Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Gospel According to Kendrick Lamar

An old friend of mine works for a radio show that covers the intersection of Christian faith and culture. She recently invited me to share some thoughts about Kendrick Lamar and I was happy to oblige. You can read the piece here and hopefully I'll have some new content in this space coming out soon.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Can We Talk About Safety?

When is the last time you played a board game or computer game?

Swam? Danced? Traveled by car?

I ask because I'm thinking of your safety.


You see, the odds of dying while playing a board game or computer game are 1 in 100,000,000. The odds of dying while swimming are 1 in 1,000,000. The odds of dying while dancing are 1 in 100,000 and the odds of dying when behind the wheel are 1 out of every 6,200 licensed drivers.

Yet, there is a major conversation going on in our country based on the safety risk posed by refugees. The theory goes: Islamic extremists will sneak into the USA as refugees and then commit terrorist acts.

But, let's hold this claim up to scrutiny for a moment.

What are the odds of being killed by a refugee terrorist?

1 in 3.6 billion.

Let me say that again.

You are literally 36 times for likely to die while playing Scrabble than at the hands of a refugee.

You are 36,000 times more likely to die doing the chicken dance at Cousin Carol's wedding.

You are 580,645 times more likely to die driving to see Hidden Figures at the multiplex this weekend.

My point here is not that you shouldn't drive or dance or swim, because believe me, everybody would benefit from going out to see Hidden Figures tonight. My point is that we risk our safety all the time. Risks that are statistically far greater than those found within the existing American refugee system.

And what do we take those risks for? Often for nothing more than our own convenience, efficiency, or comfort. Driving a car is not a requirement of livelihood, but we do it because we weigh the risk and we value getting to the grocery store faster rather than the alternatives. Yet here, we stand with literally tens of thousands of people, most of them women and children, dying, but our "safety" is apparently more important than their lives. But, Scrabble, that's worth the risk.

*    *    *

If you consider yourself a follower of Christ, this next section is for you.

We serve a God who is jealous. This is not to say He is jealous like a six year old at his friend's birthday party looking at a pile of gifts, but that he is jealous like a husband watching his wife sleep with another man. He's not shy about using that exact illustration. Anytime the people of God chose to elevate some other value over His values, He calls it idolatry. When we do that, we are worshiping something else and something false.

And while I think the theological implications and directives of how Christians should treat refugees (along with all marginalized groups) are quite clear , I would rather drill down a little deeper into one particular idol I see rampant in the American church: Safety.

Christian radio bills itself as "safe for the whole family", 81% of white evangelicals voted for a presidential candidate who promised to "Keep America Safe Again", and I personally have had Christian leaders tell me they carry guns when they come to my neighborhood for protection. The problem of this all, of course, is that safety isn't a Christian value.

In fact, Christian values have led me to do a whole slew of things in my life that aren't considered "safe". I have friends who have been shot for Christian values. I have friends who have sold all their possessions and moved overseas for Christian values (even to Muslim nations). I have friends who are citizens of other nations that daily risk their safety just by identifying as Christians.

So where do we, the American Church, get off claiming any right to safety?

This idol of safety plays out in a myriad ways. Here's just one that I've seen repeatedly. The single greatest deterrent to college students coming and interning at our ministry hasn't been cost or travel or schedules, it has been middle and upper-middle class Christian parents, who declare it too unsafe for their kid to spend the summer in the hood.

This is the same idol that causes us to declare refugees to be unsafe (even though the existing vetting process is intense and no one who wanted to cause harm to America would ever choose the refugee route when far easier options exist).

It's the same idol that lead us in the past to deny the Imago Dei of Jewish refugees and turn them away.

It's the same idol that is behind so much rhetoric about undocumented immigrants.

When we elevate safety as a Christian necessity, we turn our back on our God.

*    *    *

Tim Keller has said that there's not a problem with fundamentalism. It all depends on what your fundamentals are. And if one of your fundamentals is a man dying on a cross for his enemies, that ought to drastically impact the way you see and live your life.

Jesus Christ wasn't concerned about safety for Himself or His Church.

He's a Husband desperate that His Bride would turn away from her idols and come running back to His forgiving arms.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Cross and the Arch

Above is the cover from the upcoming issue of the New Yorker. It is poignant. It is well crafted. It is all too true. Not just of St. Louis and our current challenges, but true all across the nation. When I first saw it posted on Twitter, I enlarge the picture and stared at it for a few seconds (which in Twitter-time is the equivalent to hours). I appreciated it and I was saddened by its accuracy.


