“What Would Jesus Do” with Illegal Immigrants?

July 9th, 2012 by Beyth Hogue Greenetz

This essay was originally published at Uncommon God, Common Good on June 4, 2012.

 

By Paul Louis Metzger

You may have heard of people wearing bracelets that signify their opposition to Arizona’s laws on illegal immigration. I don’t know how many of the people wearing those bracelets are Christians. But I do know many Christians wear bracelets that ask, “What would Jesus do?” Some people may oppose asking this question in the context of discussing illegal immigrants, but what context or border crossing is off-limits to Jesus? In the course of this article’s development, I will address various points raised in response to my piece “The Illegal Samaritan” about obedience to the governing authorities, including giving a cup of water to an illegal immigrant.

In discussing matters pertaining to obedience to governing authorities, it is worth noting that Jesus sometimes broke the law of the land.

For instance, Jesus broke the law of the land by healing people on the Sabbath (Jn. 5:16-18). We can try and justify his actions by saying that these laws were misinterpretations of the Mosaic Law. Regardless, the religious leaders’ stance (no healing on the Sabbath) was the religious law of the land of his day. Jesus broke their law in view of a higher law (his rightful interpretation of the Mosaic Law).

I am reminded here of Martin Luther King, Jr., who wrote from his jail cell in Birmingham that we have a duty to disobey unjust laws, albeit peaceably. I believe Dr. King got this idea from the King of kings. King claimed that St. Augustine argued that an unjust law is no law at all. King refused to obey the unjust segregation laws of the land. Our country now righty hails Dr. King as a national hero for opposing the laws of segregation in his day. In his day, as in the Birmingham jail ordeal, he was often called a rebel and a criminal.

Further to what was said above, Jesus broke the law of the land in view of his interpretation of the Mosaic Law—a better interpretation of it.

For Jesus, the love of God with all one’s heart and the love of neighbor as oneself summed up the essence of the Law. All other laws were to be viewed in terms of this core, essential teaching in the Law (See Jesus’ discussion with the religious leader on the greatest teaching in the Law in Mark 12:28-34; see also Luke 10:25-37). That does not mean that Jesus would not be judged. The leaders’ interpretation of the Sabbath law and how to apply it was definitive in their day. They were the authorities, and their interpretation had finality in their day in their courts, not Jesus’ interpretation. Jesus broke their law not to work/heal on the Sabbath because he believed it oppressed the person in need whom he encountered. Jesus wasn’t about to wait until the beginning of the work week. If Jesus had opportunity to heal a person whose path he crossed, he healed that person regardless of the day of the week. Jesus wouldn’t likely be crossing that individual’s path again (and the lame, blind, sick or diseased person wasn’t able to follow Jesus), as Jesus was an itinerant preacher; so he acted in the moment.

Jesus was willing to suffer the consequences for his actions.

Jesus knew what the authorities would do to him. He acted anyway (Mk. 3:1-6). He did not wait to see the laws changed (and we can gather from the Gospel accounts, the authorities had no intention of changing the law). Jesus acted in accordance with his interpretation of the Law, even though his interpretation was not viewed as authoritative by those in authority, and he was willing to suffer the consequences for his action based on his rightful interpretation.

What would we do?

Would we wait before the laws change according to democratic process to care for someone in need, such as an illegal immigrant? While we should seek to change laws that keep us from giving a cup of water to an illegal immigrant (wherever such laws might exist), we should give the cup of water in the meantime, for the person is in need. The Bible does not tell us to help only those people who are law-abiding citizens. Jesus helped people breaking laws; in fact, he urged the lame man to break the authorities’ law. By telling this Jewish man to take up his mat and walk, Jesus was making the man a collaborator in his crime (Jn. 5:8-12).

Christians are called to help everyone in need. Now an illegal immigrant is not abiding by America’s laws. Whether you give the cup of water to him or her while calling the authorities (as a friend suggested) or not, you are to give the cup of water to him or her in need.

Now to the criminality of illegal immigrants. If you and I lived in poverty and our families were starving, what would we do? Would we be willing to risk separation from our families, our health, and possibly our lives to travel illegally to another country and work illegally? Would we risk being called “criminal”? It is very difficult for me to know what I would do, given that I am writing this piece in a comfortable armchair, having just finished a full breakfast. What do you expect from an armchair theologian? Better yet, what does God expect from this theologian and from all of us? I am not seeking to justify these illegal immigrants’ actions, but rather seeking to nuance our decision-making process and our views of these individuals regarding their actions, including the labels we put on them. The hungier we are and the hungrier our families are, the hungrier we are to take matters into our own hands, regardless of the consequences.

What will we do?

Will we make sure that our authorities care for the needs of illegal immigrants and treat them as humans, even while deporting them?

Will we view illegal immigrants as criminals? Will we view a father of five who is trying to feed his family by crossing illegally into America to work illegally a criminal? Even if we view this father of five as committing crimes, we must still view him (and others like him) as human and who is in need of our love and care. Give him the cup of water, when he is suffering from dire thirst.

Will we advocate for the children of illegal immigrants, as proposed in Dream Act legislation, to make a new life here in the States? Some of them have grown up here and know no other country. Will we deport them for their parents’ crimes, or allow them to become law-abiding citizens who can pursue further education and find gainful employment?

Will we seek to get at the source of why so many people risk life and limb to come to America to work for low wages to care for their loved ones who have come with them, or to whom they will send money back home? As the cliché goes, we live in a global village. We need to make sure that we are caring not only for people in our household, or in our neighborhood, but also for people across the tracks in other parts of the village (across US borders in various directions).

Will we ponder Jesus’ words uttered at the ultimate border crossing—from earth to heaven or hell?

