Tag Archives: victim

Sydney siege

Sydney Siege: Jesus Answers Religious Terror

My Twitter feed this morning lit up with comments about the Sydney siege. I read the news with sadness:

CNN: With two hostages and gunman dead, grim investigation starts in Sydney

A Muslim man (I will not give him the honor of saying his name) held a cafe hostage for many hours, terrorizing innocent Australians who were just enjoying a morning cup of coffee. The terrorist ended up killing two people, young people in their 30s who should have had a long earthly life ahead of them. The man proclaimed himself to be a sheik, a Muslim religious leader. During the siege of the café, he flew a black flag in the window, declaring Allah and Islam as the only true religion.

He is no religious leader. He dishonors Muslims everywhere. Terroristic people of any religion dishonor the vast number of peaceful followers of all faith paths.

The Sydney Siege and Hateful Religion

There are too many extreme Muslims like this man. They wage war and terror against Christians and Jews, while proclaiming their way is the only way.

Likewise, there are too many extreme Christians, including a large number of American Christians, who are hateful toward Muslims, while proclaiming their way is the only way.

My own fundamental Christian parents rejected me for “not following the only way of salvation,” and they called me a child of the devil when I said that all true seekers find God, no matter which religious path they start with. In religious hatred, my parents sent their daughter and toddler grandson to live homeless and hungry in the street, while in religious fervor, they sent money to a missions agency to support the “poor hungry Indian children struggling in Muslim regions.”

Here in Minneapolis, a group of Christians prevented a Muslim congregation from holding services in a community center. These Christians went on local television, loudly proclaiming that all Muslims are terrorists who wouldn’t be allowed near their community center.

I cannot understand the blatant hypocrisy. These “Christians” are not far from jihad themselves. Their angry words show the hatefulness in their hearts.

Religious terrorism comes in many forms. Religious hatefulness leads to jihad and bloodshed, bombings of towers and bombings of abortion clinics. Religious hatefulness led to the Sydney siege.

Jesus and the Sydney Siege

Religious animosity existed during the time of Jesus, too. The Jews and Samaritans hated each other, an ancient religious rivalry not unlike the Christian/Muslim rivalry today.

In religious extremism, Jesus’s own disciples tried to call fire on a Samaritan city. How did Jesus respond?

Luke 9:51-56 (NIV)

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.

In this story, Jesus was heading to Jerusalem and his own betrayal and death. The Samaritans rejected him. The Jews and Samaritans had long hated each other for differences in theology and religious practices. Jesus as a Jew could have rebuked the Samaritans for disbelief. But Jesus rebuked his disciples! Jesus does not stand for acts of religious terror.

In another story, Jesus was walking through a Samaritan town, and he stopped to rest at a well. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, he spoke with her. I am sure that the very act of speaking to her and drinking from her well shocked his Jewish disciples. Here is what he told her:

John 4:21-24

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

The biggest argument between Jews and Samaritans was whether God was to be worshiped in the temple in Jerusalem or on Mount Gerizim. Jesus told her that where a person worships makes no difference; worship comes from inside a person’s heart, led by the Spirit in truth. Jesus did not tell her to convert to Judaism, or find the only true religion. Everyone who seeks God with all their heart will find God.

Jesus Admires the Love of the Faithful

In the Sydney siege and other acts of religious terror, we see the face of evil, the face of religion used as an excuse for hatred. It is so easy to create divides between “us” and “them,” but the true transformation of faith is seen in acts of love.

Look at the most famous Samaritan in the Bible:

Luke 10:30-35 (MSG)

30-32 Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.

33-35 “A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’

The Jewish religious people left the man to die on the road. But the Samaritan, the person most hated by the Jewish religious leaders, had compassion on the man and did Jesus’s work of love. Right before he told this story, Jesus said that to show love to your neighbor is to fulfill God’s whole law.

Imagine that parable today. Imagine the good Samaritan as a Muslim in the middle of an American Christian community, or the good Samaritan as Coptic Christian in a Muslim Egyptian community. This is the kind of love Jesus was explaining. This is Jesus’s answer to the problem of religious hatred, division, and terrorism.

Jesus Says #IllRideWithYou

Many Australians are responding in love toward the Muslim community who fears a backlash from the hateful actions of the terrorist’s Sydney siege. They are tweeting #IllRideWithYou, standing in solidarity and protection with the Muslims riding the public transit system. This is a group of good Samaritans.

Love will defeat hatred. Love will overcome terror. Follow Jesus and embrace your brothers and sisters of all different religions and colors. We are all children of the Father. Together we can redeem the pain of the Sydney siege.

I can't breathe

I Can’t Breathe: Eric Garner, Police, Jesus

I Can’t Breathe. Police Above The Law.

I can’t breathe.

The last dying cry of Eric Garner.

His voice echoes on earth through millions of voices in the streets protesting for justice. The people are crying out for freedom. Freedom from fear of police officers who shoot and choke the life out of their victims. Freedom from terror of a violent, racist police force.

