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Thursday, September 25, 2014

To My 2-Year-Old Son

To My 2-Year-Old Son,

Today is the last day that you are 1 year old. Tomorrow is your birthday and you will be 2.

Being 2 means lots of excited talking, repeating the same phrase again and again until finally I get it and your face lights up.

Being 2 means stamping your feet for more cereal and playing with cars and "go to the park!"

Being 2 means saying I pooped but being scared of the potty; asking for "sing" before you go to sleep, and lifting your arms at the top of the stairs, even though you know how to climb down:
"Carry?" "Carry?" CARRY!!!!"

I'm glad we can talk like this.

Every little word you say, even over and over again with your head thrown back in exasperation, is a miracle to me. You are a miracle to me.

Ten years ago - I know, FOREVER - me and Daddy met in college and way too soon we started talking about Jake. We imagined, can you believe it, even your name and your red hair and your blue eyes. We saw you in a baseball cap headed out the door to play catch; you liked to play.

Somehow we knew about you already.

But we were in college and someday when you're 19 you might understand this. We were impatient and selfish and didn't listen to each other. Sometimes today when you're really upset about something, like the berries being all gone or not getting your juice fast enough, you're able to get over it and laugh hysterically, about something like HORSIES or SOCKIES or OUTSIDE!

Sometimes when we were 19 and 20 and 21 and 22 we forgot how to laugh together and so we spent time apart, Mommy in Florida and Daddy in Las Vegas. You've already visited Las Vegas for your baptism, but when Daddy moved there for work he enjoyed other parts of the city besides church, like poker and late nights and other things you can experience when you're 21.

Almost three years later, Mommy and Daddy reunited again on New Year's Day in Florida and the dreams we used to have about being together and about you, Jake, burst before our eyes and we decided that maybe those dreams were real.

You're only almost 2 today but I hope you always believe that dreams come true, because you were a dream come true to us, and the dream of you and what we could do together, made us overcome our stubbornness and frustration and laugh and dream together again.

We moved to Minnesota. Not as many people visit Minnesota as Vegas and Florida, but Mommy is from there so I hope you love it, too. You've already been to the State Fair so I'm making sure to indoctrinate you early.

We got married a year later and then we moved to Vegas together and this time we moved there for church. I think both of us still always dreamt of you in our minds, but now we were older and married and the dream was more possible so we didn't talk about it as much.

We weren't really ready to have a baby, but I'll tell you this secret: Nobody Is. And when I found out I was pregnant I didn't quite believe it because when dreams start coming true sometimes we tend not to believe them.

Sometimes the truly wonderful is almost harder to grasp than the truly awful. I hope you can always enjoy what is truly wonderful in your life and not worry about it too much, like Mommy does sometimes.

The whole church loved you even when Mommy stood before them to preach with a huge belly and swollen feet and they joked that I was having twins but they loved you and I will always love them for that reason and many others. Some of the ladies there made you a quilt with your name, and all kinds of knitted hats and blankets. They wrote messages in books and on diapers for you. You were destined to come into a world of love, and maybe when you're older and sometimes you feel like church might not be for you, I hope you remember that church in Las Vegas that claimed you as its own and loved you even before you were born.

Our time there was short, though. Mommy's internship at church lasted only a year, and a month before you were due to be born we moved to a suburb of San Francisco, where we knew no one.

In Missouri in College, your Minnesotan mom and Missourian dad used to dream we'd live in California with Jake, who liked to play and had red hair and wore baseball hats.

Now that we were almost 30 the California dream was real and kind of scary. Our furniture got lost in Reno and Mommy, who was not small at this point, slept on an air bed. One night, Daddy and Mommy stood on the airbed to try and tape curtain rods to the 1-bedroom apartment's walls.

You and Mommy were too big to stand on the air bed and it popped, so Mommy and Daddy had to drive 45 minutes at 11:30 p.m. to Walmart to get a new airbed.

