President Trump’s America is looking less and less American, and totally un-Christian. With the flurry of controversial executive orders our new President has shown the effects of something with which many Christians in the West seem to suffer: blind piety. All in the name of morals and American values, with a strong dash of dishonesty and fear-mongering, our new President shreds the image of America around the world and moves us farther from the Christian values of justice, mercy and love for our neighbors. President Trump road a wave of this blind self-centered piety and unreasoning fear all the way to the White House. Now some of the most vulnerable people on the planet are beginning to pay the price.
What is blind piety? Piety is defined as a quality of being religious or reverent. Blind piety is a religiosity that ignores its negative and hurtful impact on the people around it. Jesus actually condemned it in his own day, and an apt name would also be shallow piety or even mean piety. Jesus condemned the religious leaders of his day who acted piously in vowing their income to the support of the Temple, but in doing so actually neglected their own aging parents who were in need. (Matthew 15) Now, I always wondered at that passage thinking, “How will something like that ever find a dynamic equivalent, today?” Well, ask and receive. It’s been played out on our national stage just this week. With an executive order that piously calls on abortion as a reason to cut our nation’s international help to some of the most needful and most defenseless women and families around the world our President has endangered lives, and many religious people are applauding and smiling. Blind piety. Mean religion. Just as in the day of Jesus, religion used to deny people our assistance is an affront to God.
At another time (Luke 14) Jesus chastises the hypocrisy of the religious thinkers who would refuse to help a fellow human being because of the religious obligations of not working on the Sabbath, but of course they would rescue a child or an animal in sudden distress. The hypocrisy is staggering, and it’s playing out before our eyes in this day and age. Our leaders are turning away from the most needful and endangered children on the planet, and mantling themselves in faith and patriotism while doing it! The President continues to narrate his actions with the familiar and completely dishonest alternative facts about a lack of vetting and the danger represented by refugees. He targets Muslim nations and vilifies and criminalizes the most vulnerable people on the planet. He speaks of walling us off from others, as though we are not all connected human beings with a shared and mutual life on this planet. These actions are not Christian, American or moral.
Why did Jesus condemn those religious leaders of his day? It was for what they had neglected: people. People are at the core of religious law, as he named that core: justice and mercy and faith. (Matthew 23) Jesus will later sum up the Law in two expressions of love: love for God and love for neighbor. (Matthew 25) The problem is not that religion is against people, but these people were misunderstanding their religion. We are guilty in the same way today when we turn from justice, mercy and faith to hide behind fear, exclusion and dishonesty. Some have chosen a blind piety that neglects people.
The sad truth is that these Christians in the West are turning from one of our oldest and deepest religious values: the heart of a stranger. Far back in our oldest Jewish religious roots as Christians is this amazing idea of identifying with the endangered. God gave Israel strict rules for protecting the alien and stranger among them, for blessing them and for serving them. The people of Israel were reminded of their own time as strangers in a strange land, and therefore they should hold to the heart of a stranger. (Exodus 22 & 23, Deuteronomy 24) That is an amazing statement and command of empathy and service. Until the incarnation of Christ into human flesh I cannot think of a more identificational statement in scripture.
These current events call for our silence to be broken and our voices raised. This political landscape suddenly shifts to assault our deepest religious values and we cannot withhold our condemnation of these executive actions. Let us be courageous and true. Let us be vocal and honest. Let us speak against these executive actions and their false religiouslity, blind piety and alternative facts. Let us be as courageous as Jesus to speak for justice, mercy and faith. That courage got him ridiculed, cast out and killed, but most of us face far less danger in our privileged status here in our own country. Privilege is never a license to ignore injustice, forget mercy or live faithlessly in our own time.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, Todd
(to the greater glory of God)
I’ve been thinking about the children on our Southern border and the need for us to move in a gracious, welcoming, valuing way to address their needs. But it’s not just about their needs. I believe an essential part of who we are as a nation and a people is on the line.
The child immigration crisis in the South is a test of our nation’s values, beliefs and future, and we run the risk of disappointing ourselves as much as neglecting these children. The more I try to hold all the facets of this problem in balance the more I am convinced that we face a unique moment of challenge and opportunity as a nation. Ten and twenty years from now, will we have a generation in our nation that includes these children, I’ll call them Hopers, among us at universities, schools, workplaces and communities across our country? Or will we have a shameful memory of not responding to the hurt and pain of our most vulnerable neighbors?
What is it that causes those parents to hope for so much from us? I’m stumped trying to imagine what the parents of these children must experience in their daily lives at home and what they must imagine we will do as surrogates for their children. Why do they believe in us so deeply and so optimistically? I don’t know, but I do believe this: We have not set a trajectory of hope or healing in our response to these children. We have been afraid and sometimes angry. It’s time to change the conversation and set a new trajectory that will lead us all, all of us, to a blessed and shared future.
Can we live up to what their parents have believed of us? Are we as good as we have believed? More and more I’m beginning to be a Hoper, myself. I want to hope in us and believe in us, too! I want to see us face such a challenge and opportunity with an amazing grace and the poise of a nation that knows all too well about displacement and the painful legacy it leaves behind. We have this amazing opportunity to change the way we act as a species, a nation, a culture and as neighbors. It truly is one of the greatest tests of sharing that I think we have ever faced. And we can be amazing if we choose to be. I hope we shine.
I know the arguments about lawful entry to our country. I understand the fear of validating the practice of just shipping children wholesale across the desert to our border. I get the worries, I understand the indignation, and I share some of the trepidation. We still have to hope. We need hope as much as these children need hope. We still have to act. We still must regard the sanctity of human life and our connection with all people as a central priority to safeguarding our own future, our shared future.
Let’s not fear anymore. Enough with the indignant outrage. Let’s put aside our worry. Let’s embrace these children and face tomorrow with them. They are here now. They are ours. They are us. Let’s share the hope and belief in us of those parents.
I don’t have all the answers to the problem at the border, but we must respond with dignity, hope, love and concern for these children. We must respond, sooner than later. Let’s shoulder the cost of welcoming. Pray. Sign petitions. Donate to relief work. Speak peace. Love these children.
Let’s all be Hopers.
*Here’s a timely warning about neglect and an example of creative thinking to find longer term solutions to problems like this, from David Gergan and Daniel Katz. I thought it was a good read, worth consideration.
*No need to go into detail about how I’m getting involved, but here is an article from the Dallas Morning News with links to Texas area relief groups and opportunities to join their work…
I haven’t shared any pics or written about Mercy (my crazy old bike) in a while, so this is my make-up work. If you were wondering, she is still rolling and having fun. I took her to WSC this morning to work out, which is a automatic doubling of any and all calories burned. I was thinking about her wondrous attributes all the way home…
- Her single gear says, “Incline or decline, toughen up and breathe deep, baby.”
- Her crazy heavy frame weight (I think it’s iron) says, “Nimble-shmimble… better plan ahead for that turn!”
- Her ever-empty basket says, “I would so totally carry your sweet buns.” (I’m still trying to get Teresa to ride in it.)
- Her giant-sized seat says, “No matter how often you do or don’t work out, I’ll always make your butt look smaller!”
- Her awesomely rusty parts say, “Go ahead and wreck. I’ll give you such an infection.” (One day I’ll ride her all the way to Indiana for the Ragers to powder coat her!)
- Her mis-matched wheels say, “Anyone can ride a nice bike.”
She defies the idea of having much less using a bike lock, and she draws the curious and envious stares of strangers. There’s nothing like pedaling to her squeaks and pops. Hope your day’s as fun!