I have heard the argument many times that most police officers are caring, upstanding citizens who are forced to work with thugs. Yes, I do believe there are some good officers out there. I read their stories of delivering babies on highway shoulders, saving suburban house from robberies, pulling over drunk drivers before they hurt someone.

But Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and countless other people, mostly black and/or poor, have died under the oppressive suffocation of the dark side of policing. It seems that the violent officers run the game. The good officers keep their mouths shut and won’t or can’t stand up for righteousness.

I have experienced this personally. A terroristic officer pointed his gun at me and screamed at me to get down, while I was hobbling on a broken ankle and holding my two-year-old son. He violently arrested my husband on bogus charges. The other officer with him was gentler, even apologized to us, but he said that the rough officer was his superior and he had to “follow orders.” Why don’t these good officers stop the bad ones? The violent, murderous officers run the game, even if they are a small percentage.

They know they can get away with it. They abuse and kill victims, and never even face trial. They act above the law, because they ARE above the law. They can get away with murder. Grand juries almost never indict them, as shown so publicly with the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases.

I Can’t Breathe. It’s On Camera.

People can argue all day about whether Michael Brown was a thug. There was no tape evidence. But the Eric Garner homicide by police was caught an tape. He was no thug, no threat to the life of the officer.

Eric Garner was put into a choke hold by New York City police officers, a maneuver so dangerous to victims that it is forbidden by the force. And what did Eric Garner do to trigger this violent procedure? He sold cigarettes on the street without collecting taxes. Hardly the crime of a violent thug. Certainly not a crime deserving of the death penalty.

The police said that Eric resisted arrest. Yes, he asked why he was being arrested. That is his right as an American citizen. He is innocent until proven guilty. Asking a question, or even accusing the officers of harassing him, does not qualify as assisting arrest. And it certainly does not justify a deadly choke hold.

The entire disturbing scene was caught on camera. Eric Garner never acted in a threatening manner toward the police. He plead for his life even as they choked the breath out of him.

“I can’t breathe,” he cried, dying. Why didn’t the officers let go? If the police are such good people, why didn’t they listen to his cry?

The callous officer who filed the first report did not even mention that a choke hold had been used (New York Daily News). The violence may never have come to light if a witness had not recorded the scene on camera. The medical examiner’s report did determine Garner’s death a homicide (Los Angeles Times).

The determination of homicide forced the involved officers to go before a grand jury. Even this was of little consequence. Despite the camera evidence, despite the medical evidence, the grand jury let the cops walk free to commit violence again. The American justice system committed the homicide against Eric Garner.

Because of American sanctioned police violence and American racism, this police crime will never come to earthly justice. But the heavenly cameras are always rolling, and this crime will not escape God’s holy justice.

How many of these police officers attend church, call themselves Christians? How many white Evangelicals say police racism doesn’t exist, police must kill to protect us? Jesus did not die on a cross for people to commit such horrible violence. Jesus was a friend to the poor and oppressed. People like Eric Garner.

I Can’t Breathe. I Have Asthma.

Eric Garner had asthma. This contributed to his death. The police should never put someone in a choke hold, especially a victim with asthma.

I can’t breathe. I know that feeling well. I empathize with Eric Garner. l, too, have asthma. Unlike Eric, my skin is white. The police never put me in a choke hold.

I have had times when I, too, cried I can’t breathe. This happened to me almost a year ago when I was working as a toddler teacher at Eagan Kinder Care. I had an asthma attack at work, and my boss disregarded my cry. When I went to the office to try to get my breath back, she told me to go back to the classroom and keep working through the choke hold of asthma. I did not lose my life, but I lost my job. My boss never mentioned the choke hold of asthma when she filled out paperwork making me non-rehireable. She lied that I “chose to go sleep in the office.”

I believe this was a prophetic sign and judgment of what would soon happen in New York with Eric Garner.

I wrote this poem in February 2014, when I lost my job to asthma and evil people in authority. I dedicate this poem to the memory of Eric Garner, who lost his life to asthma and evil people in authority. Eric, you are a martyr at God’s throne. Jesus holds you in his healing arms. Rest in peace from your earthly pain. Someday there will be holy justice.

I can't breathe
Image credit: [Flickr] Chris Ford. Licensed underCC2.0

The Empty Room: I Can’t Breathe

I look upon the empty room,
A room exhaling silence
       memories
       of child voices

The room sees
Eyes pour over lesson plans.
All the educational demands.
A told B and B told C
about the spontaneous ecstasy,
the momentary lessons be
of childhood wonder.

The room measures
Tick-tock hours measured by
laughs and tears and fears and smiles.
Days that measure, dress themselves
in colors of artwork upon the shelves
in water play in yellow sun
in raking red-gold leaves that run
with tiny footprints in the white.

The room sighs
Teachers silenced by harsh demands.
Take the pain upon their hands.
Fix the room, scream the theme
do the project, the curriculum means
but don’t you dare stay on the scene
just a minute late.