We found out in California that you were breech - upside down in Mommy's uterus, which had previously meant nothing to me but now meant unexpected C-Section surgery in an unfamiliar place. Thank God everything went fine, but we were scared. In Minnesota and Missouri and Las Vegas we always had lots of help and now you were here and it was just you, Daddy, and Mommy.

You might notice as you get older that sometimes Daddy and Mommy are really overzealous about things. We were that way when you were first born, too. You lost weight in the hospital so we tracked all your feedings and timed them on our phones and charted your poops for weeks.

Don't worry, you were a great pooper. One day we used more than 20 diapers but that's mostly because Mommy and Daddy didn't put them on right and you peed everywhere.

We learned that everything was washable and nothing was perfect. That mistakes were inevitable and we were bound to be scared; but we loved each other and we loved you so much that in the end our love protected and preserved us.

As you grow up I hope you know too that everything is washable - forgivable - and nothing is perfect. You have our genetic material so you'll probably try really hard at everything and want it to be perfect but sometimes it won't be. Sometimes you'll make mistakes and sometimes others will make mistakes that hurt you. It's all washable. Our love and God's love for you, his special child, will protect you and preserve you - and the love you have for others will protect and preserve you, too.

When Daddy went back to work, you and Mommy had to learn to adjust. I spent too much time worrying about my seminary classes and not enough time sleeping while you slept. I worried about your schedule and timed too many things; I was embarrassed about my post-pregnancy body and not sure how to satisfy your needs sometimes.

We survived together. You looked up at me and the first time you smiled I felt the purest joy and incredible relief.

You looked at me on the changing table one day and tentatively spoke: "ah ... Ma Ma!" It got clearer and clearer and I couldn't get enough.

I was young and inexperienced and unprepared but you knew I was your Mama.

See I was worried because I thought the other mommies I knew in our classes did everything better than me. They took the pain of nursing like it was nothing and gave up everything in their diets except organic nuts to sacrifice and feed their babies, while you had to have non-organic bottles after three painful and unproductive weeks for both of us.

They made their own baby food and talked about all the research they'd done; they had their own homes with designer nurseries while you shared a room with mom and dad in the apartment we'd just gotten a month before you were born.

Seeing you happy and laughing with me and growing up just fine even with a mom who wasn't perfect made me realize that love is not about being perfect. Love is about the morning in March 2013 when for 45 minutes you were in your jumper and I knelt behind the bathroom door in that silly apartment where you had no nursery, and you laughed anyway and I surprised you over and over again, taking picture after picture after picture.

The pictures look like perfection but it wasn't perfection. It was tiredness and happiness and a cramped apartment in an unfamiliar place with parents who had no clue what they were doing but somehow God brought you joy and me joy through you.

You drove to Berkeley with me twice a month that spring while I finished graduate classes. We flew to Missouri and Minnesota in January and you watched me graduate seminary and be ordained as a Lutheran pastor. You raised your fist to say: "Go Mom!" and I couldn't believe it was real, you sitting in that pew in the sanctuary where I got confirmed and then married and then ordained, and the Pastor who baptized me was now talking about you as he preached the sermon that would help make me a Pastor.

We moved again to Chicago, to another cramped apartment while our townhome was being built, and you met a new church family who didn't know you or Mommy and Daddy yet. This time Mommy was the Pastor in charge and you had to go to daycare and some days Mommy wondered if she was enough of a Pastor or enough of a Mom or too little of both - and sometimes, like Jake and Mom days on Fridays, or when you came to Bible Study with me and you high-fived all the ladies - I felt like maybe Love was protecting and preserving us still.

Now we've got it together, sort of. We own a townhome and you have your own room and tons of toy cars and books you love and a park we can walk to almost every night. You are so happy. You are your mommy's son so you like to do what you want to do when you want to do it.

You like to push the stroller instead of riding in it; you like to do it on your own as much as you can, but sometimes you still say: Carry, or Help, or Sing, and I know you need me.

