Author Archives: beyondtheglasswall

About beyondtheglasswall

I am first and foremost a husband and father. I am also a testimony to God's power to redeem. My personal story (detailed inside) is one of hope. If God can use a guy like me to do his work, he can certainly use you. It is my great hope that this blog will inspire YOU to action. Don't stay trapped behind the glass wall of doubt, difference and despair. Make a difference!

The Beauty, the Beast and the Boycott

 

I want to be very transparent here: what I am about to write IS in response to the beauty-and-the-beast“Christian” boycott of Beauty and the Beast because of a “gay subplot”. However, I hope and believe that it will address something far more important. I also want to set aside, right at the onset, the debate about whether or not homosexuality is a sin. It is a deeply personal and highly complicated discussion and, as is the entire point of this post, not a hill I’m willing to die on. Not loving my neighbor, on the other hand…

 

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Why have boycotts become American Christianity’s chosen avenue for living out our faith?

Why has exclusion become the means by which we express our faith in a God who so desperately wanted to include us that He sent His son here to die on a cross to make it possible?

Answer: it’s easy and it feels real.

“Sin is already normal.”

Listen, there are many people out there who  genuinely believe that this Beauty and the Beast thing is going to “normalize sin.”  Without spending the time arguing over whether or not that’s true, let me just point out something that should be theologically and objectively obvious: sin is already normal. That is kind of the whole reason Jesus came. That being said, I understand why people choose these battles:

1) It’s easy.  I can choose not to go spend $30 to see a movie I’ll be able to rent for $5 in a couple of months, throw up a post on social media, maybe even create a hashtag (if people still do that) and feel like I have actually expressed my faith. I’m not trying to come down on people for that, I get it. Life is busy and messy and hard and just keeping food on the table might take everything we have so easy sounds pretty good.
2) It feels real.  Our world is so filled with artificial that authentic is borderline intoxicating. Standing for something that goes against popular culture creates a feeling in us like we are engaging in something that must be genuine and meaningful. I will not presume to speak for everyone, but I can say for myself that it is not. Not when it is based on exclusion and fear. If I don’t want to bring my kids to see a movie that has gay people in it because I believe it is normalizing sin, I just won’t go to the movie. But I JUST won’t go to the movie.  Broadcasting it doesn’t do anything but ostracize the “sinners” and NOTHING Jesus ever did ostracized sinners.

“Nothing Jesus ever did ostracized sinners.”

Actually, quite the opposite.  What did Jesus do with sinners?  He ate with them and talked to them. He forgave them and healed them.  He met them right where they were in the most authentic possible expression of why He came. The only thing Jesus boycotted was the religious system that had forgotten why they were chosen by God to begin with: to bless others.

“The only thing Jesus boycotted was the religious system that had forgotten why they were chosen by God to begin with: to bless others.”

It is good to feel passion and even better to feel it about my faith; to feel so grateful for all that Jesus has done for me that I simply must respond. But when I do, rather than boycott something, maybe I’ll feed the hungry or cloth the naked. Maybe I’ll care for the widow and the orphan, or fight for justice for the oppressed.  Maybe I’ll love Him with my love for others instead of a boycott and hashtag, because anything else is not only a waste of my time and energy, it is the exact opposite of why He came in the first place.

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Why My Heart Breaks for the Church but Rejoices for Christianity…

 

“Millennial”.  It has become an insult.  Every day there seems to be some new study or op-ed piece about how this generation (born between 1980 and 2000) are a complete departure from their predecessors. They are characterized as self-indulgent, entitled and whiny with a complete lack of respect for authority.  In a nutshell, they simply need to “grow up”!  After all, what makes someone a grown up?  You go to college and/or get a job, get married, buy a house and have 2.4 kids; you are responsible, patient and respectful; and you honor the institutions of education, government, marriage and the Church.  It is these fine institutions that have led so many of us to happy and productive lives.  Right?  So why is it that they just don’t seem to be able or willing to get on board? Let’s take a closer look at the world millennials live in:

 

Millennials have a higher rate of secondary and post-secondary education than any generation before them, yet they continue to be more likely to experience unemployment, poverty and have lower levels of personal income and wealth than both Gen-Xer’s and Baby Boomers (the two generations previous) did at their stage of life.  They sit under a far greater burden of Student Debt than any generation before them, and all the statistics indicate an ever increasing gap between the very wealthy (which they are not likely to be unless they started out that way) and the poor.  Education has failed them.

