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 /

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mr. Sessions Flunked Sunday School

photo by Joshua Owmen / flickr

I first thought I would entitle this piece: "Mr. Sessions Flunked Bible 1-A." But I was wrong.  He flunked Sunday School. He has tried to defend the racist immigration policy of the White House and the Republican Party by dragging in poor Paul. In defense of ripping children from the arms of their poor parents this is what he quoted. "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instructed from God."(Romans 13.1)

So keep your mouth shut and do whatever the government says. Ok. Remember Mormons and polygamy years ago. They footnoted male behavior by the Holy Bible. Remember slavery--you'll find some verses that punctuate the right to hold slaves. Remember all the stonings in the Bible--read Exodus or Joshua or Kings. God's people were bloodthirsty. And God-fearing. Just one example lest I bore you. "And all Israel stoned him to death; they burned them with fire, cast stones on them, and raised over him a heap of stones that remain to this day." (Joshua 7.25-26) Women were stoned in ways that can still be found in parts of the Middle East. Remember the culture's attitude toward women. Men were in charge. If women wanted to know anything they were to ask their husbands. They were to be silent. God knows what they might say. Remember our child labor laws. And Scriptures that proved that women had no right to vote. Remember the Civil rights movement and all those who hauled out all those Scriptures about Ham being cursed by his brother which translated we must put our heels on the blacks. Especially at the church-house door. Remember how we used the Bible to make sure homosexuals would never get full rights--and some places even advocated imprisonment or stoning. Remember how women could not hold offices in the church--not teach men (or male children) and for God's sake could not stand in the pulpit. Remember how the pathetic and frightened Evangelicals have sold their soul to a leader whose values are threadbare.

Mr. Sessions you can dig out all kinds of mean-spiritedness and hate in the Bible. And we must remember that there is a while lot of culture that seeped into the Bible. And then writers, like today, were good at propping up whatever cause they would defend or hate. Evangelicals take note.

Let your finger move from those terrible stoning passages and look at that other stream which is larger and long and healing. Words about loving your neighbor. Words about taking in the immigrant and embracing the stranger. Words about how we are to treat little children and big children too. Words about Jesus wept over the city that did not know.

We cannot hide behind the government's wrong-headed policies to affirm the cruelty of tearing up the families of the poor. Most of them fled from danger and thought this place called America would be a place of freedom and promise and hope.

Mr. Sessions should have read the whole chapter in  Romans. Maybe Paul even thought he had gone too far. In Romans 13--the same chapter--Paul also said: "Owe no one anything except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." Then he quoted the 10 Commandments and added: This commandment sums up them all: "Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law." (Romans 13. 8, 9b-10)

photo by  coasttocoastmove / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Hope--In a Hard Time

photo by Smile-me /flickr

Gracie Allen used to say: "Never place a period where God has placed a comma." Have you ever done that? Of course you have. We're all done that. ? Of course you have. We’ve all done that. All my life I have been bumping into something difficult and hard--and I would say: "I can't do that. I just can't do that." All my life I have been bumping up against something difficult—and I would say say:  “I can’t do that. I just can’t do that.” What I was doing was getting out my pencil and placing a large period where I should have marked a comma. I said no when I should have said yes. 

Corinth understood this. They were having a lot of trouble with the commas and periods sometimes they did not know which went where. They had a lot of problems. They were surrounded by a pagan culture and it was easy to believe about anything except what they heard on Sundays. They met in somebody’s living room. They were small in number. And even though they were only a handful they had a hard time getting along. Some were rich and some were poor and that complicated things. Some wanted Paul to be their preacher while others wanted Apollos or Peter. They couldn’t agree on what worship was to be about—and speaking in tongues was a real problem. And if that was not enough there were sexual problems there that were downright embarrassing. All these things had taken a toll on that little church. Their numbers were dwindling. People were upset or worried. Some were taking it out on one another. And some were beginning to say: “I have had about as much of this as I can take. I don’t know if there is anything to this faith or Jesus business. Seems like a mess to me.” They were just overwhelmed.

Paul had been their Pastor. He had stayed there longer than any other place he had ministered except Ephesus. He was there for eighteen months and in that time he had grown to love them and knew what an important work they did. In a wild seaport town where you could find about anything you wanted—Paul helped them establish this little lighthouse of the gospel. Tiny, but very important. Shining as a beacon of hope in a dark world. 

