Saturday, June 20, 2015

Charleston Hearbreak

The words in my brain
won't stop pounding out the names
The killers and the killed

And the news stream
to be blurring all the lines
So that a black boy killed
is labeled a thug
but somehow a white boy killer
can't be a terrorist,
poor boy's actions just
product of a deranged mind

What about our deranged society
because they still took him in alive
But for some
possibly stolen Cigarillos
that officer knew nothing about
they killed him

He couldn't breathe
and they killed him

He was playing in a park
and they killed him

She was driving a stolen car
and they killed her

She was sleeping in her bed

But they, were just doing their duty

And the numbers keep on rising
will we notice when
our streets literally run red
with blood like
the French Revolution images in my high school history books?

My heart's so broken
tears can't even come
I'm split wide open
When will it all be done?

Cuz we've been crying for ages,
"Lord, come soon"

Oh dear revolutionary Jesus
I know you're here with us
But please change things soon
Because Your people
aren't doing much
too much of the time

And today
I'm out of grace
for people who just won't see
Who call the dead kids "thugs,"
and the live killers just "crazy"
Would they say the same if it was their kid
lying four hours dead, in the streets

Dear revolutionary Jesus,
may the blind see
and your deaf children hear
And may my heart remain broken
Until in justice is no more
Come soon.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner, Homelessness, Racism and Christians

This isn't really a blog about Caitlyn Jenner, it's about how we respond to Caitlyn Jenner.

This isn't a blog about whether it is right or wrong to change one's identity, because I believe I should spend more time getting the log out of my own eye than picking the speck from the eyes of those around me. With my remaining time, I want to spend it like Jesus did, seeing and loving the human being in front of me - regardless of their gender identity, race, sexuality, socio-economic status, education, or religion.

In the past week since Vanity Fair released their magazine cover with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover, I have watched the internet blow up, and a lot of the responses have honestly broken my heart.

I posted this on my Facebook page, "You know what makes me sad? All the "Christians" who are blowing up about Caitlyn Jenner and starting Facebook arguments about how wrong being trans is, but have spent the past year turning a blind eye to the sins of racism, oppression, and injustice in our country and world. Let's spend our energy fighting for peace, love, and justice, not tearing down people we don't know without stopping to ask and listen. The question, "what would Jesus do?" should preface your Facebook posts and your real-life interactions. Remember who Jesus hungout with, remember the Samaritan woman He befriended."

There are a lot of people who align themselves with the religious institution of Christianity who have voiced some very strong opinions about Caitlyn Jenner, and as a result about all transgender individuals. Many of these comments have varied from disrespectful to downright cruel, from calling Caitlyn Jenner disgusting and a disgrace, to simply refusing to call Caitlyn "her" and refer to her as "Bruce."

Here's the thing. I think if Jesus were standing here today, He'd call her Caitlyn. I don't care to argue God's opinion on changing one's gender. I don't know God's mind, and so I won't pretend to speak authoritatively on something that has not been revealed to me. But whether He agreed with her gender change or not, I believe Jesus would respect her desire to be called Caitlyn.

Because here's what I do know about God. I know God is love. And I know God met and meets people where they're at. God is this beautiful person who comes to where we are, He doesn't expect us to ascend the mountain top to find Him after becoming perfect on our own strength. He comes wherever we are, and stays there with us until His unending love has moved us.

I know this because of the people Jesus spent time with when He as on earth.

He ate dinner with tax collectors, people who took money form the poor to put extra food on their own tables, people truly hated by nearly everyone. He spent time with prostitutes, He even let one touch His feet and wash them with perfume. He got near enough to lepers to heal them, people who were so unclean with a highly contagious disease they couldn't be near the cities and had to live outside the city far away from friends and family, He got close enough to heal them.

Once Jesus met a woman at a well around noon. In those times, women went to the well each day to draw water, they typically went in the mornings because it was cooler and they could avoid the heat. Noon was the hottest part of the day, when no one would usually be at the well, and this was the time this woman, the Samaritan Woman, went to the well. She went at this time to avoid all the other women, because of her lifestyle and the choice she had made, she was looked down on and considered a disgraceful woman. And Jesus met her there, risking His own reputation by talking to "that kind of woman." And He saw her, a woman in need of love. He met her right where she was at, loved her in that moment, loved her as "that kind of woman."

This is the Jesus I wish Christians looked a little bit more like.

We spend so much time drawing lines in the sand instead of getting to know a fellow human being. So much time is spent preserving the wall between "us" and "them," focusing on what keeps us separate instead of what makes us all human, what makes us all divine beings created in the image of the Almighty God of the universe? Flawed creation, by our own doing, yes...but His divine creation nonetheless.

I think if we spent a little more time seeing humanity as God's precious creation, we'd have less time to spend pointing fingers and posting angry, hurtful, and damaging things on our Facebook pages.

What I've found is that the more I interact with people who are different than I (gender, sexuality, religion, race, education, housing situation, mental state), the less I see a "them" and "they" and the more I delight in being an "us." See, it's really easy to judge "them," because they are separate from me. I'm not grouped in with whatever they aren't doing right, whatever is wrong about them. It keeps me clean while allowing me to still cast the judgements. But when it becomes about us, I suddenly am confronted with my own issues, with whatever isn't right about myself. And that's harder to deal with, but that also breeds a space of compassion and empathy, because suddenly we are all humans together, all broken together, and all beautiful together.

It's easy to tell people you don't know how they should live, what they should do, what they're doing wrong, and how they should change. And we like to do that. Keep people impersonal, walk up to a stranger on a street corner and tell them to clean up their act and get right with God, stop living this "life of sin." But what I've discovered is when I get to know people, I no longer want to tell them how they should live, what they're doing wrong, and what they need to do to be a better person.

I think it is in this space of relationship, of seeing what we have in common rather than our differences, that we see God.

See, when we draw all these lines between "us" and "them," we lose humanity. When young black women, men, and trans individuals are shot by the police and media call them "thugs" and say they deserved it, or ignore peaceful protestors in Baltimore and call all the protests in Ferguson riots. When poverty is criminalized and homelessness is made illegal. When someone on the street corner with a cardboard sign is labeled a lazy drunk undeserving of money who should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps. When someone comes out and is suddenly labeled a "sinner" going to hell...

Jesus didn't put up these walls. He drew designs in the sand and asked the man who was sinless to throw the first stone. And when none could stand blameless and all had walked away, He was still there to kneel down by a naked, shaking, shamed woman and held out His hand to bring her to safety.

When we put up these walls, we miss Jesus.

One of my favorite places in all of Denver is The Network Coffee House. It's a place for my homeless friends to hangout, a safe space to have coffee and relax without fear of the weather or harassment. It's a place to be human. It's where I've learned the most, and where I meet Jesus every week in the face of my broken friends who simply know they are loved. They know they don't deserve it, and they know they are His children.

What I see more and more clearly, the more I interact with the poor and those who, on the outside, look different than me, is that we are truly all the same. We should be united in the fact that we are created in the image of God, the divine in us. And we should be united in the fact that we are all broken, sinful and flawed, the dirt. Dirt and divine, that is who we are. Created out of dust into the image of the Divine. What a beautiful God to create us and love us so spectacularly.

And so as I see it, my job is not to inform people to stop living in sin, God can handle that if He desires. My job is to follow the greatest commandment, to love God, myself, and my neighbor. Because if I love God, I will love myself, as His image-bearer. And I will love my neighbor as myself, for I will see they too are created in the image of God. Beautiful and lovely just as they are.