 

Millennials live in a post 911 America.   While the oldest millennials remember our nation before that terrible day, they also remember Marion Barry, Monica Lewinski and the Bush Gore recount fiasco.  They have been given example after example of corruption, misconduct and incompetence in their nation.  They are painfully aware that they are not immune to the evil in this world, whether foreign or domestic.  They have also witnessed the continued increase in wealth that the very powerful enjoy side by side with the increased economic insecurity most Americans face.  Government has failed them.

 

Millennials were born at the height of the divorce epidemic.  Between 1980 and 1985 approximately half of all marriages ended in divorce.   While the over-all number of divorces has decreased steadily over their lifetime 40-50% of all marriages in the United Sates still end in divorce according to the American Psychological Association.  The reality is that less and less people are getting married.  Marriage has failed them.

 

Millennials were born into a culture that was rebelling against the church.  As they got older they witnessed Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart and the Catholic Church embroiled in sex scandals (just to name a few).  They have seen the Church, the place meant to give them purpose- which is the one thing they care about, sell them the same get rich quick schemes as the rest of the world.  All the while seeing an increase in supposed “Christian leaders” speaking out with hate and vitriol towards marginalized groups.  Regardless of their theological stance on various issues, they know Jesus led with humility and love.  Neither of which seem prevalent in the Church. The Church has failed them.

The bottom line is this: every institution that was meant to build them up and guide them into a happy life has failed them. Worst of all being the Church, which is the one place that should be different from all the rest.  Is it any wonder they are leaving?

While church attendance numbers are falling across almost all generations, Pew Research indicates that 26% of Millennials identify as having no religious affiliation.  The Church failed them and they noticed.  What is interesting is that while there is a stark contrast in declared religious affiliation, when it comes to belief:  the belief in God and the afterlife, prayer, etc… they are on par with previous generations when at their stage of life.  So it is not faith that they have been abandoning, it is the institution of the Church.  “Organized Religion” has just as many negative connotations to millennials as the term “Millennial” does to older generations.

It is this very rebelliousness, this lack of respect for institutional authority that makes us afraid of them, worried for them, angry with them and concerned for the future of our beloved Church.  I agree with that concern.  I am not sure that our beloved Church is going to fair very well in the decades to come, but what I am not concerned about, is our faith.

If I were to paint a sociological and ideological picture of Millennials it would look something like this:

Lack of respect for institutional authority (both political and religious)

Heightened investment toward institutional and social change

Heightened sense of social responsibility

Heightened value on relational interaction (yes social media counts)

It is as if this generation would be willing to trade in all the valued and honored traditions that guided their predecessors and abandon the comforts and successes of this world in hopes to serve a higher purpose.  It is as if they care more about relationships and social responsibility (Social Science, Humanities and Applied Science are the only areas of study to increase while all others are decreasing) than they do about the size of their house or their 401K.  They are more racially diverse than any generation prior to them, and as a result are far more likely to connect with others regardless of ethnic heritage.  They don’t see others first by their demographics and second by their character.  In fact, for this generation, character trumps demographics naturally.  It is as if they care more about the heart of a person than their station in life.  Sound familiar?

I spent a couple years serving as an urban missionary in New York City.  We would serve soup and drinks, give out socks and toiletries, play music and have community.  We essentially threw a block party for our homeless and urban poor friends.  While these outreaches were led by full-time missionaries, we were primarily “staffed” by teams of volunteers.  As leaders, we were always careful to explain to our volunteers that we were about communion, not charity.  We were not there to give handouts, but to build community.  We would explain that one of the most important things they could do was make a friend.  We had groups from all over the world come serve with us.  We had families, church groups, school groups, seminary students and groups of pastors.  We also had youth groups…lots of youth groups. These youth groups (millennials) were by far my favorite to serve with.  While I will admit that I often had to repeat myself when it came to the logistical details of our outreach, I never had to ask them twice to go out on the street and love on people.  I watched men and women who had decades of experience serving the Church struggle to get comfortable connecting with the folks we served, but those teens and young adults showed a love that was unconditional and relentless.  That kind of love is the closest depiction of God’s I believe we will ever be able to show in our time on this Earth.  When I watched them cry with a man who had just lost his wife or sing songs with a man who was clearly not in his right mind I didn’t see a group of disrespectful, self-indulgent whiners who needed to grow up, I saw Jesus.

