Saturday, July 14, 2018

Follow the Money

photo by Patrick Feller / flickr
One of the many caged detention centers where children and some of their parents are kept because of supposed immigration laws. By the way--would you be surpised to learn that private companies and benefiting greatly by incarcerating adults and children.

--Roger Lovette/

Friday, July 13, 2018

"Jesus loves all the little children of the world..."

photo by Fibonacci / flickr

Most of the world was riveted toward Thailand where those twelve little boys were trapped in that cave two miles or more from the entrance. We looked at TV, we prayed over and over. We admired those very brave men from several countries who risked their lives to ferret their way through water and cold and darkness and utter danger—to rescue one by one those boys. They were trapped for 18 days and we all wondered if it would be possible to rescue them. Now all the boys are safe. We hope they are OK. Only one courageous man lost his life trying to bring those boys to safety and needs to be honored. It makes me feel good to know that in a world like ours that there are still those who are willing to risk it all for someone else.

Meanwhile back at the ranch the sad saga of those almost 3,000 children who have been ripped from their parent’s arms continues. The most powerful country in the world can’t seem to marshall its resources to connect these lost children with their parents. One wonders if we have the same care for all these children as we did toward those 22 kids in Thailand trapped in that cave. 

Those supposedly in charge of this country's monstrous undertaking spit out lie after lie. They know where all the children are—they say. They are better off now than they would be with their parents—they say. They can call their parents any time they wish—they say. We never intended to separate children from their parents—they say. Why they have good dental care, fine doctors, good food and games to play. As if it does not matter that these children need their parents. 

While we languish in Hilton Head and Daytona or the mountains still over 50 children under five years old—maybe many more have no idea where their parents are. Their parents have no idea where their children are. We are told that the officials have no idea where at least 38 of these boys and girls belong. 

Slowly and begrudgingly we are beginning to connect some of the younger children with their parents. This has only being done because of a court order. PBS reported about a mother at the border who was reunited with her 14-month-old child after 85 days said, “The child continued to cry when we got home and would hold on to my legs and would not let go,” She added, “When I took off his clothes, he was full of dirt and lice. It seemed like that they had not bathed him the 85 days he was taken away from us.” Even if this is an exception to the rule—no child should receive this kind of treatment. 

Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post has written, “I don’t recognize this country anymore. Traumatizing children as a matter of deliberate policy takes a toll not only on those arrested and detained but also on our own humanity. The only way to rationalize these events is to view these immigrants as less than human.”

We talk about fake news a lot these days. Some of those supporting this policy talk about how untrue all these facts are. They claim many of these children are child actors—two years old? This is the same blindness that talked about actors in Parkland who in reality hovered under desks hoping they would not be shot. These attitudes adhere with those pathetic people who claim 26 children were not killed in Sandy Hook. This is not fake news. It is fake theology and fake humanity when we can pick and choose who matters and who does not count. 

We must raise our voices until all these children are returned and we put this terrible policy to rest once and for all. We cannot hide behind laws or fears about homeland security and treat children as if they did not matter. Neither can we turn away from  those poor people who trudged hundreds or thousands of miles looking for a life where they could be safe and their children would find a better way. Churches, politicians and communities cannot remain silent in the face of such pain and injustice.

Elie Wiesel lost every member of his family in the Holocaust. He reminded us that when we call anyone illegal this is the first step to the gas chambers. Maybe in our case this is stretching the point. But when we say the word, illegal it may just be the first step in not only putting children in cages and horrifying their parents. It may also be the beginning of forgetting what this country stands for and losing our souls as well.

Christy Edwards said, “To strip a child from her mother, already in a foreign land, land place that child in a metal cage, with chatter around her in a language she cannot understand, is to shatter a bond of security, love and belonging and replace it with fear, vulnerability and trauma.” Small Wonder columnist Kathleen Parker has said, “I don’t recognize this country anymore.”

photo by Fibonacci Blue / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

Monday, July 9, 2018

Ever Think About Leaving Church?

I’ve been thinking a lot about folks that leave church. I don’t know anybody who spends a lot of time at church that hasn’t driven home on Sundays muttering, “Why do I keep doing this?” I do know that most preachers have asked this question again and again. 

There are a  multitude of reasons why people shake the dust off their feet and leave. Sometimes the church gets so chaotic that you just cannot stand it anymore. Sometimes it’s the preacher—I’ve lost my share of folk who could not swallow what I was saying. They always hurt—even the difficult ones.  I heard lately about a family who had gone to a  church for years. The husband had a serious heart attack and was moved to a hospital an hour and a half away. The Pastor visited the family in that far-away place. But because he did not drive all that way every day to comfort them they left the church. Phone calls didn’t help and prayers didn’t count. They wanted to see him in person not thinking of all those others in his flock that also had needs. Sometimes the pain in one’s life is just too much and you can’t stand the hymns, all those people especially if the Reverend is up there smiling, smiling, smiling, 

I am an enormous fan of Barbara Brown Taylor. My, my but she has lifted me up a zillion times. But several years ago she wrote a book called Leaving Church. Out of her own experience she 
just had to leave. And most of us preachers understand this completely. But Barbara didn’t stay away too long. She found herself back at conferences and church and writing books about many things that matter. She took a sabbatical I guess—but it did not last. Good for her.