But now they were in trouble. And Paul in Ephesus sat down and wrote letter after letter that became in time First and Second Corinthians. And running through all those chapters I think we can find one shining word: never place a period where God has placed a comma.

So when we come to I Corinthians 4 Paul was talking about not losing heart. Different translations use different words. Corinth: faint not. Corinth: do not play the coward. Corinth: never give up. Corinth: do not be discouraged. This phrase do not lose heart is like a parenthesis. Paul used these words at the beginning of the fourth chapter and at the end of chapter four. (vs.16) And in between he gave them a reason they could not stop. They could not put down some period and just walk away.

And this is what he told them in verse 7: “We have the treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that his extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.”

photo by kiarras / flickr
They were only clay pots, he said. Now what does that mean? Clay pots were really candle holders. Every household had them . No electricity of course. These clay pots were small pottery lamps which were cheap and fragile. You could buy them at any shop in Corinth. 

And Paul knew that many of them in Corinth were giving up the fight because of problems in the church. They were putting down a period because things were tough. 

Even after all these years some things have not changed. Every denomination I know is having difficulties these days. Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics and even Baptists. Who would have believed it—-even the Baptists? Every major faith group is divided and troubled. And we need to listen closely to what Paul said to another church in a hard time. We always have the treasure in clay pots. 

But let’s not just take it out on the church. Let’s look at our own lives. Yours and mine.  Paul tried to tell them that humanity is often a burden. Even the saints among us have clay feet. To be human is to have a back that hurts. It is to risk losing a job when you did something wrong. It is to have a bad lab report. It is to have a child to break your heart—or not be able to have any children at all. It is to live in a world where sometimes you wonder if there is going to be any Social Security or enough in your retirement account when you get there. To be human is to suffer and to wonder.

This is the way Paul puts it in verse 8. “We are afflicted in every way. We are perplexed. We are persecuted. We are struck down. Our outer nature wastes away.“ And if that were not enough run your finger down to his sixth chapter. An Paul confesses here that even the Reverend had experienced: afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger…” (6.4b-5)

To live a life is a hard thing, he says. And the only way it ever comes, this business of living is in a clay pot. A fragile vessel. And sometimes we wonder why the best Christians we know have suffered so much. We need to remember that to be a human being is sometimes a burden.

I like the way Leonard Cohen, the folk singer, put it: “There are cracks, cracks in everything—that’s how the light shines through.” For down beside the periods we have almost punched into the paper, God comes along and erases them and places a comma. The cracks are where the light shines through.

That’s what Paul was telling all-too-human Corinth and I think himself, too. Any good sermon is one in which you really do preach to yourself. But this is what he said: “We have the treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made perfectly clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us.” 

And what he says to them and to us is don’t get stuck with an all-too-human-denomination or church or even a divided nation or just yourself. Life is messy and sometimes embarrassing. Look art out history. We disappoint ourselves and those around us.
But this is the good news. It does not depend on us, thank God. The power belongs too God. Listen to how Paul puts it:

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;
Perplexed, but not driven to despair;
Persecuted, but not forsaken; 
Struck down, but not destroyed…”

And let your finger run down that page and he writes, there toward the end of that chapter: “So we do not lose heart…” Why? “Because we look not at what can be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” (16,18)

Let me tell you a story. Years ago when I was Pastor at Clemson—the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Center people came by and said, “You all have this house back of the church you are not using right now. And we need a place where men with drugs and alcohol problems might come as a half-way house—hoping to help them. Do you think we might rent your house?” 

Well, I took their request to the official committee and we sat around a table and discussed and discussed. Finally—finally—they reluctantly agreed to let the Drug and Alcohol Abuse folks use the house. And men with all kinds of problems came through those doors and lived there for a while. One of the men, Curtys was a mess. He had lost his job and family. I got to know him and he told me his story. Messed up everything he ever did thanks to drink and drugs. But he said he wanted to do better. He wanted to get his family back together. He wanted, I never will forget, to “make a contribution to the community.” Well—he got better. He talked his wife and children into coming back. They lived in a tiny apartment. 

About that time the church decided to build a Habitat House. It was the first Habitat House
built in Pickens County. And when we talked about the recipients of that house—we chose Curtys and his family. I never will forget the day we dedicated that house. The kids opened the front door and invited us in. The little daughter said , “Let me show you my room.” And her brother said, “Look at our bath room.” They pointed to the refrigerator and the stove and they were so proud. We stood on the porch that afternoon and dedicated that house. It was a holy moment. I cried all the way home.