I seem to remember reading a story about a Jewish carpenter who abandoned conventional life, challenged institutional authorities and spent most of His time with the people who He had no business being with or caring about.  I heard about this Jesus at a time in my life when I had been failed by every institution I thought was meant to save me, a time when my demographics made me less than desirable; He came and cared about me anyway.  That’s the kind of love I see in teenagers and young adults today, in millennials.  The kind of love that doesn’t care what you have to offer or whether or not they are “supposed” to associate with you.  The kind of love that doesn’t believe that the rules and regulations of this world are the ultimate authority.  They see something higher, more meaningful and they long to be a part of it.  They walk and talk and love more like Jesus than my generation ever did.  So yes, this is a scary time for my beloved Church.  But it is an exciting time to be a Christian!

 

All for the greater good, right America?

Life is terrifying. People are scary. Everything is potentially dangerous. Selfishness will get you ahead in this world of ours. And if I do not take steps to protect what’s mine, it might not stay mine. If I really want to acquire as much as possible and I want to protect what is mine it makes perfect sense for me to step on a couple of toes. Sure, it isn’t what I would ideally like, but if undocumented immigrants are taking the job I might need, I need to get them out of my country. If the LGBTQ community is trying to include themselves in the institution of marriage and threaten the meaning of something I hold so dear I need to do everything in my power to stop them. If these socialist liberals want to give my hard eggearned money to people who don’t have jobs then it makes sense for me to fight to keep my taxes low and my insurance premiums as minimal as possible. If the #BlackLivesMatter movement want to give people the impression that I somehow have an unfair advantage in life they will need to be stopped. Otherwise they will take away from my accomplishments and might give themselves an unfair advantage. If you wanna make an omelette you gotta break some eggs, right? We, as a nation, have to put the “greater good” first! I don’t want to come across as a bigot, really. But it is time for me to stand up for my own, if I don’t who will?
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The most terrifying thing about life in 2017 is that there are so many people who genuinely believe that things like this are for the greater good. They earnestly believe that they must circle the wagons just to survive. That is an instinct that, whether we want to admit it or not, we all have from time to time. Maybe not in such grand terms, but there are times when that person wants to merge in ahead of us and we are in a hurry or our coworker is looking for some help on a project but we are too busy trying to make ourselves look good or even that time when we walk our family to the other side of the street because we aren’t sure what those kids are up too. (If it was just us we wouldn’t cross the street, but this is our family we are talking about.) We all have the potential to put ourselves first at the expense of others. And to be honest, it might actually make sense because we do need to put the greater good first. The only question we need to ask ourselves it, what greater good are we talking about?
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Personally, I follow Jesus. I know that is not a very popular thing to say now-a-days, but it is my truth. And because of that HE defines what my greater good is. And even though this might be hard to believe, those ideas are VERY American. I don’t mean “Make America Great Again!” American, or even “Never Trump” American. I mean judging men by the content of their character not the color of their skin (or any other external characteristic); I mean saying give me your tired and your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free. I mean ask not what others (my country) can do for me, but what I can do for others (my country). That kind of American. The kind of greater good that we as human beings can feel good about, even if it doesn’t seem like it makes sense.
“It is to say that what was once forced into the dark is now permissible in the light.”
I know that we are scared. I know that things look bad for so many of us, but the idea that it is necessary and justified to take away someone’s rights to protect another from the behavior of someone masquerading as part of that demographic is not only offensive, it says that what was once forced into the dark is now permissible in the  light. It says that it is now okay to judge others by external characteristics; as if they have ever really proven to be a consistent and accurate picture of someone’s heart. It is to say that we live in a nation where we are judged by our demographics, not the content of our character. It is to say TAKE your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teaming shore. Take these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, send them…somewhere else because they make us uncomfortable. 
Let’s get uncomfortable.
Let’s live in our terrifying world courageously.
Let’s put the greatest greater good first!