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fireprepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. ” (Matthew 25:31-46)

Jesus does not talk here in Matthew 25:31-46 about earthly laws, but heavenly laws that supersede earthly laws and to which the earthly laws are accountable. Certainly, Jesus’ apostles tell us to obey earthly rulers (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17; still, please note the intriguing development in Romans 13: from obedience to one’s earthly, political rulers; to obedience to the law of love as paramount; to consideration of the day of the Lord and how we are to behave in view of that impending day). But Jesus’ apostles also broke human laws, such as refusing to stop speaking about Jesus publicly. So, adherence to human laws depends on whether or not these laws are viewed as just according to God’s higher law centered in Jesus. The same Peter who spoke in 1st Peter 2 about obeying political leaders disobeys the theocratic rulers of his people in his allegiance to Jesus in Acts 4:18-20, and rejoices with the Christian community for suffering under these authorities for being publicly identified with Jesus (Acts 5:27-42). Refer back to Jesus’ accounts of law-breaking noted earlier. In addition to Jesus breaking the authorities’ recognized Sabbath law, Jesus also touched a leper, thereby breaking the Mosaic Law, though by healing him, he fulfilled the heart of the Law (Mark. 1:40-42). Of course, Jesus is all about fulfilling the Mosaic Law’s concern for the Sabbath (after all, in him we find our ultimate Sabbath rest), and also its concern for the cleansing of the leper, as is illustrated here in what follows in Mark 1: Jesus commands the cleansed man to go and do what is required of him in the Law (Mark. 1:44). In short, Jesus resists the recognized Jewish legal authorities at times for their wrongful interpretation of the Mosaic Law as it bears on caring for one’s neighbor—the person in need; Jesus is all about fulfilling the Mosaic Law, and so cares for the person in need.

What will we do in view of this higher law as it concerns the illegal immigrant? He or she is our neighbor, if he or she is on our path. Closer to home, what will we do, if the illegal immigrant is our brother or friend, our brother in Christ, or if he is Jesus in disguise? Who’s to say Jesus wouldn’t appear to us as an illegal immigrant (after all, he died a rebel’s death, so why would he not come to us as an illegal immigrant close to death, dying of thirst)? And whether or not Jesus does appear to us in this way, we who claim to follow Jesus are to appear to the illegal immigrant as Jesus would.

Of course, we need to be concerned for upholding good laws in our land that pertain to immigration. Of course, we need to be concerned for how these laws bear upon our own citizens in terms of their safety and economic well-being. These are complicated issues. In fact, these issues are more complicated that we often realize. As suggested in this piece, there can be no easy or pat answers. I am not trying to simplify matters. As I said above, I am seeking to nuance our decision-making process. As citizens of this land, we have responsibilities. These responsibilities are complicated by the fact that as Americans we are also citizens of this globe, and as Christian Americans, we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

You may not agree with me about everything in this article. But hopefully, if you are a Christian, you will agree that our ultimate allegiance must be to Jesus. So, what Jesus would do should matter to you and me more than anything, regardless of the consequences. Next time you come to a border crossing, think about your various allegiances (including the allegiance to yourself) and forms of citizenship, and which has priority. In the end, Jesus will let us know which authority mattered most to us. His judgment concerning our eternal citizenship will matter most in the end.

The Illegal Samaritan

July 9th, 2012 by Beyth Hogue Greenetz

This essay was originally published in Unity in Christ Magazine on April 24, 2012.

 

By Paul Louis Metzger

The Good Samaritan story recorded in Luke 10:25-37 could have been titled The Illegal Samaritan story, too. It just depends on who’s telling the tale. Jesus told it first, and so he naturally, or better supernaturally, put a redemptive spin on it.

The Samaritan in this story should have never crossed the road to tend to the Jewish man (the story implies that the robbed and beaten man was Jewish). Why shouldn’t the Samaritan have crossed the road to tend to him? Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans (See Jn. 4:9), and I doubt many Samaritans would have liked for this Samaritan man to associate with Jews. Not even the Jewish religious leaders crossed the boundary in that the half-dead man was probably given up for dead, and they would have been made unclean for touching him (See Num. 19:11). How ironic then that an unclean Samaritan came close, touched the half-dead Jewish man, tended to his wounds, and made him clean.

We all have relational boundaries and borders we won’t cross because of written laws and unspoken rules. The Jewish religious leaders wouldn’t cross to tend to their own because of their laws and rules, whereas the Samaritan crossed because of the law written on his heart. Jesus puts to story form the Law’s command to love our neighbors—those created in the image of God like us—as ourselves. All other laws and customs take a back seat to it and the law that leads to it—loving God with our whole being (Lk. 10:27).

Jesus tells this story to a religious leader, who had come to test Jesus. The religious hierarchy was afraid of Jesus. As illustrated by this story, he was a threat to their positions and to national security (See also Jn. 11:48, where they fear Jesus for his miraculous signs). If given space and time, Jesus would have done away with the boundaries and closed border barriers that kept people of different ethnic and economic heritages separate from one another (Actually, he did remove those barriers through the cross and resurrection, and we have crossed those barriers through our baptism by faith in him [See for example Gal. 3:23-29]. May we live into our life in Christ!).

What would have happened to the Jewish community’s sense of solidarity as a people, if they had allowed Jesus to continue teaching such propaganda? Jesus messed with their personal boundaries and geographic boundaries. Just as he told a lowly Samaritan woman that true worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth (not on this or that mountain (Jn. 4:19-24), so he told this Jewish religious leader he needed to become like this Samaritan and cross the border to care for his neighbor. This Jewish religious leader’s “neighbor” included the half-dead Jew, the half-Jew Samaritan, and everyone else with whom he would come into contact, for everyone is created in God’s image.

As in Jesus’ day, we have written laws and unspoken rules that tell us some people are more equal than others and that some bear God’s image more than others. Just like in the 1st Century A.D., Jesus messes with our boundaries and borders and tells us to tend to everyone and heal their wounds. What borders do we erect personally, nationally, religiously?