Below is a revised version of the picture I saw the next day. I reacted similarly to it.

When viewing this image, there are a couple of possible reactions.

One is the view the picture and want to dismiss it as trite and overly simplistic. I think this is false.

The cross of Jesus Christ isn’t a mere symbol of religious devotion or Polyanna, kum-ba-yah optimism. The cross is an instrument of death. It is a tool of capital punishment. It is an artifact of the actual, historical killing of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Cross isn’t weak or trite, it is costly. Specifically the cost of death and shed blood.

The Cross, in its brutality, in its savagery, in its torturous death-bearing, is about much more than convenient “solutions” and upbeat worship songs. It’s about much more than man being brought close to God (though this is essential!). It’s even about much more than the fact that, as Tim Keller puts it, I’m far worse than I’d ever imagined and far more loved than I ever dared hoped.

The Cross is about the tearing down of walls. The tearing down of the wall of separation between man and God. The tearing down of the wall of our guilty status before a righteous God. The tearing down of the wall of hurt and pain and brokenness from our past. And the tearing down of the walls between ethnic and racial groups.

Hear Paul in Ephesians 2:11-22:
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Without launching into a full exegesis that would fill dozens (hundreds?) of pages, I can say this, the Cross is about healing ethic and racial divides.

Is that all it is about? No.

But that is exactly and primarily what the above text is talking about. Two groups of people. Separated ethnically, culturally, religiously, and socially being brought together under the headship of and by the blood of Jesus Christ to become one, unified people.

A humanity that strives together. That mourns together. That prays together. That worships together. That considers the other better than oneself. That sacrifices for one another. That listens to one another.

The Cross is the answer. The costly Cross where Jesus died so that the dividing wall of hostility would be torn down.

But there’s one other way this image could be interpreted. Another way to interpret it is indeed simplistic. Too simplistic. It looks at the bridge of the Cross and it relates, “Yes! Jesus is the answer. Now let’s host a joint worship service with a church that doesn’t look like ours. Let’s get lunch with someone of another race once a month and pursue genuine friendship. Let’s buy Lecrae’s latest album.”

And you should do ALL of those things. All of them. Seriously, go do them!

But, as you do them, don’t believe that will “fix” it. In Divided By Faith, a book I have discussed extensively here, the authors refer to a belief many Christians cite that the authors call “the miracle motif”, which simply is that if everyone became a Christian, all racial and ethnic problems would cease.

Once again, to limit this to paragraphs rather than dozens (hundreds?) of pages, I will only touch on the main points here, but personal relationships and church fellowships won’t erase the problem. The problem didn’t develop overnight, nor will it be healed overnight.

There are hundreds of years of history to reckon with first. There is the reality of systemic injustice to be wrestled with and ultimately deconstructed. There is the fact that the relationships and friendships I recommended above are really, really hard.

The solution isn’t just around the corner, but it is present with us. Jesus Christ cares about injustice. Jesus Christ cares about tension. Jesus Christ cares about division.

And He died to heal it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Things That Aren't Helping

I've spent the last 36+ hours in somewhat of a stupor.

I'm going to keep this brief for reasons stated below.

But, as the events of the past few days have unfolded, I've continually returned to a mental image that I can't shake. I almost tear up every time it pops into my head (And for those that know me, "almost tear up" is the equivalent of weep uncontrollably for most folks. I don't emote sadness well.) This is the image. It's me hugging every black young man and boy I know and just repeating to them, "You matter. You matter. You matter."

Because right now, it seems like a lot of voices are telling them the opposite. And for the rest of their lives there will be people who, with a look or with a tone or with an epithet, will reinforce this destruction.

I want so badly for them to know the truth. That they are made in God's image. And that means no matter what, they matter, they count, they are precious.

I want them to know that by faith they can become His sons and live in an identity so strong that no man can bring them down. Ever.

But, that's not what I want to say here.

As I've read responses, tweets, blogs, and so forth, I've noticed some common themes that I can definitively say are unhelpful. Here's a few.

Majority Culture and the Need to Speak

I realize the irony that I am a white, college-educated man saying this, and that's why I intend to keep this blog short.

