Guest Post: The Black Holocaust Never Stopped

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I don’t do many guest posts. Today is an exception. In the wake of Ferguson and the vitriol at the looting but not at the killing that precipitated it, I want you to hear my friend Warren Stewart’s voice. I want you to hear how it feels to be Black in American right now. Today.  Warren is not a reactionary. He is a kind hearted, conservatively educated, middle-class, married guy of good will struggling to raise his kids. He is a Christian, a pastor, and the son of one of Arizona’s most highly respected and moderate African-American clergy. If Warren does not feel there is a place for him in our culture, we are really in a tough spot. Please read this with an open heart and then take the risk of letting it start conversations…

 

Why do black people have to explain why racism still exists in America? You tell us. We didn’t create it. It must be amazing to be a part of the majority and privileged demographic in America. To never have to be concerned with racism, prejudice, profiling, lynching, slavery, etc. is a privilege.

I am told that it shouldn’t be called “racism” because we are all a part of the human race. Yet American history tells us Black people (slaves) were not even seen as human, only three-fifths so, in the 1788 American congressional documents.  When you are not viewed as fully human what other word is there other than “racism”? And yet I and many of your Black friends hesitate to comment on issues of race because we don’t want to offend our White friends.

Racism in America has never gone away. People of color have been written out of our history books – this is where racism begins: It is taught. Children are never taught our positive influence on history. And if children are taught, even Black children, to forget about Black history no wonder people of color don’t seem to matter in our present day.

Blacks have not arrived because we have the King holiday. We did not arrive because of the election of President Barack Obama. Those are not America’s apology for slavery. They are not our 40 acres and a mule. Having an African-American President has only opened the curtain to reveal that America still has stage 4 racism cancer.

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From Joseph Boston’s fb page.

The Black Holocaust has never ended. Jews had their horrific holocaust at the hands of Hitler and it was over. Our holocaust has never ended. Black people are still marked for sifting, extinction, and death. We have been trained to kill each other. We are targeted by the police. We have never had relief from prejudice and racism. We still feel the injustices of Emmit Till, Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Mike Brown every time another Black life is taken. If a White boy was gun downed by Black police officers they would be in jail now.

Our holocaust has never ended. Slavery has merely taken on a new form through the prison system (free labor). Our economic bondage is maintained by tying school funding to property values and then filling our neighborhoods with government approved predatory lenders. The Black eugenics plan (abortion) has killed more black lives than slavery. HIV/AIDS has killed more Black people then any other demographic. Africa, one of our world’s richest continents, has some of the poorest living conditions in the world. And in America the police act as the new KKK executing young Black men on the street and leave them there for 4 hours as they did when they hung us from trees in the South.

I am outraged. I am outraged because I still experience racism and others act as if it does not exist. I’m frustrated with my own people because we allow ourselves to be influenced by the demonic messages of hip-hop. I am upset because the media portrays us as less than (3/5) human whenever possible and demonize us as thugs. Mostly I am tired of having to explain that racism still exists. Here is my question, Do you value people of color as fully human other than entertaining you on a stage, field, or court?

I have wonderful White brothers and sisters in the faith and I am thankful for them. They understand and are genuinely concerned about what we go through. It is only through the gospel that has brought down every dividing wall that separated us that we can be unified in Christ in our diversity (Ephesians 2:11-18). But diversity and unity has to move from a conversation to integration in a masterful mosaic for the Messiah to be glorified.

One day every eye will see Christ’s body united. One day we will stand before God and there will be neither male nor female, slave nor free, Jew nor Greek. We will all be one in Him. (Galatians 3:28; Revelation 7:9).

But that day has not yet come.

#ClassIsInSession #Racism #Ferguson #MikeBrown

 
*Originally posted on Warren’s blog: http://warrenhstewartjr.wordpress.com
 
Note from Matt: Reconciliation is hard work. It doesn’t happen between groups…or when we label “ those people on tv.” It happens one life at a time. You can be a reconciling presence or a dividing one. Each of us chooses every day. Again, I encourage you to take a risk and let Warren’s piece start some conversations.
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Goodbye, Papa.

