Thanksgiving thoughts

I saw this picture recently

pilgrim refugee

…with these words….
1) “Where would we be if the Wampanoag hadn’t helped the Pilgrims?”

2) “Where would the Wampanoag be if they hadn’t helped the Pilgrims?”

These are two different thoughts, and both worthy of consideration.

These are good things to think about right now in light of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing for their very lives from areas of war and oppression. These are good things to think about in the week before we in America celebrate a day dedicated to giving Thanks.

The Pilgrims left England because their way of worship wasn’t allowed. They wanted to worship God in a manner that differed from the official Church of England. The Church of England was, at the time, equivalent with the government of England – go against one, and you’ve gone against the other. The punishment was fines for lesser offenses, and execution for greater ones. They decided to leave rather than change their way of worship, knowing that where they were going to was completely alien to them.

The people who lived in the area the Pilgrims landed were known as the Wampanoag, and they made sure that the Pilgrims had shelter and food. If it weren’t for them, the Pilgrims would have died out in short order as they were not used to living off the land. This is where the first Thanksgiving came from. Two different groups having dinner together. Sharing. Peaceful. Even though they didn’t share the same language or culture, they lived together in harmony.

However, over the course of time, the Pilgrims expanded and pushed out the Wampanoag. The Pilgrims weren’t interested in sharing. They’d forgotten their debt to the Wampanoag. They’d forgotten the tenants of their faith. Their diseases killed off the natives as surely as their guns did. The Wampanoag didn’t have a chance.

Native Americans all over the USA are marginalized. They live in reservations, they have low-paying jobs, little education, and rampant alcoholism. They lived much better before the white people came and imposed their way of life on them in an effort to “help” them. They didn’t need help. They were fine. They only needed help after the Pilgrims (and other settlers) came with their diseases and an insatiable need for more and more land.

How does this relate to today’s issues? If we in America show compassion to people who are different from us, will that result in our being pushed out, in our being killed? Will this nation become a Muslim nation? Wouldn’t this be fair, after what our ancestors did to the natives who were here?

But – should we allow fear to rule our actions? Jesus tells us repeatedly to not be afraid. Jesus tells us repeatedly to love our enemies, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked.

Is there another way to act, other than the way we always have? A middle ground?

There is a fabulous re-imagining of Europe meets the Native Americans in Orson Scott Card’s book “Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus” – where time travelers go back to the natives and secretly inoculate them against the diseases. They also strengthen the native’s opinions and actions so they won’t let the Europeans push them down. They are able to live in peace after this.

Our government says they are worried about Sharia Law – forgetting that their ancestors pushed their own version on to the natives. We need a whole new way of thinking – where people share ideas and work together, with nobody higher or lower.

This is an amazing chance for us to learn from the past and re-vision a new future. This is a time of testing, where we can welcome in the stranger and become stronger because of it.

Consider a garden – one with just one kind of flower is boring. Having many makes it look beautiful.

Consider an orchestra – one with just one kind of instrument is dull. Having many makes it sound beautiful.

Consider a soup – one with just one kind of seasoning makes it taste bland. Having a variety makes it taste wonderful.

This is America – the land of immigrants. The land of second chances. The place where we say we are “The melting pot”, where we say “E pluribus unum” – which means “Out of many, one”.

It is time to let love and compassion rule us rather than fear.
It is time to truly be the “Christian” nation we say we are and take in the stranger, the lost, the refugee. Not because they are Christian, but because we are. Not to turn them into Christians, but for us to prove it through our actions.

Jesus himself was a refugee.

Matthew 2:12-15, his adopted father Joseph gets a message from God in a dream to escape their home and flee to a foreign land, because Herod had ordered every child under the age of two to be slaughtered.

“13 After they were gone, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Get up! Take the child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to destroy Him.”14 So he got up, took the child and His mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. 15 He stayed there until Herod’s death, so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled: Out of Egypt I called My Son.” (HCSB)

Jesus himself was homeless –

In Matthew 8:20, talking to a man who wants to be his disciple –
20 Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” (HCSB)

We must welcome the refugee. We must do this fearlessly. We must do it because Jesus would do this. As his disciples, we have to.

