WE were the radicals.
WE were the ones who stood for the weak.
WE were the ones willing to stand at any cost for the rights of all.
WE were the ones willing to have our reputations tarnished.
WE were the ones willing to stand up to the powerful, the elite, and the institutions that kept people oppressed.
WE would even stand up to religious institutions for the sake of the outcasts, even if those institutions were Christian institutions.
WE were the ones willing to be jailed.
WE were the ones even willing to be martyred.
What made US CHRISTIANS different was our radical and even “reckless” or “crazy” or “irrational” compassion and care for the lonely, the sick, the outcast.
Because WE were the ones who had a leader — Jesus — who exemplified the most radical kind of inclusion and love of “outsiders,” and a total disdain of the religious insiders.
Because WE had a leader who said, “Love your enemies and do good to those who mistreat you.”
Because WE had a leader who announced, “Blessed are the merciful.”
Mercy is giving refuge and care to those who DON’T deserve it.
WE inherited the legacy and tradition of martyrs — world changers who were executed in many cases for giving a voice to the voiceless, and for giving a seat at the table to those considered “dangerous.”
WE, CHRISTIANS, spoke out for the human rights of those many believed didn’t deserve it.
Because, WE, CHRISTIANS, follow in the tradition of Jesus and Clare Of Assisi and William Wilberforce and Fredrick Douglass and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr.
WE ARE THE CHRISTIANS, THE RADICALS, THE WORLD CHANGERS, THE REVOLUTIONARIES.
And now over 76% of the section that calls itself “Evangelical” — a word used to associate with the Jesus tradition — supports a ban on outsiders seeking refuge?
“Because we want to be safe.”
When was this tradition EVER about “being safe”?
I sure didn’t sign up to be safe.
I signed up to make others safe.
Who are the real Christians in America?
It’s not the ones who want to merely be safe.
It’s those who, like Jesus, want to make others safe.
“Get her Paul E. Martin. Cheri, kiss your pimp with that mouth.”
Last night. Trump supporter. On my thread. Trying to make one of those very American arguments about how Islam is violent and how Muslims — 1.6 billion of them — ultimately, are out to get us.
For my fellow Christians, don’t you think it’s interesting that your pastor has likely never preached a message on xenophobia? Or, racism? Or bigotry?
Or even used those words?
Don’t you think it’s an interesting coincidence when God just happens to not really care about all the same people you don’t really care about?
Most of these Facebook experts on religion don’t even know a Muslim. Most of them have no formal training. But, somehow, they know exactly what Sharia Law entails, even though it’s a highly disputed doctrine even amongst Islamic scholars.
Muslims are becoming my people, even though I’m still a devoted Christian and plan on remaining one.
If Muslims are our “enemies,” my Lord told me exactly how I am to treat my enemies.
Some of you are reading and you think you are “above” debating political issues on social media. You’re adopted a new kind of spiritual smugness I’ve seen in the past 18 months — the idea amongst many Jesus-y Christians who think that think 21st century nobility consists of avoiding conflict at all costs, lots of god talk, and the mistaken view that Jesus did nothing much more than walk around bro-ing everyone while he strategized ways to develop more trendy Christian-ghetto-holy-huddle-echo-chamber-churches.
Church Echo chamber: A place where you hear the same things over and over with the distinct nomenclature about “the spirit” or about “abiding” or about “transformation” or “community” or about some trendy new book by some hipster pastor with his new technique.
The women and children dying in the freezing Syrian desert.
The thinking of these spiritually smug brothers and sisters is either-or . So, either Jesus was this meek, quiet, dovish, humble, non-controversial Gandhi-like figure.
Or, Jesus was this angry, screaming, mean, divisive, hater.
And since Jesus can’t possibly be mean, he must certainly be nice.
Niceness is the primary symptom of apathy.
What if Jesus just happened to be both? Kind and gentle and humble AND when the circumstances demanded it, outspoken and angry.
Lots of Christians think I’m being judgemental. I am. My Bible tells me to judge those in the church, not those outside the church.
Anyway, I blocked that Trump supporter from Facebook just now.
I felt deep feelings pleasure and victory in hitting the “block” button and maybe I shouldn’t have but I did and God knows I did.
I thought about this picture of Indiana Jones. Wonder if I could find it.
Ha! This one! It makes me think about righteous anger.
I’m sitting at Kean. I’m looking in front of me. Probably 25 or 30 people. All white. I enjoy watching them. I don’t think they know I’m watching but I am.