I hope you always know that we need each other, and no one can make it on their own. Life is about leaning on each other and leaning on God - and sometimes you're the leaner and sometimes you're the leaning post - but in the end when we lean nobody falls all the way down.

A year ago you just started day care and you weren't quite sure about it, and this year when you come in to school you and your friends immediately start talking and playing with balls and cars and making art and singing songs and reading books.

You have friends - friends! - who are coming to a birthday party for you and even though we moved you yet again, community has surrounded us and all kinds of people in Chicago and Vegas and California and Minnesota and Missouri are wishing you a happy birthday. You are still so loved, and in another new place Love has preserved us and protected us.

I know you're only almost 2, but maybe you can keep this letter and read it someday when you're older.

Maybe when you read it, it will remind you - like it reminds me - that dreams often come true but often not in the way you expect them to.

You were and you are our dream, our Jake, with red hair and blue eyes who likes to Play and wear baseball hats and laugh like nothing in the world could ever make him sad.

When we first dreamed about you, in Columbia, Missouri, in 2004; we never thought we'd live in Florida or Las Vegas or Northern California. We never thought we'd buy our first home in Chicago and I'd be the head Pastor of a church here before I'm 30, with a 2-year-old son.

Today is the last day I can call you my 1-year-old. Many more milestones will pass in our lives and sometimes we'll forget to celebrate or we'll rush forward with worry without remembering all the worries of the past and the way Love obliterated them. Sometimes we'll shout and forget about our love, and the love of a God who rose Jesus from the dead and promises to raise me, and you, and Daddy, and Grandpa and Grandma and the whole world as well.

Today on the last day you're 1, I pray you and me will never forget that Love, that God of Love, who preserved and protected us through it all and always will, from 1 to 2 to 22 to 82.

Love you, Jake. Happy Birthday.

Mom

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Key to Real Community: Tear Down that Firewall

Yesterday morning at 5:30 I woke up to a disconcerting email:

Suspicious Sign-In Prevented. Please check your Google activity immediately.

In my half-asleep bleariness, I clicked the link and filled in my password.

Then I realized I'd been scammed.

Recognize was spelt recognise - and the account email was from Googlemail.com, not Google.com. Otherwise, the email was identical to those I'd gotten from Google in the past.

The next two hours were spent frantically re-securing my life. Changing passwords, adding two-step verification, application passwords.

I suddenly realized how much of my life was online. My Facebook page was a chronicle of my wedding, my jobs, my son's first 2 years of life.

Most people my age are the same way. Sometimes it's easier online.

The first people to find out about my pregnancy three years ago, besides my husband, were members of an online birth month group at WhattoExpect.com. Weeks before we told family or close friends, we shared intimate details about morning sickness, headaches, and faint lines on pregnancy tests.

Why do we do this? Somewhere, all of us, in Fantasy Football groups and pregnancy groups and dog lover groups and gluten-free groups: we're longing for Real Community.

With the advent of the Internet, Cable TV, security systems, and suburbia - community has changed a lot. Most of grew up with parents who were a little cautious about letting us run free in the neighborhood. We got Caller ID. We weren't allowed to sell Girl Scout cookies door-to-door to people we didn't know. And increasingly, in our neighborhoods, we didn't know the people around us.

Trunk or treats in parking lots replaced trick or treating at our neighbors' doors.

Fear and wariness replaced openness and hospitality.

My parents have lived in the same neighborhood since 1980. I remember one summer afternoon, home from college, I had a terrible bike accident and an ambulance came to my parents' house to take me to the hospital. Days later, walking around the neighborhood, I couldn't believe how many folks came out and greeted my mom by name; asking if I was OK.

I didn't even know we knew these people!

In a way I'd rarely felt so loved. So secure. There was this whole community surrounding my home, loving me, watching out for me.

I've tried to recreate that community but it's tough. I haven't lived in one city longer than two and a half years since college. I lived a whole year in an apartment near San Francisco without ever meeting my next door neighbors. Same for a townhome in Vegas.