The life of following Jesus isn’t simply about everlasting life after we die. It isn’t a life where we say the words and get the prize. It is a life where we live, every day, a life of trust and hope and joy, right now, serving everyone as if they are Jesus, and serving everyone as Jesus would serve them.

This is a living faith. Let us act like it.

Christian Sharia Law

I’m very concerned where things are going in this country. I’m very concerned that certain religious groups are trying to make everyone in the country follow their view of what is right by enacting or supporting laws that are in line with their morality code.

What if vegetarians were in charge? There would be laws that nobody could eat meat. Everyone would eat only vegetables, and no animals would be raised in farms for consumption. Sure, they might allow cows to be raised for their milk, and chickens to be raised for their eggs, because they aren’t vegans. They would point out that a meat-based diet is proven to be bad for you, so they are really doing you a favor by not allowing you to eat meat.

Or what if recovering alcoholics were in charge? There would be no alcohol for anyone to drink. Making alcohol would be illegal. The entire idea of having a glass of wine every day for your health would disappear. I wonder what would happen to the Catholics and Episcopalians. No Communion wine! They would argue that they have to have wine for religious reasons, and the recovering alcoholics would get the AA to hire attorneys to say that drinking any bit of alcohol leads to more drinking, so it can’t be allowed. Bars would cease to exist. Distilleries would cease to exist. And there would be no drunk-driving accidents, and there would be no underage drinking, because there would be no drinking at all. Well, no legal drinking, because we see how well Prohibition worked, but hopefully you get my point.

What if gluten-intolerant people, those with celiac disease, were in charge? Everything would be safe for them to eat. Gluten would be removed from the menu of all restaurants. No grocery store would be allowed to sell anything that had gluten in it. Wheat farmers would stop growing wheat. Bakers would have to relearn their craft.

All of these things would be done with the idea that it would be better if everybody followed a certain group’s rules. That group has certain rules that it has to, or has chosen to, live by. There are certain things they can’t have, and they realize that they can’t have them for their own good. And because they are in power, they want to make sure that everybody else can’t have those things either. You don’t need meat, or alcohol, or gluten. You can survive without them. But is it the right of another group to decide for you what you should eat or drink based on their belief system? Even if they think they are doing it for your own good?

I’m embarrassed and frightened that American Christian lawmakers and voters are using their belief system as a reason to deny others their rights. Even if they think their rights are wrong. Or rather, they are doing it because they think their rights are wrong.

How is this different from Sharia law? How is this different from a Muslim-lead country saying that every woman has to cover herself from head to toe in a huge swath of fabric and every man has to have a beard? They are doing it for their own good, right?

Let’s try another tack. I personally am against abortion. I think that abortion is murder, no matter how you want to define it. But, I do not feel I have the right to force my view on another person by enacting laws against abortion. I feel that every child should be a wanted child. I feel that nobody should have to be pregnant against their will, and nobody should have to raise a child they aren’t ready for, whether emotionally or financially. So even though I’m anti abortion personally, I’m pro-choice legally. What I think is a better way is to encourage better contraception options. Prevent unwanted pregnancies before they start. Have better sex-education. Empower young girls to say no and mean it if that is what they want. Empower them to have sex in a safe way if they want. Teach boys to be respectful of a woman’s choice and to not guilt trip or force her into having sex.

So for Christian lawmakers and voters to not allow consenting adults to get married just because they are of the same sex is illogical to me. Jesus said absolutely nothing about homosexuality. He said a lot showing love to each other, and a lot about not judging other people. There is nothing “un-Christian” about gay marriage if you really think about it. But the problem is that many Christian lawmakers and voters don’t want to think about it.

They don’t want to think at all. And that is the problem. They let their parents or their husbands or their ministers or their friends do the thinking. This isn’t what God wants. God gave us brains to use. God doesn’t want us to be mindless.

The more I thought about it, I realized that I had to be pro-gay-rights because I am Christian. It isn’t our right to tell other people how to live their lives. Jesus didn’t do that. So much for the “What Would Jesus Do?” armbands from a decade ago. What did Jesus do? He wasn’t a jerk, wandering around and telling everybody that they were a sinner. He was there for people when they came to him for healing. He taught them that God loves them and forgives them and wants them to do the same for everybody else. He submitted to his Father’s will, ultimately and completely, and wants us to do the same.

That’s it. There is nothing else.