A student from Arizona in my world religions class in my evangelical seminary told me that he would never give a cup of water to an illegal immigrant because it is against the law in Arizona. Whether or not it is against the law in Arizona, it is not against Jesus’ law to give a cup of water to such a person. In fact, it would be against Jesus’ law not to give the cup of water to this neighbor, this fellow created in God’s image. Where did my student learn to think this way? From reading his Bible? From hearing sermons of this kind? He didn’t even struggle with his conviction, at least not outwardly. What would Jesus do? What would he have us do? Jesus tells this scholar (me) and that student’s pastors back home to go and do like the illegal Samaritan did and cross customs and boundaries and borders that keep people apart and care for the neighbor in need. If we do so, not only will they live, but also we will live. As Jesus tells the religious leader, so he tells us now: “Go and do likewise” (Lk. 10:37).

Can We All Get Along?

July 3rd, 2012 by Beyth Hogue Greenetz

This essay was originally posted at Uncommon God, Common Good on June 22, 2012.

 

By Paul Louis Metzger

The late Rodney King’s famous five words will stick with us for a long time: “Can we all get along?” He uttered these words in a public statement during the LA Riots, riots which were sparked by his savage beating by Los Angeles police officers captured on video. From an obituary in The New York Times, I found that Mr. King did not welcome the celebrity spotlight and did not see himself as a civil rights role model. Even so, his beating and his words will forever be etched in our national consciousness.

Is it enough that we all get along? I would assume Rodney King would agree that more is needed. This calls to my mind the 2004 movie Crash, which chronicles racial strife, fragmentation and objectification in a post-LA Riots Los Angeles. In the film, people in the city are behind metal and glass all the time, according to one of the police detectives in the show. As a result, they miss the sense of touch so much that they crash into one another on the city streets and highways of LA.

We all miss the sense of touch, if and when we are not touched in sensitive and wholesome ways. The absence of touch is not the answer to moving past hatred and strife to getting along, and co-existence is not enough. Tolerance will only get us so far. We need to embrace one another in the midst of our differences and animosities. We need to be tenacious to move beyond our sense of superiority and/or inferiority, of entitlement, of presumption, and of prejudice and seek out and touch “the other.” Of course, this is so much easier said than done for me, indeed for all of us.

The victimizer and the victim alike are called to seek reconciliation. The weight of reconciliation should not be on the shoulders of the victimized. The initiative should certainly come from the guilty party or parties. And yet, how will we respond, if we have been victimized, and those who have dealt the physical and emotional and spiritual blows won’t deal with their issues? Jesus’ example should encourage and energize us, just as he inspired Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. John M. Perkins. May God give each of us the grace to reach out through our pain through God’s victorious suffering in Jesus.

Jesus didn’t simply get along with people. Jesus didn’t endure people. I am so thankful John 3:16 does not say, “For God so tolerated the world that he chose not to send his Son.” I am so thankful it says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his Son.” This world for which Jesus gave his life was not a welcoming place. It was not a world that was all sunshine and daffodils. It was a world at war with God (Romans 5:8-10), and which put him on that cross—that lynching tree—of horror and shame (See James Cone’s book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, for his exploration of the symbols of the cross and lynching tree in the African American community’s experience).

Rodney King’s redemptive response in the face of his beating was radical. But even more redemptive and radical was Jesus’ cry to his Father to forgive his enemies for they did not know what they were doing (Luke 23:34; following his model, his disciple Stephen did the same: Act 7:60). Mr. King reached out. Dr. King reached out and called for the love of his enemies in light of the King of kings who set the ultimate example and paid the ultimate price so that we could do more than get along. Through him, we can love one another. And still, the only way we can do this is by responding to his love in the Spirit that he longs to pour out into our hearts (Romans 5:5). Will we dare to draw near to Jesus and to one another? Let’s draw from the examples of Mr. King, Dr. King, and especially the King of kings and live in view of them.

What I take away from Rodney King’s famous five words is their symbolic importance to keep reaching out even when it is hard, even when you and I have been treated most unjustly. What I take away from these five words is that they take me back to Jesus’ famous ten words: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Tolerance has its place, but love leaves no place for indifference and hate in LA or any other place. May the love of Jesus compel victimizer and victim alike to move forward in search of reconciliation that moves us beyond getting even or just getting along to getting together and being made whole.

@paulouismetzger / Facebook profile

 

Passive Racism

June 4th, 2012 by Beyth Hogue Greenetz

This essay was originally posted at Uncommon God, Common Good on May 30, 2012.

 

By Paul Louis Metzger

I am a passive racist, or perhaps better, a passive racialist. When one speaks of being a racist, one often has in mind matters of intentionality. I am not intentionally attacking people of diverse ethnicities. I am not targeting or profiling them in any active sense. I have friendships with many people of diverse ethnic backgrounds. I want to cultivate healthy relationships with them. Thus, I wouldn’t say I am a racist. But am I doing enough to change the structures that still inhibit equality and mutuality in the church and society surrounding matters of ethnic diversity? I don’t think so. This is why I refer to myself as a passive racialist.

When I speak of being a “passive racialist,” I am speaking of passively benefiting from living in a racialized society that caters to people of my ethnic background. What do I mean by racialized? We live in a society shaped by race on matters pertaining to education, health care, home ownership and where we live, employment, and the like. I benefit from a system that favors whites like me much of the time.

Whenever I say that I am a passive racist (or more accurately passive racialist), people of my ethnic background—white Euro-Americans like myself—are a bit stupefied or puzzled. They often—rightly and understandably—ask for clarification. Further to what was said above, I inform them that I do not claim to be an active racist. I do not intentionally favor myself or “my kind of people,” over others. This is why I say that I am a passive participant in the problem. I unintentionally benefit from a system that has historically and even presently in various ways favored the white Euro-American heritage. Interesting fact: while Caucasians are still the largest group if framed in terms of ethnic categories, minorities now outnumber the “majority” (see here). Still, the Caucasian population is the majority culture in terms of influence. While one cannot change history’s past, one can change how history shapes us today. While I am not trying to do away with white people like myself shaping our culture, I want to make sure that I am intentionally collaborating with fellow white Euro-Americans and others of diverse ethnic backgrounds in shaping our country’s and church’s future.