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Martin Ubaldo “Marty” Marino

Nov. 11, 1934 ~ March 14, 2014

In a world of unique individuals my father might have been the uniquiest. He was a high roller who hit it big. Twice. He also hit rock bottom. Twice. Unfortunately that last hit was a doozy. After that, Phoenix’s highest-flying realtor mostly “worked” from home. First it was online gaming and later the stock market, which, come to think of it, is really the same thing.

We all have our own unique vantage point on other’s lives. You may have known my dad as “Marty the realtor”… or grandpa…or golfer. “Marty the political campaign manager” or “Marty the original Suns season ticket holder.”  “Marty the colleague” or “Marty the card player.” But we all knew him as “Marty the forwarder of factually questionable spam.”

To me, Marty was dad. And my dad was a paradox: An extroverted recluse. A curmudgeon with a heart of gold. He wore his vices on his sleeve, but hid his virtues under a Grumpy Cat exterior. My father was a virtuoso reaction provoker. You could not spend more than 5 minutes with my father without either loving him or hating him.

Most likely both.

Usually at the same time.

When I was a child we would vacation at Pajaro Dunes, a lovely semi-private beach. But as my dad aged, he reverted to the NY kid who longed for the hubbub of the boardwalk. He began to holiday on Mission Beach, San Diego’s answer to Coney Island. He rented on the promenade. Always with a second story balcony to watch the girls and talk smack to the fellas. My dad was still talking smack in his 70’s.

In the mornings he would greet the world with vocal renditions of Sinatra, Bennett and Hoagie Carmichael. Picture the Mission Beach boardwalk at 8 am on a midweek July morning: A few fit joggers & bikers power by. Locals kibitz over coffee. Hung over college kids stumble home. But mostly families that stayed up too late are trying to grab a few more moments of shut-eye. And there, on the balcony above it all, is my retirement-aged, 260 pound, shirtless, chain-smoking Italian father belting out “Fly me to the moon” overpowering Sinatra on his massive boom box.

No, it wasn’t good.

And, yes, he knew it.

But for a month each summer people would walk past our rental either snickering or grimacing.

In my 49 years I cannot recall a single incident in which my dad was not the center of attention. And it wasn’t that he was intentionally seeking attention or a reaction. He was just a smidge larger than life.

Ideas were important to my dad. He had them. Articulated them. Argued them. And he always won the argument. Usually because his idea was persuasive. When it was not, he had perfected a technique I call “vocal Darwinism”: Survival of the loudest.

Words were important to my dad as well. He used them often – either in the declarative or the exclamatory. If you used a word wrongly you would receive a lesson on its Latin etymology, delivered in the declarative exclamatory.

Inside of my father’s home, where the lion spent the lion’s share of the last 25 years, the most common words addressed to him began, “O Papa.” The “O” could be pronounced with shock, joy, fear, dismay, gratitude, or exasperation. As in “O, Papa!” when he went out of his way to help one of us, or when you caught him, a man in end stage congestive heart failure, sneaking an entire box of sodium enhanced prepackaged spareribs for breakfast. Most of my father’s favorite words cannot be said in church.

My dad was an Italian. A New York raised, swarthy, chain wearing, chain smoking, looked like a mafia Don and sounded like one too, Italian. In case you would like to be an Italian, there are 3 essential words you need to know. My dad made sure we knew them: Capish (understand), Stai Zitto (shut up), and Luie Monjagovol, an untranslatable expression useful for all occasions…mostly for those rare times when you could not use any of the words my dad really preferred using…the ones you cannot use in church.

