For Your Consideration (03/15/17)

In the spirit of Saint Patrick, I’d like to offer some selections this week around the theme of seeing and responding to the needs of others rightly—if riskily.

I tend to gather a pretty ecclectic offering, and today isn’t really different. However, today’s mix leans heavily toward those speaking from a Christian perspective.

The Christian instinct for human compassion has been under duress of late. Sadly, some Christians have invited the onslaught. But let’s round out the picture, shall we?

THE BRILLIANCE (DOES YOUR HEART BREAK?)

I referenced the Brilliance awhile back, and thought this song was a fitting accompaniment to today’s selection.

It begins,

When the walls fell
And the hungry child
Cried out for help

Did you hear the sound?
Did your heart break?
Does your heart break now?

I might set the tone while you read these selections.

HOW SECURE IS SECURE ENOUGH (JOSH LARSEN)

Josh Larsen is a friend. He is the author of the book Movies Are Prayers, and is an editor on the site Think Christian. He typically writes on film, and is part of the WBEZ Filmspotting podcast duo. However, he used his post last week to speak to the issue of Trump’s executive order banning travel from 6 predominantly Muslim countries.

It is a brief piece that I found both balanced and compelling. Take a moment to read it.

Here’s a snippet:

I can’t help but wonder: how secure do we need to feel before we’re willing to heed Christ’s call? I’m not sure we should use math to decide whether or not to obey God’s commands, but if we did, surely these figures would make the choice clear. Should a 0.00003 percent chance of dying keep us from meeting the needs of those who are suffering?

And they are suffering.

It’s a 3 minute read.

WERE SLAVES IMMIGRANTS? (JEMAR TISBY)

Last week HUD secretary Ben Carson gave an address to his staff in which he seemed to imply that Africans shipped as human cargo to America during the slave trade were “immigrants”:

There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less… But they, too, had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.

This statement is troubling to say the least! And though Carson made a series of increasingly more acurate corrective statements, it left many shaken. My immediate reaction was dread. Was there a subtle movement wanting to reframe the brutality of the slave trade into something more tenable, or to expand the territory of the “they knew their place” rationale? God forbid!

For now, it seems to be just another example of Carson’s inability to articulate himself cogently in public. Either way,  Jemar Tisby took the opportunity to compile 4 accounts from the transatlantic slave trade on the Reformed African Network Site.

He articulates his concern at the end of the piece.

Americans must always guard against sanitizing the African slave trade. As the years roll by and the chronological distance between contemporary society and the antebellum economy increases, we tend to forget. We forget the commodification of human bodies. We forget the dehumanization of people in the image of God. We forget the suffering and tragedy. We forget that greed motivated slave traders to force people into bondage by the millions. Never forget.

Reading through these brief accounts churned me up inside.

It will only take 5 minutes to read, but it might stick with you forever! (Hopefully it will.)

“GIVING TO THOSE IN NEED IS ALWAYS RIGHT” (POPE FRANCES)

Pope Francis gave an interview to an Italian monthly magazine Scarp de’ Tenis (a publication from a group that serves the poor in Milan). In it he advocated for giving to street beggars.

People who don’t give money to the homeless because they think it will be spent on alcohol and not food should ask themselves what guilty pleasures they are secretly spending money on…

His comments created a stir among those who work with the homeless. The Huffington Post had a good response.

I live and work in Chicago. Many of my colleagues work with homeless populations, and I’ve been advised again and again against such giving (even by multiple people who were formerly homeless!).

But Francis’ comments did give me pause. And I wonder if it might be inhumane to be rigidly dogmatic. Should we maintain an open posture? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Both articles will take you 10 minutes total.

THE CONFESSIONS OF ST PATRICK

So few have ever stopped to consider the stunning story of St Patrick. I am not alone in calling him one of the most important figures in human history. I would recommend toasting to him on Friday, but not before you take a few minutes to read his confessions.

If there were someone who could have been a voice of paranoia against the risks of foreigners, if could surely have been Patrick! But he changed the world by transcending his fears and even real experiences of trauma!

Did you know Patrick isn’t even Irish? There’s your clue!

It’s a 15 minute read.

(BONUS) DAVID AXLROD INTERVIEWS MADELEINE ALBRIGHT

Former Obama campaign chief strategist David Axelrod interview former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on his podcast The Axe Files (a great show).

Albright is Czech, and grew up as in-and-out of the life of a political asylum seeker (both in England and the US, before becoming a citizen).

One segment was especially poignant. She recounts her father’s perspective:

The story he always told about our lives just kind of encapsulates everything.

He said, “In England people were always very kind. They said, ‘We’re sorry your country’s been taken over by a terrible dictator. You’re welcome here. What can we do to help you? And when are you going home?’

When we came to the United States people said, ‘We’re so sorry your country has been taken over by a terrible system. You are welcome here. What can we do to help you. And when will you become a citizen?'”

And my father really said, “That is what really made America different from every country.”

It’s an hour-long show. 

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