Slide to the Edge

 

When I was about six, some neighbor boys and I were playing with a Frisbee until a gust of wind (and probably an errant throw) took the disc onto the roof of my home. Thankfully, my dad had a ladder with which to hoist me onto our relatively flat roof. Running across the crest and retrieving the disc was never the hard part, but the descent down to my father’s waiting arms was terrifying. I tried several times to lower myself to the edge of the rooftop, and each time chickened out before my dad could reach for me. I was scared he would drop me. I was scared to fall. I could see exactly how close to the edge I could go while still maintaining control of my own destiny.

trex

As I crept down again slowly, for what was probably the fifth or sixth time, my dad outsmarted me. The kids in my neighborhood would say he did a good job of not “fronting his move,” because he pulled his arms back, close to his chest, luring me into thinking I could get closer without having to trust him. With a mighty swoop, my dad lunged upward from his T-Rex pose, and with the full length of his arms extended swept me into his grasp and safely returned me to the secure footing of the porch.

There is something reassuring about standing on your own feet. There was something comforting about inertia, something reassuring about maintaining the status quo. When my dad swung me off the roof, I had no control of anything. My feet couldn’t touch the ground, which I saw rushing up at me pretty quickly, and my wings weren’t working very well. I had absolutely no control over what happened next. Thankfully my dad was strong and coordinated enough to bring my six-year-old self back to earth safely. For the last 25 years now, my dad’s “T-Rex arms” have usually turn into a joke somehow, usually when I’m trying to pass my brother the mashed potatoes.

It’s scary when you don’t have control over your own destiny. I think it is kind of similar to following God into scary situations. I believe with my innermost heart that we who are with are called to go to places without. It was much simpler to live in the suburbs of Lombard and just drive into the ‘hood for church, or head straight to the office to work. I didn’t have to slide all the way to the edge of the roof. I could stay on my own feet. I didn’t have to hear the gunshots in the evening, and if violence was bad I could just stay home that day. Walking in the big open field with the dogs was a more relaxing than trying to dodge broken glass and pull half eaten Italian beefs out of their mouths.

I don’t think of God as a Trickster, and there was no deception in what we were getting ourselves into. People are getting shot at and killed almost every day in Lawndale. People get held up and car-jacked too, and you can get all of that information pretty easily. I don’t know if hanging on the cross would have worked well for Jesus if he had T-Rex arms. What choice do we have but to keep singing Kendrick Lamar and trust that if God’s got us, then we’re gonna be alright.

So in that spirit, I’m making a commitment here. I am going to write. And write consistently. I like to write about culture, and sports fandom, and the church, and good food, and how frustrating politics are (and probably some hot-takes about how all of those things mix). It will be a mixed bag sometimes, but it will always be a reflection of who I am. I’m committing to sliding to the edge, trusting that Jesus has longer arms than a T-Rex, and hoping that we all get to the other side in good shape. I’m not interested in my Klout score, and this isn’t to start an online cult. It is just an out-flowing of my wanderings and my wondering. Hope you enjoy!

 

 

You Break Through

red_flower_growing_out_of_crack_in_rocks1

A world of darkness
With walls of shame
Our lives a mess
Yet here you came
You break through

Cloudy skies
All dark and grey
Raindrops cry
You made a way
You break through

Through these clouds
A gleam of light
Your voice was loud
Your face was bright
You break through

Lightning flashes
Through the storm
Made from ashes
Embrace is warm
You break through

Walls of hate
Keep us mad
We must frustrate
The plan you had
You break through

Love abundant
Hope divine
Your words redundant
“Make you mine!”
You break through

Brutal empire
Been made known
Falling down
Before your throne
You break through

Jars of clay
Crack and break
If you may,
Make us shake
You break through

Walls will crumble
Light will come
Don’t let me stumble
My legs go numb
You break through

Tiny holes
The water flows
Broken bowls
Nobody knows
You break through

How you make
A way for us
Through the break
Quite a fuss
You break through

Solid state
Then fissures form
On that date
Your love will swarm
You break through

Your answer is
Always yes
Even neck deep
In our mess
You break through

Our messiah
Coming fast
Jerusalem
Free at last
You break through

Chicago, ISIS, and Elephants: or Why National Mentoring Month is So Important

I read the news this morning, just like any other day. Except today is Monday so I get the updated YTD shootings/homicides report for Chicago: 88 shootings and 12 homicides, 100 people. A nice round number following a year where 487 people lost their lives amongst 2,986 shootings. I’m not even sure that counts victims of state violence, like Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier who were gunned down by police on the morning after Christmas. It is 4 degrees outside and we are ahead of last year’s record pace after only 11 days.