Believe It!

 

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I cannot believe that they think it is okay to drink that much!

I cannot believe they don’t ever give!

I cannot believe she wore that!

I cannot believe he still smokes!

I cannot believe they live together, they aren’t even married yet!

I cannot believe he looks at that stuff on the internet!

I cannot believe she brought her girlfriend to church!

I cannot believe that he has so many Muslim friends!

It seems like once you become a Christian, believing stuff get’s really hard.  It is as if we img_0045can believe that a homeless Middle-Eastern Jew who hung out with hookers and crooks was, in fact, the Son of God but we cannot fathom that regular broken human beings could possibly do anything we don’t agree with.  Sure, I understand that we believe that these feelings are based around our love for God and a desire to see others enjoy the same relationship that we do, but let’s get real for a minute: they are about us feeling better about ourselves.

Even as I sit here, writing about this am literally doing the exact same thing.  Yes, there are a lot of people out there who judge others in ways that I truly believe Jesus would have wanted to slap them for, but aren’t I judging them too?  The Bible is pretty clear on this point: “Who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12)  That’s why Jesus never focused on judging others.  I know that He called some Pharisees a brood of vipers and that He flipped tables and talked about cutting off a fruitless vine but that ‘s not what He taught.

He taught His disciples (and us) to love their neighbor as themselves; He taught them (and us) that if anyone takes their coat, to hand over their shirt as well; He taught them (and us) to love their enemies and pray for the people that persecute them.  He taught that we img_0047should care for those in society who cannot care for themselves and that we should be a voice for the voiceless.  He taught that His kingdom is upside down.  That the last shall be the first and that leadership rests in service.  All of His teaching, as it related to others was focused on this ridiculous, incomprehensible love that seemed foolish to everyone else.  It seemed to apply more to those who didn’t love us than those who did.  You see, the thing about loving people who don’t love you back is that you start to realize that the power in it, the joy, was never in what you get back. It breaks you free of this world and sets you apart to change lives.

Where Jesus did talk about holding a higher standard was with ourselves.  We are to hold ourselves to the seemingly impossible example He set.  The danger for those of us who believehave realized that, however, is that we start to fall into a different kind of trap.  The kind that says that all sin is sin and we shouldn’t focus on what that particular sin is.  I happen to agree with that, but what follows is dangerous.  We like to say that all that matters is that we simply believe in Jesus.  And let me tell you, I have no trouble applying that expectation to myself.  Simply believe in Jesus and it will be all good.  I have to ask, why have we made “believing in Jesus” so simple? It’s not.
That means that what I want, my goals and dreams,  ARE NOT the ultimate guideline for my decisions.
When I believe in Jesus, I believe I am meant to be a servant, I am meant to love my neighbor AND my enemy. It means that I am assured NONE of the pleasures of this world and may very well be hated by it. Believing in Jesus says that I put others before myself. That means that what I want, my goals and dreams,  ARE NOT the ultimate guideline for my decisions.  Believing in Jesus means to be heartbroken for those who are suffering, it is to mourn with those that mourn, and yes, to rejoice with those that rejoice (that’s not always as easy as it sounds). Believing in Jesus doesn’t just mean we accept the ticket to heaven, it means we acknowledge that we are now on mission. An uncomfortable, inconvenient and terribly unpredictable mission. One that is filled with beauty and terror, joy and sorrow. It is to, in every way, loose yourself. So yes, all sin is separation from God; and yes, the only thing that matters is believing in Jesus. But can we please stop pretending it’s so simple.

Why I’m a Bleeding Heart Social Justice Warrior…

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I feel like people may get tired of hearing me prattle on and on about the system of injustice that seems so prevalent in today’s culture.  I’m quite sure that I have a lot of friends and acquaintances that are tired of focusing on the brokenness of the society we live in.  They don’t want to be constantly reminded how this country is set up to benefit them.  Especially because many of them have had very hard lives.  They have struggled to survive and rise above some pretty formidable obstacles.  Regardless of the color of their skin, their gender, their sexual orientation or their social status, they hurt too.  Yes, I fit in that category, I’m white.  I’m male. I’m straight. I come from a “good home, in a good neighborhood.”  Life should have been easy for me, right?  (Even though it was anything but.)  So why am I not tired of it yet?  Why I am I not fed up with hearing about how hard everybody else has it and, by implication, how easy I have it?  (even thought that is a misnomer.) My guess is that it is because I am, at my very core, a bleeding heart social justice warrior.  Yes, I am a Racist too, but not as much as I used to be.

