Black, White, & the Perils of Indifference

A month ago, 49 members of the GLBT community were shot in a night club in Orlando, Florida.

Four days ago, a black man named Alton Sterling was shot by the police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Two days ago, Philando Castile, also black, was shot by the police in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Last night, five police officers were shot by a sniper in Dallas, Texas.

Every time I see a headline declaring another shooting, another death, my first response is exhaustion. I’m just so tired, so frustrated. I’m tired of hate, but even more, I’m tired of turning a blind eye on injustice.

It’s so easy to absolve ourselves of responsibility by casting blame on others.  But the easy path is often not the right one. Continue reading

Of Faith and Refugees

My Facebook newsfeed today was filled with opinions this morning.  This isn’t unusual, as I have friends on both sides of the political divide.  I usually don’t like to engage in such things on social media.  I don’t like to associate with a political party.  Such things breed division and strife–so I keep my opinions to myself.

But in lieu of current events and the hate that has risen in their wake, I’m finding it hard to remain silent.

As I’ve been following the debates regarding the Syrian refugee crisis, I have been absolutely appalled by the response from Christians.  My Facebook feed is filled with messages along the lines of “Close the boarders because we don’t want terrorists to get in”.  I saw a comment that said, “I’m all for helping the refugees, I just don’t want to let them in.”

Or, in other words, “I’m all for helping people as long as it doesn’t impact my life.”  “I’m all for taking care of the poor and needy, as long as my comfort isn’t threatened.”

This makes my blood boil.

What, then, is more valuable?  Comfort or human life?  The ease of the rich or the despair of the poor?

To make things clear, I understand the fear.  The refugees are people who are very different from us.  They look different, sound different, and follow a different religion. Differences are unknowns and unknowns are scary.  And yes, there is a risk that the wrong people can get in.  Is this a risk we are willing to take?

A couple of my friends posted links to a short piece on Relevant Magazine titled “What the Bible Says About How to Treat Refugees“.  I recommend giving it a read, for it is very good. It is a list of verses with little commentary, letting the Bible speak for itself.  These verses speak of loving the poor, caring for the needy, and putting the needs of others before your own.  They talk about setting aside what is comfortable in favor of preserving human life.

I’d like to add a verse to the list.  1 John 4:18:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (ESV)

Is allowing refugees into America worth it, despite the risk of letting terrorists in?  Absolutely.  Because perfect love, God’s love, casts out fear.

We, as Christians, are called to love the needy and care for the broken.  It’s not an option.  Loving one’s neighbor as ones self is not only a command, it’s the GREATEST command.  So are we going to obey? Are we going to trust that, even though there are unknowns and even though we are afraid, God is in control?

I realize that I am addressing this from a Christian perspective and you may not share my worldview. This is okay. Biblical rhetoric aside, I think my questions are still valid because this is, ultimately, not only a Christian issue. It is a human issue. These refugees aren’t faceless, soulless drones. They may be different, but they are human beings with just as much right to life as I. They have the same capacity to love, to feel, to dream as you and I do.

Are we, Christians and non Christians alike, going to set aside our comfort, riches, and fears, and care for the refugees?

I honestly don’t know what this looks like in my life.  As an American, I live a life of incredible privilege. There aren’t poor and homeless people lining up at my door. The refugees are on the other side of the world. But with privilege comes responsibility. If and when the time comes to take action, I hope that I am able to do what is RIGHT and not settle for what is EASY.

It’s a complicated issue.  There are a thousand arguments and counterarguments that can be made.  It can be discussed for hours on end.  Your opinion and worldview may be different than mine, and that’s okay. I don’t mind. Differences are not something to be afraid of. They are our greatest strength.

But I’m tired of remaining silent. I’ve been given a voice and am choosing to use it. So this is me, adding my thoughts to the universe.

Thanks for reading.

  

Halloween in Scotland: A scary story from my time abroad

I kind of dropped the ball on Halloween this year.  After briefly considering slapping together a “Hipster Belle” outfit, I abandoned the idea after an unsuccessful thrift store run.  Then school took over my life, and holidays were out of the picture completely.  It’s been a blast, though, seeing my fellow students wandering out campus in various costumes.  I’ve passed Loki, demonic bunnies, Anna from Frozen, pirates, Homestuck characters, Mario and Luigi, Link, Catwoman, and many others.  I did a double take as I passed one of my former professors dressed in a gorilla suit.

In light of my lack of plans, how about I tell about what happened to me around Halloween last year?  It’s a pretty good story, and fits the holiday well.

A year ago, I was in Edinburgh, Scotland.  We took the morning train up from London and spent the afternoon wandering the streets, touring the castle, and dining at the Elephant House (the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first few Harry Potter books.)

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View from Edinburgh Castle.  Photo by me.

Once the sun had set, we did a ghost tour of the oldest parts of the city.

Guided by a charismatic young Scotsman named Hugh, we wandered around St. Giles Cathedral, down some of the closes, and learned about public hangings, beheadings, and the nightly gardyloo (where everyone dumped their chamber pots into the street).  We then went indoors and Hugh showed us a room filled with medieval torture devices.  He explained how all of them work.  Let me tell you… Edinburgh was a VIOLENT city.

Then, we went into the secret underground vaults.  These vaults had been used way back when for tons of different purposes, varying from illegal pubs, hiding spaces from fires, and a place for homeless people to escape from punishment (apparently, it wasn’t legal to be homeless in the medieval times).  Then, at some point, they had been locked up, forgotten, and left to fester for over a hundred years.  They were rediscovered by some students in the 1970’s.

When I hear ghost tours, I usually expect interesting historical stories mixed with the occasional story about a creepy incident that happened there.  There’s a hint of reality to the hauntings, but mainly shameless tourism and fun history.

Yeah… that’s not the case in Scotland.

The vaults we entered were home to all sorts of horrific events.  Murders, cholera, famine, plague, rape, violence, brawling, people locked in and left to go blind and die, and countless cases of violence followed by rape followed by gang rape followed by murder.

There was a Wiccan temple in one of the rooms, all lit up and decorated in colorful banners and trappings.  There was a room with a stone circle where the Wiccans had supposedly trapped a demon.  In one of the rooms, Hugh made the girls stand on one side of the room and boys on the other.  Apparently, people were frequently tossed about violently by unseen forces and separating the genders sedated the activity.  We were then told that the room we were in was the most haunted room in Scotland.  At this point, my friends Mackenzie, Anna, and Marisa and I huddled close together.

It was, without a doubt, the darkest place I had ever been.  The very air felt evil.  As Hugh guided us from room to room, telling us story after story of the ghosts that haunt the place, I could feel their dark presences.  Being a Christian, I knew that I was protected from all forces of darkness, but that night I learned all too well what it feels like to be in the presence of demons.  I could feel them reaching out at me, scraping at my spirit like fingernails on a blackboard.

When the tour finally ended and we stepped into the cool Scottish night, Anna turned to us and said, “That was the worst place I’ve ever been.  I need a drink.”  So we finished the evening at the hostel’s bar sipping cider and thinking about our tour of the Highlands the next day.

This all happened the night after Halloween.  It’s the scariest story I have to tell, and I hope it stays that way.  The thing about my encounter is that forces of darkness are real and coming face to face with them changes your perspective.  It’s not something you easily forget.

So there you have it, readers.  My scary Halloween story.

What’s the scariest thing to ever happen to you?

Or, here’s a lighter question: What did you dress up as for Halloween?