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.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Shitholes


The first word that came to my mind when we got to Haiti was unimaginable. Had you asked me to sketch an image of what the streets of Port-au-Prince would look like, I could not have scribbled out anything close to what I saw.

But h
uman beings live where they're planted. Life goes on in Port au Prince, just as it does in other places I've visited. Men and women laugh and cry and make love. They get angry and cool off--they eat and drink and some of them remember and believe. They're happy. Things aren't managed as efficiently, as bountifully, or as ritually as they are here in Sioux County, Iowa, where the descendants of European Calvinists--me among 'em--won't let the sun go down on our labor.

Sioux County is the healthiest county in the state.  Why? We raise hogs, but we're not pigs. We know hot to win, so we dominate, in hogs and beef and milk and hens and basketball. We were largely white until illegal immigration. But most of our new neighbors work just as hard as we do, if not harder, most of them at jobs we're happy to give 'em because we sure don't want 'em ourselves.

What can someone like me possibly understand about Haiti or Niger or Ghana, after a visit of a few short days? Hardly anything.

Not long ago, I attended a lecture given by an ex-student whose job it is to free slaves. You read that right. He and his organization, Christian Solidarity International, reach up into North Sudan, a Muslim country full of slaves, pay slave-owners some kind of bounty, and bring those real live human beings back to the Christian South, their home, even though some of them have been away, in slavery, for decades. It's hard work and its dangerous.

You look at a crowd of freed slaves, victims of every horrendous kind of abuse you can imagine and worse, people who've survived a long war in which two million of their country men died and six million lost their homes, and you see in their gaunt faces, their vacant eyes, a level of suffering not seen even on the streets of Port au Prince, those streets I couldn't help thinking, at first glance, were "unimaginable."

But w
hat do I know about suffering? I live in Sioux County, Iowa. I'm retired, and I go to the gym every day. Today it might well be 10 below outside my window, but I'm barefoot on a heated basement floor.

Here's what I do know. If there is a God, and if he hears our prayers, then sure as anything he hears all of theirs too, those prayers uttered by Haitians and Sudanese and rural folks from Mali. In fact, those prayers may well come louder to God's ears than mine; they're being rung from much greater need, people whose future is so immediate it's stretches before them no longer than a day, whose work, whose job, whose profession it is simply to stay alive.

If God exists, and I believe he does, he hears every last one of those prayers because He hears every last one of us who call on his name. That's what the Bible says. What he answers is his business. But we know he listens.

I know something about Haiti--I've been there. I've been to the west African countryside in Ghana, Niger, and Mali. I've been to places where people live in abodes that look nothing like mine or anyone else's in the neighborhood. But I'm no expert. I was in and out.

I do know this, however--God almighty listens to every last one of us, Sioux County's most fit, Haiti's street people, those suffering South Sudanese, slaves and free, and barefoot tribal folks from rural west Africa. He hears them all, millions of us. That's what is really unimaginable. 

And I know this too. Our God does not think of where those people live as shitholes. 

25 comments:

Paul Vander Klay said...

I love this post.

My kvetch would be Genesis 5 where God looked down and saw that our violence and injustice turned his good earth into a shithole. He regretted making us. He then decided to try to fix it, or rather to flush it, which is what we do with shit. The flaw in his plan was his mercy.

the "shithole" comment was most grievous because the POTUS didn't just comment on the shitholes, he associated the shitholes with people with an insinuation of contamination. Shitty people come from shitholes and we don't what their kind in our nice clean country.

It might well be that the man who sat atop NYC on a golden throne is a germ-a-phobe. He washes his hands a lot. He insinuates that shithole places yield shithole people and he doesn't want "their kind" in our country. I'd like to suggest as Jesus did that it's not what goes into our mouth or what gets on our skin that makes us unclean, but what comes out of our mouth.

Back to Genesis. The flaw in God's flushing plan was his mercy. He picked the least shitty person he could find on the planet, had him build a boat and rescued his family with a representative, reproductive sample of the innocent animal population. Hurrah!

He flushed, the world was cleansed, but the best man in the world brought the contamination into the newly cleansed earth and we made it a shithole once more, even your lovely Iowa.

The creator's next plan was to make for himself a shitty nation and send his son among shitty people to become shit for them to make them clean.

He hears our shitty prayers, often the shittier the better like the publican in the temple. Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.

Anonymous said...

As a Republican I am highly embarrassed of his comments. His words do not define us as a party. I don't understand his need to act like a shithead and make comments about people we are called to help. Very disappointing.....

Anonymous said...

At one time or another, we are all descendants of immigrants from places that previous generations considered shit-holes. I'm a shit-holer myself since about 150 years ago, Chinese were no better than slaves for hard labor for the railroads. Today, the only shit-hole and the only resident of the said shit-hole is in 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

prayer partner said...