The room cries
Children sob the rules they dread.
Don’t make a mess, stay on your bed,
don’t put that bucket on your head,
too much noise behind the door,
be always ready for the Tour.

The room hurts
Teachers broken under stress
contradicting rules, duress.
Mental wounds leak out their bodies
while trying, trying, trying hardly
able to do it all and not get hurt
again.

The room suffocates
I. Can’t. Breathe.

The walls of the room come closing in,
exhaling sickness, a volcano explosion.
Struggling to inhale the stale air,
the room echoes the silent terror.

The room dies
I. Quit.
Two words fill the empty room
I turn my back, I leave alone.
I must hide all the memories saved
to bury them in my mind’s grave.
I leave the room to the hands of God.
And breathe a prayer for my beloved
children.

I think upon the empty preschool room,
A room exhaling silence
       memories
       of voices of pain
       spiritual death

uninsured in america

Uninsured in America: Broken Bone Morality

Two years ago, I was uninsured in America. All my efforts to find work had failed, so medical care was closed to me. One afternoon I tripped on a porch step and broke my ankle. The pain was overwhelming, but even worse was the realization that I would have to treat it myself.

A Visit to My Parent’s House

When we left Oregon, homeless and financially broken after years of trying to find work, we began the journey that eventually brought us to Minnesota. We made a stop at my parent’s house in Missouri.

They asked us to pray for my sister who was in the hospital with a mysterious illness. She had a good job, good insurance, and good doctors, but she was getting worse. We went to her bedside and prayed. Yahweh said he would heal her. She was released two days later.

“Praise God she has insurance,” my dad said. “If she hadn’t, the hospital might have turned her away.”

In a short while, I wouldn’t be so lucky.

Broken Leg No Insurance

Two days after my sister was released, the pleasant early summer weather beckoned me outside. I decided to visit the park with my husband and son.

We didn’t make it far. I stepped into a hidden hole at the bottom of the porch step. The violent twist of my ankle shot lightning bolts of pain up my leg that left me sobbing in the grass. The cloudless sky spun in dizzying flashes around me as the pain nauseated me, overwhelmed my senses. I have sprained my ankles many times, and I have broken several bones.

I knew that pain.

I knew my ankle was broken.

My mom and dad came outside because of the commotion. My husband was kneeling down to help me. My dad stepped over and talked sharply. “Get up and walk inside. It’s probably only a little sprain.”

Frightened by his tone, and my body pumping adrenaline from pain, I clutched the strong arm of my husband and somehow found the strength to hobble inside. My parents brought me ice and pain medicine.

Uninsured in America

I thought about going to the emergency room, but the injury was not life threatening, and without insurance or a cash deposit, I knew there was little chance they would treat me.

American law only requires hospitals to stabilize life threatening conditions of the uninsured, not to treat them. This is almost certainly why Thomas Eric Duncan (ABC News) was sent home from a Dallas emergency room, stable but seriously ill. He spent two days at home, in excruciating pain, shedding infectious Ebola virus to his family and community, before being admitted to the hospital two days later where he died of his condition. Duncan was also, tragically, uninsured in America. Broken medical system, broken morality. I have written more about him here. Eric Duncan, Ebola, and lack of insurance.

I knew the hospital most likely would not treat me, and I could never pay the thousand-dollar-plus bill if they did, so I begged to go to the far more accessible urgent care. My dad said there was no need to seek medical care for a “little sprain.” My mom laughed. She said it was my fault for not having a job, for not having any money for the urgent care $150 fee.

She laughed at me for being uninsured in America. Her broken morality crushed my spirit.

Self-rehabilitating My Broken Ankle

Past walking into the house, I couldn’t bear any weight on my ankle. The slightest brush of my toe against the ground sent mind-numbing pain through my leg. Fortunately, I had crutches and a walking boot from a surgery on my other ankle several years before (when I did have insurance). I used those to immobilize my ankle and settled in for the daunting process of rehabilitating my broken leg without the help of a doctor or modern medicine.

After a couple of days on the couch, I got into a religious argument with my parents. My husband called a televangelist phone number on a television program and told the call center to stop swindling people’s money. I thought it was funny, but my parents were not amused. We argued about works versus faith and the “cheap” American gospel. They kicked us out of the house.

For the next several weeks we slept on friend’s couches and in the car, our two-year-old in his car seat, my ankle throbbing from the cramped space. After about six weeks I was able to stretch my ankle and start walking again, painfully.

We moved to Minnesota and found housing and work. We got health insurance and I had x-rays showing the (healed) fracture line. Physical therapy helped some, but even now, over two years later, I limp and have pain in that ankle. The doctor thinks I have torn ligaments or tendons and I need surgery.

Surgery that would never have been necessary if I had not been a victim of society’s broken morality to refuse to take care of the poor, the weak, the sick, the uninsured in America.

Sprained Ankle and the Affordable Care Act

This week I fell over a pothole I didn’t see in a parking lot. I sprained my ankle, again, badly enough to have to take a week off work. Doctor visit, ankle brace, crutches. Maybe physical therapy again, I’ll find out in the next few weeks of healing again.