The Middle East has been burning for years. To try and count up the civilian and military casualties from the last decade would be too much. Civil war in Syria, horror in Lebanon, occupation in Palestine, Iran and Saudi Arabia trading barbs and violence – to just name a few – plus refugees drowning in the Mediterranean and extremist out-flowing terrorizing San Bernardino and Paris. The numbers are staggering. I’m not willing to just dismiss this with a cliché about Ishmael and Isaac, or a poor interpretation of Matthew 24:6-7.

Since the declaration of the War on Drugs in the 1980’s, we have seen communities of color, specifically poorer neighborhoods, decimated by non-violent incarcerations and mandatory minimum sentences. A generation later, we wonder why there are fewer fathers in the home. It is easy to decry this apparent lack of personal responsibility, but there is more to it than just “being deadbeats.” In Illinois, there are more black men in prison than there are in college, also partially because the black male graduation rate in Chicago Public Schools hovers around 35%. When they went after the local gang leaders, the idea was that cutting the head off the snake would eliminate the problem. This targeting has created disproportionate minority contact with every level of the justice system, and eliminated generations of men in the neighborhoods. Faced with no leadership and no economic alternatives, now we have hundreds of block-by-block cliques running around with their heads cut off. Nobody is left to enforce street justice and the gangster “code of honor” that used to exist in neighborhoods is almost extinct. Petty arguments turn violent, and if we are expecting 14 year olds to keep a level head while confronting perceived disrespect, our heads are way up in the clouds. If we want to curb this stuff in the city, then we need some more Big Homies with level heads to teach these kids how to be adults.

Since the declaration of the War on Terror in the early 2000’s, we have seen entire geographic regions decimated by the real-politick of state building and influence peddling. Elections are rigged, rebel groups are armed or sanctioned, and strong men that we like become strong men that we don’t like. Afghans are armed to fight the USSR, but they take their weapons and lack of development support and then embrace their radicalization. Iraq is armed to fight against Iran, but then they take their weapons and lack of development support and embrace their radicalization. Taking those leaders out should have taken the head off the snake and solved the problem, but ironically, the same problem Chicago faces has happened. With nobody left to strong-arm the factions, militant groups have gone crazy. Syria’s civil war isn’t quite as clean cut as ours was. There is no North versus South, but about four different factions, backed by various states and world powers, all fighting for the same power. ISIS rose to power because there wasn’t anyone to impose street justice in the region. Saddam was certainly a tyrant, and I’m not advocating for him, but how many more civilian deaths in Iraq should there have to be before we acknowledge that we probably should have had a better plan. Did we think that this snake of violence and extremism would just wither and die when he was gone?

And then I ran across this article from about fifteen years ago, and the pieces started to fall into place. Rhinoceroses in South Africa’s Pilanesberg Park started dying mysteriously, and nobody knew why. With no natural predators, and the thought of poaching quickly dismissed since their horns were not removed, the alarms starting ringing. Diligent observation brought a stunning explanation. When elephants in nearby Kruger National Park began to thrive, park rangers were concerned about overpopulating the area, they devised a plan to transport a large number of juveniles to another park (since adult elephants are much more difficult to transport). Without any mature adults to keep the youngsters in check, there quickly became chaos among the structured social order of nature. Testosterone levels went through the roof (as they would with any group of adolescents) and as the less-than-fully-grown males were now becoming fathers, the violence began to spike. Investigators found that these leaderless male adolescent elephants, all “hopped up” on unchecked testosterone, were trampling and killing the rhinos. Shortly after this realization, mature adults were brought in to restore the natural order. When the younger elephants were returned to their proper place within the herd, peace was restored and there was not a single additional rhino death.

This is hardly an attempt to provide a solution to a geopolitical war in the Middle East, nor address the prison-industrial complex and mass incarceration, although those are admirable battles to fight. This is about the realization that without someone to show us how to grow up, sometimes we never will grow up. Or maybe sometimes it is like the vines that grow up in the shapes of chaos without the shepherding influence of the garden trellis.

How do we expect fathers who have never had fathers to be good fathers? How do we expect people who have never experienced peace and freedom to allow or advocate for peace and freedom. There is a saying in social work that says “Hurt people hurt people.” When the wound of a missing parent is never addressed, it never has a chance to heal. When the wound of living with perpetual traumatic stress is never addressed, it never has a chance to heal. When a vitally important part of ourselves is missing, we can never become whole people. And to paraphrase Edmund Burke, when good people don’t do anything about it, there is no influence left except the bad influence.

