Human Beings

truth

Human Beings are Human Beings –
Never animals.

Human Beings are Human Beings –
Persons in every sense of the word.

Persons who have worth and deserve dignity,

Persons who have particularity –
passions,
gifts,
callings.

relationships,
responsibilities,
commitments.

personalities,
names,
dreams.

ways of caring,
ways of laughing,
ways of hoping.

It is wrong and thoroughly dangerous to say immigrants are not people but animals. Our history is replete with examples of leaders dehumanizing entire groups of people, then promoting and enacting violence, while others dismiss it or claim it is completely deserved.

Don’t think this is serious? Our nation is already ripping families apart, and has been doing so for years through mass deportations under the last two Presidencies. And now, there is an official policy to take children away from their parents at the border. This policy is specifically designed to create a scenario so traumatic that it will deter people from crossing the border and seeking asylum. We are purposefully inflicting trauma on parents and children.

These beloved children
do not know other caregivers,
do not know what military bases are,
do not know English,
and thus, do not know how to make their devastating needs known,

and they are treated as pawns in a scenario specifically designed to terrify people from crossing the border and asking for asylum.

There is no way under the sun we would accept this for our own families.

There is no way under the sun we would accept this for people we know intimately.

So we dehumanize.

Speak out. Say this is intolerable. If it is tolerable, I suspect we will tolerate much worse. We can’t let that happen.

Renee Roederer

Dare to Take Heart

In the midst of pain — our own or that of the world around us – it can sometimes seem downright foolish to let ourselves become hopeful. It can even be risky —

What if things never get better than this?

What if the next catastrophe still happens?

What if I look like a fool?

Hope takes risk, I suppose. Hope certainly doesn’t put us in control. Hope might invite us to desire things that in the end, we do not get to see.

But hope also has a way of creating things – things that could barely be imagined before. Hope helps our imagination become alive, and from there, when we envision other possibilities, we soon discover that we are called to participate in their creation. Hope leads us somewhere.

And so, in the midst of it all — whatever it is for you; whatever it is for the world — what might it look like to dare to take heart?

Renee Roederer

Palestine

Christian Zionism

Imagine holding views of a particular form of Jesus –

a Jesus that requires you do to violence in order to create conditions necessary to rebuild a temple in Jerusalem,

upon which he is also completely dependent, and without which he cannot act,

yet when completed, he will act,

that is, act with even greater violence to destroy most of humanity,

but not you – you who are first immediately ushered away, raptured into heaven apart from the tumult of utter catastrophe – a catastrophe initiated, completed, and celebrated by a God of vengeance.

Imagine that you believe this violence is necessary and good. A fulfillment, really.

Why not then work to do your part, and initiate the violence you believe is your mandate?

Or applaud politicians who are doing good and necessarily violence in your view? For Jesus’ sake?

And of course, why mourn, raise anger, or advocate for the lives of Palestinians? I mean, aren’t they just going to hell anyway?

This is the theology of Christian Zionism, and it is now impacting U.S. foreign policy in tangible ways. This is the theology — an utter distortion of a peaceful Jesus — that leads to a distortion of the value of particular, Palestinian human lives. It leads to violence, injuries and deaths of Palestinians. And perhaps later, others too.

And in response to this, some just shrug with the assumption that these beloved lives are merely collateral damage in a process to initiate the Second Coming of this version of Jesus.

Well,

This is dangerous theology.

This is a dangerous way to view fellow human beings.

This is a dangerous way to enact violence.

And I could say, as I thoroughly believe, that the God of the Bible and the incarnate person of Jesus are all about peace, that the Book of Revelation is about the Roman Empire, and that ultimately, the texts of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament invite participation in the peaceable kingdom and beloved community.

But whether people hold that view, or believe in no God at all, what we have before us are human lives – lives made for value, worth, and flourishing; never slaughtering.

And we must lift up our voices and enact a vision that both upholds their value and initiates peace.

Renee Roederer

Simple Gifts

Last week, I happened to be out when I realized I needed a plastic fork. I had some leftover food that I wanted to eat, and since I didn’t have easy access to kitchens, I decided I needed to make a plan.

I noticed a coffee shop across the street. I thought I would wander in there, find something small to purchase, and additionally ask for a fork.

That’s what I did. I wandered inside, picked up a package of mini, chocolate-dipped sponge cakes, and I stood in the line. When it was my turn, the barista began to ring me up. That’s when I asked, “Oh, also, could I have a fork?”