We, the Church, the Bride of Christ... are called to serve the least of these (the untouchables, the lepers Jesus reached out to, the poor and needy, those who think they are rich but are pitiful, wretched, poor, blind and naked Rev 3:17)... and recognize them as precious, priceless and beautiful made in the image of God as His workmanship, His masterpieces...

we are all stained... apart from Christ, our deeds are as filthy rags... and the Hebrew understanding of that filth is a body by-product/waste... but with His Blood, He makes our righteous deeds beautiful linen, clean, white and bright worthy of His Bride... Rev 19:8

so Church, let's do our job, the righteous deeds that are part of the wedding garment(s) of Jesus' Bride... She's going to be beautiful, radiant, holy and pure...

we can operate in protectionism of our own lifestyles, or we can use our blessings to bless others... I know what I'm choosing... and yes, it's messy and inconvenient and costly... but it's beautiful and eternal for His glory...

Anonymous said...

All religion and religious aspects aside, President Trump speaks the truth! He speaks it bluntly and plainly in language we can all understand! He speaks the words and conveys the ideas that the best majority of Americans think but are afraid to express themselves!

Rob said...

Professor Schaap, a well written expose about your experience in the "shithole" nations.

Commentary/Reaction:
Well, many would refer to them as "third world" nations, which essentially is just as bad, no? "Third world" countries are stereotyped because many of them were economically poor, and non-industrialized. Yet "third world" really referred to neutral and non-aligned countries. First world were the United States, United Kingdom and their allies and Second world referred to the Soviet Union, China, and their allies.

Although our President allegedly (haven't seen a clip yet) derogatory remarks referring to Haiti, and some African Nations as "shitholes". Haven't we been downgrading these nations' status for a while?

Even our beloved Calvin College offered a Third World Development Studies (http://www.calvin.edu/academic/twds/contact/) just recently renaming it to International Development Studies. Yet I'm sure there are some degrees documenting a minor in Third World Development Studies. Did their studies take place in Ireland, Switzerland, or Sweden? In a brief search of Alumni who participated, we find Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Honduras.

Shitholes, third-world, or the politically correct term of "developing countries", we are referring to nations that we have deemed lesser than ours!

Anonymous said...

It has occurred to me recently (maybe I am a little behind) that maybe many Americans just don't feel like helping people who come from shitholes or are mired in them in our own country. It is too inconvenient; after all, we need to be busy making money, building bigger houses, taking more elaborate vacations. Who has time to help someone out? And those facts make us look racist even though we may loudly protest that we are not. It's not that we don't know better, but we are just not caring enough. Oh yes, there are plenty of people who do care, but their voices are not heard or reflected in the words of our President. Where are the voices of his party? Where are the voices of the Christians? Enough is enough!

lucretius said...

Ugggh. It's this kind of soft-pedaled racism that helps to empower people like Steve King and Trump. I grew up in the CRC and I've been to Souix Center. It was most definitely perceived by myself to be a sh*thole compared to other places I had been and where I grew up.

I am so sick of the Eurocentrism of the CRC in which I grew up, which preaches about how wonderful our little genetic and religious heritage is and how benighted all these other countries are where we send missionaries.

This piece is as racist as calling Africa a "sh*thole." Saying that God looks down in love on all these places that aren't nearly as nice as Sioux Center (which is not nice, y'all), and still loves them IS the very definition of racism.

By saying that God loves black people despite their inferiority is to say that black people are inferior. Which is racist. The CRC is racist. This blog post is racist. Our president is racist. And many people opposed to the vulgarity of the President's comments, but not their substance are also racist.

Anonymous said...

Having lived in Chicago and Colorado and Sioux County, and having been to Haiti twice, the place that SMELLS most like a [poop]hole is Sioux County.

Anonymous said...

Lucre, the writer of this piece never said or implied that his own place of residence is superior to, or better than, Haiti. He suggested that it's much more comfortable, which goes without saying. You're putting words in his mouth. Your argument is invalid on many levels.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Trump was saying that the people of certain "shithole" countries were shitholes themselves. Let's face it certain countries are not great places to live. Not necessarily because of the people but because of the governments and the culture that they have to live under. And they take their culture with them.
I think he was saying that we already take on a lot of extra burden by taking in people who are often uneducated and unskilled. The question was then why can't we have people from places like Norway, thus adding more educated and skilled people to our country.

Perhaps the most humane thing to do is exactly what Trump was trying to say in his "vulgar" way. Make our country strong. Then we can really reach out to the world and help change the situation for those living in countries that are less fortunate. Perhaps it is time to focus on our own country. There is plenty to do in our own inner cities. They really need our help.

By the way, I grew up in beloved Sioux County. It is one of the best and worst places to live. Great people who mean well but perhaps a little morally superior. Trump may not be the best verbally but try doing what he is doing with the press on your case 24/7. Frustrating to say the least.

Get off your moral high ground.

Beth said...

Thanks, Jim, for just going directly to the heart of the the matter -- God looks at the countries where (not only) those people live and does not think of them as shitholes. They (and the country's in which they live) belong to those whom God desires to bring to himself. If we were able to even imagine what God thinks, we can only attempt to do so through Scripture. This world, as full of (human-language) 'shitholes' as it is -- still belongs to God. He created, still sustains and loves it. "That's what is really unimaginable." Amen and amen!