I guess I want to say to all those that can’t come back—I understand. Most of us have enough pain and hard knocks in our lives and to have a church that adds to our pain is not a good place to be. Carlyle Marney once said, “The church has dirty underdrawers.” Not a church—the church. And he’s right. Paul reminded his discouraged friends that “the treasure always comes in an earthen vessel.” And we all get the treasure and the vessel mixed up. I know I have. But Marney kept preaching and helped a whole lot of us preachers and laypeople. 

Years ago I went through a bad patch in church. Many reasons—some my own—some the church’s.  I was ready to give it all up. It was a time when AIDS was raging and much of the church did nothing but judged. And some young men in great pain about being gay would pour their hearts out. Some preacher had told them they were going to have to “stop being Gay”—their words. Some parents never wanted to see them again—Good Deacons and Elders and even some preachers hough they were. But all this is only background. 

In that hard time the downtown Episcopal minister asked me and several other ministers to participate in an healing service for people with AIDS. At a certain time in the service we ministers would stand at the altar rail and people would come and kneel for healing. There must have been a hundred people with AIDS in that room that night. Looking out you could see some very sick folk scattered in pews. When it came time for them to come forward I listened to many requests. ”I am dying and I need love.” A parent whispered, “My boy is dying and it is killing me.” “I am thinking of taking my life.” “Do you think I will go to hell.” “ReckonGod loves me—I’ve lived a helluva of a life.” I was overwhelmed by that stream of pain I heard that evening. I have never forgotten that service. 

That event would have never happened without the church. I know our record on dealing with homosexuality has been lousy many days. And yet—like a beacon of light—here and there the church—the  church—has opened its arms and taken broken folk in. But not only gays—but alcoholics, drug addicts, people with messy lives of all sorts. I know one man whose picture was plastered all over the papers because of sexual abuse years before. He lost his job. He lost his status. He nearly lost his family. He was behind bars for a long time. And when he finally got out of incarceration he found a church that puts its arms around him and his family. And the healing began. He’s there every Sunday. 

I bumped into a quote lately. Paul Scherer the great Lutheran preacher said, “When you see him (her) going to church it isn’t a mask he’s (or she) is wearing; it’s a battle he (or she) is fighting.”

All over are little tiny churches and big that provide light and help and love to people desperate and needing. So—on Sundays I put on my clothes and head to church. It isn’t a perfect place. Far from it. And sometimes the dirty underdrawers still show. But this I know: the treasure only comes in some earthen vessel—and if I am lucky—sometimes on Sundays when I least expect it—I find myself dazzled by a transcendence that only comes from God. And when that happens I go out again to do what I have to do even in a world that sometimes breaks my heart. 

—Roger Lovette / 

Monday, July 2, 2018

2018 July 4th Ponderings

I'm having a hard time these days with so many things I feel like the government is doing wrong. The Immigrant crisis is just one of many. But for me it reflects that we are traveling the wrong way as a country and don't know where we are going.

One of the things I do to try to help my perspective is poetry--good poetry. And Wendell Berry helps me as much as anything. He wrote these words years ago. But good poetry speaks to the human condition in any age.

This is what he wrote in: This Day.

"The nation is a boat, 
as some have said, ourselves 
its passengers. How troubling
now to ride it drifting 
down the flow from the old
high vision of dignity, freedom, 
holy writ of habeas corpus,
and the land's abundance--down
to waste, want, fear, tyranny,
torture, caricature
of vision in a characterless time,
while the abyss whirls below."

photo by Beverly and Pack / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Meditation on the Immigration Crisis

All this terrible talk about smuggling children into the US, rapists, murders, diseased seems to me to miss the point. This country, on its better days has always made room for those who come here seeking asylum. Fleeing what we cannot even imagine. I pray that American will become, once again America the Beautiful. We do not make a nation great with hatred and division and causing chaos into the lives of desperate people. 

Warsan Shire captures this feeling in her powerful poem, Home. Here are some of the stanzas:

"no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well"

              +              +                +                                                 

"you have to understand
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles traveled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten 

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your 
body is aching
or prison,
because prison is safer than a city of fire
and one prison guard 
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough..."

--Roger Lovette /

Friday, June 22, 2018

About the Immigration Fiasco

photo by Erik Drost / flickr

I had never seen this sculpture until we were lining up to visit Ellis Island. I couldn't get this picture out of my mind when I first saw it. And when all this heartbreak over immigrants and their children started--I thought about this picture. In the background is the Statue of Liberty. In America--the Statue of Liberty ought to always be in the picture. 