“Yeah,” she said. She turned around, picked one up, and handed it to me. Suddenly, she realized I probably wasn’t going to eat this little snack with this little piece of cutlery. She realized I had come specifically for the fork.

“Oh, you know, you don’t have to buy this to have the fork. You can just have it.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

I mean, for a moment, I thought about how good mini, chocolate-dipped sponge cakes are. I also thought about how I didn’t really need them in the moment. I just thought about needing the fork.

And here she was, just giving it to me. Such a simple thing.

How often do we assume that interactions have to be transactional in some way?

Of course, sometimes baristas and managers think this themselves.

But sometimes, folks can just give away a fork. And sometimes, with gratitude, we can receive it. And that’s enough.

Renee Roederer

Life Reclaims the Space

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When we pulled into the driveway late last night, we had a laugh. “There they are! The dandelions!” we exclaimed while snickering. “It’s tradition!”

I resisted bursting into a certain song from Fiddler on the Roof, though I thought about it. Somehow, four years in a row, we’ve managed to be out of town the first week of May. And always — always — when we return home, we have an embarrassing amount of dandelions growing in our front yard. A couple of times in this four year period, we’ve returned home the second week of May, and then. . . Hooboy. I’ve always wondered if the lack of lawn care during our absence might have embarrassed our neighbors.

I’m not sure, but along with the absurd amount of dandelions, when we manage to come home at this time of year, we also see leaves for the first time! They’re just sprouting. And not only that: We are seeing the tulips in our backyard and the white blooms of bradford pear trees down the street. I’m sure there is more to discover throughout our town too (and on this 78 degree day. Yes!)

I’ll tell you, I’ve never appreciated spring to the degree I do now, and that is certainly linked to living in a space that favors a long, winter climate. Some of it is simply enjoying the warmer temperatures. But I love spring because you can see an obvious, visual expression of life claiming the space.

It’s a parable that writes itself.

And we need life to claim all kind of spaces — the anxiety, the grief, the hopelessness, the overwork, the boredom, the less-than-ness (internalized or wrongly proclaimed by others). We need this.

Dr. Michael Jinkins will soon retire as the President of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, but before he served there, he was Academic Dean of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, where I studied. He was a great mentor and friend to me during those years. He used to say,

“You can’t really believe in resurrection.” He may have meant a couple of different things by this expression, but mostly, I think he was saying, while resurrection is something hoped for, it is hardly ever foreseen. In other words, resurrection is experienced and proclaimed more than believed. It’s hard to envision it beforehand; when life claims the space, it’s almost always a surprise.

Resurrection is hard to anticipate, especially in its specific forms. But when it comes, we experience it and proclaim it with a sense of wonder.

I hope we always have the wonder.

Renee Roederer

Everything Catalyzes Everything

Everything catalyzes everything.

Everything affects everything.

This, of course, is so obvious that it’s hardly worth being the topic of a blog post. But perhaps it’s obvious to the point that we could think about it more often. Maybe with some intention, we might feel greater hope too. Because….

What we do matters.

Now surely, some actions have bigger impacts than others. And when we move in directions we regret, we can always change course. After all, everything catalyzes everything, and our course correction shifts the whole. Even the recognition that we need a course correction had a catalyst. Something woke us up to that. And now the shift will have impacts too, creating space for new possibilities.

So back to this:

What we do matters.

We can trust that what we do – how we spend our time, how we speak, how we relate, how we create, how we care – it all matters.

Because it always initiates a sequence of effects, often well beyond what we might have imagined.

Renee Roederer

I Am Afraid of a Harmless Thing

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I am afraid of a harmless thing.
It looks like it could creep,
or bounce,
or pounce,
or charge awkwardly with its considerable appendages.

But it does none of these.
It stays in place all day long,
content to rest in a single crevice,
or reside in clumps of countless others.

It wishes me no harm;
likewise, I wish it no hurt.
Unlike curious schoolchildren at recess,
I will not examine it,
or smash it,
or dash it,
or remove any of its legs.

But –
I will stand irrationally in fear.
I will freeze in the presence of a childhood phobia.
No matter the logic:
“It can’t bite you,”
“It can’t poison you,”
“It can’t jump on you,”
I will cringe with revulsion and anxiety.
I am afraid of a harmless thing.

It makes me wonder. . .

When
the word can’t enters our thinking, or
the word won’t enters our hoping, or
the word don’t enters our dreaming,
perhaps we fear something harmless too?

Renee Roederer

Photo Credit: Mehran Moghtadai/Arad/Wikipedia