Anonymous said...

I too grew up in Sioux County, and left years ago. my experience is that God I grew up with was a judgemental ten commandments God. A God of rules and regulations. Today my God is the God of love who desires all to come yo Him, and LOVE your neighbor as yourself. NO moral high ground here
Just trying to live the two commandments upon which hangs the whole law.

ronvdm said...

Anonymous 11:01,
If the American vocabulary is as limited as you claim, we are in deep trouble. American ignorance is not as extensive as you are expressing.
Are we so stupid that we need that kind of language so we can understand a point of view?
Racism is immoral, and It is insulting to think that we have to resort to POTUS' language in order to understand something.

Anonymous said...

Well, well, well, it is very interesting for me to read all the previous posts and observe how each writer bought into Dick Durban's liberal propaganda, the repeated lie.

The other witnesses in the room deny the "shit" comment completely. [Tom Cotton is a man of great integrity.] The Gospels are saturated with selective outrage... the same propaganda we read in Schaap's post and in the comments that followed... no facts... no innocent till proven guilty... just knee-jerk lynch mob thinking... just Durbin's opinion... you all should be ashamed of yourselves...

Anonymous said...

Let me ask you a question.. And answer it honestly. If a convicted felon that was guilty of stealing a car was in a room with people that had never stolen before.... and a car was stolen, would you think he was guilty? Trump has made these types of comments before.... it is pretty easy to believe that he said it. As you know... perception is everything.... and he has done little to control it. I am a conservative republican and I even believe he said it.

Anonymous said...

The real question is what did Trump actually say or do and how much has the press and opposition "trumped" it up or lied about it?

ronvdm said...

Anonymous 9:33 AM,
There was one proven liar in that room.

Anonymous said...

This is well, well, well responding to: "Let me ask you a question.. And answer it honestly. If a convicted felon that was guilty of stealing a car was in a room with people that had never stolen before.... and a car was stolen, would you think he was guilty?"

Here is my honest answer which will only address process and not content [Donald Trump is not Jesus Christ and I am not conflating the two]. However, the process we use to determine justice applies to all of us including Trump and Jesus Christ.

Process is the way we arrive at justice and content is just the facts. Some who say they are seeking justice are really not and have made up their minds before the facts are in. Inherent in your question is the presumption that Trump is a liar and a thief because you have judged he was found guilty of stealing before. Therefore, he has to be guilty now. I am suggesting he was never found guilty before. He was presumed guilty and the "repeated lie" has made him guilty. As Psalm 58 points out "in your heart you devise injustice. "

Psalm 58

1 Do you rulers indeed speak justly?
Do you judge people with equity?
2 No, in your heart you devise injustice,
and your hands mete out violence on the earth.

Matthew 26 gives us an excellent illustration of this faulty process of "don't confuse me with the facts, I already have my mind made up." The High Priest questioned Jesus and with his preconceived narrative. he "devised injustice." Clearly, Jesus Christ was who he said he was, however, according to the High Priest he was guilty of blasphemy, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?”

Interestingly, this false narrative is still believed by many Jewish people today. Without the facts given by trustworthy witnesses,[ Cotton and Perdue] I say without hesitation that Donald Trump is not guilty. Furthermore, the false conclusion that he is a racist remains false. Conflating the comments he made about a country with its people is another example of "false conflating" and is another example of "in your heart you devise injustice."

Matthew 26

62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?”

“He is worthy of death,” they answered.

Anonymous said...

"As you know... perception is everything.... and he has done little to control it. I am a conservative republican and I even believe he said it."

Perception is everything... really? What ever happened to truth? It seems to me you are making decisions with your heart instead of your head... that leads me to question whether you are really a conservative republican... you are sounding a whole lot like Schaap who penned this blog post... just saying...

Anonymous said...

Rand Paul:
"I know personally about his[Trump's] feelings towards Haiti and toward Central America because when I was not a candidate for president and he wasn’t a candidate for president I went down there on a medical mission trip," Paul continued. "I did about 200 cataract surgeries with a group of surgeons in Haiti and the same in Central America, and when we asked Donald J. Trump as a private citizen to support those trips, he was a large financial backer of both medical mission trips."

"So I think it’s unfair to sort of draw conclusions from a remark that I think wasn’t constructive is the least we can say, and it’s unfair to all of a sudden paint him as 'he’s a racist' when I know for a fact he cares very deeply about the people in Haiti because he helped finance a trip where we were able to get vision back for 200 people in Haiti," Paul concluded.

Anonymous said...

If it looks like shit.......smells like shit......and tastes like shit......99.9% of the time......it’s shit.

Retired said...

Deep!

Retired said...

6:45 PM
Your logic looks a lot like the logic used by the High Priest in the Matt. 26 quote above.

cindy said...

Absolutely great post. My husband just returned from Haiti and all he talks about is the "beautiful people" who live there and their incredibly "happy smiles".