Some will take this as a move to foster a sense of white guilt. I am not looking to lay a guilt trip on people. I do not intend these remarks to be deconstructive, but constructive. I want us to acknowledge our guilt in not actively addressing structures that cater to the white majority and move forward toward true freedom beyond guilt where everyone has equal access to employment, education, health care, and the like. I want to be free from guilt, and I want all of us to be free, too. I cannot be free, if I don’t know I am guilty, and to not know I am guilty does not mean I am innocent. Thinking and knowing is not enough, though. If I am not responding constructively to turn away from my participation in structures that inhibit others’ full expression in terms of owning and shaping our country’s, as well as the church’s, future, I am actually intensifying my guilt. I am actually guilty in terms of benefiting from white privilege and not doing enough to level the playing field.

I know I am not alone. I believe all people of every ethnic background are guilty in various ways, and in need of God’s grace. Moreover, the victim in one system can and often does become the victimizer in another system. Still, that does not excuse my passive involvement in this system. But acknowledging one’s need is not enough; active repentance is also necessary for forgiveness to be effective. So, I need to be involved in shaping the culture of my community at large, and church community, to reflect multifaceted representation in a variety of ways pertaining to ethnic diversity. Diverse representation in terms of leadership in the local church and in other spheres in our society is vitally important in this regard.

Others will think that I am catering to people of diverse backgrounds. I beg to differ. There is a difference between catering to people of diverse ethnic backgrounds (a form of political correctness) and cultivating community that fosters ownership of the community by people of diverse ethnicities. If a system caters to one kind of people, it is important to counter this move and make sure that everyone has a place at the table. The desired outcome is for us to reach a place where those of diverse ethnic backgrounds feel welcomed and appreciated, sense that they are being heard, and are also able to shape the conversation around the table that makes certain that ownership of the table is shared by all.

Some will no doubt claim: “Don’t fix what’s not broken.” Or “There’s no problem. So, don’t make it a problem.” It is easy to say these things when you are benefiting from, or no longer hurt by the system. And just because people of diverse ethnicities might not always say there is a problem, it does not mean that all of them think the system is fine or that there is no problem. They might not wish to rock the boat. If change is to occur, those of us who benefit most need to be the ones who change the structures most. We are responsible. Still, we will need the involvement of those of diverse ethnic backgrounds to help us lead the way.

So, I need to continue moving forward in becoming an active ethnic relationalizer rather than a passive racist/racialist. In place of political correctness, I want to foster ethnic relational awareness and equality/mutuality. This requires a desire for collaboration. In a collaborative system, everyone benefits, not just one kind of people or one or two people. The desire is to make sure that everyone benefits. What might such active ethnic relationalization (over against passive racism and racialization) look like? Stay tuned for a future blog post on the subject.

 

A Tale of Two Cities & A Tale of Two Lives

April 17th, 2012 by Beyth Hogue Greenetz

By Paul Louis Metzger

My pastor, Tory Campbell, has alluded to “A Tale of Two Cities” in recent weeks on Sunday mornings at Irvington Covenant Church. You may have read Charles Dickens’ classic tale of sacrificial love by that same title set against the backdrop of two cities—Paris and London—during the French Revolution. Pastor Campbell has not been talking about Paris and London during the French Revolution, but about the need for a revolution of love that would move the church to engage the city of Portland. According to Pastor Campbell, Portland’s tale is one of two cities—of haves and have nots. Some people experience the beautiful side of Portland, whereas others, many of them recent refugees and long-standing ethnic minority residents, experience the other side through various forms of structural evil that keep them outside, excluded from the mainstream. My pastor’s reflections are timely, to the point, and powerful. I encourage you to listen to his talks in recent weeks where he addresses many of these pressing issues that make Portland’s story a tale of two cities. Listen at irvingtoncov.org or download MP3.

 

Dickens’ own story, A Tale of Two Cities, is also the tale of two lives. One of the characters, Sydney Carton, wasted much of his life, and now he seeks to redeem it by sacrificing his life for others by cunningly substituting himself for an innocent man, Charles Darnay. Darnay is condemned to die by the blade of the guillotine. Pondering what awaits him, Carton repeats to himself the words of Jesus, “”I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.”

 

The only way we will move Portland to being a single city of haves rather than two cities of haves and have nots in one is for us to live single lives. Instead of spending our lives on self-indulgence as Carton had done before his decision to sacrifice himself for this man and the woman he held dear (Darnay’s faithful wife), we must become like Carton as he became a new man, and spend ourselves for others. I for one must be single-minded and not go back and forth between two lives, but rather live only the one to which Christ calls us.

 

Of course, many people inside and outside Portland’s churches seek to live single-minded lives whereby they spend themselves for others. In fact, Pastor Campbell has encouraged our church to take note of how we are already seeking to live into the reality of a single city church as people come together from very different ethnic and economic backgrounds with the aim to be one in Christ. But what will inspire us to keep pressing on for the long haul? I believe Tory spoke to it on Easter and after Easter Sunday—the resurrection.

 

We can spend ourselves for others rather than spend lavishly on ourselves because of the love that Jesus lavishes on us by dying and rising from the dead to bring us new life. A few weeks removed from Easter, may we live in view of our Easter resurrection hope, which sustains Sydney Cartons old and new . And may we take to heart the words recorded in Isaiah 58:10: “and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Only as we live in view of these biblical realities and promises will we have sufficient reason and strength to live one life rather than two and make our cities’ stories the tale of one city, not two.