My father was extremely funny. And sarcastic. Unfortunately, sarcasm often goes over one’s children’s heads…and when it does it often carries decades long consequences. For example, when I was seven and writing the obligatory post-Christmas “Thank you” notes, I made the mistake of telling my dad that envelopes “taste bad.” He said, “That’s because the glue is carcinogenic.” I was always learning important things from my father, like how to pronounce “carcinogenic” and that envelope glue was a dangerous yet unregulated substance. I didn’t lick envelopes until I was a high school junior. I was working as a Suns’ ballboy when one night Ron Lee, a highly personable Suns guard, half licked a ticket envelope and handed it to me to finish. I licked my finger and used that to finish the envelope. I looked up and the entire team was staring at me. I had no idea that they were wondering if I was a racist for not licking an envelope after a Black man. With full conviction informed them, “Licking envelopes is stupid. Y’all are going to die of tongue cancer!”

My dad’s name was Martin Ubaldo Marino. I once asked him why he always wrote “Marty.” He told me “Martin Ubaldo” was long and WOPy sounding so he had it legally changed. I saw him write “Martin U. Marino” on something last year and asked him when he changed his name back. He had no idea what I was talking about.

I live in fear of what other great fictions await my discovery.

My dad was the strongest man I knew. As a kid I would hold on around his neck as he swam underwater 2 complete lengths of our long swimming pool. I could barely hang on due to the water resistance. It must have taken tremendous strength to propel his enormous body and mine through that water. I would have to let go on the first leg to get air and catch him again on his way back.

My dad broke racial barriers long before it was fashionable. In the late 1960’s, Phoenix was a very Anglo town. The first time I laid eyes on an African American was in my house. Asleep. Connie Hawkins had flown into town to look at homes and was tired. So my dad, who sold the early Suns players their homes, brought him over for a nap. Back then professional sports were divided not by management and labor (they all made about the same money), but by color. My dad and trainer Joe Proski socialized with White and Black alike. It took me years to realize that they were the only ones doing that. He never mentioned “justice” or “reconciliation.” He just lived it.

If we did something hard-working or noble my dad said, “You’re a good man, Gunga Din.” I lived to hear those words.

Here is an event which summarizes neatly my father as a dad and grandpa: He beat us to the hospital for our daughter’s birth…and then entertained himself and the hospital staff by loudly and extensively hazing us all over the hospital for being “late to our own child’s delivery!”

Boys always learn the important things in life from their fathers. Here are…

10 life-lessons I learned from my dad:

1. Tools are something you buy…but for someone else to actually use.

2. Do stuff you don’t like simply because you love your kids: Bouncing a Lincoln Continental all over Northern Arizona forest roads to take two teenagers fishing comes to mind. Can you imagine anyone more out of place in a forest than my father?

3. Everyone gets to win in a deal. My dad was a very moral businessman: “Never let anyone get screwed, Matt.” He once told me when some friends hatched a get rich quick scheme.

4. Care for people. One Christmas he was ordered to “tone it down” by the Salvation Army: When he drove up to the house and saw how poor the family was, he loaded the whole tribe into his Fleetwood Brougham and took them on a shopping spree to a warehouse store.

5. It’s better to be kind than nice. My dad was not a nice man. But he was a remarkably kind one. He would come to your aid no matter how ridiculous a situation you had gotten yourself into. But he would ride you on it the whole time.

6. Your gifts can be a stepping-stone or a tombstone. The same pride that made my dad a legendary real estate agent also made him too proud to return to it. Don’t be a victim of your gifts.

7. You can save a lot of money by making your own cigarettes…but money is all you are saving.

8. For a man for whom religion was a regular target of his sarcasm, I learned a great deal about faith from my dad:

-He taught me to read the Bible beginning in the Gospels. I had started the Bible twice and got bogged down in 2 Chronicles both times. Who starts a book 2/3 of the way through? My dad taught me that it is really a collection of books, and that the New interprets the Old.

-I learned to stick with it. On three occasions I thought about quitting the ministry for something that would pay better. Each time my dad was the one who beelined it to my house to talk me out of it. “Why would you do that?” He said. “You were made for this.”

-I learned that what we say and what we mean aren’t always the same thing. Last month, my father, the vocal atheist, called me concerned about a lack of faith by a close family member. The conversation was both funny and profound…

Dad: What are you doing?