White folks, this is a time for us to keep our mouths shut. Or at least more shut than open.

That doesn't mean do nothing, what it means is: LISTEN! It means if you're going to speak let it be 1. After you've listened and 2. Preferably to ask a question so you can listen some more. At the bottom of this post, I've linked to the thoughts of a number of African American brothers and sisters who we ought listen to.

It's time to listen, pray, reflect, and as led repent.

Black on Black Crime References

I know the statistics. But . . .

1. Black people protest black-on-black crime constantly.
2. I've never heard a white person complain about white-on-white crime.
3. This argument is used again and again as a smokescreen.

Please don't bring this up.

Individualism

(I am going to make a generalization. It is just that, "general", not all folks)

In general, most white folks seem to be reacting to Ferguson based on the individual case. In general, most black folks seems to be reacting to Ferguson based on the cumulative impact of it and similar incidents throughout our society.

I would challenge majority culture folks to seek to "trade eyes" with some people who experience America differently than they do.

Denial of Systemic Injustice

Many people are blind to systemic injustice, this is a chance for them to learn about it.

But, many are outright denying there is any such thing. This is hurtful to those who have been victimized. And terrible theology.

In Genesis along with Romans and everywhere in between the Bible's description of the Fall is TOTAL. It is not just that our relationship with God is broken. It is not just that our relationship with other humans is broken. Every single relationship was vandalized and broken by the Fall and this includes systemic relationships. Sin is present in these systems. Injustice is present in these systems. To deny it is to deny sound theology.

I know that's an bold claim. But I also know a lot of people who are denying systemic injustice also care a lot about orthodoxy. I'm just a brother trying to make sure we preach and teach the Word accurately.

"Facts"

Appealing to "the jury has spoken" and the "facts of the case" is not helping. The previous two topics explain why.

Confirmation Bias

It seems a lot of us are being led by our political leanings, our cultural solidarity, or personal history. Last week I wrote about our Kingdom loyalty, but also, I'd ask that we would all consider whether or not we are guilty of hearing what we want to hear. Or at least what best fits our preferred narrative.

Apathy

Just ignoring it, waiting for the news cycle to move on. That doesn't help.

If you're reading this and your blood is boiling right now. I want to thank you. Thank you for caring enough to read this far. For not clicking to little "x". And I want to invite you to challenge me. Ask questions. Call me out if you think I've lost my mind. I'm willing to listen. I'm willing to have a conversation. I'd love to talk.

I promise I won't yell.

This is my list for now.



Here is a list of helpful points of view for those who are looking to listen (in no particular order):

Pastor Eric Mason: Blog
Pastor Efrem Smith: Blog
Professor Cristena Cleveland (She's really great): Blog
Rapper Derek Minor: Blog
Austin Channing: Blog
Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile: Blog
Rapper Lecrae: Blog

And some Twitter accounts to follow if you're so inclined:

@MrMedina
@Lecrae
@prophiphop
@efremsmith
@MrSwoope
@ThabitiAnyabwil
@bcloritts
@CSCleve
@LeonceCrump
@AmIshoBaraka
@AlvinSanders1 (I do not endorse his Big Ten sports related tweets however)
@drantbradley

May the God of peace (shalom) lead us all forward.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Love for the Immigrant


"Do not oppress an immigrant; you yourselves know how it feels to be immigrants, because you were immigrants in Egypt." Exodus 23:9

This is a topic I have thought about a lot. This is a topic I’ve written a lot of blog posts in my head about. This is a topic I want to be very careful with.

As I seek to be careful, a few clarifying notes, I am writing to those who identify as followers of Christ. I am writing to those who believe the words of the Bible. I’m writing in the hopes that we, as the body of Christ, would be a people who can listen, who can empathize, and who can seek to be consistent.

And I’m hoping to keep this brief.

I have the least confidence in that last hope.

I won’t be taking a single policy position. I won’t mention any politicians or political parties. I have three key words: Command, Image, and Kingdom.

Command

The verse quote above is not a proof-text (meaning, the process by which one grabs a verse out of context and uses it to prove their view). You can “prove” almost anything by prooftexting. Seriously, I’ve had conversations about Bigfoot where prooftexting was used. It’s not a good practice.
On this topic, however, the Bible is chock full of references. It’s not an ancillary topic.

