It was during the months immediately before and after 9/11 that I became an immigrant to the United States. A Canadian, I married a tall Nebraskan while on a student visa and we made our home in Oklahoma and then in Texas as I began the immigration process. Those 18 months of being vetted for my green card and my permanent residency were exhausting and burdensome. I could not financially contribute to our family even though we were barely making ends meet. I often remarked during those months and afterwards that I could not even imagine having to go through that process without English as my first language or without a university education and an American citizen as a sponsor: the forms were baffling, every phone call to authorities generated a different answer to repeated questions, reams of paperwork, if-this-answer-then-that-form-but-if-this-answer-then-that-form decisions, delays were common, the background checks were expensive, the amount of paperwork was overwhelming. And expensive! Every cent we had went towards the never-ending processing fees and associated costs. We found the entire process brutal and expensive and exhausting. This was before the Internet application was really a thing so I remember the hours spent in waiting rooms filled with immigrants, all of us sitting in plastic chairs with paper cups of bad coffee, silent and waiting for our turn with our stacks of papers, truly afraid that this time we would have something wrong - a wrong form, a wrong line item, a payment missed - and so we would be sent back out to begin all over again or never again. We were all praying for a sympathetic agent, one who would work with us instead of against us. I was in an area of the country where the primary applicants were from Mexico or central America, often labourers with no advocate within the system. We sat together and we prayed that this time we would get the coveted stamp of approval instead of another form to fill out, another payment to make, another hoop to jump through, another delay. There was not a part of my life that went unexplored during that process. My background, my history, my studies, my family, intimate details of my health, my opinions, my religion - all questioned. Immigrant agents read through our sacred love letters and pawed through receipts for old movie nights, sniffing for the slightest hint that our marriage was a sham. I was immunized and examined. Honest truth though? I know that I was given preferential treatment in the system because I was white, because I spoke English, because I was Canadian, because I had earning potential. I was jumped to the front of the queues in those dim waiting rooms at processing centres because the staff were exhausted from dealing with non-English-speakers all day and wanted one straight-forward case for a minute with a white Canadian girl who spoke English and seemed to have her files well organized. There were always people crying in parking lots of the immigrant centres or standing at the pay phones, weeping. Visas denied, paperwork delayed, payments rejected, the final hope dashed. I haven't forgotten that. My final immigration hearing at a processing centre in San Antonio was tense. Brian and I were there together for the final interview. Would they or wouldn't they approve us in this final interview? When that final cha-chunk of the heavy stamp went down into my passport and onto my file, indicating that I was approved - I could stay, I could work, I could travel - I cried with relief right there in the office. Finally. I only ever had my green card while we lived in the States - I never applied for citizenship and eventually we moved back home to Canada where my husband then had to turn around and go through an immigration process to become Canadian (which to be honest seemed by contrast to be so much more humane and welcoming, designed to reunite us rather than keep us apart). I loved my time in the United States, it was overwhelmingly positive, and I am grateful for it. I had to surrender my green card when I moved back home to Canada and it felt like saying good-bye to an hard-won friend. Obviously my husband retains his American citizenship, our children enjoy shared citizenship, and so our shared family and friends are on both sides of the border now. We love our shared culture. But I have to speak up to say to everyone who chirps about how a "strong vetting process for refugees is needed": let me personally assure you - it is already there and has been for years for regular immigrants, let alone for refugees outside of the country. I can't imagine having to go through that whole process with the trauma of war behind me and around me and a political climate that vilifies and demonizes me. So for those who are working to keep suffering and desperate people out, I just thought you should know the system is already doing a pretty good job at that. And in the meantime, I believe that following Jesus means remembering that I was once a stranger in a strange land, an alien, and so I wanted to share this story. Jesus was a refugee. And I believe Jesus was sitting in that immigration processing centre with us and right now Jesus is at the port of entry, waiting.