 

Lupus

April 4th, 2012 by Beyth Hogue Greenetz

By Paul Louis Metzger

The church in Northeast Portland was packed that hot, sunny afternoon a summer ago for the funeral of a leading African American minister’s wife.  At one point in the service, a friend of the deceased spoke of the disease that killed her friend—lupus.*  The woman spoke of her own battle with the disease.  Eighteen pills a day for years.  She spoke passionately about the need to fight against the disease, which has ravaged the African American community—especially women.  Women of color are 2-3 times more susceptible to lupus than their Caucasian counterparts.**  She also mentioned the widespread ignorance of the disease and how for years no one spoke about it due to the stigma.  There is still no cure.***

The person who next spoke at the funeral asked the hundreds of mourners gathered there that day to raise their hands if they or someone they knew had the disease.  Many raised their hands.  I didn’t because I couldn’t.  I didn’t know of anyone who had the disease.  Or maybe I do know someone who bears this burden, but they have not confided in my wife or me.  I wish I could have raised my hand—not in some morbid sense, but in a relational sense.  When one part of the body grieves, the whole body of Christ grieves (1 Cor. 12:26).

Why don’t I know?  Do you know anyone with lupus?  Just because one doesn’t know someone with lupus doesn’t mean some people aren’t enduring the disease; it doesn’t mean the disease has ceased to exist.

The African American Christian community in the greater Portland area had come out in large numbers that day in support of my minister friend and his family at the historic African American church.   I was one of a handful of Whites.  I think that one reason I am not sufficiently aware of the disease is because I lack sufficient contact with those who endure it.  I lack a sufficient relational network made up of diverse peoples.

Now I want to transition from talking about lupus to talking about racism.  You might be surprised by this move.  For one, lupus is not a sin; racism is.  Moreover, lupus cannot be transmitted; racism can—by word of mouth, among other things.  Furthermore, one cannot do anything to guard against contracting lupus, but one can guard against contracting and transmitting racism.  So, why make this transition?

I think one reason for my lack of awareness about lupus is because of my racialized past and present.  I have often lived separately from people of diverse backgrounds.  I have attended churches that are most often white by complexion.  I am not saying that my nuclear and ecclesial families of my upbringing are racist, but we are creatures of homogeneous habit—living and associating with those most like us.  While this is normal, it doesn’t make it right.  Living in white neighborhoods and attending white churches and going to white schools and attending only white people’s funerals (how could it be otherwise when we only associate with our own kind—whatever our ethnic background) incubate us and remove us from experiencing the struggles and keep us from encountering the joys of diverse others.  I am not saying that we have intentionally sought to be exclusive, but we have not done nearly enough to be intentionally inclusive.  We have not done nearly enough to break out of homogeneous ways that at some point in the past were likely shaped by intentional patterns of exclusion.

As I stated above about lupus, I think that one reason I am not sufficiently aware of the disease is because I lack sufficient contact with those who endure it.  I lack a sufficient relational network made up of diverse peoples.  The same goes for my lack of awareness of the disease called racism.  Just because I/we don’t know anyone who has the disease of racism, it doesn’t mean people aren’t enduring or transmitting it.  It doesn’t mean the disease of racism doesn’t exist.  Perhaps those who carry this disease simply remain quiet about it.  Perhaps they don’t even know they’re carriers.  Perhaps I am a victim of this disease, too, and I don’t even know it.

So many people tell me today that racism no longer exists.  They profess, too, that they themselves are not racists.  We can only say such things when we lack exposure to those who carry the disease of racism, or when we fail to undergo a thorough check-up.  How would we know if we do or don’t carry the disease of racism, if we do not have sufficient contact with diverse others?  Sharing life with people who are different from us brings out the best and worst in us.  We can never become immune to a disease if we do not have opportunity to build up immunity through exposure to bacteria—the bacteria that is within our own souls as we prejudge people based on their skin color and all of the associations that are made in relation to it.

If we want to be cured of our racialized history and experience in America, we need to do more than hug a black or white person.  Don’t worry: you won’t catch what ills each of us from simply hugging someone who is different from you.  But we will never cure what ills us if we don’t do more than hug one another.  We need to share life with one another.

How many of you experience racism, or know someone who does?  If so, raise your hand.  Maybe you know or are someone who carries the disease, but there has never been an opportunity to share.  Just because we don’t know doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  Ignorance is not bliss.  One cannot transmit lupus, but one can transmit racism through what we communicate to our children, to the little jokes we share, to failing to speak up when others make racial jokes, or by failing to share life with people of other ethnic backgrounds, seemingly immune to their stories.

But their stories are our stories.  We may not all be susceptible to lupus, but we are susceptible to grief and death, stigma and shame, the fear of isolation and hopelessness.  What we need is a longing for joy and the courage to hope.  I came away that day from the memorial service with a sense of sorrow, but also with a sense of greater resilience.  What we need is one another.  Who will attend your funeral when you die?  While you won’t be there to know, you can do a lot now to make it more likely that more than your own ethnic kind will be there.

The reason why I attended the African American minister’s late wife’s funeral is because he is my personal friend.  We have shared struggles together.  We have shared meals together.  We have worked together.  He has served as a mentor to me, and I am so honored to know him as my friend.  God has used him in my life to move me one step closer to catching the love that Jesus gives—a love that breaks down our defenses of hate and indifference and tolerance so that we might love boldly and serve as his healing touch as we embrace one another as friends.

 

__________________

*In case you’re like me and didn’t know what lupus is, here’s a definition: “Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body)… Lupus can range from mild to life-threatening and should always be treated by a doctor. With good medical care, most people with lupus can lead a full life.” (See here.)

**See here.

***For more concerning the research and treatment of the disease, see here.

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism–One Church?