At least this time I have medical insurance, partially thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which made my family eligible for Medicaid. This legislation is imperfect, but it has helped millions (but not all) of the uninsured in America to access treatment from broken legs to cancer.

This legislation is constantly under attack. We need more Americans with the courage and morality to stand up for the pool, the uninsured. Medical care is a human right.

I share my story of pain in hopes of change.

America, repent, seek the kingdom of holy justice, heal the broken legs and broken hearts of the oppressed. Provide medical access for the uninsured. That is exactly what Jesus did. Seek God’s face, pray for holy justice, and heal the broken morality in America.

NFL violence

NFL Violence, Adrian Peterson, and Child Abuse

Adrian Peterson is the latest casualty/perpetrator of the epidemic of NFL violence. Peterson is accused of brutally whipping his child in a twisted form of corporal discipline. Peterson is also a celebrity player, worth millions to the Minnesota Vikings. Are celebrity football players above the physical law? What about the moral law of holy justice? Would Jesus whip and bruise his child?

One Game

There is something sinister about the Twin Cities metropolitan area, which I am not proud to currently inhabit, plus the NFL as a whole, that Adrian Peterson could brutally beat his son and then only miss playing one game. He had many Vikings supporters rallying in Minneapolis to have him play again. Peterson was suspended from Sunday’s football game, then reinstated under the guise of leaving the allegations for the courts to sort out.

One game.

Is this really about the courts, or is about big money which routinely overlooks NFL violence?

Of course Peterson means big dollar signs to the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings lost the game without Peterson, and losing teams mean losing revenue. The team owners decided to reinstate Peterson based on their own greedy calculations, and nobody really expects Scrooge to do the right thing. But the show of support from the community? It makes me tremble to see all the people wearing Peterson jerseys and saying “discipline” is a parent’s choice. Do they think NFL violence is just part of the game. Do they thing violence off the field is OK, too?

Discipline or Abuse?

Is beating a child simply a discipline choice?

No!

It is never a choice to harm another person, especially the weakest among us. Beating, especially beating to leave bruises, is an act of violence. Jesus called the little children to come to him, to show us adults the way of the Kingdom. Children are imagination and innocence. Yes, children can make mistakes and misbehave while learning social norms, but they need gentle correction, not violent discipline.

When correction turns into beatings that leave children bloody and bruised, it has crossed the line into abuse. Beatings are never appropriate, no matter how wealthy or famous their parents. Peterson claims, as do most other perpetrators of child abuse, that this is the way he was raised so he doesn’t know better. This is not an excuse. People who truly come from a background of abuse should be the first to understand the lifelong pain, emotional and physical, brought on by a parent’s violence.

NFL Violence

Unfortunately, the NFL promotes this type of violence. Football is a violent sport, physically and psychologically. NFL violence is NFL entertainment. The slow motion film is fed to the screens small and large all over the county, ready for fans to view all the brain- and bone-crushing hits.

Football is a game of war, focused on the strategy of how to destroy the enemy. Many people live out war and violence fantasies vicariously through their favored team. My father used to yell, and even break things, when watching his favorite team lose a play, or a game, on television. Football terrified me as a child. My father embraced the NFL violence, and then he became violent at times toward me and my siblings. Just like Peterson did to his son.

Maybe it wasn’t entirely Peterson’s fault. Playing football encouraged and nurtured his violence. It is hard to leave a war game behind on the field. The big money the NFL makes from its legions of fans contributes to the culture of violence. This too often spills over into the player’s home lives.

The football league, made impotent by greed, loves the big hits.

Something must change. Adrian Peterson must be dismissed from the league, from the spotlight, for the life of his child, the future of his family, and for a change in the bigger culture.

A Prayer for the Children

God sees the tears of the children. He stands up for the innocent and the abused. Jesus weeps over families that condone generations of violence, and for societies that condone sports of violence.

Heavenly Father,

I pray today for Adrian Peterson’s son, and all the other children who are going to bed with bruised bodies and bruised souls. I pray for the parents who have learned generational violence and embraced cultural violence, including the violence of sports entertainment, that they will see the error of their ways and turn from the violence for the sake of the precious children. I pray that greed will not triumph over morality, and the NFL will change as a driving force in American culture. I pray for healing and justice over this situation.

Amen

end nationalism, bald eagle flying toward heaven

End Nationalism, Embrace God’s Kingdom

September 11

As a nation, we take time today to reflect on the events of 9/11 over a decade ago, the flames, the terror, the senseless loss of life. I pray healing over the families forever torn apart, the people’s lives forever changed. How can we redeem the carnage? Is there hope in loss? Can we end nationalism and embrace universal love?

A Kingdom Ruled By Love

There is hope. End nationalism on earth, embrace God’s kingdom in heaven. Close your eyes to the terror outside, and focus deep within your soul. Hear the whisper of the Spirit calling you to childlike faith. Jesus taught us about a kingdom that transcends national and religious borders. A kingdom without fear. A kingdom ruled by Love.