We left there and moved away. Some twenty-five years later we decided to move back to Clemson. And one morning after we moved I had forgotten to put the garbage out—and the truck came by my house. I ran out the back—grabbed the garbage sack and started running after the garbage truck. “Stop…Stop…I have this garbage.”

They stopped and a black man got off the back of the truck and came toward me. As he got nearer I knew him. “Curtys,” I said, “Curtys?” And he peered at me and smiled and said,  “Dr. Lovette—is that you?” 

I told him I had moved back. And I asked him how he was doing. and how his family was. He said, “Fine. Haven’t had a drink in years and years.” “You still living in  the same house?” And he said, “Yeah, me and Albertine still there. Just paid off the house.” Been working on the garbage truck for the city all these years…getting ready too retire.”  He took my garbage and walked back to the truck. 

And as I was putting together this sermon I remembered Curtys and his family. And I think it fits what Paul said: “We have the treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from use. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted,  but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (II Cor. 4. 7-10)

But we can’t stop there. We have to follow his words down the page to the sixteenth verse: “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory behind all measure, because we look not at what can be seen; what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” (II For. 4. 16-18)

Gracie Allen was more right than she knew. “We should never, never place a period where God had placed a comma.” No wonder Paul said none of us should ever lose heart. 

For God in his amazing grace keeps coming and in his hands he holds an armful of commas. Thanks be to God.

photo by David Seibold / flickr

(I preached this sermon at the Faith Memorial Chapel, Cedar Mountain, North Carolina, June 10, 2018. Several year ago I published a similar sermon on my blog--but these two are not the same.)

--Roger Lovette /

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Do Not Be Afraid--Includes Everybody? Everybody?

Check out Ken Sehested's  great web site. Always on target. Always has his finger on the pulse of what is good and decent  and fair and kind.


"None shall be afraid".

Reckon that includes immigrant children?

Reckon that includes their parents?

Reckon that includes all the illegals?

Reckon it includes all the Muslims?

Reckon it includes all the gays?

Reckon it includes all the Democrats?

Reckon it includes all the Republicans?

Reckon it includes the Mainstream media?

Reckon it includes Fox News?

Reckon it includes the Trump family?

Reckon it includes Congress and the Senate?

Reckon it might include the Church?

Reckon it might include the evangelicals and the unbelievers?

Reckon it might include the rich and the poor?

Reckon it just might include All?

--Roger Lovette /

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Memorial Day Shame

photo by Bill Strain / flickr

On memorial Day I remember reading Sebastian Junger's book Tribe several years ago.  I recommend it to everyone. It tells the story of many of those veterans that came back from deployment after deployment--some up to five and six times. But when they got back to our country many looked around at the warring, the hatred, the jockeying for power and money--the lies and deceptions and asked, "Is this what we were fighting for?" Good question.

Nothing has bothered me so much lately--and that takes in a lot of territory- than the almost-unbelievable story of how our government is separating immigrant children from their parents. Not even when we incarcerated Japanese citizens against their will did we separate parents and children. Talk about Family values. My God--what kind of a people have we come to be. And even more--where is the outrage?

We have no law mandating separation. The closest is the Trump administration's own "zero tolerance" policy. Couple this sad sage with all the Dreamers who are still left in limbo and we wonder about this country. Read the following story. We just do more than shake our heads and get depressed. --RL

