Stand in the Breach…

…So I have just spent the last thirty days writing political posts on a blog that was never supposed to be political.

But these last three years have left me with something that needs to be more than a month-long rant. What unsettles me the most are the reasoned, thoughtful,  pieces that discuss the loss of democracy through authoritarianism. Do you know how it happens? Good people like you and me simply tune out what is happening because: A) We can’t believe it has come to this; B) We simply zone out because of A;  C) We don’t know what we can possibly do against something so BIG; or D) We don’t talk about it because our friends voted for the other party, and we know what discussing politics has done  does to friends and families.

But this is important, friends: It is no longer Politics As Usual. We bury our heads in the sand at our country’s peril. (And believe me, I am a long-time ostrich…) And so I pulled my head out of the sand, blinked in the sunlight, and wrote some things here that might offend, but I have tried to write them in the most reasoned way I could. We do not need to add another screaming voice to this already polarized country.

I was reading my morning scriptures today — I’m in Ezekiel (!) — and I was struggling hard to understand what Chapter 22 was telling me, when I came to verse 30: “And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.”

No, it isn’t about building a wall. (Please read this post, if you need to hear my views on walls….) It is about being righteous, standing up for righteousness, for justice, for mercy, for love. Righteousness must be tempered by love, or else we have someone who is a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal; love must be tempered by righteousness or we have wantonness. Justice without mercy is cruelty; mercy on its own without justice makes us doormats. Love & Righteousness, Justice & Mercy–they belong on opposite sides of the same coin; one without the other is an imbalance, a lack of harmony, a breach…

These days the country is certainly imbalanced, harmony is hard to find, and perhaps the breach is miles wide, but what is democracy worth? For my entire lifetime, democracy has not needed to be fought for, and perhaps we have grown soft and complacent, thinking the United States of America was the founding of democracy, and we needn’t worry about it.

  • After all, don’t we have the Constitution?
  • Don’t we have three branches of government that balance each other?
  • Aren’t we all certain of our freedom and our voting rights?
  • Dictators and tyrants and authoritarian rulers are not our allies, are they?

If the events of the last few months have you wondering or worrying about these questions, I suggest that we remember that it  wasn’t so long ago, we needed to fight for democracy. The odd thing about now is that it seems our democracy is deteriorating from within. And we can’t agree about who is doing the crumbling as the walls fall to pieces with people on either side shouting and throwing rocks.

What we need is courageous people to stand in the breach. Courageous people to say  “Stop shouting.” “Stop Tweeting.”  Put down the ugly sign in your hand, turn to the person next to you, and offer it to them.

If the last three years have taught us anything, it is that Donald Trump cannot do that. He is a divider, not a unifier. He thrives on deceit, aspersions, boasting, and bullying… If we have four more years of this division and anger, I fear the democracy we used to pride ourselves on, will be gone.

Will we stand in the breach, or have we gone too soft after years of easy living? Will we offer our hands to those who are different from us? Are we willing to do the hard work of reconciliation or is it just easier to keep shouting and interrupting? Jesus stands in the gap for us, and calls us to do the same. How will you stand?

 

 

 

thirty biblical reasons to vote democratic in 2020: #10 Oppression of the poor

Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the foreigner, or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.” –Zechariah 7:10 (NIV)

This is a two part verse, so let’s look at oppression first. Zechariah speaks of four specific members of the population who are weak, and should be treated tenderly: widows, orphans, immigrants, and the poor.

Widows were particularly vulnerable in ancient mideastern society, and throughout the Bible there is concern for caring for them. Widows in modern America are not universally poor, but many are. So let’s look at the president’s payroll tax cut which was an Executive Order in August. He calls it an aid to those who are struggling during the pandemic, but really it only applies to those who are working. And the bottom line is that the payroll tax funds Social Security and Medicare, which almost every widow I know depends on. In 2016, he ran on the promise that he would not change Social Security. Yet just a few days ago, he said that if he wins in November, he will make that payroll tax go away. It’s a complicated issue; if you want to read more try this article from Forbes.

During the current president’s administration, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps) and Medicaid will be cut 1.2 trillion dollars over the next ten years, and the eligibility rules were rewritten to lower the number of people who qualify.  One in five children in the U.S. live in poverty (about 15 million or 21% of all kids), Put another way, the U.S. has the 11th highest child poverty rate of 42 industrialized countries. You can find a wealth of statistics on child poverty in this article in The Nation or the website National Center for Children in Poverty.