Warped religiosity and destructive nationalism spawned the events of 9/11. Muslim jihadists, believing in a nationalistic Islamic state, drove airplanes into buildings in a murderous act of terror. Innocent civilians lost their lives, families were destroyed, and a nation was shaken to the core.

In a nationalistic response, the American government sent the military to wage war on countries tangentially involved. Because of our military actions, innocent civilians lost their lives, families were destroyed, and nations were left in unstable ruins. All war affects the enemy and the civilian alike. Terror and the thirst for power drive nationalism.

Of course not all Muslims are terrorists and not all Americans support a militaristic response. Far from it. Still, this day of remembrance invites us to reflect on the dangers of nationalism. What if we all decided to follow Jesus, make peace with our enemies, and embrace the Father’s kingdom?

If America did this, really embraced the peace and love of Christianity, took care of the poor, forgave our enemies, and pursued the the Father’s kingdom, we would shake the core of the earth.

End Nationalism

Nationalism teaches us to make our global neighbor into our enemy, to destroy that enemy through hijacked planes and automatic weapons, to hate that enemy through boots on the ground and bombs in the air. Not what Jesus taught at all.

Jesus taught us to love our global neighbor, to embrace them as a special child of the Creator, to learn from their cultural customs and worldview, and to share our culture and views in a universal kingdom of love.

Nationalism teaches us to chase power and land, to raise a flag over the vanquished enemy as the blood waters the land.

The kingdom teaches us to see the blood, understand that the fallen enemy was someone’s son or brother, a mother leaving behind orphaned little ones, a young scientist who could have unlocked the cure to cancer.

When one person falls through violence, we all suffer. On this day of remembrance, I invite you to end nationalism and hatred in your heart. Start down the kingdom path of light and love. Find God’s kingdom.

End nationalism. Find life.

end nationalism, lily of peace in God's kingdom
Image credit:Razabar.Licensed under CC0 Public Domain
pray for ferguson

Pray for Ferguson: The Prophetic Word

Pray for Ferguson. The city is erupting in violence and pain. The police are out of anyone’s control. Even our government has three branches of checks and balances and elected officials who are supposed to represent their communities. The police force has no election process, not even an outside regulatory agency. The police put themselves above the law.

But they are not above God’s law.

Pray for Ferguson: A War Zone

The images coming from Saint Louis are horrible. Green and black tanks thundering down the street. Giant military guns staring down the crowd through red cross-hair eyes. The police dressed in full military uniform, the camouflage of life and death. Full out war on civilians.

Peaceful protestors are being gassed and arrested. People crying out from a lifetime of pain and racial injustice, especially racial injustice under law enforcement, are burning police cars.

Pray for Ferguson.

God’s Prayer over Ferguson

God sees everything that is happening and all the history behind it. He weeps with those who weep. He holds Michael Brown’s family in his love, comforting them and promising vengeance. He sees the injustice and he fights with those who protest.

The Holy Spirit cries out:

How long will you continue to kill and destroy, you police officers who follow no law but the law of your own selfish ego? You go to church on Sunday and read your Bible where I told you, “Thou shalt not kill.” Even if you don’t go to church, I have spoken the same word to every religion and no religion. It is written on every human heart.

I have said “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” but you file fake reports and conduct scam investigations. Don’t worry, I have saved copies of all this evidence in my heavenly files. The Book of Life tells the truth of all your falsified evidence.

When you arrest someone falsely and destroy their future, it is written in my book. When you rip children out of their mother’s arms, sending them to heaven before their time, the blood cries out to me.

The Cry of the Martyrs

God says:

I have raised up Michael Brown as a martyr. He joins my cloud of witnesses with Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till and other American martyrs.

Michael Brown cries at my throne for justice, for a future of peace to those oppressed by the American authorities. I have sent armies of warring angels to fight with the protesters. Look at the skies over Saint Louis, they are dark with war.

America, wake up! The blood and tears of your victims have filled the bowls of my throne. The darkness of your acts of police and military violence, the senseless killings of innocent civilian life, must face an account. Pray for Ferguson, pray for the innocent lives, and repent of your violence.

America, you commit systemic violence, too, enforced by your authorities. You hide behind computers and never ending policies of minimum wage, layoffs, cuts to safety nets, while families and children gaze on the terrifying gulf of homelessness and hopelessness. I hear their cries in the dark night, and I see when you send your police to imprison them for being homeless. Pray for the homeless and the least of these.

America, you spread your evil around the world. You send your military overseas and create wars, proudly proclaiming your role as “world police.” Who made you god of this world? I see the blood of Iraqi, Afghani, Palestinian children killed by American weapons. The angels nurse these little ones at my throne while I count your sins against you.

America, you are so proud of your weapons of blood. You take your tanks and military gear back to your shores, where your police use it to set yourselves up as omnipotent. Who are you? I am the God of the Angel Armies. I laugh at you in anger and the ground shakes. As you imprison and kill my servants, the earthquake will come.

Pray for Ferguson. Repent. Bring justice and truth to the victims. Perhaps I will turn my hand, but the hour is late.