Circle up, my friends, come on over here. I have a few thoughts on the story which broke this week involving Jen Hatmaker If you don't know what I'm talking about then thank the Lord, log off the Internet, and go enjoy your peace. If however, you did read her interview with Jonathan Merritt for Religion News Service (I'll put the link in the comments) or if you have witnessed subsequent reactions to one aspect of the interview, well, in no particular order and from my heart, here we go.... Jen is one of my best friends. Full stop. For three years now, she has been one of my most faithful, whole hearted, dearest friends in this world. I love her and whether it is in public or in private I will always have her back. I love Jen and I trust her. She is also my beloved and faithful sister in Christ and, from my front row seat to her life, I trust Jesus at work in and through her. Period. There is nothing she has said this week that is a surprise to those of us who know her and love her let alone to anyone who has followed her leadership over the past few years. After all, most Christians are wrestling with many intense issues of how to faithfully follow Jesus in our times particularly in respect to how we read scripture, how we interpret scripture, and then how we faithfully follow Jesus as a result, especially as it relates to those among us who are marginalized or oppressed or left out or despised. She is perhaps unique in that she is doing this in public. Faithful disciples of Jesus who deeply value Scripture think very differently on the GLBTQ “issue.” Accusing someone who thinks differently than you of heresy or wishy-washy convictions or of “having a low view of Scripture” or hatred or bigotry etc. is unhelpful and divisive. We can disagree beautifully, I hope. Unity does not mean conformity. Besides, we don't cast the deciding vote on who is in or out. Also, we would do well to remember that this actually isn’t just “an issue” let alone something “outside” - this is us. GLBTQ disciples are among us - and always have been - as a faithful witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They are the church just as much as the rest of us, each deeply beloved by God and by their community. There is no us-and-them here. Have care with and for one another. When people we love or respect shift in their theological beliefs, rather than jumping to judgment or to finger pointing, seek to listen and to understand, and to assign positive intent. They haven’t suddenly stopped being the person we have loved and respected all along. Everything we loved about each other is still true. I'll be honest with you though: I am so incredibly horribly achingly sad this week. The disgust and hate and judgement thrown towards my friend has grieved me to my core. I had hoped for better from us. I'm not even angry right now, just weary and sad down in my bones. Jesus, we need your wholeness. Despite popular think-piece vitriol making the rounds, please do not dismiss anyone’s theological shift as motivated by "feelings" alone. First of all, there is nothing inherently wrong or sinful about our feelings or emotions. Last time I checked we were whole persons - mind, soul, body - and our emotions are part of our "imago dei," the image of God in us. There is nothing wrong with being moved by compassion or empathy; our Jesus is an example in this very thing. However, by reducing a theological shift as *only* motivated by one’s feelings is dismissive and truthfully, it’s sexist. That sort of claim would hardly be levelled against a man who had changed his mind on this matter (last time I checked, nobody accused noted Christian ethicist David Gushee of being motivated by “feelings” when he shifted on this issue). I know that if we can dismiss these sorts of things as motivated only by bleeding-heart-liberal-feeeeeeelings then we can dismiss the stance - and even the person. But I encourage us, Church, to offer one another the earned respect deserved of a long and valued leadership within the body of Christ. Theological shifts of any sort are almost always preceded by a tremendous amount of care, caution, theological and biblical study, prayer, and wise diverse counsel. I believe that of people who think differently than me on many issues - I hope we can offer that courtesy to one another. If you are at all interested in learning more about how and why people who love Jesus - why long time faithful disciples who have a high view of Scripture with a deeply Christian ethic around sexuality - are arriving at this conclusion, I would commend to you a season of bible study and theological reading and prayer in company with the Holy Spirit and the body of Christ. You may not end up in the same place as you began and at the very least, you’ll emerge with deeper understanding. A few books I would recommend for those embarking on learning in this particular area here are: - “Changing My Mind” by David Gushee; - “Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate” by Justin Lee; - “A Letter to My Congregation: An Evangelical Pastor’s Path to Embracing Those Who are Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Into the Company of Jesus” by Ken Wilson; and - “God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships” by Matthew Vines. Jesus Christ is the same: yesterday, today, and forever. We, however, we are always changing IN RESPONSE TO his unchanging goodness and love. If we aren’t having our opinions or beliefs or ways-we-have-always-done-it challenged, then we aren’t paying attention to the ways that the Holy Spirit is working. Judging someone for transforming or changing period is utterly ridiculous for a Christian: that’s the point! We are always being transformed into the glorious likeness of Jesus and that involves change in us. Getting to the end of our lives with the exact same opinions we had at the beginning is not the point of your journey here. (And for more on this idea in particular, you could read my own book, “Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith.”) Finally(!), I urge us all to remember and practice and embody this: we are a people of Love, for Love, by Love, abiding in Love. The world will know us by our love for one another! Mercy triumphs over judgement not only in public but in our hearts before the Lord. My prayers are with us and for us, Church. The Gospel is good news for the broken-hearted, don't forget. This is our time to bear witness to the love of Christ even when - or most particularly when - we disagree.
Heart is broken tonight for so many disappointed refugees and broken lives. Grieving with our Muslim neighbours all around the world.
Heart is broken tonight for so many disappointed refugees, now stranded and abandoned after such trauma, all at the stroke of a pen. Grieving with our Muslim neighbours all around the world. Our nation has welcomed these refugees - thousands and thousands of them! - over the past year and it has brought such richness and goodness to all of us. This fear is misplaced and wrong. So many Canadian Christians are standing with you, American Christians, as you rise up to defend the poor and powerless, the refugee and the marginalized, the voiceless and oppressed. May you be wise as serpents and innocent as doves in these days. Solidarity. Resistance. Radical hospitality. Peace making. Subvert the empire. Practice resurrection. Love has the run of this house still.