And the Wall? To keep immigrants out? This wall to keep immigrants out is estimated to cost 21 to 70 billion dollars. Our country was built on immigrants. Unless you are descended from a Native American, you are descended from an immigrant. Do our immigration laws need to be updated and modernized? Absolutely. Do we build a wall to keep immigrants out? Never. Do we separate children of immigrants from their parents? Never. Do we keep immigrants in holding cells until they can be sent back? Never. Do we send back those who have lived here for years and are valuable to our society? Never. It pains me to even think that I have to write these things…

The second part of this verse — Do not plot evil against each other — seems like a fundamental precept of civilization, doesn’t it?

In simple terms it means don’t stir up trouble. Don’t be an instigator. Don’t foment division. Don’t encourage chaos. Don’t sow hatred.

As I’m writing this on August 31, this week there have been protests in Boston and Washington D.C. There have been riots in Portland and Kenosha. Americans are fighting each other in the streets; rarely has there been this level of political, racial, and economic animosity toward each other. The president has been asked not to travel to Kenosha, but he’s going anyway. Just to stir up trouble. To keep our eyes on the violence, rather than try to heal it.

He has pitted Americans against one another in such an incendiary fashion as to make it almost impossible for us to talk to each other civilly.

Just one more example–he implies that the Democrats will ruin the suburbs by building more low income housing there. Is he talking about housing for the poor? Housing for immigrants? Housing for the fatherless? For widows? Or is this more incendiary talk to plot evil against each other?

We are all God’s children.

Photo from Daily verses

His political vision is division.

And it is causing a crisis in our democracy.

The Trumpet Soundeth: Christian, for whom are you voting?

This blog is rarely political because i have always thought that politics are personal and when we start discussing political things it is divisive. (And i just want everyone to get along.) But at this point in time, in this country, if i do not stand up and say what i need to say, then how can i live with myself at a later time? And actually, at this point in time, in this country, everything has become political — wearing a mask in the middle of a pandemic, going to church, going to school, having a summer picnic, or a simple conversation with your neighbor…

So this September i am standing up for what i am passionate about. i hope you will hear me out before you stop reading. And if i don’t change your mind, please, at least consider what i’m saying.  We need civil discourse in this country now more than ever.

If you are a Christian, you have a huge responsibility in this election. The current president is counting on you to reelect him because he passes himself off as someone who supports the Conservative Christian agenda. Somehow, for me, it has become more than a conservative/liberal agenda; it is about returning our country to common decency and democracy. My question to you is What Would Jesus Do?

For each of the next thirty days, i will post a Bible verse and a short discussion that (i hope) will make you think about what this president does, and says, and how he acts every single minute of his life. And if you, as a believer in Jesus, can still say at the end of these thirty days that you will be voting for him, then there’s nothing else i can do. But, at least, i have tried to make you think about choosing country over party, unity over division, compassion over hatred, civil discourse over anger, democracy over chaos…

Don’t you long to wake up in the morning and not have to hear who the President has made fun of today, or what new outrageous thing he has tweeted?

And if you have made it this far, i owe you at least a first Bible verse:

For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. Luke 6:45 (Translation is from the Berean Study Bible)

Vase of flowers and bible

Character

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” –Colossians 3:12

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” — Colossians 3:13

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” — Colossians 3:14 

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” — Micah 6:8

Thus says the Lord of Hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another…”  –Zechariah 7:9

There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
         haughty eyes,
        a lying tongue,
        hands that shed innocent blood,
         a heart that devises wicked schemes,
        feet that are quick to rush into evil,
        a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” —
Proverbs 6:16-19

“Anyone who can be trusted in little matters can also be trusted in important matters. But anyone who is dishonest in little matters will be dishonest in important matters.” — Luke 16:10

O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved. — Psalm 15:1-5

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. — Romans 12:3

Language and Words

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. — Ephesians 5:4

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding but only in expressing his opinion.” — Proverbs 18:2

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth. — Proverbs 12:22

“Talk no more so very proudly; let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed.” — 1 Samuel 2:3

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person, For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person… — Matthew 15:18-20a

Issues

“Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the foreigner, or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.” –Zechariah 7:10

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven.” — Matthew 5:16 

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” — Ezekiel 36:26 

“I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable.” —Jeremiah 2:7

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. — Romans 12:16-18

Leadership and Wisdom

A fool uttereth all his mind; but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.” — Proverbs 29:11

The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. –Proverbs 12:26 

And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” — Mark 9:35

“Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22

Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. — Nehemiah 9:34 

For inquire now of bygone generations, and consider what their ancestors have found; for we are but of yesterday and we know nothing, for our days on earth are but a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you and utter words out of their understanding? — Job 8:8-10

Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. — Titus 2:2

When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules the people groan.–Proverbs 29:2

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. — Philippians 4:8

Can a corrupt throne be allied with you–a throne that brings on misery by decrees?”–Psalm 94:20

Money and Riches

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” –Luke 14:28

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” — Matthew 6:24

The wicked earns deceptive wages, but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward. –Proverbs 11:18