I am heartsick every day. Poor people, desperate that fled all sorts of terrors to come to a place that they felt would be safe and free and hopeful. And what happened? We took from these people probably the only thing they had of happiness and joy in their lives: their children. And we have scattered them around the nation and many of them will probably never see their parents again. 

The damage we have done to these folk--is incalculable. My God--what kind of people are we? What kind of quasi-representatives represent somebody, not us, in Washington. What kind of a man who calls himself President cannot feel or even care for all these folk.

When I have watched the surge of support and outright horror from so many of our citizens--I know deep in my heart that democracy may have been sidetracked for a little while--but we the people--we the people--will decide the direction of this country. And it will not look like the cruelty that has been unleashed of late once again. Remember Katrina. Hopefully we will not forget when it comes time to vote. 

--Roger Lovette /

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Not Your Typical Father's Day--Mr. Trump

photo by Maeka Alexis / flickr

This Father’s Day once again we go through the ritual of remembering Dad. Our Dad. And if not him because of many reasons—some surrogate Dad that helped enormously along the way.

But this Father’s Day my thoughts turn toward all those kids who have been snatched from their families and sent all over the country. In our country’s desperation to “secure our borders” we are punishing families from places like Honduras, San Salvador and Guatemala. What we are doing is separating the children that come with their parents, a relative or on their own—and placing them in detention centers all over the country. Records show that at least 11,000 children are in these places far from their parents. We have learned recently that many of the hundreds—maybe thousands—of these children that have been separated from their parents may never see them again. The government does not keep records on their whereabouts. 

One Salvadorian woman filled an ACLU lawsuit against the government, when her 4-year-old and 10- year old sons were taken from her. She said, “My babies started crying when they found out we were going to be separated. I asked the boys to be brave, and I promised we would be together soon. I begged the woman who took met children to keep them together so they could at least have each other.”

The New York Times reports that a little 5-year old landed in Michigan carrying only a trash bag of dirty clothes from his days-long trek across Mexico. In the bag were two pictures he had drawn of his family. One was a picture of stick figures—a father, mother and his sisters and brothers. The other picture was a drawing of his Dad. His foster mother said not a day goes by that he doesn’t ask in Spanish, “When will I see my Papa again?”

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly states that family separation is a a “tough deterrant” and added, “The children will be taken care of—put in foster care or whatever.” Attorney General Sessions said on May 10, three days after he had announced a zero-tolerance policy the government issued a call for shelter care providers and traditional foster care. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen reported that “we have no policy to separate children from their parents. Our policy is that if these undocumented immigrants break the law we will prosecute you.” In  the first two week’s of President Trump’s new policy 638 parents who arrived with 658 children have been prosecuted. The President points fingers at the Democrats saying they are behind this effort. He also stated if we would build a wall that this policy would cease. 

The Department of Homeland Security has received letters from the American Academy of
(This is one of the drawings the little boy took with him when he was
 separated from his parents. He never let it out of his sight. Illustration
from New York Times.) 
Pediatrics urging President Trump to end this parent-child separation. Researchers has said this separation can cause lifelong trauma in children. We are taking two, four—eight year olds away from their parents and they may never see them again. I wonder in tearing children from their parents if we are cultivating our own homegrown terrorists in the years to come. 

On this Father’s Day I will open my presents from my two adult children. I will whisper a prayer for the joys and wonder they have brought to my life. But my thoughts also turn toward our southern border and also to Washington. We are in deep trouble when we care more about laws than children. Remember Nazi Germany we heard over and over, “We were just following the law.”

Where is the outrage over this cruelty? Since the Civil War this country has not separated children from their parents. Even during that dark time when we incarcerated all the Japanese in California we never separated children from their parents.

 It is not enough to enjoy our children on this day. It is time to band together and stop this monstrous injustice. Funny a President that talks about the flag, the National Anthem and patriotism cares not one whit for the heartbreak and the tears his policies are causing to these immigrant children. I hope I live long enough to see this country come back to the cardinal bedrock principles that make us America.

Evangelicals and all of us need to read those somber words of Jesus: “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depths of the sea.”

When Jesus spoke these words children had no rights at all.  I would have thought that after all these years we would have learned to value even the little ones. Surely this makes any country and any people great

(This article appeared today in The Greenville News (SC) and the Anderson Independent, June 17, 2018)

There are two pieces that I have recently read about separating immigrant children from their parents. I recommend both highly.  

The first article is by Miriam Jordan of the New York Times. She writes of a 5-year old Migrant who was taken away from his father. Sad. 

This second article is by Nicholas Kristof of The Times. He writes about children being separated from their parents in an article called "My Babies Started Crying." I recommend both hess pieces that deal with the human and painful side of the government's policy about immigration and children.

This photo is called: "First Father's Day"photo by jjprojects / flickr

--Roger Lovette /