Me: At 6:30 A.M. on my day off?

Dad: You aren’t sleeping are you?

Me: Not any more.

Dad: Do you know that  ____ doesn’t believe a GD thing about Jesus Christ. Can you believe that? I mean… JC. Who doesn’t love Jesus, GDit. What the H. Everyone loves Jesus Christ. Even I love Jesus Christ! And I do, dammit. I do love Jesus Christ. GDit. Who doesn’t believe anything? C. I mean really NOT believe anything. What the H?”

Me: Dad, Have you considered contacting Guinness? You might have set a new record for blasphemies in a conversation for Jesus.

Dad (after an out of character apology for his word choice): You need to do something about that! You need to talk to him!

Me: Dad, you have spent 30 years mocking faith. And you are surprised that he took you at your word? I have always known you had a secret thing for Jesus, you just protested too much. But I really think you should have that talk. Be honest. Let him know that, although you have big issues with the church, that you actually think quite highly of Jesus and it bothers you that he doesn’t.

I don’t know if that conversation ever happened.

9. Number nine takes a little setup: My dad went to great lengths to avoid exercise. If he had a religion, it might have been named Exercise-avoidance-ism. This religion had at its theological core the doctrine that “every human is allotted a certain number of heartbeats at birth and that if you want to waste yours exercising, that is your business.”

So, #9, I learned that His theory on “the conservation of heartbeats” is probably flawed.

10. Speaking of flawed, the worst day of a kid’s life might be the day he finds out his dad is flawed. And my dad was quite flawed. However, one of the best days in a man’s life is the day he finds out that his flawed dad is still quite human and, in many ways, quite holy. One day last summer he and my stepmother came over unannounced and told us that she had had beaten cancer.  They had never told us that she had cancer-it might have been the only secret my father ever kept. That day, the only time in my life that I saw my father cry, he threw his arms around my stepmom, squeezed her hard enough that we feared for her safety, and blurted through his tears how much he loved her and how lost he would be if anything happened to her. I will never forget that day. It told me my dad was growing…becoming more alive…even as his body was obviously dying.

As I thought about a memorial to my father I thought, “This will be the first time someone gets the last word on Marty Marino.” But as a Christian, I don’t actually believe that I have.

Dad I love you. And I miss you already.

See you later.

The Latino challenge for an all-too-White Church

latino-familySnark MeterrealMID.003A week ago our bishop had our clergy and key lay leaders attend a day-long meeting to contemplate evangelism in the Latino community. He received a great deal of push-back, including comments like, “Those just are not our kind of people.” Below is my emotional reaction in this family-fight in defense of my bishop whom I support and love and his vision for us to embrace the message of the signs we place in front of our churches, “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You”…

I have noticed something: Most people like diversity. As long as the diversity is a lot like us – People in our social class, who tell the same jokes, like the same music and watch the same tv. We like diverse people…as long as they aren’t too diverse. We like Inclusion. But it is always easier to include those who like what we like and look like we look.

Eight months ago I was asked by the Diocese of California to preach in a predominantly Anglo church in a predominantly non-Anglo neighborhood. They asked to be pushed on their racial disconnect. The leaders there previewed the sermon and, for the first time in my life, sent it back asking me to up the level of challenge. They were willing to be pushed. Are we?

Latinos represent a challenge for us. Latinos will be a majority in Arizona by 2020. According to Wikipedia, non-Anglos will be the majority in 13 other states by then as well. And first generation Latinos do not get our jokes or like our church music. Many don’t speak our language.

How will White Christians respond? We can cloister our churches until, like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, we are the last Anglo in the neighborhood. We can put the “for sale” sign in the yard and move where people “like us” live. Or we could re-engage to reach those God is bringing our neighborhoods with the Good News and hope of Jesus.

We are not talking about doing what Jesus did and actually, “move into the neighborhood,” as Eugene Peterson translates John 1:14. We are just talking about not moving out of it.