In Florida in a gated retirement community for 2.5 years I never did meet a single neighbor.

In Minnesota my roommate and I baked cookies for our townhome neighbors and tried to share some small talk in the mornings. I at least remember one of their names, but that was it.

So many of us are desperate for real community, for real security. For that feeling I had as I walked around my parents' neighborhood, and people rushed out their front doors: Angie? Are you OK?

So often our first response is the one I had yesterday morning when I learned a hacker had gotten my Gmail password. In search of better community and more security -- we build more fences and firewalls. We think the answer is more passwords, 2-step verification, separate groups for status updates on Facebook, private profiles; even applications like Snapchat that delete messages right after they're sent.

We probably do need more online security.

But in order to get that Real Community that so many of us are searching for, I think in real life - the key to real community is making your life less secure.

Tear down the firewalls. Remove the passwords. No verification needed. Get to know your neighbors. See - really see - that person in front of you, as even more real - more vital - than your iPhone screen.

This past weekend I did a little sociological experiment. I'm the Pastor of a small church and also recently (seven months ago) moved into a new townhome community. It's a pretty friendly place, and so filled with babies that I've taken to calling it the Fertile Crescent.

We had a big event at church coming up, and I've been wanting to get to know more neighbors, so I decided to knock on some doors, introduce myself, and also invite people to our upcoming fair.

The look on their faces at first was usually one of dread. Who are you and why are you at my door on a Sunday afternoon?

Most people visibly relaxed when I said I was from the neighborhood. We shared a bond. A moment. We really were neighbors. I had the first password.

If they were parents of young children, the two-step verification went through easily. Oh, I have a 2-year-old!

Smiles abounded. Access granted.

I knocked on 150 doors. Most people opened them and were generally friendly. I had to swallow my own nervousness as well as my firewalls came tumbling down. I was talking - talking! - to complete strangers. Me, the one who usually buries my head in my phone screen while waiting in line at Starbucks; who wears earphones at the gym, who darts in and out of yoga class without making eye contact.

Lowering our person-to-person security is much more difficult than raising our online security. The passwords are more subtle, the two-step verification more unwieldy. Racism, sexism, and classism build fences in our interactions with the people standing right in front of us. We let garbage workers, delivery people, and construction workers blend into our surroundings as we read our Facebook News Feed.

Four days after lowering my defenses and knocking on neighborhood doors - and two days after upping my online security, what sticks in my head most are two interactions with my neighbors.

Three doors down from me, in the same townhome block, more than halfway done meeting my neighbors; I rang the doorbell.

A young guy about my age answered the door wearing a San Francisco 49ers shirt, NFL games on in the background. A pack and play for a young baby sat on top of the stairs.

I had the trifecta for access granted: we were the same age, the same race, both recent parents, both apparently transplants from San Francisco to Chicago.

"Hi, I'm Angela. I live three doors down from you."

His eyes narrowed.

"Do you need something?"

Flustered, I fumbled with my invite card.

"Looks like you have a baby! We have a 2-year-old, too. Maybe you've seen us out playing with him. He has red hair."

"Can I help you with something? I'm pretty busy."

Defeated, I backed away.

"Well I'm also the pastor of a nearby church and I just wanted to invite you to an event we're having next weekend for families."

He snatched the card and shut the door. I haven't seen him since. Hopefully I won't need to borrow an egg anytime soon.

A friend of mine tells a story about getting locked out of his apartment in 120 degree heat in Las Vegas in the summer. He had no one to call and no way back in, so he banged on his neighbor's door. He could see them inside, watching TV.

They ignored him for an excruciating 45 minutes, until his roommate came home and let him in.

"I was banging desperately. They just ignored me."

His story and my experience with my neighbor made me think about the people I've ignored; the times I've looked right through the person standing right in front of me.

As a follower of Jesus I try to put His words into faithful action, and imagine how he might respond in similar situations.

Jesus says the most important commandment is to Love God and Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.

