Friday, November 21, 2014

[Christians + Politics]

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In many ways I have been a "luchadora (fighter)" since I was a child. My mother tells me that I would negotiate my way out or into things and would not give up easily. This trait followed me into my teenage years, twenties and is still following me today in my early thirties (my husband can really attest to my passionate spirit; gotta love that guy.). Last year I began my journey as a graduate student in a Master of Public Administration (MPA) program and if you do not remember the back story, I invite you to click here to read. Anyway, all of this to say that the career path God has chosen for me may lead me to be a federal or local government worker, start my own non-profit organization, or even run for public office in my state (or federal level). Only God knows what will happen in my life; maybe just one of the three major options or maybe all three. God and time will tell. 

I am a Christian and over the years as I have become more civically and politically engaged and have found my niche, I've also encountered more criticism from folks who strongly believe that Christians and politics should not mix. One of the first things people will say is that "politicians are conniving, vile, selfish, [insert many more negative adjectives] and that's no place for Christian people." To that I say, "That's even more reason to be involved; to be the change agent, the anomaly." Sure, the conniving type of politicians exist, but aren't a couple of the people sitting in our church pews or even church boards the same way? My point is there is good and bad everywhere. Just because we hear more about the rotten politicians on Capitol Hill or in our state capitols, does not mean that every single lawmaker is vile. There are individuals who take their civic duty to the heart and have been effecting change for their constituents throughout the years. If you are a solid Christian (or non-Christian) with integrity, passion and love for others, why not effect change? Are we just going to shy away because there are conniving and "no-good" individuals in the same workforce? We barely hear about those extraordinary lawmakers because let's be real, when was the last time you saw a "feel good" story about a member of congress in section A1 (front page) of The Washington Post (or any other publication)? Our society rather hear the juicy details of the lawmakers affair than what that public official is doing for thousands in their district/state.

Five years ago (September 2009) I had the honor and privileged of being selected to have a unscripted dialogue with the (then) President of my denomination (membership of 17.9 million individuals worldwide as of June 2013) and other Washington, DC area young professionals. The president did not have our questions beforehand and the session was intended to be a free-flowing conversation. I remember burning with excitement and curiosity to ask my question and I did. I asked the president what his thoughts were on members of my denomination mixing with politics, and him being pleasantly surprised at the question [Note: I spent about 20 minutes searching for video of this dialogue, but it's not posted anywhere]. However, there is a news article about it and here are some of the most relevant (to this topic) and interesting excerpts from what the president discussed:

"Be agents of change in both the church and the community."

"Far too few of our members are engaged in any way in the community," "How are we going to reach people if we do not bother to step into their world? We have to stop and ask ourselves a critical question: 'Have we got it right?' The answer is, 'No, not quite right." [Said in regards to being civically and community engaged]

With several participants employed in government jobs, the conversation naturally turned to political involvement. When one participant [that would be me!!] asked whether members should exercise caution when choosing careers in politics, Paulsen said, "If anything, I think we have erred by being too reticent to get involved."
As long as members don't muddle their church's agenda with their civic duty, Paulsen said he saw no reason members shouldn't seek elected public office.
"The church is a voice for right values," Paulsen said. "If laws are compromised and freedom is in danger, we shouldn't be afraid to influence public opinion. We should weigh the issues carefully, know what we're defending and let our voice be heard."
Wise advice, right? To read the full article, which includes other discussed topics, click here.

I do not know where the road will lead me. My God-given passion to advocate, educate, and be involved in my community and politics may lead me to run for office one day or maybe it will not at all. Either way, I know what my personal calling is; to bring light to this world which also might include more immigration rallies, other protests, the halls of congress, the halls of my state capitol, the halls of my future non-profit organization, the community around me, etc. Am I going to stay quiet just because some folks think Christians and politics should not mix and criticize or look down on me? Absolutely not. I look to the Bible and God (not humans), for specific divine life instruction. 

If you feel the burning desire to be a light in the community or in the political arena, ask God to guide your steps and embrace it! Trust me, if it's God's will for your life He will lead every move you make. Speak and rise up, children of God! 

Further Study about Christians + Politics

  • Study the story of Joseph, who was a "political hero" in the Bible times. To read the verses (Genesis 41:41 and on) in the Bible, click here. To read a blog post (not mine) about how we can apply the lesson of Joseph in today's world of politics, click here.
  • Study the story of a strong Christian who lived after the Bible times; Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. He was not afraid of mixing politics and Christianity and look at all he accomplished with God on His side! To read more about his life, click here.
  • Romans 13:1 says, "Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God." 
    • Basically to me this is saying GOD is in control and places the politicians in their respective position. It's ALL part of His divine plan. That's comforting, right?
  • Check out this website, Christians in Politics, based in the United Kingdom (London, England) that serves as a platform for Christians (non-party and non-denominational) involved, or seeking to get involved in politics or public life.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Open Letter to the Unfortunate Renter Lady

Disclaimer: I have permission from Sylvia to post this on my blog.

Take a moment to read this open letter my friend wrote to an unfortunate renter lady. This blatant act of discrimination did not occur in the Ozarks; sadly it occurred right outside of the Nation's Capital in Maryland. 

When will this racism end? When will we start "judging" each other by the content of our character instead of by skin color/race/religion/gender/sexual orientation/political side/socioeconomic status/accent/last name/etc? It is time to rise up against hate like this one; not with violence or by reciprocating the hate, but by battling it with love. Love conquers ALL.

Lastly, after you read this letter please share with your networks and also say a prayer that this wonderful family finds a home 10 times better than the one on "Merry Go Round Way." God bless you. 

