Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Vancouver Celebration of Hope?

Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me. Matt.10, The Message
Matthew 10 is a country mile from a babe in a manger on a gorgeous, starlit night; but then, not everything Jesus said would look good on a t-shirt, at least I've never seen one that says, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword."


Both sides of almost any theological tussle can campaign under that New Testament passage. There have been a million such tussles. Up on a hill just east of the Big Sioux River sits a cemetery, alone now where there once was a tiny settlement of Norwegians, a place called Highland, a half-dozen buildings, no more, and two of them--that's right, two--were houses of worship.

I'm guessing that once upon a time both sides of town could claim righteousness on the basis of Matthew 10. Right now there's another tussle in Vancouver, where the The Reverend Franklin Graham will be speaking very soon. Graham isn't shy about using the sword Christ removes from the sheath in Matthew 10. He's made vitriolic pronouncements on gays and Muslims, remarks some Vancouver Christian leaders call "disparaging and uncharitable."

What did Franklin Graham say? That Muslims should not be permitted to enter the United States because Islam is “a very evil and wicked religion"; that gays have no place in churches or even Christian homes because "the Enemy wants to devour our homes"; and that the election of Donald Trump was something akin to "an act of God."

Significant numbers of evangelical and Catholic leaders in the city of Vancouver have actively and now publicly opposed the Reverend Graham's coming to the city for an old-fashioned crusade. When their attempts failed to get the Crusade's planners to substitute some other main speaker, they went public with their criticism. Next week, Franklin Graham, despite the protest, will speak at the Vancouver Celebration of Hope.

The public letter those Christians sent to the people of Vancouver raises concerns about fracturing even further an already divided city and country, especially after the deadly attack on a mosque in Quebec. The suspect, a terrorist, but not a Muslim, was well-known as a troll who opposed Canada's refugee programs.

Some Christians want Franklin to save Vancouver souls. Some believe he should stay home. All of them believe the Bible.

Is this what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 10? And if it is, in this particular situation, who is wielding the sword Jesus unsheathes: is it Franklin Graham and the walls his ardent principles create, or is it the letter's signatories, who would keep Franklin Graham outside the walls of the city? Who is wielding the sword and who is bleeding?

Trumpism's tornadic might has shattered evangelicalism.

One of the leaders who signed the letter is a former student, an English major, and a fine writer. After college, for four years she worked in the Middle East, organizing and facilitating numerous interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Based in Cairo, she also helped organize volunteer work among refugee organizations. Today she works with refugee resettlement in the city of Vancouver.

I don't claim to know how to interpret the words of Jesus in Matthew 10, not when it comes to whose swords should be wielded and whose blood might be shed--I really don't know. 

But in this particular Vancouver conflict, I know where I stand. 


Anonymous said...

Sword, huh? Reminds me of the one laying on the bottom of the Onion River.

Jerry27 said...

Eartha Kitt and Billy Graham used their status as White house visiters to complain about the ritual murder of Americans in Viet Nam. Lady Bird saw to it Eartha was black listed. Billy asked Tricky Dick why he had not bombed the dykes in North Viet Nam. Billy got admitted to that white males only fraternity of guys who have been charged with war crimes.
I hope the fruit did not fall far from the tree.