In Scripture, the plight of the immigrant (possibly, alien, sojourner, or stranger depending on your translation) is deeply tied to the concept of justice. And the topic of justice is also by no means a sidenote. Some have termed there to be a group called the “Quartet of the Vulnerable” in the Hebrew Bible, it is made up of the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the immigrant. God’s people are commanded again and again and again to show particular care, compassion, and love to these groups.

Don’t take my word for it. Read it for yourself. Follow this link to take the “I Was a Stranger . . .” Challenge, which walks through 40 key Biblical passages dealing with the immigrant.

Image

To be human is to be made in the image of God. This image has been vandalized by sin, no doubt, but it remains. All humans, no matter their moral state, no matter their nationality, no matter their religious beliefs, and no matter their legal status still retain the image the God.

This means that the immigration issue in the United States of America is first and foremost not political nor economic, but theological. If it’s about people, and people are made in God’s image, we must train our minds and hearts and heads to see it that way.

This is about people. This is about image bearers. That doesn’t mean we will all agree. That doesn’t mean we will all be thrilled with the outcome. But it does absolutely rule out certain types of speech, thought, and posts on Facebook.

Don’t insult God. God made people. God put his image in humankind. When we malign other persons, we malign God.

Let us all strive to speak of God’s beloved creation as just that.

Kingdom

In two parts: as we assess important policy and human implications, let us all strive to ask ourselves, “What Kingdom am I living for?”

If our views are fueled by fear or by economics or by nationalism or by some view of racial superiority, let’s seek to check them.

All of us need to do this. (About every issue and decision too, not just hot-buttons.)

The reality is, if you are in Christ, your life is hid with Christ on high. Your life and your well being here matter to God, but His Kingdom is Supreme.

There’s a Kingdom called the United States. There’s a Kingdom called Economic Security. There’s a Kingdom called Self-Preservation. There’s a Kingdom called My Family.

All of them need to be secondary to the Kingdom of God.

Let us all ask ourselves, “Who is on the throne in my heart?”

(By the way, even if we prefer the American Kingdom, the numbers might not be what we expect.)

Second, Acts 17:26-27 reads, “From one man [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each of us.”

I believe God is sovereign over all things. Including the above. Immigration is a discipleship issue. God is moving and directing and placing people. He has placed millions of people in this country from all different backgrounds and nations. Perhaps he has placed them here to be discipled. Perhaps he has placed them here so that some of them might “reach out for him and find him.”

When they reach out, will we be a people who reach back and invite them to know Jesus?

    *    *    *

I sincerely hope all that I have written above is marked by humility. If anything written strikes you as flippant or sarcastic, I ask your forgiveness. I desire that anyone reading this would read carefully, prayerfully. I don’t claim to know that much, but what is written above about Command, Image, and Kingdom is a hill I’m willing to die on.


It’s that important.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Prisons and Profits

"He tol' me up there the deputies got to take guys in. Sheriff gets seventy-five cents a day for each prisoner, an' he feeds 'em for a quarter. If he ain't got prisoners, he don't make no profit." - Floyd in The Grapes of Wrath - Chapter 20
Though a Dust Bowl epic may not seem a place to find contemporary commentary, in this case, John Steinbeck presciently hits the nail on the head.

When I speak to college groups and churches about the Bible and justice two themes I frequently come back to are systemic injustice and the hiddenness of injustice.

Briefly, the first looks like this. The Fall broke everything, our relationship with God, other humans, creation, psyche, and so on. This too includes a fracturing in man's relationships with systems. It is theologically (and empirically) unavoidable that sin has infected not just the human heart, but the systems that collectives of humans create, populate, and run. The economic system. The political system. The education system. The social system. The immigration system. Any other system. All these systems have been vandalized by sin. Many Christians have a hard time seeing this reality until it is pointed out to them in this framework. Our systems have been stained by the Fall. They are in need of redemption.

Second, injustice is hidden. In particular, this is a truth that needs to be articulated for those from majority culture. Folks who are ethnically, racially, or economically marginalized need make very little effort to name injustices, but majority folks often have blinders like a Clydesdale. Their experience, upbringing, and social circles all serve to build an unintentional barricade between their consciousness and injustice. Not surprisingly, these injustices serve to reiterate and perpetuate this blindness (i.e. residential segregation, which is primarily the result of systemic injustice).

