International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2017

What can we learn about contemporary forms of systemic abuse from questions raised by case studies of the Holocaust, collaboration, and resistance in World War II?

This post previews questions covered in Volume #2 of my curriculum for social change agents, community developers, missional ministers, and church planters. Case studies from the Holocaust will be prominent in it, but I will also use other historical and contemporary case studies, and movies from various genres, to explore issues of recovery from abuse, advocacy and activism for those who currently have no voice to speak up for themselves, and rehabilitation and remediation for individuals and organizations that have perpetrated abuse. Continue reading

Peacemaking and Becoming People of Peace ~ Post 5: My Dad as a Person of Peace

Note: I originally posted this article for Fathers Day 2014. I am reposting it here as the (probable) endcap on my series on Peacemaking and Becoming People of Peace. (I say “probable,” as I don’t have other posts planned for this series, but then again, I’ve also learned to be careful about saying “never”!) This post has not been edited, other than to add this opening note and the series name to the title.

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Some things about your parents you just know because you’re there. Other things you figure out, whether early on in family life or later. And some things you may not even find out til some surprises come to light. And one of the things I’ve come to understand better over the years is that my Dad was a “person of peace” … Continue reading

Peacemaking and Becoming People of Peace ~ Post 4: Migrants, Refugees, Immigrants, Friends

Recently, I’ve been typing up my Mom’s oral history interviews for a memoir she’s reading next year at one of the two non-profits she’s still active in at age almost 90. Some of her specific stories remind me again of the privilege it is to have been raised in a family with people of peace on both sides. I’ll post stories from my Dad another time, but for this post, I wanted to draw together three stories based on my Mom’s memories of her parents and their family, that demonstrate facets of what it is to be people of peace: welcoming the sojourner, showing hospitality, and standing for justice. One is about migrant farm worker friends, another about refugee friends who fled from Russia, and a third about Japanese American friends during World War II.

Migrants, refugees, immigrants … friends. I think these are especially apt for Advent. If we think about it, Joseph and Mary were migrants — they had to travel back to their ancestral home. They were refugees, fleeing violence in the land that had been their home and seeking refuge in another country. They were immigrants, moving back to their homeland when it was finally safe to do so.

I wonder who they had as friends along these various journeys … and I wonder who they became friends to. Advent is definitely a season in which to reflect on the many different sorts of sojourners there are, and consider how we can connect with them as peacemakers. Continue reading

Peacemaking and Becoming People of Peace ~ Post 3: Cross-Cultural Dialogue Cracks Through Our Caricatures

Caricatures. Those often funny drawings that take someone’s most prominent physical features and/or flaws, and accentuate them to the point of absurdity – though the person is still recognizable.

We create caricatures with words, too, when we stick labels on people to stereotype their supposed traits – physical, moral, social, political. But these are generally not so nice, and the people behind the profiles may become unrecognizable.

The 2016 political season has been awash in caricatures and stereotypes that show no nuance. They’ve often been used to demean “the opposition,” and replace human faces with plastic masks. In this uncivil war of words, what can we do to reverse this trend and heal the damage already done? Continue reading

Peacemaking and Becoming People of Peace ~ Post 2: Compassion and Risk-Taking in Times of Trouble

AIDS – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – was identified in June 1981. The news of this modern plague created an intense level of anxiety, especially because so many things about it were unknown at the outset: what caused it, how it was transmitted, what could be done to treat those infected. Sadly, the Church mostly lagged behind, especially in showing compassion and giving care to those infected or affected.

In 1987, I heard Harold Ivan Smith talk about Tear-Catchers, one of his many books on dealing with grief, loss, and suffering as well as ministering to those in distress. He shared how tears form, and the different chemical compositions of various kinds of tears. I was struck when he talked about tears of emotion, which have a particular compound in them such that they aren’t reabsorbed into our bottom eyelids, but roll down our cheeks instead. “It’s like God meant for such tears to be seen by others,” he noted.

In the middle of his talk, he spoke about different ministries of compassion. Then he calmly said something along the lines of this: “You know, we are six years into the AIDS epidemic, and many people face passing into eternity, potentially without Christ, but the Church has pushed people away. Where would Jesus be in the midst of this, and what should we as Christians do? Someone needs to do something.”

No guilt, just statements of facts. But those three little sentences about a topic no one in churches was talking about reset the course of my life for the next 10 years. I did not know a single person with full-blown AIDS at the time, or even anyone infected with HIV. But I knew in my spirit that I was one of the someones being called to do at least something. Continue reading

Peacemaking and Becoming People of Peace ~ Post 1: Sojourners Under Stress

ABOUT THIS SERIES. Our national election was Tuesday, November 8. I spent much of the next day following up on election analysis, messaging friends to be supportive as we processed the results, and thinking about what I could contribute that would be constructive in such a time as this. I decided to post a series of articles on experiences of peacemaking, and what it means to be a person of peace who welcomes others, stands against injustice, and challenges people and systems that cause harm. I do not know how many posts I will have in this series, but already have selected some pieces that I’ve not previously published.

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Tea, dates, fruits, and red rose flowers. © LiliGraphie, #85900594. Licensed to Brad Sargent/futuristguy.

Tea, dates, fruits, and red rose flowers. © LiliGraphie, #85900594. Licensed to Brad Sargent/futuristguy.

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Sojourners Under Stress:

Perennial Questions, Present Responses

Written after the events of September 11, 2001.

Nancy* knocked softly on the door of the tiny apartment house while Suzie B. and I stood silently beside her. Behzad peeked through the front window curtains. When he saw it was us, he unbolted the door quickly, ushered us in discretely, and re-locked his door immediately. Meanwhile, his wife, Afsar, finished closing all the drapes. She flicked on another light with a nervous twitch, smiled to greet us, and then offered us tea.

Nancy had befriended several single Muslim college students – one from the Middle East, another from Pakistan – and also a married couple, Behzad and Afsar. Given the current situation, she didn’t want her Muslim friends to assume all Americans were like the ones who were threatening retaliation. Our presence guaranteed at least our goodwill – an atheist, a Buddhist, and me, a follower of Christ. Continue reading

Tributes for Two Teachers ~ Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2015

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Over the years, I’ve come to see how similar many of the underlying dynamics and tactics are between domestic violence and abuse of power in religious contexts – the grooming, verbal assaults, emotional manipulations, implanting of lies, quenching of hope.

My awareness about survivors of domestic violence began earlier than my understanding of spiritual abuse. It started 40 years ago with what I learned from my sister, Romae [pronounced like row + MAY], who had friends who were survivors of domestic violence. She stepped into roles of support, advocacy, and activism, and taught me all along the way.

Then, 10 years later, I helped “Janet” – one of my own friends who was a survivor – edit the story of her experiences. I recently got in touch with Janet, to thank her for making a difference in my life by sharing her story with me.

Both my sister and Janet brought light into dark places to the people around them. Their role-modeling of advocacy and activism helped me learn how to come alongside those who were lurking in the shadows, or emerging from them, and offer them whatever support I could. In honor of Romae and Janet, I decided to share two short pieces I’d written. Part of the tribute to my sister is from the obituary I wrote for her memorial service. The piece about Janet I edited from a comment I posted earlier this year on David Hayward’s post about “Abuse and the Privileges of Power.” Continue reading