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Dear Mr. Trump,
After the latest terror attack in France, you proudly proclaimed that you would have Congress declare war on ISIS if you were elected President.
I will give you credit. There have been perhaps one or two candidates for President who have campaigned on the platform of starting a war. At least you have declared that you will follow the Constitution and have Congress declare war instead of taking off on your own.
And it makes a little difference because of the number of proposals that you have previously made that defy Constitutional authority.
But what are you going to do if Congress doesn’t do as you ask? Remember, Congress does not work for you nor does it automatically do your bidding; Congress works for the people (though they have to be occasionally reminded of that fact).
And, if they do agree, how are you going to do this? Where will this battle be fought? Will you simply bomb ISIS wherever it may be? Do you even know where these criminals hide? Or do they all look alike to you? Since ISIS is not a country or geographical entity, will you seek the help of countries in which ISIS is operating? Or will you simply invade these countries? Do you intend to include France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom on your list of targets because elements of ISIS are in those countries? How much of the world do you plan to destroy in this quest?
Will you send the youth of this country, our wives and husbands,our brothers and sisters, our children and grandchildren, to fight this war? Or will you proclaim that the other countries will pay the price for this war?
And what sort of bombs will you drop if this is your course of action?
What will you do that we are not already doing? And more importantly, what are you going to do when this war is over, if it is ever finished? Do you intend to keep us in a state of war forever?
Who will pay for this war that you propose? Who will rebuild the world that you seek to destroy? What will happen to all of the people whose homes and lands are destroyed in the process of defeating ISIS? Will our doors be open to those who only want to live a life in peace? Or will you slam the doors in their face and say that they are part of the problem?
Being President is an important task and decisions made by our President reverberate throughout the world.
You may say that this is a world at war; how will you make this a world at peace?
As I have noted before, growing up in the South I have personally experienced the effects of segregation (many of classmates did so as well but they didn’t understand because they didn’t know).
In the spring of 1969, I stood by my friends in protest of unfair housing practices in Kirksville, MO. It was a peaceful sit-in but it could have gone bad quite easily. And I will be honest, my parents went ballistic when they found out what I was doing.
I participated in the Moratorium in 1969 in protest of the Viet Nam war (causing more concern for my parents). And I was prepared to go to jail or Canada if I were to have been drafted in 1971 (I got lucky and received a deferment).
In everything that I have said and done, I have tried to stand for equality and freedom. I have taken the precepts and principles of the Gospel as what they are, the Truth that will set people free.
It strikes me that we should never had to have passed this torch on to the next generation. We should be moving forward. But it would seem some in my generation haven’t learned the lessons of history. There are those of my generation who refuse to see others as equals because of race, gender, sexuality, or income. And they seek to pass this ignorance and hatred onto the next generation.
It works this way. We are all children of God, made in God’s image (Genesis 1: 27). We all have the same rights and freedoms, no matter what our race might be, no matter what our gender or sexuality, and certainly no matter what our economic status might be.
Those who work to keep others from having the same rights, freedoms, and, if you will, privileges as they have will have to answer to this when they meet God first hand. Those who loudly proclaim that they know what God is thinking better than God does.
And they will have to wonder why when they knock on Heaven’s Door, no one answers.
A Meditation for 10 July 2016, the 7th Sunday after Pentecost (Year C). The meditation is based on Amos 7: 7 – 17, Colossians 1: 1 – 14, and Luke 10: 25 – 37.
We woke up this past Friday morning to another shooting, another act of senseless violence. Was this shooting just the act of a senseless madman or a response, rightly or wrongly, to an environment that sees violence as the only response to violence? Or was it both?
Are we a society that sees itself as one group with many parts or are we so diverse, divisive, and separated that we can never see ourselves as one group?
As I have stated in the past, I grew up in the South, perhaps at the worst possible time to be growing up in the South. Parts of the South were still segregated and the parts that were being integrated were doing so slowly and somewhat reluctantly. And I know that many of those who grew up during that time, some of them my classmates, probably haven’t accepted those changes.
And today, with the reluctance of many, we haven’t accepted the idea that the statement “all men are created equal” applies to all, men and women, people of all colors, people of all economic status, and independent of gender or gender identity.
For some, the idea that some person, whom your grandparents may have considered inferior (or worse), is your equal is still a hard pill to swallow. We still somehow want to think that we are better than anyone else and we rejoice when some politicians tell us that. We rebel when others want to claim the equality that we have taken for granted.
And the Christian church, once the hope of the oppressed and forgotten, once the source of moral strength and whose members stood up against injustice and with those cast aside by society, was among the first to build a wall and keep people out. The sanctuary in too many churches across this country have become a place that keeps society out and allows its members to hide; it is no longer a place that welcomes the outcast and the forgotten; it is slowly becoming a place that says we don’t care who you are, we don’t want you here.
But the good news is that there are those who see the inequality and the injustice and work to end the oppression. There are those who are like Amos, who would rather just do the normal jobs. But God is calling them to take on the task, of speaking out against injustice and oppression, of saying that hatred and violence will never work.
Amos also pointed out that those whose only interest was in their own well-being and maintenance of the status quo would lose in the end.
Jesus was asked by someone who probably wanted an excuse to ignore the problems of society who was his neighbor. But Jesus wouldn’t give him that opportunity but pointed out that everyone was everyone’s neighbor and that you could not ignore anyone just because they didn’t fit some notion of correctness.
