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The issues we face today are Goliath in nature—tensions on the Korean peninsula, conflict in the Middle East, the effects of climate change, and our complicity in practices that cause ecological destruction and aggravate the lives of people across the planet, especially the poor. Then there’s the scourge of racism, global terror, nationalism, authoritarianism, and now, the unconscionable travesty on our borders, where children of immigrants have been torn from their parents and placed in holding cells and detention camps. 

Many recognize that US immigration policies have needed reform for years. But this administration’s insistence on criminalizing immigrants, and using family separation as a deterrent to immigration—even those seeking asylum in the US—is immoral and contrary to our values. In the past, those detained were typically people identified as a threat—gang members, drug smugglers, and human traffickers. Ordinary people, fleeing violence or poverty were welcomed and given the opportunity to present their case for asylum. 

While the President has appeared to soften this approach, there is no plan for the reunification of families, children are still farmed out across the country in foster settings, and parents are still detained or even deported. While it appears that children crossing the border with their parents may no longer be separated from their parents, these families will all be held in detention facilities. 

The world knows what detention facilities mean, they are concentration camps—they’re never good for adults, let alone children. Detention camps are shameful symbols of the kind of dehumanizing practices most people have later come to abhor. 

This weekend, Pastor Mary (Davis Community Church) is helping lead a group of several dozen advocates from our area to the border. Our faith-based network through Sacramento ACT ?and the newly formed local coalition we’re calling ACT in Yolo) will join thousands from California and other parts of the country to express our values and advocate for humane treatment of those coming across the border, especially those seeking asylum who have been criminalized by our government. 

And here’s what they are advocating for:

• The immediate end of the inhumane and immoral practice of separating children from their parents
• The immediate reunification of over 2,000 children who have been torn apart from their mothers and fathers
• To end the inhumane practice of incarcerating children in our country
• To replace the current system of childhood incarceration rooted in punishment and profit with a new system rooted in restorative justice and healing

This is God’s work. It is the way of Jesus. 

The best of our religious values, across the faith communities, urge people of faith to provide sanctuary for those in danger, hospitality to those seeking comfort, and dignity to all God’s children regardless of race, religion, gender, age, ethnicity, or national identity. 

How is it that we have departed from these values? 

And where, in particular, is the church’s voice protesting such abhorrent practices, and especially the twisted and blasphemous use of biblical texts (Romans 13.1) by this administration’s spokespersons as they attempt justify adherence to abhorrent policies, while ignoring the higher biblical mandate that “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13.10).

Gratefully, more and more people are rising up against this tyranny. 

And there are things you and I can do. But there’s no one best thing. Do what you can do; what’s within your particular reach. Pastor Mary and others will be on the border, performing non-violent, direct moral action to bring light into this darkness. But other ways are just as important and effective, no matter how small they may seem.

Here are a few:

1. Write letters and emails to editors, legislators, and politicians (DCC will have action tables at church this Sunday helping you do just this)

2. Attend vigils, actions, and rallies. There is one tonight (Thursday) here in Davis at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, 640 Hawthorn Ln, Davis, CA 95616, from 7:30-9:00pm. It’s the longest day of the year, the summer solstice, and accordingly, we want to bring as much light on this issue as we can. This will be a long struggle for change, reform, and transformation of our nation. There will be many other opportunities.

3. Engage with local immigrant rights and advocacy groups. Our affiliation with SacACT and ACT in Yolo is an important way to work for justice locally. We have a detention center right her in Woodland. Let me or Pastor Mary know if you with to be involved in this work.

4. Contribute funds for family reunification. Here’s one: https://togetherrising.org/heres-how-you-are-serving-the-s…/. More will come our way, some through the Presbyterian Church USA.

5. Register voters, campaign for and elect candidates you know will lead and serve with moral courage especially in these midterm elections.

6. Keep connected with the local church. A strong, healthy, and financially sustainable congregation is a moral and spiritual necessity in these years. There is a long and winding journey ahead of us as a nation. The local church and its partnership is a socially responsible way to engage in reforms that are progressive, inclusive, and oriented to biblical justice. 

7. Stay centered and nourished spiritually. Keep to your practices of prayer, study, meditation, and community, as well as to our congregation’s Three Practices of Sabbath, Self-Care, and Service. And participate in courses through Integrated Spirituality that can keep you grounded for the long haul.

8. Be kind. Remember that every person deserves dignity. No one is a monster, even if you consider them an enemy or if they vote differently than you do. Anger, belittling, name-calling or finger-pointing helps no one and only adds to the divisions, hurt, suspicion, and violence.

9. Breathe and pray. Pray and breathe. And most of all . . . love one another.

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AuthorChris Neufeld-Erdman

Jesus is being used today for purpose antithetical to the trajectory of Jesus' way of life, the implications of his message.  The #TimeIsNow to #ReclaimJesus and rescue the gospel from the ideologues who turn Jesus into an acolyte of nationalist religion, those who promote the idolatry of white supremacy.  

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AuthorChris Neufeld-Erdman

Sometime in 2005, I stumbled across the online episode of NPR’s This American Life.  Ira Glass was introducing the episode, Heretics, and Russell Cobb's story of Bishop Carlton Pearson: black Pentecostal sensation; pastor of the exploding multiracial Tulsa mega-church, New Dimensions; and heir-apparent to the Oral Roberts evangelical dynasty.  But Pearson, just as he was soaring toward the top, became a heretic; he stopped believing in hell.  He'd come to realize that the doctrine of hell was inconsistent with the mercy of God.  A God who would damn anyone to an eternity in hell was, in his words, "a monster," "worse than Hitler."  He began preaching that everyone, without exception, was already saved.  The Bishop became an immediate pariah.