This is exactly why National Mentoring Month is so important. Without good people to stand in the gap, what can we really expect to come out of these situations? A lot of people are really overcome by fear when it comes to mentoring. Is it weird to ask someone to be my mentor? Is it weird telling someone I would like to mentor them? Well, it’s only weird if you make it weird.

We all need people in our lives to help us. If we want to be something we’ve never been, we’re going to have to do some things we’ve never done. Sometimes that includes getting in touch with someone who has already done what you want to do. Want to be a good father but didn’t have an example at home? Find some people who really love their dads and get together. Want to be a good lawyer, gardener, teacher, preacher, or chef? Find one you look up to and ask for a couple of minutes of their time. Those are the easy ones.

If you want to really change someone’s world, though, you have to realize that they might not even know what they don’t know. The mentors that change the world are the ones who decide to love someone, in whatever way their mentee need to be loved. If they want to be a fashion designer but you are a jeans-and-t-shirt kind of girl? Love them enough to help them explore their dreams, and then find someone in your network that owns a sewing machine. If they want to be an accountant but you can’t balance your own budget? Love them enough to help them explore their dream, and then find someone with a calculator to help you out. Kids of all ages are hurting for some mentoring. Whether it is elementary schoolers who still want to be professional athletes, middle schoolers who don’t like biology, high school kids that think they know everything already, or twenty-somethings that realize they don’t know anything, we all need to find someone and love them.

Without vision the people perish, and without mentors, we all languish right where we’re already at. And the world is in too much pain for that to happen.

16 Shots and the Importance of Disruption

This was originally posted at Missio Alliance

To protest is to interrupt. As John Perkins Fellows at Northern Seminary, part of what we have learned during our education is that inconvenient interruptions are often a prelude to justice and peace. So, in true John Perkins and “Coach” Wayne Gordon fashion, this past (Black) Friday we participated in a protest that intentionally interrupted traffic, shopping, and news cycles in order to bring people’s attention to issues in Chicago. And we were arrested for doing so.

Walter Brueggemann is right when he says that most Christians are willing to die for Christ but they don’t want to be inconvenienced for him. For people with jobs and classes and busy schedules, it is a major inconvenience to be arrested, but our desire to avoid inconveniences has dissipated under the influence of our neighbors and our churches.

What issues? Well our march was partially about the #16Shots that executed Laquan McDonald. But it was about 400 years of oppression since the slave trade began that coincides with the 400 days it took for an obvious charge of murder to be hung around the executioner’s neck. This was about the cover up, including 86 minutes of deleted footage from the local Burger King, running through the hands of States Attorney Anita Alvarez, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. This was about the creation of ghettos in Chicago neighborhoods like North Lawndale, Englewood, and Austin. It was about Jon Burge torturing confessions from black suspects. It was about the groundbreaking work of people like Mariame Kaba and Project NIA, and the We Charge Genocide report to the United Nations about police brutality in Chicago. It was about Rekia Boyd’s murderer walking free. It was about the neighborhood’s knowing response of “they’ve been locking up black people there for years,” when The Guardian revealed that the police station in nearby Homan Square was a black site used to “disappear” thousands of people. It was about the complete divestment of economic opportunities, as millions of jobs have disappeared from neighborhoods of color in Chicago alone. It was about shuttering public schools in minority neighborhoods, and the mayor ignoring a 34-day hunger strike to try to save a neighborhood school. It was about the conditions of poverty, oppression, violence, and trauma experienced and then expressed by so many of our youth today, as Chicago’s shooting incidents (2,724 YTD) and murders (436 YTD) climb through the roof. It was about more than just Laquan.

We participated in demonstrations on Tuesday immediately following the release of the video that shows Laquan being murdered, but we were arrested on Black Friday when we shut down shopping on the Magnificent Mile in an effort to bring attention to all of the above. We saw that the police were herding protesters into one lane of traffic so that transit was not seriously inconvenienced. Since the purpose of protest is to disrupt, we were not interested in coloring inside police lines. Our act of defiance wasn’t as poetic or beautiful as Bree Newsome, but blocking traffic with our bodies surely disrupted something. As the arresting officers told us they had to “set the tone” for these protests, they put us face-down in the freezing puddles. After three hours in handcuffs and another two in Cell Block C, we were released with a misdemeanor of obstructing traffic and a December court date. Thankfully the police ignored the other 2000 people who quickly flooded the oncoming lane a few minutes after we were “detained.” It was a small price to pay for being the first through the wall.