March 30th, 2012 by Beyth Hogue Greenetz

By Paul Louis Metzger

The words “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism” loom large behind the pulpit at Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church in Portland, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once spoke. I taught a class there last night on the doctrine of the church. During the class, we addressed the subject of church unity. We hearkened back to Dr. King’s sermon, “Paul’s Letter to American Christians,” in which King claimed that,

 

There is another thing that disturbs me to no end about the American church. You have a white church and you have a Negro church. You have allowed segregation to creep into the doors of the church. How can such a division exist in the true Body of Christ? You must face the tragic fact that when you stand at 11:00 on Sunday morning to sing “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name” and “Dear Lord and Father of all Mankind,” you stand in the most segregated hour of Christian America. They tell me that there is more integration in the entertaining world and other secular agencies than there is in the Christian church. How appalling that is. (Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, on 4 November 1956; see here.)

 

Paul says in Ephesians 4:4-6 that “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

 

Do we really live as if there is one church? Paul writes his letter to “God’s holy people in Ephesus.” For Paul, there was only one church. Of course, we live in complex times, perhaps far more complex ecclesially than in Paul’s day. We have a multitude of Christian traditions and sects with all kinds of doctrinal variations, ecclesial practices, and views of church authority. But still, as I read Paul in his various letters, there is only one church in any given city: the church of Ephesus, the church of Philippi, the church of Colossae, etc. At the very least, we should long and pray for the unity of the church in our city. No doubt, many people do pray regularly for such unity to exist. No doubt, all of us need to pray far more for the unity of the church in the greater Portland area. We need to pray into what we are: the one body of Christ.

 

Dr. King was speaking about multi-ethnic church unity. How can we pursue such unity more? There are various individuals and groups working toward building unity in the church in the greater Portland area. Some of the things that need to be fostered for the long haul are a vast number of pulpit exchanges involving sister congregations, teaching excursions, prayer chains, and shared activities.

 

The John 17:23 Network that The Institute for the Theology of Culture at Multnomah Biblical Seminary is cultivating with area churches and other groups is one strategic piece in this mosaic. The purpose of the network is to encourage, equip and educate the multi-ethnic body of Christ in our region to live into who we are as Christ’s body, the church. We long to live into Jesus’ prayer in John 17:23: “I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

 

There is so much richness in ecclesial tradition in the various ethnic Christian communities in the greater Portland area. There is so much vitality in the various forms of cultural witness through the distinctive worship and practices. We have so much to gain from coming together. We have so much to offer when we are together. Our witness to the surrounding community is so much more impactful when we come together through various endeavors. Not once a year, but in a variety of ways through every season of the year.

 

We have such a long way to go. This is no sprint. This is a marathon race, as we seek to live into what we are as the one body of Christ in the greater Portland area.

 

May our one Lord make us one: one faith, one baptism–one church.

Go and Fix It vs. Go and Share Life

March 23rd, 2012 by Beyth Hogue Greenetz

By Paul Louis Metzger

 

In an interview several years ago with the Rt. Rev. Dr. David Zac Niringiye, then assistant bishop of Kampala in the Church of Uganda, Andy Crouch asked this question: “What could equip us to be more countercultural, living in a nation that is very much at the center of power?” I loved the Ugandan church leader’s response:


“We need to begin to read the Bible differently. Americans have been preoccupied with the end of the Gospel of Matthew, the Great Commission: ‘Go and make.’ I call them go-and-make missionaries. These are the go-and-fix-it people. The go-and-make people are those who act like it’s all in our power, and all we have to do is ‘finish the task.’ They love that passage! But when read from the center of power, that passage simply reinforces the illusion that it’s about us, that we are in charge.”

 

This response reminded me of what an African American Christian leader told me a week ago: white Christians like to fix problems without getting involved with the people facing the problems.

 

How are we going to move beyond this problematic orientation? In addition to the African Christian leader’s helpful, constructive suggestions, I would offer the following:

 

We must remember that the Great Commission flows out of the Great Commandment. As we are going, we are to make disciples and teach them to obey everything that Jesus has taught us, which is centered and founded on the Great Commandment. The Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20) must flow out of the Great Commandment (Mk. 12:30-31); otherwise, we will never move beyond going to fix people’s problems. The Great Commandment is the Great Communion: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Such communion ensures that the commission is communal. Otherwise, the Great Commission becomes the Great Compression—fixing others and fitting them into our ministry program mold.

 

With this biblical-theological perspective in mind, we must then go to share life with people rather than try to fix their problems. Surely, there are problems to which we must attend in missional endeavors. But fixing the problems must flow out of sharing life together. As we share life with people of different cultures, we will see that our friends from those cultures here and abroad will reveal to us hidden problems in our own lives, too. As we share life with one another, we will care for one another and be used of God to bring mutual healing. Relational healing goes far deeper than fixing problems. Relational healing goes to the depths of the heart.

 

When we go to people of different cultures, especially those deemed to be on the margins of a given society, we must not ask, “What can we do for you?” but “What can we do together?” The former question can easily be taken to be condescending, whereas the latter question is collaborative in nature. Collaboration is the way forward, if we wish to get beyond the Great Compression to the Great Communion and Commission.

 

Unfinished Business

February 9th, 2012 by Beyth Hogue Greenetz

Originally delivered as the Keynote Address for

The Albina Ministerial Alliance’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Service*

Allen Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church,

Portland, Oregon

January 15, 2012

Paul Louis Metzger, Ph.D.

This evening, we have gathered together to remember, celebrate and act upon the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We have unfinished business to which we must attend. God is not finished with Dr. King’s vision being lived out in our midst. We have his God-given vision to fulfill. It is one of the greatest honors of my life to be asked to give this address. For one, Dr. King is one of my heroes for reasons that I will soon share. Moreover, so too is Dr. Leroy Haynes, Jr., Senior Pastor of this historic sanctuary and faith community, Allen Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Dr. Haynes has been a prophetic voice of constancy for justice in a culture ceaselessly consumed not by rights but by opinion polls, passing fancies, and profit margins. I wish to thank Dr. Haynes, Dr. T. Allen Bethel, Bishop Grace Osborne, Bishop-Elect Pastor William Turner, Reverend Clifford Chappell and other leaders here for their passionate commitment to the Lord Jesus and his kingdom values as modeled by his servant, Dr. King. To share in their struggle and all of you in the struggle for justice as African Americans is a gift from God to me. Tonight is one momentous moment and mile marker for me in that drum major march toward justice.