In 2005, I was entering a season in my life and my ministry when such a leader was intensely interesting to me.

I was a pastor, but, unlike Pearson, I'd never put much stock in hell.  It wasn’t that Pearson stopped believing in hell that gripped me.  It was a line he used at the end of Russell Cobb's interview, where Pearson called his message “the gospel of inclusion.”  While hell wasn't as central to my church's faith experience as it was to Pearson's, the exclusionary nature of Christianity was.  And I was coming to the point where I could no longer hold to a religion that could exclude anyone from its experience of God.   

I was dabbling in the "gospel of inclusion" and testing where it might lead.

A man shook my hand as he left worship one Sunday and said slyly, “So what you’re saying is that Christianity is an opt-out religion rather than an opt-in religion.”  ‘Yes,” I said tentatively, “I suppose I am”--not knowing if the man was for or against what he thought I was saying.  “That seems a good way to put what I think Jesus was about.”  Another person once winked at me after a sermon and said, “If people really understood what you are saying, I wonder what would really happen around here.”  But aside from some who were sensitive enough to what I was preaching and praying, my inklings were subtle enough not to get me branded as a heretic.

Over the next decade, I found myself returning to that This American Life story of Bishop Pearson probably a half dozen times.  During that decade I had to deal with my increasing spiritual compulsion to speak my mind about what I thought the gospel of Jesus was really about especially with regard to the LGBT community.  I would have to make tough decisions about my convictions, the way my convictions would affect people who saw things very differently from me, and what these convictions could mean for my leadership in a traditional church.  (I explored that journey more fully in my 2015 book, A Table for All: How I Came to Understand the Gospel Means Full Inclusion of Gays and Lesbians.

Bishop Pearson became for me a partner in that journey; his story reminding me to stay true to the Jesus I knew, to face my fears, and realize what it all might cost.  When I was afraid, confused, riddled by doubt, and harassed by fundamentalists, I returned to that 2005 NPR story.

There were costs, but many gifts as well (some really remarkable and brave people); I wouldn't do it any other way.   

Bishop Pearson's story is now the new Netflix, acclaimed movie, Come Sunday

Last night, Patty and I sat down to watch it.  I was surprised by the emotion it triggered for me, the sleepless night I spent afterward.  It reawakened both my feelings of gratitude for Pearson’s life, the faithfulness the journey required of me, as well as the pain and suffering I, and others, experienced along the way.

Come Sunday follows closely that 2005 story about Bishop Pearson.  I commend it.  It’s well acted and sensitive to all the players in the story.  It’s about religion without being preachy.  And it shows the real humanity of all those involved.  A remarkable film.  What’s more it’s a critically important piece for this cultural moment.

Religion, despite its many problems, is here to stay.  Religion will play a vital role in either the absolute collapse of the human experiment on the earth or its transformation into a more benign or even beneficial presence on the planet. 

The story of Bishop Carlton Pearson is a sign of the needed transformation of religion and a witness to the enormous courage it will take by those called to give birth to new religious expressions that serve the greater wellbeing of the world.

Pearson gave me courage when I felt terribly alone and yet compelled to help lead Christianity out of its adolescence and toward a maturity fit for the 21st century.  

I’m immensely grateful for this sensitive and timely film.  

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AuthorChris Neufeld-Erdman
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A single word shapes Good Friday; a single word describes the Cross of Christ.

Sacrifice.

There’s no getting around the fact that the Cross of Christ is about sacrifice.  But it’s not about appeasing an angry deity.  When the Cross of Christ is turned into that, it’s a deformity, a travesty, and is terribly misleading.  No, the Cross of Christ is not about appeasing; it’s about revealing . . . revealing something we all know.  We all know that love is free, but it’s never cheap.  Love always costs something; love might cost us everything. To participate in the healing of the planet, to live in relationships that are honest and that help us grow into wholeness, to work alongside others for justice and transformation, we have to make sacrifices.  Love costs us.  Rumi once said, “Gamble everything for love”; it’s always worth it.  

As part of my Good Friday meditations, I was thinking about the Cross of Christ this afternoon.  I noticed the Ethiopian cross in my office.  As I looked at it, I noticed it looked more like a key than a cross.

Then I realized that the Cross of Christ is just that—a key.  It’s the key to living well, loving without reserve, thriving because we dare to love in the face of hatred; love in the midst of suffering; love when others give up; love when people build walls; love, even when our love is refused or ridiculed or trampled on; love, even when it seems foolish.  

The Cross of Christ is the key to life because it points to love, and the sacrifices love requires to open the doors of our hearts.  

The Cross of Christ is the key to the wholeness, the unity, the wellbeing which is what God is up to in Christ.  The Cross connects what we separate at our peril, the opposites that foster division, brokenness, alienation, and injury.  The Cross, as a symbol, joins heaven and earth, divinity and humanity, spirit and matter, North and South, East and West, top and bottom, right and left.  

The Cross of Christ shows us the key to wholeness, harmony, wellbeing.

That key is love.

And love, though free, is never cheap.

Posted
AuthorChris Neufeld-Erdman