If someone was too look at our actions in Chicago this past Friday and deem them as radical they wouldn’t be wrong. My (Josiah) sitting under the tutelage of Miss Kimmy Payne for the past two years has resulted in my radicalization. Miss Kimmy is a long time neighborhood resident, a business owner, church leader and the first person at church to congratulate me on getting arrested. After reading Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, I (Ben) spoke with Cliff Nellis, lead attorney at the Lawndale Christian Legal Center, and asked what someone without a law degree could do to help fight injustice. He introduced me to James, a kid I would go on to mentor. His stories, and those from other kids in my neighborhood, shook me to my core. When the city was boiling earlier this week, I jokingly asked Cliff if he would defend me in a hypothetical arrest. He responded by text: “Problem is we’ll all be looking at each other in the same cell.”

The real life stories of people like Rekia, Laquan and James require deep reflection and a commitment to action. All over the U.S. (but especially in Chicago) kids as young as twelve are being labeled “a menace to society” simply because they are trying to scrape by with no parents and no money. Does hearing their stories really make us radical? Bernie Sanders has become fond of saying, “it isn’t a radical idea…,” and it is hard for us to identify as radical when we just want to “love God and love our neighbors.”

But the truth is, at this current moment in the city of Chicago, demanding justice and peace for the oppressed is viewed as a radical stance. Well Jesus was a radical then it seems. Some try to domesticate Jesus to the point that he weirdly never has anything to say about justice and peace for the oppressed. It is largely thanks to Christena Cleveland, that we have come to believe that Jesus—God in the flesh—not only unequivocally sides with the oppressed, but insists that to know justice is to know peace, and where there is no justice there will be no peace (Jer. 6:14, 22:14-17; Mic. 6:8).

The word “radical” has been used pejoratively when describing the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Our conservative Christians friends and our Christian pacifists friends have criticized the movement for being too vitriolic or not focused enough on reconciliation. Oddly enough, those same friends have conveniently steered clear of interacting with people from our neighborhood, earnestly engaging with BLM activists, or showing up to any of the protests to actually see that we are primarily concerned with “loving and protecting one another.” If this describes you, we are compelled to tell you that it is difficult to take your criticism seriously and it is impossible for BLM activists or friends in our neighborhood to listen to you when you remain aloof and absent. Not only is this arrogant, but it is also cowardly. So we invite you to let go of preconceived notions and fear; come learn from the people who are teaching us so much.

While we believe Jesus would have willingly participated in Chicago’s Black Friday protest against capitalism, white supremacy and other systems of oppression that the BLM movement is deconstructing, we are deeply convinced that he would’ve done it nonviolently. So when we blocked traffic on Friday, we allowed the officers to arrest us and we even verbally blessed them.

Being a Christian pacifist is not synonymous with being a pushover. Being a Christian pacifist is about following Jesus’ example of disrupting the powers and principalities. Whether it’s blocking the entrance of the temple with his body (Mk. 11:15-16) or disobeying the Roman Empire by busting out of the tomb and breaking the official seal of Caesar, Jesus was a perpetrator of civil disobedience (Mt. 27:66, 28:2)! And by doing all of this, Christ disrupted and made a spectacle of the powers and principalities (Col 2:15).

This Black Friday in Chicago, protestors followed Jesus’ example by making a spectacle of the powers and principalities by nonviolently preventing people from entering the “temples” of the Magnificent Mile shopping district. The response to that act demonstrated how capitalism shapes people’s desires so much that outrage over the murders of Rekia Boyd and Laquan McDonald become afterthoughts in comparison to the itch for a good bargain. As our professor Dr. Bob Price says, “There’s something ack-bassward about that.” What seems equally “ack-bassward” and embarrassing is that it took all of five minutes for the CPD to arrest us for a misdemeanor of “obstructing traffic” but it took them well over a year to call Laquan’s murderer to account.

Today all that is left is some bruised wrists and outstanding homework. But we’re glad to be alive. Freddie Gray didn’t even make it to the police station. Sandra Bland made it there, but didn’t make it out. I (Ben) have invited a few neighbors to march, but universally, the response is “Y’all [white people] can go march all you want, but I don’t feel like getting beat up by a cop in riot gear.”  I’m much safer marching because I am white, I’m much safer getting arrested than most of the kids in my neighborhood, and the fear of dying in a jail never crossed my mind. But my neighbors voices need to be heard, and their stories serve as thousands of witnesses against the credibility of police reports. They were who I was marching for; the same people who helped me shovel snow this week, the same people who radicalized me, the same people who were mad as hell, but didn’t feel safe participating in a demonstration wherein peace and justice were demanded for Chicago’s most vulnerable.