There is an obvious question that many of my upwardly mobile friends don’t want to talk about: How can White Christians take seriously the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) to “GO and make disciples of ALL nations,” if we move away from those “nations” to live behind a gate somewhere else? Many of us are aware that the Greek word for “nations” is “ethnay”- literally “Ethic groups.” So we are specifically commanded by Jesus to take the Good News of Jesus to those who do not look like us. God included them in the Great Commission specifically. How can the Church exclude them with our avoidance? How can we exclude them with worship services that are painfully non-welcoming in their mono-ethnicity?

I realize how much easier it is to paint “Welcome” on our sign than to write it upon our hearts. It is easier to make inclusion a slogan than a smile as we stick out our hand and say, “Hi my name is ____ and I want to invite you to worship with me this Sunday.”

Mark DeYmaz wrote a decade ago that the average church is 10x more segregated than the neighborhood it is situated in. Unfortunately, the research also tells us mainline churches, which pride ourselves on “inclusion,” are significantly more mono-ethnic than  evangelical churches.

It is no secret that many of Phoenix’s early suburbs are in serious decline. Manicured grass replaced with dirt and weeds. Trees lined streets are stark and stump laden. Cars that don’t run sit on deflating tires. Apartment screens hang from windows like the flags of defeated nations. The parents who supervise no longer allow their children to play in the streets for fear of the “bad element.” These things are not an accident. They are what happens when leadership leaves. When we pack up and move somewhere “better.” Even as our urban cores are renewed, the poor are being pushed out of the donut hole of poverty that were once inner-cities, for our neighborhoods. Now, dispersed throughout the donut, the poor no longer have easy access to services. The poor, of every ethnicity, need our engagement.

It is our new reality that makes me long for the vision of Zechariah 8 in which “Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age. And the…city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.” That is a beautiful vision of what our decaying suburban neighborhoods could be once again. A vision of what God wants to do through his people – All of them.

Christians are “foreigners and exiles” in this world. (1 Peter 2:11) How can those who name the name of Jesus, extend anything other than welcome to fellow exiles? (Deuteronomy 10:19)

Rappelling, Race and Your Role in the Redemption of the World

tumblr_m63xqaWsoc1r4kpnxo1_400A sermon from the Healing of the Paralytic (Mark 2) given at the Diocese of California’s “Equipping the Beloved Community.” Topic: “Reaching people who don’t look like us.” 

Today we heard the story of a person literally at the end of ropes in a strange place.

What is it like to be at the end of a rope hanging over the unknown?

I had that experience once. I took students rock climbing and rappelling on the boulders outside of Tombstone, Arizona, site of the gunfight at the OK Corral. A retired Army Special Forces guy named Mike organized the trips to teach spiritual principles through great adventures.

In case the terms are new, “Rock climbing” is going up a rock face, “rappelling” is sliding back down on a rope – you see it on military recruiting commercials. It was spectacularly fun. Afterwards, we went to dinner in town. We assumed we were done for the night, when the guide turned his station wagon back toward the desert and informed us we were going to night rappel.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a little bit afraid of the dark.

Don’t laugh – You are too.

We were led up the back of the 90′ cliff by flashlight. The guides tossed the rope over the edge, looked at me and said, “You first.” Ever the reasonable man, I pointed out that it would make more sense to have a trained person on the ground first. Mike says, “We need them up here. You first.”

There was a sliver of moon, which, in the dry air, lit the top half of the cliff face. An outcropping shielded the bottom from the moonlight, The bottom half was a dark mystery.

When rappelling you are attached to the rope by a metal figure 8. This slows your descent by friction. Placing your hand in the middle of your back with the rope in it acts as a brake and you stop. Moving your hand away from the middle of your back allows the rope to slip through the figure 8 and your hand, and down you go.

I started the descent – nine stories in the dark.

Wanting off the rope as soon as possible I go down fast. Perpendicular to the rock face, I jump out as far out as possible to slide down the rope as fast as possible…

I get below the outcropping blocking the moon. Now in blackness, I slow to a crawl. I am shivering in the warm evening.