I've spent way too much time ignoring my neighbors. The pain of being ignored was real.

"Do you need something?"

What if I'd said then what I really felt:

"I need to love you, because you are my neighbor. I need to take down my passwords and firewalls and disable my verification settings and I hope we can let each other in and rely on each other when the road floods or my son is sick or my car breaks down or you need a babysitter for a few minutes while you run up the street."

"I know it might sound weird but I need to know you and I need you to know me because we're right here together and neighbors are meant to be loved."

Even as we reveal ourselves online we're building firewalls between us and our neighbors, and we can't see each other through them. We're blocked. Unfriended. From a chance at Real Community.

I had another experience four days ago, walking through my neighborhood and risking forever branding myself as that Crazy Christian Lady who tried to get us to go to her church. This experience makes me swell with joy and love even as much as the other fills me with pain, sorrow and shame.

I walked up to my neighbor's door and rang the doorbell. I'd never met her before.

She opened the door and extended her hand broadly: Hello! Do you want to come in?

She introduced me to her baby and told me about her life; she and her husband had been renting an apartment nearby after moving from Bolivia. She hadn't met many people yet. It was hard, she noticed. And she was looking for a park where she could walk with her sons. She said Thank you, Thank you; so many times.

I told her about our church event and she cradled the invite card in her hands as though I'd handed her a bar of solid gold.

"This is a great opportunity for me," she said, looking me in the eye. "I will certainly be there."

When I walked away we had exchanged phone numbers and cleared our security settings and emptied out our cache. We had allowed each other open access. I took a risk and she let me in. She accepted me and even loved me, just because I was her neighbor.

In her eyes I was a person worthy of love and friendship. We shared a holy moment. Jesus walked between us and said do not fear, for I am with you always.

So I'm still working on it. My firewall surrounds my car when I block out the person next to me trying to merge in. When visitors come to our church I'm sure they're met with strange passwords and firewalls and verification codes that make no sense and leave them blocked from Real Community.

They don't know the hymns or where certain people sit week after week; how to pray at the right times or stand and sit down according to tradition. We're working on it. Jesus is helping us take down our security settings and showing us how to love our neighbors without firewalls.

And every once in awhile, by the grace of God, community happens. Firewalls come down. Hackers become friends. Strangers hug each other after a funeral. Children from different schools who speak different languages become friends. Believers and non-believers experience grace. And in the bosom of Real Community, I feel more secure than I ever did with even the strictest Facebook privacy settings.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why I Refuse to Watch #RayRice

Have you seen it?

The Ray Rice video?

The one where he knocks out his then-fiance, now-wife?

You should know about this, they say.

You should see this, they tell me.

I haven't.

#RayRice is one of the most popular trends on Twitter today. People can't get enough of the video. That video.

I typed Ray Rice into the YouTube search bar and the site finished my thought for me:
Ray Rice ... (knocked out fiancee).

The top three hits: all various footage from that now-infamous night at a casino in Atlantic City, N.J. More than 5 million views.

Ray Rice and his fiancee, Janay Palmer (now Rice), arguing. He punches her in the face. She is knocked out, cold. He then drags her out of the elevator, face-down. His expression is blank.

First down. No lost yards.

Rice and Palmer were both charged with simple assault. No injuries reported.

A month later, things change. Rice is charged with third-degree aggravated assault. Palmer's charge is dropped.

A day later, Janay Palmer marries Ray Rice.

Two months later, a press conference. Ravens tweet:
"Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident."

The Incident.

Often we use words to cover up ugliness we'd rather pretend didn't exist.

The Ravens would have rather imagined that Ray Rice, who was trained to be violent on the field, was a lamb off of it. That he didn't physically abuse his fiancee and even knock her out.

That his abuse wasn't so complete, so mental as well as physical, that she was compelled to hold herself responsible for the punch that knocked her out.

That our society isn't complicit in violence against women.

"She must have done something to deserve it."