But, I digress, that's not what I logged on to write about, it was just necessary introduction.

All of this leads me to this, as a follower of Christ, as one who believes Jesus is working the redemption and reconciliation of all things, and as someone who sees the scriptural imperative of justice, I need to have eyes to see injustice. I need to be shown where to act, how to pray, and the route for the Gospel to break-in. And if you call on the name of Christ, you need to see it too!

So, let's help each other see. Let's trade eyes some time. I'll go first.

I live in the US. The US incarcerates a lot of people. A greater portion of our population than any other nation with a significant population and by a wide, wide margin. More specifically, I live in Florida. Our state leads nation in charging juveniles as adults. A study released in April of this year found that Florida has nearly double the rate for juveniles being charged as adults as the next highest state (Oregon). Florida is five times higher than the national average. Adding to this, in Florida juvenile court records are not sealed and it is nearly impossible for felons to regain their voting rights. So, a 15 year old boy convicted of robbery, will one day be a 50 year old who is almost unemployable (because most, entry-level jobs have a no-call-back policy once you check the "Convicted of a crime" box) . . . at least not in any legal career field. Further, I work with kids who even amongst those living in Florida are even more likely to be arrested, prosecuted, and harshly punished. Oftentimes for things kids in my suburban hometown did every weekend and never faced any consequences.   (Sidenote: If you are only going to read one thing today, click that link and close my blog. Everyone needs to read the article linked above).

But, I digress again. This is also not what I logged on to write about.

I logged on to write about this: Florida's entire state youth prison system is contracted out to private prison corporations. These are for-profit companies that hold about 8% of the total US prison population, but this is a number that has grown steadily for 20 years and continues to trend upward. In fact, specialization is being shown as 49% of immigration detention beds and 40% of youth detention beds are operated by private firms.

There are some statistical and empirical reasons to be concerned:

  • Florida (all private) has a 40% one-year juvenile recidivism rate. New York (no private) has a 25% rate.
  • Further, there is profound evidence of significant mismanagement, violence, corner cutting, and neglect in private run facilities. The former top compliance officer for the Florida DJJ wrote about a facility in south Florida, "Two things really stood out: Staffing was inadequate, and the kids weren't eating. Therefore, they were not safe." 
  • Cases of sexual assault frequently were not reported in these private facilities. 
  • Inmates were denied access to the state's whistle-blower hotline that was intended as the way to report abuse. 
  • Finally, statistically, private run prisons see 49% more assaults on guards by prisoners and 65% more assaults on prisoners by fellow prisoners than traditional facilities.
However, I'm actually even more concerned about a philosophical problem than I am about these alarming statistics. It is two nested parts. 


We must begin by asking, What do we believe prisons are for? Ask yourself. What are they for? Are they purely centers for punishment? Or are they intended to create restored lives and productive members of society?

There are certainly a variety of answers, but I think most people would say they are intended to be about rehabilitation. There may be a punitive element, but American idealism and certainly Christian charity call us to lean towards rehabilitation.

So after asking this, we must then ask, What interest does a for-profit corporation have in rehabilitation?

If I call Pizza Hut are they going to try to talk me out of ordering a pizza? No, I am a customer. They want repeat customers. The whole experience is tailored to keeping me coming back.

I would contend the situation is the same with prison corporations.

It's simple economics folks, rehabilitation isn't just bad business for private prisons, it's corporate suicide. From a simple business perspective, their best interest is in creating and perpetuating criminality. More recidivism and an expansion of the criminal code (i.e. madatory minimum sentences) are good business practice. And if you don't believe that's possible, let's review a doctrine called depravity and let's consider that there is evidence that a Florida contractor, Youth Services International, would keep inmates past their scheduled release date so they could collect more revenue. Further, to answer my mind's immediate counterargument, these corporation's contracts are not tied to progress or success as rehabilitative facilities, they are tied to cost-saving--plain and simple (and there is debate over whether these facilities even save costs in the long run as well). So, there is no disincentive on creating a culture that fosters re-offending and there is incentive to cut superfluous costs like social workers, psychologists, educators, and so forth.

An economic arrangement that thrives by creating a demand for criminals is an ethical problem. And there's plentiful data to show these corporations are flexing their political muscle via lobbying and campaign donations to assure that more and more people end up on the criminal end of the spectrum.

