned to beat the champion at his game).

Along with the signs of history repeating itself, there is a need to understand diverse events and discern their commonality. This is why professors ask students to write essays about apparently unrelated topics (one of my favorites was the link shared by movable type, color lithography, peanut butter, Spam, Clarence Birdseye, and avocado green).

This is also why we like open discussions, because people bring in new connections. One of these connections came to mind during the last week, while discussing church opposition to the Americans with Disabilities Act. As it progressed, we developed a feeling that the early church was very inclusive. Jesus was denounced by the religious authorities for partying with sinners and undesirables. The book of Acts and the Epistles tell of attempts to exclude people–all of which collapsed. The Christian world expanded to include Gentiles, Romans who ate meat sacrificed to idols, Samaritans, and a host of other undesirables. Paul, constantly aware of his own past, constantly sought to include everyone.

But somewhere, that was lost. Part of this was self-survival. Creeds arose to draw boundaries. In the process, they did not just define a boundary, but to exclude (writers such as Elaine Pagels have explored this idea further). The Apostles Creed was a low-level form of this tendency, but the Nicene creed spelled out a great many doctrinal points and anathematized anyone who diverted from them.

Along the way, such definitions came to merge with cultural ideas (for an example in one field, see my review here), and in the late 1900s, disabled people found themselves excluded from the provisions of the ADA when it came to churches. Nearly every day I read on a disability site about this. As I and others have found, you can get in trouble faster for insisting that the accessible parking (if it exists) at a church be reserved for people with disabilities than for preaching heresy–I distinctly recall one incident related by a friend who was told that it “wasn’t very Christian” to call police for a violation (I asked if they had mentioned that it wasn’t very Christian to park there without the proper permit). And, as this article asks, why are so many excluded from ministry positions? Will we face the challenge, and will our allies rise to join us?

By the way, if you’re wondering about the exam question, here’s a hint: the link has do with technology that was popularized and made profitable by someone other than the inventor.

Hypocrites and the Law of Love

Hypocrites and the Law of Love

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:5

A lot of self-righteous people are going around these days telling others what they should or shouldn’t be doing. In some cases, these hypocrites have legislative power which can be a very dangerous thing.

Moreover, the hypocritical legislators can be swayed by other hypocrites too. Watch out when that happens because, as much as I hate this type reasoning, it happens from both sides. I feel this keenly as a disabled person.

We witness this in many ways.

Reproductive rights, exclusion from full participation whether in church or society, healthcare, straw bans, the list seems endless. I am going to explore each of these areas in my next several posts.

(Shameless Plug: I write every Monday and Thursday.)

But, rather than dwell on any one of these topics today, I want to offer for consideration what I believe is the best way forward no matter the subject at hand. My hope is that this will provide our basis for deeper discussion in these sensitive areas.

Note: Please chime in. I already know what I think. Be open. Be respectful. Listen and I will too.

Anyway, here it is, though, if you’ve read any of my other posts this won’t come as a great shock.

(If you haven’t that’s ok. I still love you. Shameless plug #2, please start reading, comment, and share. See: I already know what I think.)

Love always expands the circle. Love is inclusive. Love seeks justice and equality. Most of all, Love meets you where you are, knows one size doesn’t fit all, and Love love’s you just as you are even when you fall short.

I think of my experience with my daughter, Hope, and each of us are far from perfect. From the moment I held her, I knew nothing could ever stop me from loving her no matter what. She could kill me and, even though whatever pain she projected onto me would bring me great sadness, I would still love her.

Love just is. Love lives beyond what can be easily understood in our humanity. When I, as a Jesus follower ask, “What would Jesus do?” I’m really trying to discern, “What would Love do?”

Love is true, no matter what you believe or don’t believe as a matter of faith, even when the answers aren’t so easy. Perhaps that’s why we’re told Jesus said, “Love is greater than any of the other rules.” (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28)

Love is a good starting point even for old hypocrites like me. Let’s try it.

Tell me, what do you think?

Let me know if you have other discussion topics too. As long as you’re willing to respectfully participate, I’m willing to discuss. There is no shortage of questions. Who knows? Call me an optimist but maybe the answers can be found in our sharing together.

Wherever you are this day, thanks for joining me in reflection on these words of love as we share this part of our journey together and remember, wherever you find yourself, in the realm of justice and love,

“Love accepts you, no exceptions.”

Peace Love and Acceptance