“How is it going?” The guide yells down at me.

“Great.” I yell up unconvincingly.

“Good.”

“Sure is dark down here.” I say somewhat pathetically.

“Tell us when you are on the ground.”

I feel the end of the rope in my hand.

“Uhhh, we have a problem. I’m out of rope.”

“Good. Send it back up.”

“You aren’t reading me: No rope, AND no ground either.”

If you have had grief training you know the stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression… In the slowest two minutes of my life I journey through them. Mike, leaning over the edge, starts with denial. “That’s impossible. You are on a 90’ cliff with a 100’ rope.”

As you might imagine, I respond with anger. “That’s a nice theory but I am definitely not on the ground.”

“How far away is it?” The guide calls.

“Since you had me rappel into utter darkness, you tell me.” I move to bargaining: “How about you pull me back up?”

“Sorry, we have no way to get you back.”

Now depression sets in…and a little panic. Beads of sweat form on my forehead. “I hope you have some ideas, I’m stuck here.” I say nervously.

“Uhmm, try poking around with your foot some more?”

So there I am, in a dark place, all alone…at the end of my rope.

We have all been in dark places. Felt alone. As Christians, though, we know we are not actually alone, no matter how dark the night. We are, however, surrounded by people for whom “God with us” is not their reality. They are lost and hurting. In dark places. Alone. At the end of their ropes. Some are aware of this. Others not so much.

Look at what Jesus does with someone in that place…

Picture yourself at our Gospel event that long ago evening: A crowd shoehorned into a living room. The yard also jammed with people. In the crowd, you listen to Jesus teach when dust begins to fall from the ceiling of the sod-roofed home. Dirt chunks, grass and sticks fall to the floor in front of you. Heads pop through the hole. The vandals pull out beams, expanding their damage. And then down comes this guy, lowered in front of Jesus.

Jesus, master of the unexpected, sees “their faith” and “looking at the man says, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.'”

When most of us hear the “s” word we cringe. Even in church “sin” makes us fidget in our seats. If you are “conservative” you probably have a mental list of personal behaviors that are “sins,” “progressive” and you probably see systemic evil as “sins.” I propose a more ancient way of defining sin…simply as looking for life apart from God. When considered in that way, it explains both our wandering into individual self-destructive behaviors and participation in systemic evil. We were made to worship the one true and living God. We all wander from our purpose and look for life apart from our maker. Jesus looks at the paralytic and says in effect, “You have a bigger problem than legs that don’t work. You have a heart that is looking for life apart from me. I forgive you.” And, “so that you may know that the Son of Man has the power to forgive sins, Get up, take your mat and go home.”

And he does.

Imagine the friend’s giddiness. Can you picture them staring through the hole yelling, “I told you so!” to their wobbly-legged friend?

These friends were pretty amazing. They:

-Went as a team, rather than alone.

-Knew that healing is found in a person, rather than a place.

-Cared enough to bring him to Jesus.

-Wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, neither from their friend, the crowd, or even the homeowner. Imagine the conversation to convince the friend. I would guess the paralytic said something like, “I have no intention of being the butt of every joke in town when your scheme doesn’t work.”

-Went to ridiculous lengths to put their friend in front of Jesus: They risked time, energy, potentially their self-respect, and, surely, a good bit of money at Home Depot afterward. They literally got their hands dirty to bring their friend to the Savior.

What about you? Who are you a spiritual friend to? We have friends all around us who need the healing and forgiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ: at your work, school, in your family, surrounding your church.

Are you willing to do whatever it takes to help them see Jesus…willing to get your hands dirty? Jesus saw “their faith.” Do you faith to bring Christ’s healing and salvation to your community?

I don’t know your context. But I have looked at the demographic data for your schools. They are remarkably integrated. Why isn’t your church?

Shouldn’t a church reflect its community? Why is your church mono-ethnic in an integrated neighborhood? Perhaps, as it was for the paralytic, the way into church is blocked? It isn’t always the crowds that keep people away from the Savior.