For some reason the song Eleanor Rigby comes to mind. And the line, all the lonely people.
As I watch, I’m reminded that most people don’t really care about all this human rights stuff. And that doesn’t make them bad people.
I think these thoughts:
Not everyone was like Jesus.
Not everyone was like his 12 closest followers.
Not everyone held the convictions of MLK.
Some people care more about changing the world than others do.
But the Muslims executed in a mosque in Canada last week care. Their families care.
Orange County has the highest level of anti-Muslim hate incidents in the state.
Does continuing to speak out about this make any difference?
Will it help anyone?
I think more Christians need to embrace the truths found in the book of Ecclesiastes.
Read this the other day in chapter 9:
“I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.”
An old work colleague dropped dead last week. Father of two. Playing basketball. He was my age. Successful commercial real estate broker. College educated.
Muslims were executed last week. While worshipping in their mosque.
Our president hasn’t offered a word of comfort to the grieving families.
They were shot by a white nationalist terrorist.
I wonder how many Christian churches prayed for those Muslims who are grieving.
When Dylan Roof shot the Christians, many prayed.
I’m with the Muslims.
I hope my anger is the righteous kind.
A note on “Freewriting.”
Every Friday, I set my timer on my iPhone for 15 minutes. Then I start writing. I don’t stop. I write whatever pops into my mind. After 15 minutes, I go back and quickly correct all the blatant typos. Then I publish it on Paulosophia.
I started “freewriting” in the early 1990’s because I had read this short article called “Freewriting.” I was a horrible writer back then, with the most severe writers’ block. The article said you have to write WITHOUT STOPPING. For a fixed period of time. Even if you have to write the same word over and over again. Over time, you get better, and more confident.
Writing becomes as easy as talking.
I can’t count how many freewriting exercises I’ve done over the years. Thousands for sure. I still do them almost daily. My kids know them well. I hope you do, too.
I haven’t had much to write since the Muslim Ban. Or, if you prefer, the travel ban. I’m not going to write about political stuff here, even though I don’t view issues of ethics and civil rights and human rights “political.”
The other day I was sitting on the couch in the living room. Do you call it a couch or a sofa? Sofa sounds weird to me because growing up we called it a couch. And we said Coke and not soda. We never called Coke or 7-Up or Dr. Pepper or even Shasta, pop.
When I was a kid I wondered often why people called it sofa and soda and especially why they called it pop.
I always thought the way we said it was better.
I don’t think I knew anyone who called pants, trousers.
I think I knew a few people that pronounced the word wash, waRsh.
The one that gets me today is when people pronounce the word important, imporDant.
Back to the couch…
I was sitting on it the other day. I was on Twitter. I was getting worked up again over the Muslim ban, but I can’t talk about that here.
I decided to start a fire in the fireplace. I needed to relax, without electronics. I stood up. I walked to the bedroom. I placed my iPhone on my nightstand. I walked back into the living room. Turned off the TV. And I sat. Fidget a bit. Reached for my iPhone a bit to check Twitter.
But iPhone was in my room. Do you ever reach of your phone as a pure instinctual reaction to boredom?
I say this to myself: “Paul, your mind has been hooked up to your iPhone for weeks. And the news. And Facebook. And your posts. You have been in autopilot.”
So I turn my attention to the fire. And I wonder why fires are attractive – why all we stare at them. Why they attract our eyes.
I could feel the warmth of the flames.
I thought about the women and children and elderly now stuck in the Syrian desert because people think they are ISIS murderers.
As much as I tried to let go — just let the images of the refugees go — I couldn’t. I couldn’t block out some of the faces I had seen.
I tried again.
Deep breath. And on the coffee table I noticed a necklace. And I started staring at that. One of the things they teach you in meditation is to fixate your eyes on one object. To take it in. Observe. Don’t look anywhere else. Then when you start getting frustrated and bored, you start paying attention to those feelings of frustration. And you let them go.
I don’t know how long I stared. It might have been 5 minutes. Or 10. I don’t think 15.
I might have also stared at the fire, since it was in the background. But most of the time my eyes were focused on the necklace. I noticed that the left part of the cross was chipped off. And I wondered if that was done intentionally.
Then it dawned on my that I had never noticed this necklace before.
I wondered how long it had been there.
I pick it up. I count the beads. Thirty-two total. Sixteen on each side.
I thought of when Mom and Dad went to Italy for 45 days. I was 11. Our Aunt Nina stayed with us.
