Monday, January 30, 2017

A Tale of Two Men

I was going to write a follow-up to my Women's March post next, but this administration moves too quickly on to new targets and I felt it wasn't quite thematic with everything else going on in the world. So here is my take on the targeting of Muslim refugees:

I want to tell a couple of stories.

The first comes from the pastor at my new church up here in D.C. It was delivered the Sunday before the election, and it became a prayer, a hope to hold onto in the ensuing weeks.


There once was a wealthy man. He worked very diligently at his job because he felt it was performing a service for his country. (Unfortunately, he worked in an unpopular field which didn't win him any friends.) As he had no family to support, he gave away half of his money away each year - donating food, goods, and funds to people in need. He felt good about himself, but knew something was missing.

Then one day, he heard about a radical new preacher that was coming through town. This man spoke about community and belonging and forgiveness. 'That's the kind of man I want to meet,' the wealthy man thought, so he went to a rally. By the time he got there, all the good seats had been taken. The crowd was so large that the (rather short) rich man couldn't see any of what was happening. So he did the next best thing.

He climbed a tree.

The preacher noticed him up the tree and called him over. The crowd grudgingly parted so he could get to the preacher. "I'm going to come to your house for dinner tonight," the preacher said. The rich man was so excited to have a guest, he ran home and let his servants know to prepare a feast.

His life was changed.


Now, if you ever went to Sunday School, you may have some arguments about how I told this story. "That's Zacchaeus," you might be saying, "only Zacchaeus wasn't such a nice guy. He was a crooked tax collector!"

I know that version of the story well. But back in November, our pastor invited us to consider a different translation that turns the story upside down. This was a fascinating perspective on the difference one little word can make.

At the end of the story as we know it, Zacchaeus says contritely, "Lord, I will give half my possessions to the poor and anyone I have defrauded, I will pay back four times over."

But what if he's really saying: Lord, I give (as in, already give) half my possessions to the poor and if I have defrauded anyone, I will pay them back four times over.

What a difference that would make.

If Zacchaeus were running around, quietly helping his community and getting no thanks for it whatsoever. If they all thought he was the problem, and instead he was the solution.

Sadly, we have already seen that the country's new President is the first type of Zacchaeus, pre-Jesus. We know his charitable donations are a sham, we know his greed is more important to him than other people.

But wouldn't it be nice...

That became my prayer. That Trump would meet Jesus like Zacchaeus did, contritely, abundantly, enthusiastically. That all the billionaires he wants to have running the country would put Americans first, and not themselves. A prayer for generosity, selflessness, community.

I doubt it will ever happen. But with God, anything is possible. Even that.

This brings me to my second story. I think you'll recognize it as well.


There once was a king in a faraway land. His country had a historic population of foreigners - people with a different homeland and religion. In the past, they had been just a small fragment on the side of society. But they had begun to prosper, and the king was afraid.

He was afraid that they would steal jobs and resources from his citizens. He was afraid their differing religious traditions would detract from his people's beliefs. Frankly, he was afraid that they would become the majority and take all the benefits that he enjoyed away from him. He was afraid they would turn on him.

So first, he tried to take their prosperity. He refused to pay them what they were owed for their labor. He enacted laws that limited their opportunities for advancement. He enslaved them.

And it didn't work.

So then, he tried to isolate them. They were not allowed to move about as they pleased, they were forbidden to practice their religion.

And it didn't work.

So then, he tried to kill them.

And they rebelled.

A leader arose from amidst their suffering, a leader who had once been close to the king. He begged the king to see his people as the friends they were, not enemies. But the king was afraid, and he refused to budge. He clung to every last scrap of power, no matter the signs that went against him. And at last, he was defeated.

The people went free.


This is the story of the Pharaoh who ignored the ten plagues sent against Egypt in his blinding hatred of the Israelites. You might notice, xenophobia backfires on him. Pharaoh doesn't win in the end.

And neither will Trump.

Yes, he may cheat companies out of their hard-earned money and destroy small businesses so he can boost his own bottom line and fragile ego.

Yes, he may demonize refugee families because they have the wrong religion so that he can make America white again.

Yes, he may get people killed in hate crimes or by taking away their health care, so that institutional racism and no taxes for the wealthy can continue.

And I hate it. Don't get me wrong, I have not rolled over and died and accepted these terrible things. (At least, not on the good days.)


With every fiber of my being, I hate the racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and greed that is currently helming this country.


Even if he goes so far as to destroy our democracy in the short-term, we will come back from it. We will be stronger for it. We will be unified in our condemnation of hatred and oppression. Look at Germany - they had a similar situation begin 70ish years ago and now have a thriving democracy again.

I pray we don't go so far down this dark tunnel. I pray it desperately, that all these people will be safe. That no more babies will die in Syria, or escaping from it. That no more mamas will say goodbye to their children shot for being the wrong color. That no people will be attacked because their religious beliefs are the wrong offshoot of the same branch.

That no one will have to die because the minority picked a selfish, greedy, fearful guy to lead us.

So with that prayer, I want to offer hope. The next couple of years are going to majorly suck for a lot of people. There's no getting around that. We will have to be fighting against fascism 24/7, because there's always going to be something.

There's probably always going to be two things at once. (Please don't forget that the Joint Chiefs of Staff aren't as important for Trump to have as NATIONAL SECURITY advisers as his anti-Semitic, white nationalist chief of staff is.)

But history tells us that these weak men don't stay in power forever.

History tells us that fear is not a winning strategy.

First, they came for the Muslims, and we said NO FREAKING WAY.

There WILL be millions of people opposing Trump together, every day, until this is over.

Be one of them with me?

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