Law and freedom: Can we have both?

I roll through stop signs if there’s no traffic.

I fudged deadlines all the time as a copy editor to get the latest news in the paper.

I jog in the rain, or in snow with 15-degree temperatures (not this year yet, though).

And yet:

I get at least eight hours of sleep every night.

I’ve never received a speeding ticket.

When I’m scheduled to be somewhere, I always show up early.

So, who am I?

I’m a rule-breaker. But I learn the rules first, so I know which ones I can break. And when.

Two plus two equals …

I came down with pneumonia as a college student, so I don’t have the stamina that most of you do. If I don’t get enough sleep, I get sick.

If I break rules, there are consequences. That’s one consequence I don’t want. So I go to bed early every night.

I drive with common sense. I’ve written blogs on this before. Safety is paramount; I drive the speed limit or slightly above, weather conditions permitting. I fudge the law only when it’s safe, and my eyes are wide open. (But I’ll stop at a red light, even if there is no other traffic in sight.)

I married a math expert. Two plus two is always four to her. I’m a journalist at heart. Two plus two could have multiple meanings. Two apples plus two oranges equals four pieces of fruit, but you still have only two apples.

Are you counting fruit, or apples?

… safety …

This is the source of today’s political divide. We don’t know what we’re counting.

One side is all about laws.

The other side is all about humanity.

What happens when law and humanity clash?

We get a government shutdown.

Laws serve a crucial purpose. They give us structure and order. The trash truck comes every Friday. Our City Council signs a contract with the trash hauler to do that. My tax dollars pay for it. That’s the way government works.

Here’s a better example, actually. My tax dollars also help pay for the local police department. Its primary job is to keep the residents of our city, including me, safe. The City Council, the county, the state and the federal governments all pass laws intended to keep us safe. Opioids and illegal drugs hurt people. Thieves and robbers hurt people. Drivers who weave in and out of traffic and/or run red lights risk causing a collision and hurting people.

Laws protect us, and police and the court system defend the right to live without fear for our lives. That’s the goal, anyway.

… or freedom …

But are laws themselves ever oppressive?

Once upon a time, women were not legally allowed to vote. Other laws enforced slavery. It took time, far too much time, before those injustices were legally corrected.

Today’s hottest debate is over illegal immigrants trying to enter this country through Mexico. Immigrants have been doing this for decades, and I’ve read that in recent years the immigration rate has actually declined.

But we now have a president who wants to cut off the illegal immigrants’ entry into this country completely. Illegal, by definition, means they are breaking a law.

But are the immigration laws of this country fair? And are illegal immigrants as evil as Republicans make them out to be?

The answer to the first question must be decided by Congress and the president. The second question? A resounding, “no.”

… or both?

Illegal immigrants are not an organized band of terrorists seeking to destroy American life, as Al-Qaeda was on Sept. 11, 2001. They are mostly women and children fleeing their native countries because their lives are in jeopardy there. Gang wars and violence have destroyed the culture of Honduras and other Central American societies. These women and children have seen relatives and friends die, and face death and/or poverty themselves.

Americans cannot comprehend this. No one in my community is seeking my life.

Why is it so wrong for such people to seek a place to live where they don’t have to fear death every day?

If crime and terrorism are the reasons why, well, those issues are already here. News flash. Illegal immigrants aren’t going to change society much at all.

My wife and I met a 77-year-old woman on Christmas Day while delivering meals to several families in town. She has custody of her two teenage great-grandchildren, because no one else in her family wants them. The teens’ mother is a drug addict and can’t be around her children. The 16-year-old girl has anger issues and screams at the top of her lungs, forcing neighbors to call the police sometimes. The great-grandmother does what she can to keep her fragile family together. They rent a one-bedroom house – which isn’t legal since the teens are a boy and girl. So the boy gets the bedroom and the girl and great-grandma sleep on mattresses in the living room.

They’ve been in this house only a short time, and likely won’t stay long if they can find a place with more bedrooms.

When children move that often, it’s not surprising that they have trouble keeping up in school.

Building a border wall won’t help this family.

We need laws, certainly. We need security, of course. The wall might appease some politicians, but it won’t do much – if anything – to improve security in this country.

Can we pass laws to improve security that actually work? Do our immigration laws assist apples and oranges together, or are we defending the apples and trying to remove the oranges?

What is the fruit of our labor?

Do two and two always equal four, or is there another possible answer?

Our country is full of oranges as well as apples.

Can we enjoy the flavors that both bring to this country?

Is there a way to get creative and keep the law at the same time?

A litmus test for evangelicals that shouldn’t be

Honduran migrants cross the U.S. border wall to San Diego from Tijuana, Mexico, on Dec. 16, 2018, before turning themselves in to U.S. border patrol agents, standing at the top. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

President Trump, along with Republican and Democratic U.S. representatives, have forgotten that immigrants, legal and especially illegal, are human beings. They have turned the immigration issue into a political football.