Let’s just break this down for a minute:

Bleeding Heart- this is a term that is most often used to describe a person or group that overindulges the self-pity of one demographic or another.  It is a term that implies that caring that much, so much that your heart bleeds, is either a sign of stupidity, ignorance or foolishness.  Like intelligence somehow allows a person to see beyond silly things like disadvantage.  Often times the very same people who use terms like this will tell you that their intention is not to harm, but to help.

“If you give a man fish he eats for a day, if you teach him to fish he eats for a lifetime.”

There is some truth, a lot of truth actually, in this statement but who wants to learn to fish from some jerk that thinks you are fully and solely to blame for your predicament?  To fishingteach a man to fish implies relationship and relationships don’t often start with that kind of posture so why do we do what is least effective?  Often times it is not about tough love or trying to get someone to do for themselves so that you don’t create a system of dependence that cripples them for life.  If we are real honest, it’s about me not wanting to be bothered.  It takes a lot of sacrifice to change the course of a life.  It requires the type of love that walks along side another, not in front of or above and yes, not behind or below either.  I consider myself a fairly compassionate human being and if I’m honest, I don’t know that I would be able to muster that kind of commitment if I didn’t feel like I had to; like my heart was bleeding.

Social Justice Warrior- Sounds kind of grandiose, but I’m not sure how else to put it.  I also don’t understand why this term has come to be associated with only one group of people.  Everyone hates injustice.  It is the one thing we can probably actually agree upon as a nation, “and justice for all”…and all that.  Where we run into a problem is in our

understanding of what injustice is and subsequently, what justice is.  The problem is that we seem to think that injustice is an exclusive club with room for only one culture or group.  We see injustice on a value scales and can’t help but argue the weight of our injustice against the weight of others’.  It is as if to say that there can be only one.

Here’s the truth folk’s, this world is broken.  Life is hard and bad things happen to good people.  Additionally, good things happen to bad people. I am a walking proof of that reality.  I guess what I am trying to say is that we all suffer from injustice somewhere along the line.  But can we please just admit that some suffer from it a whole lot more than others?  Can we demonstrate the compassion and maturity necessary to acknowledge the struggles that our friends and neighbors of color face?  Can we admit that being gay in America is hard, sure it might be better than it was, but it’s still hard.  Can we just accept the way in which our nation became our nation?  I don’t know, as a human being, how I could see any single one of these truths and NOT be a social justice warrior. But here’s the difference:

I want to be a warrior for the justice of others.

I have been the beneficiary of so many people fighting for me, it’s time for me to fight for others.  It’s time to step out of the happy bubble I have been given entry too and be a part of the big, ugly, terrifying world.  It is time to bring some beauty to it.

This is the thing people miss:

Letting your heart bleed doesn’t mean your foolish it means you know it’s beating.  Being a social justice warrior doesn’t mean that you have never been on the receiving end of injustice, it means that you have decided to put that experience to good use.  So yes, I am a Bleeding Heart Social Justice Warrior and that is not likely to change any time soon.

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I’m Just Getting Started

I am just some guy who has seen some things.  I have very little power or influence relative to the enormity of what we face.  I have never, and with my history never will, entered the arena of politics or law enforcement.  I lack the training of a lawyer and the connections of a celebrity.  So do I sit idly by and watch my people: my generation, my government, my Church and my nation fail?  It would seem easier and smarter to just “look on the bright side”.  Why not?  “Find the silver lining, you’re really good at that”, they say. After all, it makes people feel better and doesn’t generally offend anyone, but…

How can I not be horrified?

As I watch a replay of all of the most sinister kinds of injustice I know to have happened in the modern world.

How can I not be terrified?

As everything I thought made me who I am is made less and less valuable in the nation I call home.

How can I be silent?

As my heart breaks every time I dare to look beyond my little world.