Losing Laquan and Rekia et al is a tragedy. Being arrested is inconvenient. Chicago’s corrupt “leadership” is discouraging. The violence in our neighborhood never seems to stop. Tracing the ways in which America’s original sin of racism systemically marginalizes black and brown people in our community is overwhelming. But we take heart in a popular chant the BLM movement borrowed from a Kendrick Lamar rap song; the chant resembles the prayer of Julian of Norwich. With this chant-prayer we hope you will also take heart and act for liberation:

we gon’ be alright

we gon’ be alright

do you hear me, do you feel me? we gon’ be alright
______________________________________________________________________

*Dedicated to those who never made it out of custody*

Ben Swihart is an M.Div. student and John Perkins Fellow at Northern Seminary, Chicago. He and his wife live in the North Lawndale neighborhood, on Chicago’s West Side. His interests involve contextual and political theologies, community development both internationally and domestic, learning from his neighbors, and the World Champion Kansas City Royals.

Josiah R. Daniels is an M.Div. student and John Perkins Fellow at Northern Seminary in the Chicago area. He lives on the West Side of Chicago in the North Lawndale neighborhood. His primary interests are urban community development, contextual theologies, political theology, and Old Testament theology. He blogs at Restoring Pangea.

 

Thankful for Anger

(Originally posted at Restoring Pangea)

This year, I’m thankful for a circle of angry friends.

Now, let me clarify – I’m also thankful that they aren’t angry at me.

The dashboard footage of LaQuan McDonald being cut down by a police officer is being released this week, which might make Thanksgiving Day a little less celebratory if we’re all jailed for protesting, but I’m glad I won’t be in there alone. I received a text back from an attorney friend, “won’t be able to represent you, but will be locked up with you.”

North Lawndale, on Chicago’s west side, is a predominantly black neighborhood with a storied past. Inhabited by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, during his protests against discriminatory housing in 1967, the neighborhood was the case study for Ta-Nehisi Coates’ recent article in the Atlantic, “The Case For Reparations.” Saddled with years of predatory housing policies, a dilapidated physical environment, and rising drug and violent gang-related crime, Lawndale is now a case study for why heavy police presence doesn’t work in lowering crime, in much the same way that an occupying army doesn’t squelch dissent. So I’m angry, and a lot of my friends are angry too. Lawndale didn’t become this way by accident, but by architecture. And this week it might boil over.

McDonald was walking down the street, only a few blocks from my house, with a 4-inch folding knife; an act far from a capital crime that deserved death. The officer claims he “felt threatened for his life” by a 17 year old walking away from him more than 20 feet away. I haven’t seen the video yet, and I’m not sure I’ll need to. This much we know from an independent autopsy: two shots in the back dropped him on the sidewalk, as fourteen more entered his prostrate body and sealed his fate – the sparks from slugs hitting the sidewalk probably making it look like he’s lying on fireworks; an execution by any definition.

I’m thankful that some of the people I love and care about are as angry with this as I am. As a white guy living in a black neighborhood, I often feel like an outsider. I don’t always know how to interact with the #BLM movement, and I’m not always sure that I’m welcomed into the sacred space of protest with them. I would feel awkward wearing a “Let my people vote!” t-shirt, since I represent the portion of society never forbidden that “inalienable” right. I don’t know if “ally” is the proper way to describe myself, and I don’t want to try and appropriate my neighbors’ history of pain as my own. But this week, I’m mad.

One of my mentors has said that I, as a white male, have the privilege of being mad. I’m new to this fight, not beaten down by centuries and generations of oppression and repression. I’ve been the beneficiary of many of these privileges, often on the backs of the people I now call neighbor. I also expect someone to care about me being mad. When I speak, someone should listen, right? But I’m mad anyway, and I’m standing up so that my neighbors can be mad too.

But I sense some resignation in the voice of my neighbors. When the Guardian released a report last year about a secret police “black site” run by the CPD in Lawndale, I heard a lot of voices say, “Oh, a white person got detained and now it is international news? They’ve been disappearing black people in there for years.” When I road- tripped to Ferguson last year, I invited some of my neighbors. “Man, you go on down there and do your thing, but I don’t really feel like getting shot. You all [white people] can go march all night, but those cops would love nothing more than to smoke me with a riot shield.” When Rekia Boyd’s murderer, CPD Officer Dante Servin, walked free a few months ago, it troubled me that I didn’t see very many protestors. Most of the neighborhood didn’t even know what was going on, even though her shocking murder came just down the road in Douglass Park. To see a response that calloused to a crime that heinous disturbed me. It made me mad.