This is unjust. People of God . . . speak up! Pray. Lobby. Withhold your vote. Pray some more.

Finally, when assessing any type of injustice (or really any situation at all) I'd offer a helpful tool. I'd urge anyone who calls on Christ to use the principle of the imago dei. The image of God.

No matter the issue we are talking about, first and foremost, frame it in a human perspective. Every issue needs be seen through the lens that every person involved was made in God's image. Not from political standpoint, not from monetary pros and cons, not from my family history or cultural tradition. Frame your thoughts and discussion in terms of humanity, in terms of image bearers, who no matter what they have done, no matter how heinous they may have acted, still carry that image by divine fiat.

So when we look at immigration or abortion or education or criminal justice, look around, acknowledge all the human participants. Acknowledge that first and foremost this is a human issue. By simply applying this principle it gets us a long, long way.

A structure that profits off of the imprisonment of and perpetuates abuse towards minors is systemic injustice. Train your eyes to see it. See the image of God in those being hurt by it. And stand against it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lament and Empathy

"To do the work of justice you have to ask hard questions. Simple questions won't get there . . . And only in empathy can we lament . . . Lament is powerful because before people will follow you, they must know you love them."  - Reverend Gabriel Salguero in his plenary address on 9/26/14

Saturday I returned from the annual Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference. It was the fourth time I have attended and I simply cannot say enough about CCDA and the organizations they represent. If we want to talk best practices, if we want to talk experience, if we want to talk obedience to the Scriptures matched by humility, these are the folks to see. On a daily basis, I operate based on principles gleaned from this organization.

The theme this year was "Flourish" and oddly enough the word I took away from it was "lament".

I've written about the topic of lament here before, so I won't harp on in, but the basic point to know is this: A lament is a prayer born out of pain. 

And there's been plenty of pain to go around these days . . .

I took 30 seconds and scanned words on the New York Times front page today and here's what I came away with: Ebola patient . . . Hong Kong protests . . . ISIS overruns Kurdish village

And I could have kept going.

The news that has most deeply impacted me in the past months is further evidence of this pain.

Michael Brown killed in Ferguson. No gun.

John Crawford in Ohio was killed in Wal-Mart holding a toy gun from the store. His last words, "It's not real."

Levar Jones of South Carolina is shot, then apologizes for following the directions and asks, "Why did you shoot me, sir?"

Jordan Davis was killed in a parking lot on Jacksonville's Southside. The defense? An imaginary gun that appeared only after Michael Dunn was face-to-face with a detective.

14 year old James Thomas was killed at a swimming pool less than three miles from my house in July over a girl.

Cab driver Stuart Carson was killed seven blocks from my house in June.

And this is just a portion . . .

Add to it.

In what is already what I believe to be a lamentable, broken, and unjust immigration system, fiscal year 2014 has seen 66,127 unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border. Over three fourths of them from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala each of which land in the top five countries in the world for murder rate. Here are tens of thousands of children fleeing their homes, fleeing gangs that are known to specifically target children as a demonstration of their cruelty.

And the vitriolic response of many in this country to this humanitarian crisis only causes more need for lament. It's as if basic human empathy has been abandoned.

Add to it.

I could keep going . . .

But lament isn't just listing injustices.

Lament is a prayer born out of pain. And prayer is about talking to the One who knows it better than you do. It is talking to the One who can actually do something about it. It is talking to the One who experienced the greatest injustice so that you and I could be brought near.

And this is the part where I normally expound on that last point. And we remember the Gospel and I remember the Gospel and my heart soars. And that's a good thing.

But today, this week, maybe this whole month . . . I need to spend a little more time in the pain. A little more time in the lament.

The redemption is coming. But it's not here yet.

The already . . . but the not yet.

So, join me in prayerful lament, please. Let's get to the redemption, but for now, join me in crying out to the One who understands pain. Join me in asking the hard questions that are the only way to get to justice.

Join with those who experience America differently than you do. Empathize with them.

Join with those who fear for their lives during "everyday" encounters. Empathize with them.

Join with kids fleeing violence only to be met by hatred. Empathize with them.

Join with families stuck in an immigration bureaucracy. Empathize with them.

We will get to the redemption. We will get the the New Creation. We will. But for now, lets sit in the pain for a moment. Let's ask the hard questions. Let's learn to empathize. Let's learn to love. Let's learn to lament.