Sunday, September 26, 2010

pure and undefiled religion

My Mom and I were heading to Port Aransas for the day yesterday (that's right, 2nd beach trip in 3 days) and right outside of Victoria, she suddenly pulled off the road next to a large gas station and said "I think you would appreciate seeing this." It was the place where 19 immigrants died in the back of a truck with no ventilation or air conditioning on May 14, 2003. These people weren't "aliens," they weren't "illegals," they were human beings. And they died in the effort to have a better life for their families here. To make their story only about politics is an insult to their memory, this is a story about families (the first to die of suffocation and heat was a 5-year-old boy). But to not let this story impact our politics is also an insult to their memory.

I stood there at the little shrine dedicated to the memory of these immigrants (who, like my ancestors, just wanted a better life) and looked at the offerings of bottles of water, too late. Toys, never to be played with. Crosses and rosaries left forgotten along a dusty road.

I know my blog is often about joyful moments, and I've often been accused of being "too happy" (to which I respond that sometimes my glimpses of grace are the three less-bad things that happen that day, you know?). But this Sunday morning, this is not a glimpse of grace. It's a disgrace. I'm aware that an overwhelming theme in both the Old and New Testaments is care for the foreigner, stranger and poor. We have a lot of work to do. Below is an excerpt from the Belhar Confession, adopted as a confession by the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, 24 years ago today, at the height of apartheid. I need to hear it this morning. My favorite line is "We believe that for God pure and undefiled religion is to visit the orphans and the widows in their suffering." What is our religion this Sunday morning?

We believe

that God has revealed himself as the one who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people;

that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged

that God calls the church to follow him in this;

for God brings justice to the oppressed and gives bread to the hungry;

that God frees the prisoner and restores sight to the blind;

that God supports the downtrodden, protects the stranger, helps orphans

and widows and blocks the path of the ungodly;

that for God pure and undefiled religion

is to visit the orphans and the widows in their suffering;

that God wishes to teach the church to do what is good and to seek the right;

that the church must therefore stand by people in any form of suffering and need,

which implies, among other things,

that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice,

so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream;

that the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands,

namely against injustice and with the wronged.

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