Mark DeYmaz, in Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church, says the average American church is 10x more segregated than its neighborhood.

Prior to coming to the Diocese I worked in a historically upper middle-class youth ministry in a neighborhood becoming less White by the year. We took our leaders to the high school quad and, while looking at real students, asked “Who on campus isn’t in our ministry and why?” Then leaders picked groups and went and got to know them.

When those kids began to follow Christ we took them to church. A painful thing then began to happen: After worship the young people would say what Luis Acosta said, “Matt, I love that you stalked me for Jesus. I love that you made me come to Bible study and taught me to obey Jesus.’ I love that you are training me to be a Christian leader….but do you have to keep dragging me to these godawful churches.” I was confused: We had gone to Anglo churches, Latino churches, Black churches.  At each the people were nice, the music excellent, the sermon interesting. Luis pointed out the monochrome reality, “Everyone here was (fill in the racial blank). Then he asked, “Why is God the only racist in my life?

I was stunned by the question. It has been more than 50 years since Dr. King said that 10 am on Sunday is the most segregated hour in America, and still 92% of American Protestants attend mono-ethnic church services. Your own Julia McCray Goldsmith’s son said to her, “I don’t want to go to church-it’s the only place I go that’s all-White.”

We hang signs that say, “We welcome you.” But what do we do to welcome people who don’t look like us?

I came to the Episcopal Church in part because, in addition to promising Protestant theology with catholic worship, access to the wisdom of the earliest Christians and the hopeful idea that we could agree to pray the same words rather than agree on every theological jot and tittle, we believe in the dignity of those who aren’t like us. Unfortunately, “Welcome” is easier to paint on a sign than to do.

Statistically Evangelical churches are much more integrated than Mainline churches. How is that possible? Perhaps while we were talking about justice, they were talking about Jesus.

How will our children believe us that Christ loves the world and went to the cross for the salvation of humanity if the church looks completely unlike their world? We can do better for our children.

What if everyone here said, “I don’t care what anyone says or thinks of me, the Christian message is true, so the most important thing in the world is the forgiveness and healing found in Christ.” What if out of that conviction each of us engaged in friendships with people who are unlike us? What if we talked to the under-represented about what would need to change in order for them to feel culturally welcomed while spiritually challenged.

Imagine what your world might look like a decade from now if we lived that kind of Biblical welcome…

-Entire neighborhoods walking in the healing and forgiving love of Jesus.

-Not just full churches, but joyful neighborhoods, laughter in the streets and hope in human hearts.

O that we would say what Isaiah said to God so many years ago, “Here am I. Send me.”

…Back to my climbing story: It turned out I was only inches above the ground. Coming down the cliff face I had angled left toward the moonlight. The cliff bottomed into a downward sloping hill. I had moved just far enough toward the moonlight to leave the ground 2” below my outstretched toes. In the end, I had been afraid of a harmless unknown. Isn’t the unknown what we are really afraid of when it comes to opening wide our churches so that others could experience the love, healing, and salvation of Jesus?

Are you willing to take a risk for the Kingdom? As one who is safe on the rope of God’s mercy, are you willing to go, make unchurched friends, and jump with them into God’s unknown?

When we take a risk we never know what God might do.

And, the paralytic that gets healed might just be us.

Politics: Hunger Games for a Dreadful America

                                     …and what we could do differently.

What is my issue with today’s political climate? The negative, fear-based motivation of it all. The “other side” is invariably characterized as demons conspiring to rob our children of their oxygen, education and leave us eating Soylent Green. In fear-based politics there is always a winner and a loser. We are given a choice to root for or against. We are held hostage by twisters of our emotions in a media driven, two-party Hunger Game. Is there not a better way?

What if instead we tried to “Find the Win”? This isn’t a new idea. Win-Win wasn’t new when Steven Covey made it one of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. But it is an idea that would take us out of the polarization and demonization of the other half of America.