Open Letter to the Unfortunate Renter Lady

Dear Ms. “For Rent on Merry Go Round Way”,
It is with great sadness that I write this.  Not because I lost a little bit more of my hope in humanity.  Not because two people I love were hurt and discriminated against.  But I write with great sadness for you.  You missed out on a great opportunity.  Let me explain…
You see, I’m a pretty lucky gal.  My parents are great people.  Everyone they come in contact with love them.  I can only strive to be as loving as they are.  Bear with me for a moment while I share a little bit about them with you. They are a quiet, retired pair, but their story begins about 45 years ago, when they migrated here from Argentina.  From the moment they came to the US, they worked harder than anyone you will ever know.  They suffered more than you will ever imagine; a young couple with no money, living on a few dollars a week and often literally going hungry so their kids would have food for the day.  But they always kept their head up and strived for the American Dream.  They worked hard, paid their taxes, never took handouts from the government and became US citizens.   They raised us four children to be educated and productive parts of our society.  Most importantly, they also raised us to be loving Christians, just like they were and continue to be, never ceasing to work hard for their church every week and show everyone unconditional love.
When all of us children were grown, married and moved out, they worked toward the one last part of the American Dream they were never able to achieve.  Why?  Because they were too busy providing for us to make sure we had everything we needed, including an education.  So this last part of the dream? A house.  Not a rental like they’d always had.  They wanted a home to call their own.  So, in their 50’s, they purchased their first home.  It was a cozy little townhouse, and was their pride and joy.  What they had worked for their entire life.
Then tragedy hit.  My mother had an accident at work, causing her to be permanently physically disabled.   My father had also been disabled years earlier due to a forklift accident at work.   My mother was out of work.  My father as well.  During this time, I had to witness my parents helplessly watch as their dream slipped away, as they were unable to pay for the mortgage while my mother had multiple surgeries and was in and out of the hospital from her accident.  Now, a few years later, they have lost their home and have had to look for another place to call home.  It breaks their heart to have to look for another place, knowing they are leaving behind the one thing they had to show for their 45 years of hard work.  It breaks my heart to hear them reluctantly look for a place to, once again, rent.
However, there are the few occasions when my mom sees a place she really likes and I see a little glimmer of hope in her eyes as she tells me about it and asks me to call for them.  Call FOR them, you ask?  Why would I have to call FOR them?  Don’t they speak English after 45 years in this country?  Yes.  They do.  Don’t they do things for themselves?  Yes.  They do.  So why call for them when inquiring about a rental?  Because after all these years, they know there are discriminating people out there that will judge them based on their lingering accent and last name, Garcia.  I always insist that it is completely crazy to think that people would discriminate because they realize my parents are Hispanic by their accent or name.  But, I call for them anyway.
Well, this past weekend, YOU proved them right.
My parents had seen a nice little one-story home for rent on Merry Go Round Way in the Wildwood Park area of Mount Airy.  My mom had mentioned this area to me before as they had gone for walks around there many times when my mom’s leg was better.  She excitedly told me on Sunday that they had seen the For Rent sign on one of the homes.  So, as I usually do for them, I called this past Sunday morning, and you picked up, Ms. “For Rent on Merry Go Round Way.” You were very polite when I told you that I was inquiring about the home for my parents and you gladly told me all about it.  You said it would be available by December 1st and, since you live just a block away, you would gladly let my parents stop by to see it.  You said they should just call and arrange a time to see it.  So I passed along the information to my parents.  The renting price was within their budget, there were no steps, and it was in a 62 and over retirement community.  It was perfect.  My mom was so excited when you told them to stop by the next morning to see it.
Until you left a message about an hour or so later.  Sorry, but I think I’ve rented it, you said.  Don’t come see it tomorrow, you said.  Thanks, but no thanks, you seemed to say.
My mom’s demeanor went from excited to defeated.  My father just shook his head.  He knew he should have let me make the appointment and come see the house with them.  My father knew you hadn’t rented the house in just that little amount of time.  He knew that it was because you heard his heavy accent and last name and decided you’d rather not have Hispanics “ruin the block.”  But, he was the bigger man, and, instead of getting angry, called you back and politely thanked you for your time and for letting him know and wished you a great evening.  I told you my parents are great folks.
I still gave you the benefit of the doubt and decided to ask my friend (who, like me, has no accent but the “American accent”) to call and inquire about the house for her ‘grandparents.’  Just to see if it was really rented.  A phone call later, I realized you had, indeed, lied and the home was not rented and still very much available, to the right type of person.  You happily let my friend know all about the house that was definitely available.  You know, I really wanted my parents to be wrong.  I wanted to still have faith in humanity.  Faith in that racism doesn’t still exist so blatantly today.  But, alas, I was wrong and you do exist.
I supposed I will go back to doing what I normally do.  Call about the house/apartment, make the appointment to see it and then go see it myself or with my parents.  You see, first of all, I look like any other “white girl” you know.  No one ever knows I’m Hispanic (as if “Hispanic” has a look).  My parents as well, save for the accent and last name, are never seen as “Hispanic.”  So, when I arrive with my parents, dressed professionally, and the owners meet my parents, they always LOVE them.  We have not been to a single look through of a house/apartment at which the owners have not called me that same day, offering my parents the rental place.  Unfortunately, my mom is a little picky and hasn’t liked any of the places we have seen. So we are still looking for that place that will make my parents happy to move.
So, I’m not sad for my parents, because I know God has an amazing place out there for them.  But, like I said in the beginning of this letter, I am sad for you.  You missed out on having two of the best tenants you will ever find.  You missed out on making someone’s day.  You missed out on being a good person and having a clean conscience.  I do hope you find the type of person you are looking for to rent your home and keep your neighborhood just the way you want it.  Your kind should stick together, I suppose.  As for us, we’ll move on to the next place.  Someone out there is going to have some great neighbors and tenants.  But not Merry Go Round Way, sorry.