They threaten a partial U.S. shutdown later this week over whether to pay for Trump’s border wall with Mexico (which, by the way, during his presidential campaign Trump promised that Mexico would pay for). Trump wants $5 billion for it. Democrats are offering $1.6 billion for border security.

Those numbers are peanuts compared with the trillion-plus-dollar budget that Congress oversees.

The stalemate has nothing to do with dollars and budgets.

It’s all about the politics.

Worse, for many Americans, it’s become a litmus test of evangelical Christianity. Many outspoken proponents of the border wall are evangelicals who support Trump’s for-the-most-part conservative social agenda.

https://www.vox.com/2018/10/26/17989084/christopher-maloney-in-god-we-trump-evangelicals-trump

Many staunch opponents are “social justice” Democrats who see the immigrants’ “caravan” in Mexico, heading for the U.S. border, as displaced Latin Americans fleeing poverty and, especially, violence in their home countries.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/fleeing-poverty-and-violence-central-american-women-explain-why-they-join-caravans-1543947664

I am an evangelical Christian who supports the Democrats on this issue.

Why?

Because Jesus would.

The kingdom of God has feet

Jesus’ primary mission on Earth was to introduce us to the “kingdom of God.” He offered us a personal, one-on-one relationship with his Father. In the Old Testament, God came and went, offering support to specific individuals for specific events or short periods of time. In the Gospels, Jesus said God would come and remain with us at all times, not come and go as he did previously.

To do that, Jesus did not require us to get our act together spiritually or socially before we could let God into our hearts full-time. No. God met – and still meets – us right where we are.

In other words, Jesus Christ was – and still is – the “social justice” God as well as the “evangelical” God.

Very few Christians understand this, even though the message is obvious throughout the New Testament.

Jesus called several fishermen as his first disciples (Matthew 4:18-22). Not exactly upperclassmen. He also hand-picked a hated tax collector (Luke 5:27-28), who left a lucrative job to follow a charismatic leader and his band of nomads. His other disciples were not exactly household names or community leaders when Jesus called them (Mark 3:13-19).

Jesus the social activist

Once he had his chosen twelve, Jesus did some surprising things. He visited Samaria, which no self-respecting Jew would have done, and talked with a woman who had been married five times (John 4:1-42). He acknowledged her past but didn’t condemn her for it.

Same with a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). And a mentally disturbed caveman (Mark 5:1-20). And an inquisitive political leader who met him at night because he didn’t want to be noticed (John 3:1-21).

He healed numerous disabled people, including several who were blind and others who had physical deformities (read the gospel of Luke, for example).

All of these folks were outcasts. Yet Jesus met them right where they were, healing them and encouraging them to “go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

Jesus the leader

Jesus also interacted with the religious and political leaders of his day, who were the Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees (Mark 12:13-40). Those religious leaders also were the local political leaders, serving the oppressive Roman government in return for keeping the peace in their communities.

They tweaked Jewish laws and customs to keep themselves in Rome’s good graces, picking and choosing Scriptures to fit their agendas.

To put it mildly, Jesus didn’t like that. He called them blind guides and hypocrites (Matthew 23:13-36).

Jesus didn’t attack the Pharisees and Sadducees on a political level, but on a spiritual level. On politics, he said: “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17)

On Palm Sunday, the crowd thought they were hailing a political king who was entering Jerusalem to overthrow the hated Roman government (Matthew 21:8-11). When Jesus didn’t do that, they deserted him – and crucified Him.

What does all this have to do with immigration?

Jesus the servant

For people outside the church, Jesus was compassionate and gave them the benefit of the doubt every time. For people inside the church, Jesus spoke harshly for their judgment and hard-hearted attitudes, because they knew the Scriptures and should have known better how to treat people (including Jesus Christ himself).

If Jesus walked across the United States in the flesh today, he would give us the same message. We still haven’t learned it.

Immigrants need us. They are fleeing for their lives, often with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

In contrast, many Americans are richer than we think we are. Globally, if your wealth (assets minus debts) is in the $100,000 to $1 million range, you are among the 7.3 percent of the world’s population that has about 40 percent of the world’s wealth. If your wealth equals only $3,210, you are wealthier than half of the people across this planet.

https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-richest-people-in-the-world-20160121-story.html

Our response

What are we afraid of? That we might lose political influence?

Blacks, Hispanics and other minority groups already are gaining influence in this country. So are women. Are we truly worried about immigrants who have nothing materially, but who just might have the gifts, talents and work ethic we need to make this country run?

Is there not room for all?

I recently attended a conference in Chicago on urban ministry. One speaker pointed out that white Americans will not get involved in any project or event unless they lead it. That means whites will not allow any minority individuals to lead whatever they are involved in.

Whoa. That’s an eye-opener.

Are we afraid that a minority person might actually have leadership skills? As white people, are we not willing to submit ourselves to a black, Latino and/or female supervisor or other type of leader?