I follow Jesus.  I try to act, to think, to be as much like Him as I can.  What does that mean?  It means I care more about others than I do myself.  It means that being comfortable in this world is not my greatest priority.  It means that I am a radical with very little respect for institutional authority.  It means I see things differently then those who are “successful” in the world I inhabit.  I don’t look to my career, my bank account or even my family (whom I adore) to weigh the value of my time on this Earth.  And it means, in no uncertain terms, that things may end badly for me in this life, so…

When my fellow countryman have elected a man who (whether he wanted to or not) has inspired and emboldened people to hate their neighbor, because we have decided that our needs are more important than our values I cannot just “get on board.”

When I see my government engaged in what can only be described as barbaric treatment of a people group whose land we stole to begin with I cannot just trust that it will all work out.

When my Church looks so much more like an exclusive members only club than a movement of people who were meant to be different in all the ways that matter I cannot just fit in.

When my nation refuses to accept that there is an unbalanced, racially slanted system of injustice that has merely changed it’s mask I won’t stay ignorant of its existence or tolerant of its perpetrators.

So I start with speaking my heart, instead of my mind.

I continue by educating myself, not only by learning from sources that agree with me, but by engaging all sides of the coin.  The truth will always be the truth, and I usually find it somewhere in the tension between  the “facts”.  My education, however, cannot stop with facts.  I will become a student of my fellow man.  I will care when it is inconvenient and get involved where I don’t have to or probably shouldn’t.  When I see injustice I will stand with those who are suffering, even if it knocks me down a peg.  And MOST IMPORTANTLY, I will live a life, rather than just write a blog or article, that my children will read.  One that tells them that putting others before themselves may or may not put them at a disadvantage in this world, but that this world is not what it has ever been about.

Can I Please Get a Witness!?

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I get paid, primarily, to talk. My words are meant to be used to inspire, teach and encourage. I have also found passion in writing. Blogs, articles, even a book. (Maybe more, who knows.). But can we be real for a minute?  Words are a dime a dozen. For every catchy phrase or inspiring story there are a thousand more that head in any number of opposing directions. That’s why Jesus didn’t call the church to be His great communicators, He called us to be His witnesses.
Witnesses may or may not persuade, but that’s not up to them. Their only real job is to oathshare what they saw, heard, felt; what they experienced. And let me tell you what makes an effective witness: credibility.  An effective  witness isn’t necessarily one that can articulate what they experienced, it’s the one you believe.  In a day and age when everyone has an agenda words are cheap.  But show me someone who has been changed by what they witnessed; a person who came out the other side different? That is credibility.  Let me see that your experience affected you beyond the immediate circumstances and then I’ll listen.  Anything less is suspect.
So, Church, this one’s for you. You say that Jesus died so that you might make the crossimpossible journey from your sinful self to a redeemed child of God. That because of what He did you are no longer assured damnation for your sins but have in fact been saved from your fate and instead been grafted in to the family of God.  You claim that you are the beneficiary of the atrocity of the cross.  Basically, you enjoy the gifts that came from someone else’s unjust pain and suffering.
How could you not spend your life in service to those who are suffering as you should have?  
How can your heart not break when you see others beaten down by injustice?  
I was having breakfast with a great friend and colleague this morning.  It has been some time since we had a chance to see each other so we crammed everything in from “How are the wife and kids?” to “How about that election?”  In the course of our conversation this idea came up.  We both work in full time ministry and have come to the same conclusion.  Your words are not what will inspire people, what will make a difference; only your life can do that.  Do you actually care for others when it isn’t convenient or even smart?  Do you sacrifice your own comfort or happiness to help others find the joy that supposedly changed you? Do you live your life like someone who has actually been a witness to the most incredible event to ever take place?
If so, then let me remind you that right now in our country there are men,  women and injustice-1children who are suffering injustice that they don’t deserve.  Even as we prepare to sit down and celebrate, or hopefully solemnly remember that EVERY AMERICAN CITIZEN (who is not indigenous) benefits from an atrocity that we had nothing to do with, but we benefit from just the same.  Let me remind you that there are men, women and children that are not enjoying the free gift that came at the labor of someone who didn’t need to lift a finger to help them.  So, Church, can I please get a witness!?