It seems an oppressive fear has gripped our city. If this video doesn’t spark our own Ferguson uprising, I don’t know if anything will. If the DoJ were to investigate the CPD, the report would be scathing. Even after Jon Burge has completed his prison sentence for the tortured confessions out of black suspects, there is still virtually no accountability for our law enforcement. Kids in my neighborhood are harassed and brutalized, police reports are falsified, arbitrary traffic stops turn into hefty fines, confiscation of property, and humiliating and destructive for little or no reason.

There is no assumption of innocence, and no burden of proof required. A cop’s word against a 15-year-old boy? Who do you think the judge believes? Some of my friends who defend these juveniles in court have a running joke: “I can speculate.” The line they have heard many times before when questioning a police officer about the events in question: Did you see any illegal activity by this youth? Did you see him distribute narcotics? Did you see him have a weapon? Did you know that this person was guilty? I can speculate.

If the city burns this week, I hope it is seen as a burning bush, instead of just a burning car. Please, Oh Lord, let this be seen as a prophetic act against an unjust oppressor. Please, Oh Lord, let this be seen as a pot boiling over after 400 years of discrimination. It is okay for me to be mad. Jesus was mad when he flipped some tables in the temple. Please, be mad about it too, and stand with me. And let our neighbors who are a little more timid stand up and be mad too.

 

Will LaQuan wake up my neighborhood? I am anxiously awaiting an answer. Because if we can’t get justice for LaQuan, how long, Oh Lord, must we wait?

 

At least I won’t be waiting alone this year.

Paris, et. al

The last week has been hard. France was attacked by ISIS sleeper cells and over 130 were killed. That is what the history books will probably remember from this week. It will probably be the event that alters the trajectory of history more than anything else.

This is not a post about hating on France. I grieve and mourn along with the rest of the world about the horrors that they have faced.

In the meantime, Chicago YTD: 2674 shooting victims, 432 homicides. Mostly black bodies. Mostly black young men. I’m pissed off. Nobody seems to give a shit about them. France gets a Facebook photo filter of the Tricolore, but Chicago gets what? People from outside these city limits don’t even know what is going on in their own backyard.

Lebanon falls victim to terror in Beirut, with another ~60 killed by ISIS. Most of the world probably has no idea what the Lebanese flag looks like.

What is our knee-jerk reaction? Most of the Republican Governors grandstand. “We won’t accept any Syrian refugees.” “Our first priority is keeping our residents safe.” “I am just doing something that Obama should have done already.”

Since 9/11, over 750,000 refugees have been resettled in the United States. Not a single one has been picked up on any sort of terrorism related charges. States don’t even have the right to refuse refugees that have been granted asylum in the US. Once they pass the national screening (which takes more than a couple of years in many cases) it doesn’t really matter what the states say. Grandstanding to create a climate of fear, politicking for a police state, concentrating power in the hands of those who already have it.

Yesterday I was at an event where a moment of silence was observed for France. We all took a moment to reflect on the tragedy of magnificent proportions. And then some knucklehead screamed right in the middle, “Let’s kick [ISIS’] f****** a**!”

Yes, let’s answer violence with violence. Let’s answer terror with fear. Let’s close our borders to refugees fleeing the same violence we had a small taste of the other day. Millions dead and displaced in Syria over the last four years – How many people could recognize a Syrian flag? – stuck between chemical attacks, beheadings, and drone strikes, and the “City on a Hill” that asks for “Your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore,” but also wants to block them because it is too easy to confuse terrorists with bombs strapped to their chest with someone who has lived in a refugee camps for years waiting on asylum. “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.” No, literally, send them to me. The ‘hood in Chicago ain’t necessarily the golden door, but I’ve got a spare bedroom.

But we could live like we follow a different King. Love God, Love People. Perfect love casts out fear. In fact, we have no better picture of what love is than laying one’s life down for another. Welcome the foreigner because you were once foreigners in a strange land, fleeing persecution, and just trying to find a place to lay your head. Take care of them, and feed them, visit them in the refugee detainment centers across the American Southwest and in Greece and Italy, and give them cool water. Who knows, you may just entertain angels.