God’s Word to the Victims

God says:

To Michael Brown’s family, know that Michael’s death is not in vain. Your tears empower my angel armies. Rest in my love, and be patient in the tribulation. The wheels of justice are slow, but strong. The debt will always be paid, if not on earth than in heaven. My justice will never fail. Darkness and violence can never prevail.

To all the victims of abusive police, military, and authorities, I see your pain. My anger is a fire against injustice. Societies that practice injustice always fall. Israel, Babylon, the Roman Empire, the British Empire. The American Empire will fall, too. Wait and soak in my love. Pray for my supernatural peace. Don’t lose hope. Darkness will never win. Even death, in my love, is a victory.

Pray for Ferguson

Today I pray for Ferguson, Missouri.

I pray that justice will prevail and the cries of the people will not be in vain.

I pray for repentance and change, lasting change, in America. I pray for the martyrs, and I pray that the will of God be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Amen.

victim of oppression, feet in bondage

Victim of Oppression

The Victim of Oppression Has Few Choices

Here’s a popular quote, attributed to an unknown source, that comes across my Facebook far too often:

Everything you do is based on the choices you make. It’s not your parents, your past relationships, your job, the economy, the weather, an argument or your age that is to blame. You and ONLY you are responsible for every decision and choice you make. Period.

There is a popular idea in the Christian and the New Age communities that there are no victims, only “bad choices” or challenges on one’s “life path.”In this magical thinking, there is no inequality or oppressive systems of hierarchy.

The Christian right occasionally talks about helping the poor, but they qualify it with a bunch of statements about how the “true” poor only live in developing nations. Somehow, in their twisted mind, there are no true poor in America because “all Americans have big screen televisions and cell phones” or some other nonsense.

I am not trying to downplay the poverty and horrors people face in other places, especially war-torn countries, but there are so many people suffering so greatly within American borders, too. There are many victims of oppression in America. Victims of racial barriers to employment and justice. Victims of generational or situational poverty created by oppression. Victims of the housing crisis, a bad economy and other faces of an American system oppressive to the poor.

Both the New Age and the Christian right are guilty of throwing around the loaded word, “choices,” saying there are no victims of oppression, only people who make bad choices. Or the worst, Christians proclaiming that people are lazy and have a “victim mentality.” Somehow I do not find this anywhere in the Bible. This is blasphemy, and I never use that term lightly.

Look again at the quote. “You and only you are responsible… ” As if we all live in an individual bubble of equality. Think about the meaning of “choices.” Consider the “victim mentality” insinuated in this quote. It is an ignorant statement spoken from a position of power and privilege.

If you are fortunate in this society, if you have Money, the right connections, the right skin color, a nice upbringing, good health, and other privileges, then you have many choices, a plethora of decisions big and small. But if you find yourself at the bottom of society’s hierarchy, through birth or through tragedy, your choices become ever more narrow.

The Choices of Power versus the Choices of Oppression

Consider these sort of choices:

Choice of privilege: Should I take this meaningful, enjoyable job, or the other offer that pays better? Or do I have enough savings to start my own business?

Victim of oppression: Can I find any work to keep my electricity on for another month?

Choice of privilege: Can I get a good rate on a mortgage in the suburbs, or should I keep paying rent on my luxury apartment in the city?

Victim of oppression: Should I go home to my abusive husband or should I spend another night in the homeless shelter?

Choice of privilege: Should I enroll my child in this desirable school district or would private school help more in college admissions?

Victim of oppression: Should I send my child to school today? Will she get bullied or shot? Will his teacher even believe in him, try to prepare him for college?

Choice of privilege: The budget is tight. Should I give up cable or consider a more limited cell phone plan?

Victim of oppression: The budget is tight. Should I give up this week’s groceries or should I risk being late on the rent? Again?

In the heartbreaking choices above, I see people who are victims. I see people who have been victimized by a bad job market, by abusive spouses or parents, by a terribly unequal housing and school system, by a lack of living wages, and by many other situations. Per the quote above, yes even the weather can create victims when hurricanes, tornadoes, storms, and fires destroy people’s homes and jobs.

Jesus Loved the Victim of Oppression

Jesus never once spoke of a “victim mentality” or “choices” leading to poverty and oppression. But he had much to say about helping the poor and the weak, about the Father looking on these victims as precious sons and daughters in his kingdom.

Jesus opened his Sermon on the Mount by saying, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) People argue that poor in spirit doesn’t mean physically poor, but the Greek here can be translated “reduced to a beggar” (Biblical Hermaneutics). Jesus hung out with “sinners” and prostitutes, the victims of oppression in his society. He loved them and never blamed them for “choices.”

As a society, we must wake up and show compassion to all the victims. Stop oppressing and blaming and making foolish statements about choices.

Start loving. This is the cross of Jesus. This is the way of holy justice.

tragic death, leaf floating in rain

The Tragic Death of Sally

No one remembered Sally. Perhaps no one even knew Sally. Sure, people had heard of Sally. Her picture had splashed across the news in a dramatic end to a quiet life. A life cut short by desperation. A tragic death.