Paul reminds us, as he reminded the Galatians, that the Gospel still remains true and that grows stronger every day. But it still remains for each one of us to continue the work that began two thousand years ago in the back roads of the Galilee.
We may not know how to rid this world of oppression and hatred; we may be afraid to even try.
But we do know how to bring peace and justice to this world because we know the love of Christ and we know what Christ did for each one of us.
Because God loved us enough to send His son to die on the Cross for our sins and to bring us into freedom, we know what to do. And when we take that love into the world, things will begin to change.
I heard a comment the other day that suggested, to me anyway, that the money that was spent on the Juno mission to Jupiter would have been better spent feeding the poor.
In one sense, this was correct. When we have one dollar and we have to choose between feeding the hungry and exploring the outer reaches of space, we need to feed the hungry. Because we will be unable to explore the outer reaches of space.
But I also feel that there is something wrong with this idea. It presupposes that we only have one dollar to spend, when in reality, we have perhaps ten dollars to spend. And the vast majority of that ten dollars is spent on military and security items, items which in the end destroy things.
There is clearly something wrong when the majority of our money is spent on destruction, in whatever form it takes. Because sooner or later, we will not be able to rebuild what we destroy.
If, on the other hand, we spend the vast majority of our money on building things, then we wouldn’t have to worry about feeding the people or healing the sick or the other things that suffer when we destroy rather than build.
And if we spend our money building the creative skills of the people, then we will find cures for illness, ways to grow food without modifications, create energy that does not pollute and discover answers to the questions we haven’t begun to ask at this time.
For too long this country, this society, and this planet have focused on the practice of war. It may be that there are times we need to have such a focus but, over the long run, it can only mean the destruction of people, society, and in the end, this planet.
On the other hand, a focus on building up and focusing on people allows us to have a clearer view of the future.
A Meditation for 3 July 2016, the 7th Sunday after Pentecost (Year C). The meditation is based on 2 Kings 5: 1 – 14; Galatians 6: 1 – 6 (7 -16); and Luke 10: 1 – 11, 16 – 20.
It has been said that one finds the cost of freedom buried in the ground (courtesy of Crosby, Stills, and Nash).
And for part of my life, I was reminded that the freedom in which we all lived was maintained by the B-52 bombers that were parked on the ready ramp with their bomb bay doors open. As long as those bombers were there, we were at peace; if those bombers took off, it was the beginning of the final war on this planet. The purpose of those bombers was to attack targets in the Soviet Union and I suspect that those flight crews knew that once they took off they were not coming back.
But how do we find freedom? What steps must we take that will insure that we can and continue to live in freedom.
I was privy to a conversation given to Air Force families living in western Missouri during the height of the Cold War that basically stated that western Missouri (where Titan II missile sites, prime targets for Soviet missiles, were located) would be a dead and devastated wasteland within a week if there was an exchange of nuclear missiles between the US and the Soviet Union.
The doctrine that allowed freedom to be maintained during the Cold War was called the theory of mutually assured destruction or, in one of the most appropriate acronyms ever created, MAD. But at what cost was such freedom paid for?
What happens when the majority of money is spent on weapons of war and the maintenance of power? What happens to meeting the needs of individuals, both at home and abroad? Perhaps the solution to finding freedom comes when one looks at the problem differently.
Naaman was one of the most powerful men in Biblical times and he expected that his military power would be sufficient to find a cure for his leprosy. But the threat of military power and the promise of wealth were not sufficient to heal Naaman.
The message in the healing of Naaman is found in the words of his servants who pointed out that he would have willingly done something hard and heroic when all he had to do was simply bathing in the river Jordan.
Like everything else, large amounts of wealth and large amounts of power (political or military) tend to make it hard to find that it is rather easy to find freedom. What is needed is an open mind and a willingness to see other options.
And the only way that you will ever see options is if you have an open mind.
Consider what Jesus told those he sent out on that first mission. Go ahead and make the announcement about why you have come to town but don’t make a big deal about it. Give the people an option.
I am sure that there were those among the seventy who would have wanted to seek some sort of response to the refusal of some to ignore their mission.
But Jesus told them to brush the dust of the town off and continue on their mission, leaving it to history to decide the fate of those with closed minds. He did not tell them to loudly proclaim how they were all sinners and doomed to a life in Sheol, just move on. He did not tell them to call on the heavenly powers to destroy the town (as some of the disciples often wanted to do), just move on. The mission will succeed because there will be people who will listen.
Those who chose not to listen lost, for the moment, the chance at freedom that was being offered. But that is and will always be the case; when your mind is closed, your options for freedom are limited.
I think that is also what Paul wrote to the Galatians. There were those who wanted to force people to follow them because it seems far easier than actually doing the work that we have been asked to do. I find it interesting that Paul points out (at least in The Message translation) that those who would force belief don’t do as they demand others do. And while that perhaps was directed at others, there are those who proclaim Christianity loudly today who do not follow Christ today.
If we are to find freedom today, we have to understand that it will not come through military action first. There may be a need for military action but it will always have to be the last option, not the first.
If we are find freedom today, it will not be through what others tell us to do or think, for they are only interested in maintaining the status quo and their own status. They have their own agendas which don’t mean freedom for others.
To find freedom, we must seek it and we must work for it. Our freedom will come when we open our minds, first to the power of the Holy Spirit, and then to the empowerment that follows. And we will keep our freedom when we help others to find theirs.
The BioLogos monthly newsletter just arrived. If you want to see a coherent discussion of science and faith, this is one good place to look.