Aunt Nina, like most of my family, was a devout Roman Catholic. She made us pray The Rosary for Mom’s and Dad’s safety. It was horrible. It took forever. I think we had to pray it every night, but I don’t remember.
I later asked Gina about the necklace. She said it’s been hanging on that bottle for over 4 years.
Philosophers like to write about the issue of consciousness — how you could see something but not notice it. I’ve sat on that couch/sofa for over 4 years. I’ve certainly seen the necklace.
But I never noticed it.
I was never conscious of it.
See the philosophical problem? If you’ve seen something, that image is in your brain. You, technically, are conscious of it.
Another way of putting the question is by asking, “How could you experience something without being conscious of it?”
If Gina took the necklace away in January, I would have never missed it. I would have never asked about it.
I wouldn’t even have known it was gone.
We all live in a world of autopilot. Our minds churning away about our lover or our kids or our finances and we’re often unaware of what’s right in front of our eyes.
Do you deal with living in autopilot?
People with a personality type similar to mine (INTP) know autopilot very well.
Yoga and meditation help me a lot because they teach awareness of the things that are before you, in the moment. In staying present with what’s in front of you, you learn to identify those automatic thoughts. Then to let go of them.
Many of our automatic thoughts are negative — centered in regret (things in the past) and worry (of things in the future).
Some people like to say both the past and the future are not real; one is gone, one is not yet here.
I believe that the past and the present live in each of our minds, daily, hourly.
They are each real.
Even though I’ve been a practitioner of yoga for over 7 years, I still go into autopilot and overlook all kinds of things.
Like necklaces. .l
Someone messaged me a few days ago. Thanked me for doing what I do as a blogger. Then said “We need more progressives like you.”
I’m not sure what she meant by that. I don’t consider myself a progressive. One reason is that I’m a Republican. And as far as I know, I don’t know if it’s okay to be a progressive Republican. Progressive Republican might even be an oxymoron.
It didn’t bother me. Progressives are far more empathetic than conservatives. I sometimes think that political philosophy is just like parenting philosophy.
Some parents are “tough love parents.” They parent their kids in a black and white way. No whining. No excuses. Suck it up. Consequences. Schedules. Rigid rules. These parents adhere to a belief that people have complete free will.
So the way to raise children – children that will become responsible adults – is to be tough. Make sure they do the right thing.
Sadly, lots of the kids of these parents end up rebelling or without their own autonomy because they fail to develop their own spirits. They are hounded and scared and measured up one side and down the other year after year.
Some parents are empathetic parents. They still have rules, but these parents tend to understand the complexity of human choice. We all make mistakes. We compromise our values daily. Empathetic parents are very aware of their own failings, and how difficult it can be to do the things you want to do, or stop those things you want to stop.
So they end up being more understanding of their children’a shortcomings, and those of others.
DANG! I wasn’t supposed to be writing about politics right now!
So I am going to go for a drive to pick up Elliot and along the way I will notice the trees I’ve never seen, I mean never noticed, before.
Last night at 7:23 p.m. — after a very long day and being unsure again whether one drop of my work with The Christian Muslim Alliance was making a difference — I received a Facebook message. From an old work colleague. Evangelical Christian. Pro-lifer.
“Hey Paul… Thank you so much for sharing the posts you post. They have opened my eyes and gave me a new perspective.
“I only started to feel this because I was reading your posts. It annoyed me at first because I had a preconceived mindset. But as I read the posts… it mad sense. And my heart breaks… Don’t listen to people who would sway you the other way.”
Me: “So many people have basically told me to shut up. And that I’m just being ‘too political.’”
Me: “But people will die if we don’t speak out loudly.”
Over a year ago I started to speak boldly.
Because when a leader says repeatedly that a religion “hates us” and wants to ban 1.6 billion of them — and millions are the world’s poorest refugees — I take those words seriously.
Because when women and children and elderly, many who are sick — when they’re on a sinking boat screaming and crying and begging for help, and there you are reclining on your cruise ship — you don’t philosophize over a martini.
You don’t stand there and just hope for the best.
You don’t just pray.
You get help. You raise awareness. And if you must disrupt the peace to mobilize others to help save these innocent lives, then you scream.
If people don’t hear you, you scream louder.
And you really don’t give a shit if people think you’re being “mean.”
And you really don’t give a shit about the holy people who care more that you said shit than the fact that people are dying.
Wannabe political philosophers didn’t like my screaming. And they tried to use their two-bit logic to win an argument.
As if me speaking on behalf of minorities was ever about winning an argument.
Donald Trump’s Executive Order is now in effect.