***
Sally stared at the mirror, forward, then sideways.

Can you see the bulge? Perhaps if I arrange my dress this way, no one will notice.

Her thoughts flitted like the sunbeams spilling through the window. Nervous. Excited.

Sally eased herself into the chair, hiding her belly by slouching forward. She stared at the papers on her desk.

The pastor walked by, and Sally averted her eyes.

“Hey, Sal. How are you? You know, I really need that bulletin done, and can you answer some of those emails, people really are interested in the church lately, and I need…”

The stream of words stopped as the pastor’s eyes moved from Sally’s breasts to her stomach. Sally winced.

“What? What? I really thought you were better than that.” The pastor slammed his hand on the desk and papers went flying. “Sexual immorality will not be tolerated in this place, do you hear? You are supposed to be a role model in this church.”

Sally cowered under the pastor’s outburst. Her mind darted back to that late night dog walk, the rush of fear, the piercing pain. Then the darkness. A long nothingness. Then a hospital room, an exam, a police report.

Sally breathed back her tears and looked down at her hands. Hands that should have protected her that night. Why did she not know better?

“Get out of here. You are done. I never want to see you again. All employees in my church must live their lives beyond reproach. Do. You. Understand?”

Sally could no longer hold back the tears. She whispered, “Without this job how can I ever pay my rent? Maybe there’s another way. Nobody knows yet. It’s still early…”

“Go get another job you sinner! Are you thinking about abortion? You deserve to burn in hell!”

Sally ran out the door, tears falling all over the new carpet.

***
Sally adjusted the dress suit. It was already small on her, it had been donated by a friend. Now it would never fit over that belly.

She breathed in deeply and walked through the glass doors. She sat down in the waiting room and smoothed out her resume in her lap.

A woman walked through the door, dressed neatly in pants and a white blouse. Her heels clicked on the floor. “Sally?”

Sally stood up to shake her hand.

She quickly looked Sally down from head to toe. “May I see your resume?”

Sally handed the paper over, her hands trembling.

The woman studied the resume for a moment. “I’m sorry, there are so few jobs right now. Are you sure that you don’t have any other experiences? Your resume is just so… bare. Have you tried the local restaurants? What about retail, fast food, anything?”

Sally bowed her head low. “I’ve tried everything, ma’am. I was hoping your agency…”

“Well, I’m sorry. The economy is tough for everyone right now. Check back in a few months.”

***
Department of Human Services.

Sally studied the sign on the wall. So imposing. So sterile, she thought. They always told me that only lazy sinners and takers go to this place. Am I lazy, God? Am I a taker? Maybe I should leave now.But where can I go? Doesn’t God care about my baby? Doesn’t God care about me?

She looked at the clock on the wall. 9:35. She looked down at the slip of paper in her hands. Appointment time: 9:30 am. Intake counselor: Linda.

“Are you Sally?” Sally looked up to a tired, grimacing face. “Come on back, I’ll see if I can help you.” Linda turned and walked toward the back of the office. Sally tried to keep pace with Linda’s fast step, fast stream of mutters. “Geez, when will this ever end? It will be so busy again today. I know bad economy and everything, but really. Can’t people learn to take care of themselves?”

Linda popped down at her desk. Sally eased her heavy belly into the chair on the other side.

Linda shuffled through the paperwork. “Now, Sally, I see that you are in your ninth month of pregnancy. We can open a new case for you. I can see you have little cash reserves, and your need is immediate.”

“Yes, ma’am, I tried to save, but it’s all gone now. Rent and everything…” Sally blinked back her tears.

Linda didn’t look up. “I can get you food stamps today, and I will put you in the pre-TANF program. You will have to let me know as soon as your baby is born. With a family of two, you can get about $400 month. How is your housing situation right now? I hope you don’t pay more than $200 rent. I can put you on the wait list for Section 8 housing, but it is a three or four year wait. You are not required to work right now, but you will have to start looking for a job when your baby is 6 months old.”

Sally stared at her hands and nodded. She thought back to the opinion article she read the day before. “Many people are turning to government assistance, using the economy as an excuse. Did you know that welfare recipients are not required to work in many states? The government provides everything for them. Do you know that they can even buy lobster with their food stamps? There are simply no restrictions. This laziness is spreading to the millions on unemployment as well. The Republicans are right to put an end to all of this and return to the principles of hard work on which our country was founded. The family is breaking apart and so many unwed mothers are causing poverty to rise…”

“I’m not lazy, am I?” Sally whispered.

Linda finally looked up from her paperwork. “What did you say?” she asked sharply. Sally shut her eyes in fear.

Linda looked back down and slid a paper toward Sally. “Never mind. Just write your social security number here and fill out this other form. I’ll be back in a minute.”

***
Sally moaned in pain. How much longer could this go on? How much longer could she be strong? The hospital gown scratched her skin as the contractions gripped her belly.

