Be Their Voice

Just wrote this to my congressional rep and senators: “The humanitarian crisis at the border with Mexico breaks my heart, embarrasses me and makes me furious. Innocent children are living in deplorable conditions for no reason other than the president needs to score political points with his base. I appeal to your basic human decency to address this travesty immediately. Work with the Democrats to adopt humane immigration reform with bipartisan, veto-proof support. America is better than the image we are projecting to the world because of this president’s racist policies and it must stop. I believe what we do to the least of these defenseless children is how we treat Christ himself. (Matthew 25:31-46) Please let me know what you are doing to stop this tragic misuse of political power. Thank you.”

Many of us feel helpless to do anything, and that’s just how oppressors want us to feel. I don’t expect my words to break through the political gridlock, but as discouraged as I am with our political leaders I still do believe there is a basic human sense of compassion (which means “to suffer with”) in most of our elected officials. Most of them went into public service with a real desire to actually serve the public good, but the forces of evil that corrupt even good women and men are very strong. The question is which is stronger?

Yes, the perks that go with elected office can warp the best of human motives. Once these people taste the benefits of insurance and pensions better than the rest of us, not to mention the heady aroma of power, it’s natural that their decisions are affected by the desire to keep their jobs. I’m not sure I could resist those temptations either.

So we are fighting strong, deep-seated powers, and I’m guessing that some of our senators and representatives feel pretty helpless too. But feeling helpless is no excuse to be complicit in causing human suffering by staying silence. Every elected official’s website says he/she wants to hear what’s on our minds. It may not change a thing, but it certainly can’t hurt. The good thing about political influence is that we the people do actually hold the ultimate power. The lobbyists and corporations may have the money, but if we who vote speak long and loud enough and in enough numbers, trust me, the folks in Washington will eventually remember who they work for.

If enough of us care enough to make our voices heard they will listen. Those kids living in squalor at the border, those broken-hearted parents who have had their children ripped from their arms, they can’t wait until 2020. They need those of us who can to speak up for them because they can’t.

Resurrection Flowers: Eastertide Week 4

dandelions

Surveying the lush green of new life this morning I was reminded of a profound theological discussion I had with my then 3-year old daughter Joy some 40 years ago about this time of year. She was out in the yard with me on a warm April afternoon. She was enjoying some outdoor freedom after a long Ohio winter of indoor captivity. I was fighting the perennial and hopeless battle with an army of yellow weeds again invading my lawn.

As I dug each dandelion from my lawn by hand, trying to pry their persistent roots from the soil, Joy stopped me in my tracks with a childlike innocent question. She said, “Daddy, why don’t you like the pretty yellow flowers?” Offering the lame explanation that someone had arbitrarily decided to label this part of God’s creation a “weed” did nothing to satisfy her curiosity, but her question got me thinking and wrestling with issues that resurface as regularly as the pretty yellow flowers.

How often do we label other people or other parts of God’s creation “weeds” that need to be controlled or eliminated? What is the collateral damage to others and to ourselves when we waste time and energy or poison relationships or the environment with pesticides and herbicides to make our lawns and our lives conform to the expectations of the world instead of to God’s vision?

As the suffering in Nepal filled the news and the pain of injustice boiled over again in the streets of Baltimore this week I had to fight the despair echoed at least 16 times where the Psalmists ask, “How long, O Lord?” “How long, will you forget me forever? How long must I bear a pain in my soul?” (13:1-2). “How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?” (79:5). “How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?” (89:46). That litany is summed up most powerfully in Psalm 22:1 in the words Jesus’ quotes on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

We’ve all been there and done that. Despair about personal pain or social injustice and unrest is another powerful enemy of resurrection living. Our Easter faith is often as fragile as the Easter lilies that decorate our sanctuaries on Easter morning. I worked for a florist when I was in college and learned how delicate and tempermental lilies are. We had to keep them at just the right temperature before Easter so they wouldn’t bloom too soon or too late. Not so the mighty dandelion. When the snow melts after a long harsh winter, dandelions not only rise up from their slumber as temperatures rise, there are often a few yellow heads already in bloom that emerge from under the snow.

We have an entire industry we employ to declare war every year on the pesky weeds, but even as they die they put forth thousands of fluffy white seeds that are scattered everywhere by the wind, and a la the Arnold, they mock us with their dying words, “We’ll be back!” And they always are. That’s why the pretty yellow flowers are a better symbol of resurrection than the fragile, short-lived lily.

So each time I behold another hardy, resilient dandelion, I am reminded of the power of resurrection. Death and despair, pain and injustice, hate and violence may seem to be victorious, in the short run, but the ultimate, eternal victory belongs to the God of justice, peace and love.

The logical, rational realm of prose is inadequate to capture the power of resurrection. So it is better experienced in a pretty yellow flower or in poetic imagery like these from “Hymn of Promise” by Natalie Sleeth:

“In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons a hidden promise, butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter, there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death a resurrection; at the last a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”

dandelion seeds