As individuals and as a community, your passion and commitment to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. far outweigh my own. You live it daily. I share these reflections on the life and legacy of Dr. King given how much they challenge me personally and how much you have shaped me. I hope you find these meditations to be of some value and encouragement: your efforts in reaching out to me and the white Evangelical Christian community of which I am a member are making a difference. The irony is that we in the white Evangelical Christian community have only recently begun engaging in significant ways on matters of injustice that concern us all. And yet, we often think and operate as if we are the ones leading the charge. Please forgive us for our arrogance. Please keep modeling for us how to run this marathon race of justice and lead us forward to build the beloved community.

********

Dr. King was more than a Christian professional. He was a prophet. In fact, he sacrificed his profession for his prophetic call. Our society talks a great deal about making a profit, but not nearly enough about being prophetic. King, however, taught us how to be prophetic. King was a true prophet. He called people back to God’s Word and to our nation’s highest ideals, and he laid down his life to make it happen. Like Moses of old who led Israel to the Promised Land, King led his people at great sacrifice to himself. Just as Moses would die before the people entered the land, so King died before his people would enter the land. Both Moses and King looked over the Promised Land and they overlooked themselves while caring for the people’s needs. King had more than a professional career. He had a prophetic calling. As in the case with all great leaders, the concern for the people far outweighed his own self-concern. How are we wired? What wins out in our lives? Self-concern to do more than make ends meet and to make it big, or concern to make things right for the people around us who are in distress?

One of the most vivid examples of King putting his prophetic call and the people before his profession and his personal life is an event early on in the civil rights struggle. In 1956, during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, King came home late one night after a civil rights meeting. His family was asleep. The phone rang. King answered. The person on the other end of the line told him that he had better get out of town or he would be dead. After the person hung up, King recalls making himself a cup of coffee in the kitchen and sitting down at the table. He writes:

“I was ready to give up. With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward…And I got to the point that I couldn’t take it any longer. I was weak…With my head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud. The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory: ‘Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right…Now, I am afraid…The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.’” At that instance, King recalls, “I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced Him before.” King writes, “It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying: ‘Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo, I will be with you. Even until the end of the world’…Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything.” (The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson {New York: Warner Books, 1998}, pp. 77-78.)

A few days later his home was bombed. Providentially, no one was hurt. Still, King knew that the day would come when he would meet the assassin’s bullet for meeting the people’s needs. Still, he marched on: the concerns of the people far outweighed his own self-concern. What about us? What bears the greatest importance in our lives? What preoccupies our attention—concern for the people or our own self-concern as professors, pastors, politicians, and people of various other professions? Remember Dr. King’s life. Celebrate his calling. And act it out. We have his God-given mission to fulfill.

I first read this account during my visit to the King Center in Atlanta several years ago. I was struck by the profound prophetic life of Dr. King and my own pettiness. How often have I cared for my profession over against my prophetic call to give myself to the orphans and widows in their distress? (James 1:27) How about you? I will ask the same kind of questions of us, after I discuss King’s legacy in terms of his ideals.

Dr. King was about rights, but he was also about more than rights. He was about building beloved community that would benefit all people across the ethnic and economic spectrum. Just as there are far too many people concerned with their careers, and not callings to care for others, so too there are far too many people in our society concerned for their special interest groups rather than the common good and greater good of all. King was not simply about rights for his own people. He was about reconciliation that entailed justice for all people. That is why he said that he had a dream that “one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.” King had a dream “that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.” (Taken from “I Have A Dream”; accessed on 1/16/12).

King’s love of rights for all people and the right to love all people were powerful and omnipresent ideals that energized King’s quest for building beloved community. As King said in a sermon at Christmas in 1957 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, “To our most bitter opponents we say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.’” (found here; accessed on 1/16/12; italics added) Such conviction, courage and compassion flowed from Jesus’ call to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). The late Evangelical Anglican statesman John R. W. Stott claimed that King was the greatest model of Jesus’ ethic disclosed in this text in the modern age (“The Message of the Sermon on the Mount {Matthew 5–7}: Christian Counter-Culture,” The Bible Speaks Today {Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1978}, 113).

Do we have these same ideals? Do we love our enemies? Do we so wear them down with our love that we don’t simply win freedom for ourselves, but also freedom for them and for those who do not belong to our socio-economic and ethnic groupings, winning a double victory in the process? A lack of practical love so often shapes my life. An unwillingness to reach out and forgive and accept forgiveness and move toward reconciliation and commitment to all people for the cultivation of the beloved community. If Dr. King could forgive his white oppressors for the horrific harm they did to him, his family and his community, I can certainly forgive those hostile toward me. Otherwise, I have no business being here this evening paying tribute to King. Each of us must ask ourselves if we are sons and daughters of the King of kings and Lord of lords and servants of the King of Dr. King, or sons and daughters of thunder, like John and James who wanted to call down fire on a Samaritan town that opposed Jesus and his message (Luke 9:51-56). Jesus rebuked James and John for it. And he so often rebukes me, too.

While Dr. King demonstrated incredible social etiquette in his public personae, there was nothing charming about the racism and classism he gave himself so tirelessly to address. And while he was engaged in battle at every turn, he fought hate with love. King was about the power of love, not the love of power. He was about redemption, not retribution. We must continue this fight. We will never attain the beloved community in Portland and the surrounding region if we do not continue to keep in place Dr. King’s inspiring ideals, vision, and exemplary life.

