I'm writing to you today, because on this coming Sunday, I still intend to preach a sermon on using the Bible as a spiritual tool. I resent having sermons hijacked by the news, particularly when the news is so distasteful, day after day. How does one judge when to speak and when to keep silent? Sen. John McCain said about this president, "I can't be the car alarm that always goes off. If I am, I'm not effective."
Also, I believe that at this moment in history, it is crucial for all of us to be as firmly and deeply grounded in our faith as we possibly can. Our ability to pray and meditate and connect to God and have an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ is what will get all of us through this chaotic time and give us the clarity and courage to honor our Baptismal vows--including "to strive for justice and peace, and respect the dignity of every human being."
So I am not going to rewrite my sermon, but I cannot let what President Trump reportedly said about Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations to go by without comment. My car alarm is going to go off on this one.
Firstly, because our congregation has always welcomed people from other nations. Back in the 1950s, we had a Japanese assistant rector, and recently, Father Andrew Shirota, also of Japan, was our curate here. Rev. Chad Gandiya--now BISHOP Gandiya of Zimbabwe--worshipped with us when he was in grad school at MSU. Our All Saints members today include people from Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia, South Sudan, and Great Britain.
But more importantly, our congregation has been actively involved with Haiti, through the Haiti Outreach Mission. A number of us have traveled to Mirebalais with HOM and worked side by side with Haitian-Americans and Haitian nationals to provide medical care and improve the HOM clinic there. We financially supported a Haitian seminarian, Wisnel Desjardin, who was earning an M.Div. degree at Virginia Theological Seminary. Wisnel spent time with us at All Saints on numerous occasions during his studies. And Claudia Miklavcic, one of our teens, has sold jam and cookies for years--ever since she was a little girl--in order to help pay the school fees for three Haitian girls.
All of us involved with Haiti can assure you that it is not a s*hole. El Salvador is not a s*hole. The nations of Africa are not s*holes.
The president's words were crass, vulgar, racist, and xenophobic. They stir great fear in people who are here from other countries. So I hope you will reach out to your colleagues, neighbors, friends, and fellow All Saints members who have come here from other nations and assure them that this is not who we are as Americans...and more importantly, this is not who we are as Christians.
We are right to be appalled by such rhetoric, not just because we are "good people" or because we hold certain political opinions about immigrants and immigration.
We are right to be appalled because we are followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus--who, as we will hear in this Sunday's gospel--came from a "s*hole" town himself. ("Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Nathanael sneers in John 1:46.) Jesus, who told us we would find him whenever we welcomed the stranger (Matthew 25:35). Jesus, who said that whenever we cared for "the least of these," we cared for him. (Matthew 25:45) Jesus, who was a refugee in Egypt as a child. Jesus, who was a faithful Jew and knew that the Law required faithful Jews to care for the stranger in the land (Deuteronomy 24:17 and many other verses).
I hope you will speak out, as a Christian, when you are confronted with language like this. One news commentator tried to defend the president, saying that he was only speaking "the way the forgotten men and women of America speak." If that's true, we are all liable to hear language like this in our every day lives. We are all liable to find ourselves in positions that call us to speak--in person, to another human being--to defend the stranger, the "least of these".
It takes courage to speak out in person to someone who talks like this in our real lives. It is easy to call public figures out on social media--it is much more challenging to speak up in our every day lives.
But we are followers of Jesus Christ, who never shrunk from speaking the truth, and who never shrunk from love--even love of his most bitter enemies. My prayer is that we can follow him...in his courage, in his truthfulness, and also in his love. Even love of our enemies.
I pray for our nation. I pray for our president. I pray for all immigrants and refugees. I ask you to join me...in prayer, and also in action.
In Christ's love,