How could “Find the Win” could help a complex situation? Let’s take one hot button issue as an illustration: Illegal immigration:

We are told that we will either let ourselves be over-run by brown hordes stealing our jobs and ruining our hospitals and schools, or we are heartless hate-mongers causing those who are doing exactly what we did (come for a better life) die agonizing deaths in the desert after being raped and exploited by coyotes. These words have power because there is a kernel of truth to them…it has all happened and is all happening. But what if instead of looking at illegal immigration through the lenses of fear politics and winners and losers we looked at what everyone needs to gain through immigration? What if we found “wins” for everyone?

We know what some group’s wins are:

Mexican government: Needs to export an overabundance of underemployed males. Underemployed males create all sorts of trouble in a culture.

Mexican families: A chance to find a better life…and the ability to live free of fear as they do so.

But what about some of the other groups?

American business: Like it or not, American business needs immigrant labor. There are jobs that second generation people do not want. I have a college friend who packed fish 100 hours a week this summer in Alaska. The crew was ½ American, ½ from around the world. Why? Because not enough Americans applied so they had to pay to transport labor from other countries.

The U.S. Government: The U.S. Government spends scads of money patrolling the border, funding training and equipment for the Mexican Army and says that they are only spending a small percentage of what they need. The American government needs to keep Mexican criminals – who prey on Mexican nationals out. Why do Mexican criminals want to come to the U.S.? Because illegal immigrants will not call law enforcement when their homes are invaded for the money from their cash paying jobs. Our border policy has this un-anticipated, neighborhood devastating consequence.

The American John Q. Public: It is true that there are entire swaths of Phoenix where you could spend a month on the street and never hear English spoken. It is true that public school education is being watered down by overwhelming numbers of non-English speaking children whose parents do not understand the system and move when progress is being made. It is true that our medical system is being overwhelmed by non-paying patients, many of whom are immigrants. However, those of us who are John Q. Public also need the cheap products and cheap food that cheap labor provides. Like it or not, our economy runs on Walmart diminished labor costs. I bought a leather basketball last week. It cost half of what a leather ball cost when I was in college-with no accounting for inflation!

So how do we help everyone get their’ win?

Americans want people who speak English and understand American culture (the way they did when they came to the U.S). John Q. Public’s win is people who understand living in the U.S., like how the school system will bless their family with college education available to all, and that the quickest path to wealth is home ownership in an appreciating neighborhood.

Those things could be taught in English language/Life in America night schools all over Mexico. Three nights a week people could take English classes and one night a week “Life in America” class. When they demonstrate mastery of the language they have a graduation where students get a work permit, chance to apply for a drivers license, a job, a bus ticket and an apartment. When Mexican workers get to America they would understand the educational system’s value to their family, they would have access to the information to be invested in their children’s academic success. Immigrants would understand that growing a lawn and (this will sound offensive, but it bugs White America) trucks parked in the driveway rather than the front yard help their home values and make their neighborhood a safer place to live. (Broken Windows Theory)

Who would pay for this? The Mexican government would allow free use of elementary schools after hours (since they benefit from direct renumerations from workers Western Unioning money to Mexico). American businesses, with contribution from those desiring immigration, would pay to fund teachers and line-up apartments & bus tickets. Apartment deposits & tickets would be repaid from first month’s salaries. Workers would be free to bring families after four months and apply for dual citizenship after three years of a clean record.

The border would become a place where no law-abiding citizen ever needed to tread. Therefore enforcement would become much simpler: The only people out there would be criminals and cartel members.

Everyone would get what they need: the Mexican government, Mexican immigrants, American citizens, American business, and the American government. Both political parties would accomplish the values that they say they uphold.

Look for the win: Language & Culture School with a job and dual-citizenship onramp. It is simple, logical and meets everyone’s needs. Everyone wins. The solution seems so obvious when you start with the assumption of helping people get what they need rather than what will go wrong if someone else gets what they need. Why has no one suggested this? I think the answer is simple: There are no losers.