“As long as we continue to live as if we are what we do, what we have, and what other people think about us, we will remain filled with judgments, opinions, evaluations, and condemnations. We will remain addicted to putting people and things in their "right" place.” -Henri Nouwen
Is it Sunday again? Is it finally the start of a new week?
My head's spinning and my body feels like it's recovering from the slamming force of an all-mighty pickup truck. Did all of what happened this week actually happen?
-Monday to Wednesday-
This week, World Vision USA announced it would recognize same-sex couple employees. Good! Great! Awesome! Canada was cheering (same-sex marriage is already legal up my way). To my dismay, and to the dismay of thousands of other professing Christians, conservative teachers jumped up to yell about how horrid this was… about how slippery of a slope this was… how evil this was…
… and people pulled their child sponsorships.
To punish WV-USA and to take their own moral stand, people ceased supporting children. Oh sure there were justifications ("You can help in more godly ways", "You can't help anyone engage in their sin", etc.), but the message to the world was:
"Gays are too evil for Christians organizations to hire."
"Gays are so defiled that they will infect entire organizations, including those they help, and allow sin to enter."
While some of us cheered, our hearts were also broken by the overblown backlash from our brothers and sisters, punishing children to show how committed they were to stand against LGBTQ people (but they still 'love' them… sigh).
Wait… there's more.
Less than 48 hours later, despite that fact that WV-USA has support from over 50 denominations (some of whom support and affirm the LGBTQ community), it reversed its decision, "repented", and sent the message that all LGBTQ employees had to hop back into the closet.
Not cared about.
And the ugly thing is: those who raced to pull their money are going to have a hard time returning because they effectively revealed their true motives for assisting children: doctrine over people. People still with WV-USA who are losing trust in the organization are struggling: they can't pull child sponsorship like so many were quick to do…
… but how to they support their LGBTQ friends, employees, co-workers, and LGBTQ sponsored children?
-Flash Forward to Thursday-
The 7th and final Truth and Reconciliation Commission national event began in Edmonton — my province's capital city. In case you didn't know, Canada has a history of genocide, residential schools and overt/covert violence towards our First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples. Our governments and churches were/are largely responsible for the brokenness we see today and throughout history with indigenous cultures. Using the Bible as a weapon, we hammered God into tribes already created in the Creator's image.
We forced religion.
We stole children.
We did every conceivable thing to eradicate the first peoples of this land. And we blamed the victims for it. So I've been listening to survivors of residential schools, watching people who have been victims of inter-generational trauma share their stories, and vascillating between hating my skin colour and religion, and loving the tribal Middle-Eastern man who tore down walls between all people.
But seeing pictures of indigenous children forced into wooden desks, braids cut off, traditional clothing removed to be replaced by stiff white-man's clothing, and not a smile to be found…
… didn't anyone think of the children?
I'm sure their parents did… night and day. Alcohol often numbed the grief, but I have no doubt that parents never once forgot their children.
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.” (Nouwen, "The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life")
People sharing at the TRC have lived with clenched fists generationally. People at the TRC are slowly releasing these fists. People at the TRC are opening their hands to be filled with the Creator, and are then extending these hands to us… the oppressors. It's not a "fix". It's not "healed".
I'd say the TRC probably opened more wounds than it healed, but like the re-setting of a badly broken bone, it just might have given a new starting point to heal well — not forget, but heal.
-Thursday to Saturday-
Thursday, March 27 my newest nephew was born. Jackson Stephan Thomas came into the world weighing 8lbs 13oz, sounding like a tiny dinosaur with his squawks. So that my brother could stay with my sister-in-law at the hospital, I stayed at their house and looked after my two other little nephews.
Chasing two little boys trying to adjust to the flurry of changes around them made for little sleep, but lots of adventures.
But again… thinking of the children.
I look at Ethan… at Oliver… at Jackson… and I know they have been born into a family of love, creativity, hope and God. I highly doubt they'll ever know what it feelsl like to have some strange person from another country send them money just so they can have clean water or healthy food.
They will never know what it's like to be wrenched away from Jon and Christie and sent to a residential school just because they are of one particular culture. They will never be told that God hates them because of their skin colour, or sense that their government is deliberately out to eradicate any vestiges of them.
I can't speak to their sexual orientations, they being so small right now, but I know they are thoroughly loved. Full stop.
But I can't say that with 100% certainty for the rest of the world. I know with all of my heart, mind, body and soul that I don't want people claiming to follow Jesus to use them for dogmas and self-righteousness. I want them to discover Jesus for who He is and the community He nurtures… not because someone oppresses them with their interpretation of a handful of verses taken out of context. In the same way, I don't want them using their beliefs to hurt other people either.
This week I saw Christians drop impoverished children because of someone's agreement with a specific sexual orientation.
This week I heard stories of children being forced into white European culture and the wide-open, wound-infected damage that has done… again and again throughout the generations.
This week I held a new life born into a family of love.
All three collided and today… I'm stumped.
Sometimes people use children as the fallback excuse to keep from dealing with heart issues.
This week it was all about the children and people were still angry… upset… rejected… hurt… and raw.
I don't know if there's one similar thread to this letter, Henri. I don't know if there's a strong theme. Friends of mine have walked away from Christianity this week because of the actions of our brothers and sisters. They're just tired of being bullied "in love". I think I needed to simply write to you all that's happened, and share my deepest shock, sadness and joy.
Until next week,