In Oregon and Washington, we don’t face racism in the same way as King did in the South. We approach it differently, but not necessarily more redemptively. What was said by black leaders of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s still rings true today: “In the South, the white man doesn’t care how close you get, as long as you don’t get too high. In the North, he doesn’t care how high you get, as long as you don’t get too close.” For all our tolerance in the Pacific Northwest, such tolerance does not translate all that well into love. Love is tenacious. It does not endure “the other.” It pursues life together with the other. As the Apostle Paul writes, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

“I would rather be loved than tolerated,” I once heard someone say. I am so thankful that John 3:16 does not say, “For God so tolerated the world that he chose not to send his Son.” Rather, it says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” for us so that we might find eternal life through faith in him. God did all this, even though he knew the world would reject his love and hang his Son on the cross. Still, God’s love pursues us and breaks through our hate to transform our hearts and lives. Will we respond to God’s love and love where there is hate? King did not simply tolerate people, including his enemies. He tenaciously loved them so that they would become his friends, and so that they could build the beloved community together.

So, what does the beloved community look like, and what is the unfinished business to which we must attend in light of King’s life and legacy? The beloved community is a community of love and justice and peace and equality that breaks through the chains of racism and classism and abuses of various kinds. Beloved community requires that we connect the dots of those things that destroy beloved community and come together in solidarity to consume those dots and connections, just as King did. We learn a bit of how to connect the dots from Dr. King. In King’s sermon on his opposition to the Vietnam War (delivered at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967; watch it here; accessed on 1/16/12), King spoke of the slave triangle of “poverty, racism and militarism.” King maintained that this triangle was enslaving America. Today, we are fighting a war right here in Portland with gang activity and violence. How will we fight it? What is involved? King’s opposition to the Vietnam War (not an opposition to the men and women laying down their lives) was based on conviction, not opinion polls, and it lost him a great deal of support in certain quarters, even among people who had celebrated his leadership in the civil rights movement. But King connected the dots and saw that the war taking away from the civil rights struggle, dramatically draining the fight against the war on poverty for blacks and whites, and sending the poor in far higher proportion than the rich to fight the war in Vietnam. Many people could not connect the dots that King did in speaking of the relation of poverty, racism, and militarism. But he was right to make such connections in his efforts to build solidarity and the beloved community.

In our day, we must connect the dots of problems like unequal access to quality education and economic inequality to the problem of gang violence. We must also connect the dots of the negative forces of gentrification to gang violence. According to a professor of urban studies at Portland State University, for many African Americans in Portland, urban renewal is Negro removal. Such vulnerability and transiency, where people are uprooted from their communities, makes a damaging difference. We must also connect the dots involving these problems to a prison system so often based on retribution, not reformation. How are people to be reintroduced to society and make a vital contribution to society if they are never prepared to become vital participants and welcomed back through networks of support? We must come together to right the wrongs of a prison system that enslaves black men (it has been argued that the percentage of black men in prison far outweighs their proportionate presence in society). We must also attend to the fatherlessness so rampant in our society. Do we honor the fathers and mothers in the home, the fathers and mothers in our churches, and the fathers and mothers in our society as a whole? We must make sure everyone is welcome at the table of beloved community and make sure that we bring honor not simply to Dr. King but to the fathers and mothers and sons and daughters who have marched in the band that King led as a drum major for justice. These marchers are here this evening. They include you. We must support one another in the ongoing efforts to build beloved community in our day.

A political leader responsible for building vital connections between the faith community and civic leaders and activists in Portland asked me this past week: “Why don’t the white evangelical Christians and white Christians generally concern themselves with gang issues? Why is it simply an African American concern in so many quarters? The white Evangelical Christian community is rightly concerned for addressing homelessness and the sex trade, but is not involved by and large in building the infrastructure that will bring an end to all the gang violence in our community,” this leader said. I responded by saying that it is because we in the white Christian community—especially white Evangelical Christian community of which I am part—does not connect the dots very well. We do not see that all these forces have a bearing on one another. Nor do we think that the African American community’s concerns are our own. Nor do we sense that we ourselves—I myself—have been guilty in part of creating the vacuum and fragmentation that leads to gang activity and violence. For if I benefit from a system that keeps people underprivileged and do nothing to change the structures, I am causing that destructive system to become further entrenched and to expand. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. We must connect these various dots. Not only must we connect the various dots, but also we must become more connected to one another if we are to carry out Dr. King’s vision and build the beloved community. Each sphere is related to all the others, and so we must address them together, all of us together.

We must continue to support the life and legacy not only of Dr. King but also of the late Rob Ingram, and his living contemporaries Robert Richardson, John Canda, Mark Strong, Clarence Larkin and the African American leaders in this sanctuary. We must continue to work with our political leaders and support them in their various efforts to bring an end to the violence and build the beloved community. We must show gratitude to the often thankless labors of love of mothers who serve their families so sacrificially, fathering their children, holding down multiple jobs, teaching their children the value of hard work and how to stretch a dollar and stretch a hug to heal a family and a community. As someone once said, mothers are the cradle of our civilization. We must support them and learn from them and from the civil rights movement. In the civil rights movement, the people did not have much by way of financial resources. They had to stretch their resources, but they had one another. Look what they were able to accomplish as they stretched out their arms to heal their communities!

What kind of leaders and community will we be and become? What kind of community will we build? Will we follow through on our prophetic calling to build beloved community and break through the divisions in our society together, divisions that are symbolized and further solidified by the gang violence tearing through our community? We must remember, celebrate, and act. We still have unfinished business to which we must attend. We have Dr. King’s Spirit-inspired vision to fulfill.

*This document is the final written version of the text that served as the basis for the keynote address.

The John 17:23 Network – February gathering

February 8th, 2012 by Beyth Hogue Greenetz

This month an informal gathering of The John 17:23 Network will be held on Sunday, February 11 (this coming Sunday), 7pm at Elmer’s (the Delta Park location – 9848 N. Whitaker Rd.). Bob Wall will be sharing about his experiences diving into the work of gang prevention communities in Portland.

 

Please plan to join us for this informal coffee gathering. We’ll resume our regular formal gatherings next month, on March 11.

 

Since we’re gathering for coffee this month, here’s some food for thought: One in Christ or Coffee?