"He wouldn't just punch her like that."

"This is a private matter. Let them handle it."

And so children grow up and watch their fathers beat their mothers.

Ray Rice's monster touchdown on Sunday excuses him from the fact that that body, honed in preseason workouts with top-notch trainers and equipment, was a machine designed not just to terrify tacklers but also to terrify the woman who loved him.

His hands were not just built to cradle a football but also trained to destroy whatever stood in the way of his needs, of his desires - not just on the field but in the elevator. I used to cover professional sports. Athletes have special rules. It's not cheating when you're on the road.

Athletes are used to getting their way. This girl doesn't want to have sex? Someone else will. Get in line.

The same impulse that says Michael Brown of Ferguson was equally at fault for his death at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson is the same impulse that says Janay Rice-Palmer is equally at fault for her lost consciousness at the hands of Ray Rice.

There's a power differential here.

Whites are not losing their lives or their freedom in altercations with police officers of another race.

Men are not losing their lives or their freedom in altercations with their female partners.

The numbers in both situations aren't even comparable. There is a power differential: between a white police officer and a young black man; between an NFL running back and his wife.

Some statistics:
A woman is more likely to be killed by her male partner than by any other person.
About 4,000 women die each year due to domestic violence.
About 75 percent of those women were killed as they left the relationship, or just after leaving.

So have you seen it?
You should see the video.
Millions of others have.

I haven't seen it. I won't watch it, for the same reason I won't watch the YouTube video of a woman being stoned for adultery. Of a woman being forced to marry her captor. Of "rape porn."

We're sickeningly fascinated by violence.

Each time somebody watches the video, Janay Rice-Palmer loses a little bit of her humanness.

Punched, passed out, dragged out.

Can you believe she's Tweeting anger at the media?
Is it about money? Does she really care that much about money?

Domestic violence is about power and control. Ray Rice exerts that power and control over Janay. It's no surprise that he got her pregnant. Pregnancy is often another way of exerting power and control.

Imagine if 5 million people watched a video of you being knocked out by your husband.

Her voice has been taken from her yet again. One more time. It's not about the money.

When I lived in Las Vegas I took a three-month course on domestic violence offered by SafeNest. Part of the course involved a simulation of the choices offered to abused women. We moved from station to station; each station had a card with two choices on it. I chose to go see my Pastor.

He told me to Pray. That Jesus said women should be submissive to their husbands. That Jesus said divorce was against God's will.

My next card showed me back with my abuser. In the hospital with a broken collarbone.

#NotMyReligiousLeader

We are failing women every single day.

When you watch that video with a sick fascination. Then turn on Monday Night Football.
"What a hit!"

Churches are failing women every single day.
"Wives, submit to your husbands."

#NotMyJesus
#NotMyBible

Biblical traditionalists often forget to mention that the language of submission in the Bible is grounded in mutuality. For each instruction to women, Paul has an instruction to men as well. Relationships, love, is meant to be sacrificing, loving, and kind. Violence, vengeance, of any kind - is condemned from the Old Testament to the New. Vengeance is mine, says the LORD in Deuteronomy 32.

Jesus himself says this, in his first sermon: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me ... to proclaim liberty to the captives ... to set the oppressed free," (Luke 4:18-19, quoting Isaiah).

Jesus died so that no person might lose her personhood. So that no one would be controlled, manipulated, and abused. The love Jesus practiced and preached was a love that lifted up those who were brought low; a love that set people free from the roles society gave them and left them identified by an eternal life, an eternal light that could never be extinguished.

Domestic violence puts out that light. As Janay Rice-Palmer crumples to the ground in that video, she is reduced to something less than human.

She tries to reclaim her identity with a Tweet. I do have power. I am loved. That wasn't me.

So, out of respect for Janay Rice-Palmer, a woman, a wife, and a mother just like me: I won't watch that video.