People will die.
Particularly the Syrian refugees.
Many read my posts and are not like my old work colleague.
They would sway me into silence if they could.
But they can’t.
And they are more upset about my screaming than they are about those poor, homeless, displaced women and children refugees.
Or the women harassed because they cover their heads as an act of honor and humility.
Or the increase in hate crimes against Muslims that is skyrocketing since Trump came to office.
Or those murdered last night in a mosque in Quebec.
That Facebook message couldn’t have come at a better time. I had spent much of the day at the protest at LAX. I was exhausted and then riveted to my core when I heard about another hate crime.
I don’t know how many thousands of people protested. Five thousand? Ten thousand? The energy was surreal and was so powerful and I don’t have the writing skill to try and produce a sentence to describe it because I can’t even come close.
We arrived. There was no band. No speaker. No performance. No hype. Just raw and spontaneous and peaceful chants and signs in opposition to the xenophobia I started writing about a year ago.
Swarms of people.
And I took out my iPhone and extemporaneously shot two live videos on Facebook.
A few hours in, I continued to stand and watch and hold up my “Christians 4 Muslims” sign.
Then I saw a lady with a hijab. Just there, smiling. Reading the countless signs. Drinking in the many chants like “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.”
(A few times I wondered why this wasn’t being chanted with Evangelical churches across America because Jesus was a refugee.)
One of our signs said, “Jesus was a refugee.”
I wondered if this Muslim lady had been a refugee.
I awkwardly interrupt. “Hi, I’m so sorry to bother you, but this is all so beautiful.” And I show her my “Christians 4 Muslims” sign and ask if I can take a picture with her. And she smiles and here we are.
They are my people. These Muslims. Whether Americans or foreigners. The Syrian refugees. Those displaced around the world looking for the same kind of better life my mother and her parents sought in the 1950’s, after their country, Italy, had been pillaged by the Nazis.
At that time many thought Roman Catholics were trying to take over the United States. Google it. My mother and her family were heckled and mocked for being having an accent, being Italian, being Roman Catholic.
One of my uncles couldn’t stand it and couldn’t get a job so he changed his name from “Zeppetella” to “Baker” — because he saw a sign and thought baker sounded American.
Xenophobia. Fear and mistrust of people because of the color of their skin or the way their name sounds or how they speak.
Or where they’re from.
I’ve never been discriminated against for the color of my skin or the way my name sounds or the way I speak.
When I visit mosques today, I feel these are my people.
They are the outsiders today. Not the Italians. Not the Japanese.
Dark skinned Muslims = outsiders.
White American Christian evangelicals = insiders.
Jesus is for the outsiders.
The politically correct term today used to discriminate against 1.6 Muslims is “potential terrorists” or “people we are not sure about until they are ‘fully vetted.’”
People think I’m being divisive.
As if Jesus wasn’t.
In Matthew 25 Jesus divided. Two groups.
One group cared and advocated for the lost and poor and lonely.
The other group was big on God talk but ultimately neglected those outsiders.
In Amos 5 God said he hated their church services. That he hated (yes, hated) their worship songs.
They failed at administering justice to those who needed it the most.
Syrian refugees need it most. Worse humanitarian crisis since World War II.
These refugees are being shut out with this new Executive Order. But many, millions, aren’t having it. Call them liberals. Call them what you want. They are standing and protesting and marching for those most oppressed because over 80% of evangelicals decided to elect that man who rejected millions of women, children, sick, elderly, leaving them in tents in a freezing cold desert.
I hugged the kind Muslim lady and thanked her for the picture.
I then looked across at the parking structure and the bridge. And took this.
I looked across the street and the counter protest. It was behind that white van. There were literally 9 people.
Including the older fellow with the “Trump Is Love” sign.
I thought, I wish more of my Christian friends could be here.
I thought, this protest is so big and it makes me feel so small.
I thought, I feel humbled.
I thought, these protesters are overwhelmingly Caucasian. They are not Muslims. They are not in this for themselves, they are in it for the others.
I thought, how many pastors, especially of evangelical churches, spoke up today on behalf of the refuses in their in the same way we are?
Someone just commented about me on my live Facebook video from yesterday.
“I feel sorry for this man. He lacks wisdom and knowledge and he has no authority to speak on this subject.”
I hold undergraduate and graduate degrees in the philosophy of religion and ethics.
But I’m certain I lack wisdom.
And I’m certain I lack knowledge.
I lack authority.
But I will not stop.
He will not sway me.
No one will.