What is happening to immigrant children is an abomination
A top official from the Department of Health and Human Services told Congress that HHS lost nearly 1,500 migrant children it had placed into homes. There is now widespread fear that the children could be in the hands of human traffickers. An ACLU report this week revealed that immigrant children suffer “pervasive abuse” while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. As part of a "zero tolerance" border policy meant to deter immigrants from coming, the Trump administration is now separating parents from children. The results are horrific, and it is incredibly challenging for parents and children to reunite. Trump is trying to blame Democrats, but this policy of separating children was his own personal directive.
Instead of covering this major scandal, Sunday shows looked away. Three of them didn't cover the issue at all. On CNN, the controversy was grist for paid CNN commentator Rick Santorum to call missing children not a real issue. On Fox News, meanwhile, an anti-immigrant guest was only concerned about the missing children because it would be harder to deport them back to the violence they were fleeing in the first place.
Right-wing media have accused these children for years of being part of a conspiracy to infiltrate the United States in order to vote for Democrats. It's no wonder that many Republicans believe the lie -- it's all they hear. The truth is that these children are fleeing violence and looking for a better life. Instead of covering this story and the challenge of instituting a humane policy, right-wing media figures mock migrant children. They falsely blamemigrant children for illnesses, baselessly accuse them of being responsible for America's low education ranking, and use debunked data to wrongly assert that immigrants are an economic burden. In one case, conservative media even pushed a charity to abandon its plans to help the migrant children.
Meanwhile: The acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) went on Fox & Friends, where he pushed a sob story about his agency being demonized. The fact is that ICE is wrongly categorizingimmigrants as gang members in order to deport them. And even worse, Trump himself told Fox in an interview that he wants to get rid of immigration courts entirely.

mural at St. John's Church, Edinburgh. photo by byron 2 / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Memorial Day--My Favorite Story

(I have told this story many times and written about it in several newspapers.  I share it once again because it has so much to say to us all.)

As this Memorial Day approaches I remember a powerful scene that expresses what I feel about this day. It comes from a book by the Kentucky writer, Bobbie Ann Mason. The book is called In Country and told a Memorial Day story in very human terms. The central figure in the story was Sam who lived in this tiny town in western Kentucky. Sam was conceived while her Daddy was home on leave but died in Vietnam before Sam was born. All her life she heard stories about her Daddy, Dwayne and tales about the in Southeast Asia. Emmett, a good friend of the family was also in that war and kept telling Sam about her Daddy and what a hard time it was. He told about many soldiers he knew who never came home. He also told her about all the Vietnam veterans who were on the streets or were crippled in mind or body. Sam took it all in and kept fantasizing about a Daddy she wished she had known.

Emmett decided one day that it would be a good thing to take Sam and her grandmother, Mamaw to see the Vietnam Memorial. He wanted them to see her father’s name on the monument.  So one morning they got in Sam’s old car and drove to Washington. It took a long time. Mamaw brought a geranium to leave at the Memorial.  Finally they got to Washington, fought the traffic, and found the sign which read: Viet Nam Veterans Memorial and an arrow pointing the way. Parking was a real problem but they found a spot on a side street. They got out of the car and helped Mamaw up the path to see the Memorial.

And there it was. A black slab that just looked like it emerged from the ground. It was massive and held the names of the 58,000 men and women who had died in Vietnam.  That huge black slab was nothing like they thought. Name after name really told the story of those that had died in the war. People were everywhere. All ages. Some were kneeling and touching the Wall. Some brought notes and flowers. An old vet dressed in army fatigues held his hand over his mouth as he scanned the names. A woman wiped her face with a handkerchief. 

Emmett, Sam and Mamaw found the directory that told where all the names were. They finally found Dwayne’s name and the direction to where his name was. They found the section where the name was to be but there were so many names. They keep looking and way up high they saw the name: Dwayne E. Hughes. They just stood there looking up. Emmett took the Geranium from MaMaw and knelt down and placed it at the base of the granite panel. Mamaw said, “Oh, I wish I could touch it.” So Sam rescued a ladder from some workmen nearby, opened it. Slowly they helped Mamaw up rung after rung. She found the name of her grandson. Ever so slowly she reached up and touches his name. The old woman ran her hand over his name etched in granite. She didn’t say a word. After a long time she said, “Hep me down.” 

Then it was Sam’s turn. She climbed up and touched the name of the Daddy she never knew. When she backed down the ladder Mamaw clutched her arm and said, “Coming up on this wall of a sudden and seeing how black it was, it was so awful, but then I came down in it and saw that white carnation blooming out of that crack and it gave me hope. It made me know he’s watching over us.”

This ought to be a day for memories. Remembering all those that have died for us and for this country. Remembering all the brave soldiers of all the professions who have worked and dreamed and labored and lived and loved. We would be different people were it not for some soldier, some teacher, some Mamaw—some person whose name is not inscribed on anybody’s wall—but it etched on the wall of our hearts. None of them died in vain. Take a few moments and remember all the fallen. It is touching time—running our memories over the names and the faces of all those who have made a difference in our lives. 

--Roger Lovette /