In the words of a decades-old slogan, what would Jesus do?

Jesus’ response

Jesus hand-picked a group of outcasts and under-the-radar people to train as the leaders of his future church. (If you read the book of Acts, there are women and couples who are leaders in the early church, as well as the more well-known Paul, Peter and James.)

No one is an outcast in Jesus’ eyes. Not disabled people. Not mentally disturbed people. Certainly not immigrants.

In a dispute between outcasts and church leaders, Jesus sided with the outcasts every time.

The “unchurched” often understood Jesus better than the church folks did. They certainly connected with him in a more real way.

We forget this at our own peril.

Psalm 51 and today’s news

Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your steadfast love;

according to your abundant mercy

blot out my transgressions.

‘Take Off Your Dress’: How Men In Hollywood, From Steven Seagal to Harvey Weinstein, Treated Women for Decades

https://www.yahoo.com/news/off-dress-men-hollywood-steven-202021745.html

 

 

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin.

Chicago Reaches 500th Death By Firearm In 2017

http://www.oann.com/chicago-reaches-500th-deaths-by-firearms-in-2017/

 

 

For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

The media today: Jemele Hill and the perils of social-media commentary

https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/the-media-today-jemele-hill-and-the-perils-of-social-media-commentary.php

 

 

Against you, you alone, have I sinned,

and done what is evil in your sight,

so that you are justified in your sentence

and blameless when you pass judgment.

This Dark Legacy of Harvey Weinstein Is Far From Over

https://www.creators.com/read/connie-schultz/10/17/this-dark-legacy-of-harvey-weinstein-is-far-from-over

 

 

Indeed, I was born guilty,

a sinner when my mother conceived me.

Feds turn up heat in recruiting scandal with Oklahoma State subpoena

https://www.yahoo.com/sports/feds-turn-heat-recruiting-scandal-oklahoma-state-subpoena-183650183.html

 

 

You desire truth in the inward being;

therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

The Boy Scouts have lost their purpose

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/04/9970/

 

 

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Trump threatens to abandon Puerto Rico recovery effort

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/10/12/trump-warns-puerto-rico-we-cannot-keep-fema-the-military-the-first-responders-forever/?utm_term=.0218395a0bfe

 

 

Let me hear joy and gladness,

let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

‘Offensive’ cowboys and Indians pub crawl cancelled after public outrage

http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2017/10/offensive_cowboys_and_indians.html#incart_river_home

 

 

Hide your face from my sins,

and blot out all my iniquities.

Trump Just Dealt A DEATH PUNCH To The NFL

https://libertywriters.com/2017/10/trump-just-dealt-death-punch-nfl-seconds-ago/

 

 

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and put a new and right spirit within me.

Kate Beckinsale Alleges Harvey Weinstein Sexually Harassed Her as a Teenager

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/kate-beckinsale-alleges-harvey-weinstein-141038401.html

 

 

Do not cast me away from your presence,

and do not take your holy spirit from me.

Former Republican member of congress: ‘Trump is unhinged. We are waiting to get tax bill through before impeachment’

https://www.yahoo.com/news/former-republican-member-congress-apos-093300061.html

 

 

Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

and sustain in me a willing spirit.

NFL attendance is down, but it’s not just because of the protest

https://andrewheller.com/nfl-attendance-is-down-but-its-not-just-because-of-the-protest/

 

 

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

and sinners will return to you.

Mike Pence leaves game after 49ers players kneel during national anthem

https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2017/10/08/mike-pence-leaves-game-protest-kneeling-national-anthem/744267001/

 

 

Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,

O God of my salvation,

and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.

Donald Trump’s Passion for Cruelty

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/42157-donald-trump-s-passion-for-cruelty

 

 

O Lord, open my lips,

and my mouth will declare your praise.

Will politicians provide clarity on Issue 2? Probably not.

http://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2017/10/will_politicians_provide_clari.html#incart_river_home

 

 

For you have no delight in sacrifice;

if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.

Open Your Eyes Father Martin

http://www.crisismagazine.com/2017/open-eyes-father-martin#.Wd-zSwJP4c5.facebook

 

 

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

The Flagrant Sexual Hypocrisy of Conservative Men

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/06/opinion/sunday/conservative-men-abortion-hypocrisy.html

 

 

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;

rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,

The case for Donald Trump’s border wall is crumbling

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/10/09/border-wall-no-childs-play-editorials-debates/730959001/

 

 

then you will delight in right sacrifices,

in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;

then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Emmanuel Ogbah returns to Houston after supporting hurricane relief effort in hometown

http://www.clevelandbrowns.com/news/article-5/Emmanuel-Ogbah-returns-to-Houston-after-supporting-hurricane-relief-effort-in-hometown/9b38d8fb-1a19-4136-ba7c-7cb4f7ac5ecc?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=referral