“Push. Push! You’re almost there!” The doctor stood by her legs, giving clinical orders. The nurse placed a cool cloth on her forehead.

Sally longed for a drink of water. At least she would meet her baby soon. Hope in a dark world. If she was a girl, Sally would name her Hope. A contraction blazed through her thoughts. Sally drew in her breath, found her last strength, and cried out as she pushed one more time.

“Congratulations! It’s a girl!” The doctor’s jubilant words were met with silence. The seconds ticked by. Under his breath the doctor whispered, “Come on, baby. Just breathe.”

“Sally, we are going to take your baby down the hall,” the nurse said as she rushed out of the room.

Sally was too tired to cry, too tired to feel. This baby was everything, all she had left in the world. She buried her face in the pillow and closed her eyes. God, You took my job, you took my house, you took my dignity. Do you have to take my baby? God, do you even exist? Why is the world so bad?

“I hear your cry, I feel your pain.” The answer came back in Sally’s broken heart. “I have prepared heaven for people like you. Hold on. I see the sin of the world, I see how people have hurt you, and I will judge. Sleep, little one, sleep. Your child is back in the arms of my angels.”

***
“I’m sorry, Sally. With no child, you are no longer eligible for TANF. You can get food stamps. You need to start looking for work.” Linda patted Sally’s hand, her demeanor softer than before.

“But where will I live? I was using all the money to rent a room. Now I can’t even do that.” Sally sobbed.

“Perhaps you can stay in a family shelter. Call 211 for assistance. I can’t do any more for you. I’m sorry.”

Sally left the DHS office. The wind whipped at her hair, and she could hear the sea gulls crying by the beach. They seemed upset at the weather change. Rain began to fall, mixing with the tears on her face.

Sally used her sleeve to wipe the water off her face. She looked at the clouds and then at the road in front of her. She stared at the bridge, not too far to walk. “Into your hands I commit my spirit,” she whispered.

***
The evening news splashed across the town’s television screens. “Woman’s body recovered in Cangey River. People passing by on the pedestrian bridge tried to stop the suicidal young woman. Rescue crews were sent, but it was too late. The identity of the woman has not yet been released. It was a tragic death.”

all oppression shall cease, snowy fence

In His Name All Oppression Shall Cease

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name!

All Oppression Shall Cease

These are the lyrics to the third verse of the beloved Christmas song “O Holy Night.” Yet how often do we forget that Jesus came to break chains, that at the very mention of his holy name all oppression must cease?

How often does the church who claims to love Jesus practice loving one another? How much love do we as Christians show to those who are outside our denomination, our social circle, our belief system?

The Oppressed Are My Brothers and Sisters

How often do we discuss the slave as our brother? Instead we enslave and oppress others in the name of profit or perhaps simple expediency.

Look around you! The enslaved and the oppressed surround us on every corner. What are we doing to solve the problem of the lonely man shivering in the cold tonight, a sleeping bag his only shelter? What are doing to feed the children going to bed hungry tonight, inexplicable in a land of abundant food?

How are we helping the struggling young mother, single, with three mouths to feed on a minimum wage job? No matter how or why her husband, or her lover, left her, she is a widow, her man is dead to her. Has God not called us to take care of the widow? James 1:27 says:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Like the widow, then, the orphans are another for whom we must be concerned. Yet millions of children in the United States wait in group homes and foster homes, praying, dreaming, hoping for a chance at a loving family. What are we as Christians doing about these precious ones? Are we honoring Jesus’ name by allowing these children to remain oppressed in their loneliness and hopelessness? In his name all oppression shall cease.

What about the children and women slaving overseas in sweat shops just so that we in industrialized nations can consume more, ever more, cheap clothes and goods? Does the church ever teach about where their clothes are coming from? Or is this hidden simply because the corporations which employ this slave labor have CEOs and boards that are all good church-going folk?

Excuses, Excuses

We make plenty of excuses. “Oh, I can’t possibly help the sweat shop issue. It is too far away, and besides, cheap clothing helps my family budget so much.”

“You know, those foster children have too many psychological issues, and they are so old to adopt. I want a baby.”

“A single mom is not a widow. She is a slut, and she needs to pay for her choices.”

“That homeless man? Well, he’s just a druggie and a drunkard. The Bible says Thou shalt not drink, doesn’t it? I don’t need to take care of him until he takes care of himself!”

Jesus says,

Woe, to you, church! Your excuses have gone too far. Just by my name all oppression shall cease. But you defile my name by allowing this oppression to continue unabated day after day. I am coming back to bring justice to the earth.

My sword is against you first, Christian church. You say that you love me, but by your actions, you prove that you know me not. My law is love, but you have turned the law into your own self-interest, putting burdens on the poor which I never intended them to bear. My gospel is peace, but you war against the oppressed and you war against each other. I am about to take my lamp away from you and give it to those more deserving.

Repent, turn from your hateful ways, and practice compassion and holy justice. Proclaim that all oppression shall cease. Work to bring my kingdom of peace to this earth. Then I will be proud to call you my friends.