But I will advocate for tougher domestic violence laws.
I will fight against police departments and policies that tend to slap both the man and the woman with a charge, while women die.
I will listen and watch for any opportunity to be an advocate for women in my life.
I will put Jesus where he belongs, standing between Janay and Ray: protecting her and keeping her from her abuser.
Jesus isn't neutral. His forgiveness isn't free. He stands with Janay, and he encourages us all to do the same.

Don't watch the video - watch yourself and those around you. Stand against domestic violence and support women today, so Ray Rice's daughter, Rayven, won't think that love = power, control, and being punched in the face.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

ISIS: Then They Came for Me

To American Christians hearing about ISIS,

First they came for the Shiites, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Shiite.

Then they came for the Yazidis, and I did not speak out -- 
Because I was not a Yazidi.

Then they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a journalist.

Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.

- A 21st Century Take on Holocaust survivor and German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoller's famous quotation

What can you say as a Christian today?

Pundits preen and press about a so-called War on Christmas, being waged by school superintendents and bureaucratic officials. It seems overblown.

We're embarrassed when Terry Jones burns a Koran in Florida. When Westboro Baptist parades its stupidity and intolerance for the world to see. When corrupt, evil men like Warren Jeffs of the FLDS use the name of Jesus Christ to justify their abuse of children.

What can you say as a Christian today?

In high school social studies we learned the Five Pillars of Islam.
We had a Seder dinner during Sunday School; we learned the names of Hindu deities in college courses.
This education was necessary. Americans as a whole remain unschooled about much of the world at large.

My Christian education was delegated to church. We learned about a God who loved us and loved the world; a Savior who called us not to judge.

What can you say as a Christian today when ISIS beheads another journalist in the name of Islam?

Too many of us are afraid to confront it at all, especially on a religious level. We don't want to be like those ugly representatives of our faith. We don't consider what Jesus might have said about ISIS. We fall back on platitudes.

Don't judge.

Jesus loves you.

Yet as Niemoller learned in the shadow of the smokestacks at Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps, someone must speak up against evil.

Jesus has something more to say than: I love you. Don't judge; in the face of ISIS.

Jesus, who halted the stoning of a woman accused of adultery, would have words for the fighters who are lining up little girls to be "married" to rebel fighters.

As Martin Niemoller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer learned in a World War II Germany exhilarated with evil; Christians must speak in the face of deadly power.

ISIS must seem to most American Christians to be half a world away. Most of us don't even go to church on a regular basis. We certainly wouldn't die for our religion; mostly we choose football over it, especially this time of year. We don't get the fervor. We ignore the Christians in their midst who are dying for their religion.

So first they came for the Shiites. They besieged the town of Amerli and 20,000 people starved.

Then they came for the Yazidis. They stranded them without food on Mount Sinjar and waited for them all to die. When some escaped, they hunted the women and young girls; abducting them, forcing them to convert to Islam, and selling them into marriage.

Then they came for journalists. First the chilling video of James Foley. An icy threat at the end: "Our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people." A month later, another video. Another knife. Another neck. Another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, killed.

Turn, O LORD! How long?

We lament in silence, afraid to speak.

Someone asks us. What does your Jesus say about ISIS?

"You shall not kill; and whoever kills should be liable to judgment."

So Jesus judged?

He judged all the time. He judged the evil men who surrounded a woman and prepared to stone her to death. He judged the Pharisees who focused on pomp and ritual and ignored the Gospel. He judged those who would be angry with their brother, who would deny him in public, who would forget his teachings.

Jesus does not want us to forget that he stood, powerfully, for Good and against a very real Evil.

"Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in Heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I will also deny before my Father in heaven."
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." - Matthew 10:32-34

He did not promise a life of ease and "happiness," as the Osteens might desire.

Rather he fought for the dignity and life of all; he died on the cross to defeat death forever.
So that his followers might have the courage to speak, whatever the cost: for the Shiites, for the Yazidis, for the Journalists, for you and for me.

Speak against ISIS. Tell your congressman. Tell your Pastor. Advocate for action.
In Jesus' name.