Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Victor Chininin Buele

A very dear and good friend and colleague wrote something on Facebook about the President’s admission ban to the citizens of seven countries. Seeing his words gave me an opportunity to collect my thoughts on the subject and stop delaying this article. It has been bothering me for the better part of fifteen years. The world did change after 9/11. And I have felt it to the core.

This is an expansion of my already long comment left on my friend’s Facebook wall.

Historical Survey

Two quick points on this:

  1.  John Calvin welcomed a significant number of persecuted refugees to Geneva.  He helped them get established and gave them work to do in transforming the culture and reforming the church. You are entitled to your opinion about this colorful Christian. But he was indeed a Christian who loved Jesus. For more information on this, I refer you to the book Calvin and Commerce by David Hall.
  2. The Israelites of the Old Testament were given what we would call today visas by the Egyptians. The archeological evidence for this is presented in James Hoffmeier’s The Immigration Crisis. And besides that, the Old Testament is full of references to aliens and sojourners.

The Immigrant Story

It is going to be fifteen and a half years since I came to the United States on the day of my oath of citizenship ceremony. I know what it feels like to be humiliated by consular and USCIS interviews from diligent officers protecting the border and the homeland.  I know what it feels like to be assumed guilty unless proven innocent. When is the last time you went to Aruba on vacation and needed to think about taking with you a pay stub, an employment letter, and whatever else you can foresee an immigration officer ask you to let you back in?  I know what it is to have your grandmother, who sold the work of her life to pay for part of your education, be denied a visa to attend your graduation. I know what it is to beg until she was given a fifteen day visa, lest she were to overstay. I know what it is like to have your beloved sister be denied admission and not attend your wedding even though the consular officer knew that a legally-admitted immigrant and his U.S. citizen fiancée would be hosting and responsible for her.

And as sad and mopey as this may sound, this does not even come close to what my persecuted Christian brothers and sisters face today at the hands of oppressors, what was faced by fellow legal permanent residents at airports yesterday.

The Goal of Terrorism

The goal of terrorism is to disturb the balance of all normal life—it is for “us” to fear everyone, everywhere, all the time. The next sleeper cell could be your next door neighbor. White, middle-class, seemingly honest for decades. At your own child’s birthday party.

There is no foolproof way to search inside the human heart and iSadie a label “terrorist” or not. Only God is sovereign like that. No immigration system will ever be able to fully discover and eradicate evil.

A balance between protection and open generosity is required. Every government is to protect its people–to reward what is good and to deal with what is evil.  I don’t propose that welcoming refugees and immigrants would require any government to be foolish with open doors policies without any vetting, but this consequence of the fall of our world is also not to be used as an excuse for illogically, irrationally, uncharitably express fear-producing division. From whom much is given much is expected. A legal permanent resident should never be detained without having committed a crime. Period. Love your neighbor is the cry of your soul whether you believe the carpenter of Nazareth is a figment of my imagination or the Lord of All.

The Goal of Christianity

The whole point of the Christian faith is that the redeemed citizens of heaven are sojourners, legal aliens, so to speak, of this world today and a part of its cultural transformation. Mike Bull summarizes what must be our balance between this world and the next as follows–“We must not be so heavenly-minded that we retreat from this world nor so earthly-minded that we are disqualified from God’s blessing.”  We are indeed citizens of two worlds, looking forward to the new world and seeing that as motivation to work without ceasing in the renewal of all things today.

The point of the gospel breaks when we give in to fear that everyone who looks different than us will kill us. Christian, this is nothing else but a denial of God’s sovereignty and justice and power and love. This is also a denial that the gospel has changed hearts throughout history and will continue to change hearts. God has promised so, and so it shall come to pass.

The Bible is full of “Fear not!” statements. If you are afraid, know that Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you. Turn to Him, rely on Him, work heartily knowing He runs over all.

Therefore, anyone who openly and kindly and generously shares the gospel of Jesus Christ with his neighbor–refugee, immigrant or not– outdoing others, including the government, in showing hospitality, care, food, and the good news of His death and resurrection, can actually be an instrument of radical transformation in the life of a human being. It’s such shortsightedness to think otherwise!

The gospel calls the Christian to go to all the world, but when He brings the world to us, people lack the faith to believe that Jesus can change the heart of even an ISIS fighter ready to pull a trigger. That Love can’t melt the heart of stone.  

And if you say that this doesn’t make sense because “their” goal is to secretly infiltrate all things and then blow us up, let me assure you that I am aware of that counter argument.  But, do you believe in a more powerful gospel than even that extreme?  Or have you not realized that this was precisely Jesus’s point?  We love the phrase “Good Samaritan.” Go think about what’s behind that phrase. Go and be a neighbor. An excellent one. Tell people about the one who told us that the gospel of the kingdom will be like leaven that will take over the world and restore it to what it was always intended to be.  No more ISIS. No more humiliation. No more persecution. No more tears. No more sorrow. Jesus reigns and shall reign.

And YOU, my dear Christian reader, are the frontline of Homeland Security. Your neighbor needs to be radically loved by you.  Have you welcomed him and told him the good news?

A Woman’s Choice

Angela Chininin Buele

Wonder personified—
The touch, the look, the wit
Glory, fascination
Heart and body did fit

A new life has begun
Made from her and from him
Yet formed by Another
Not by chance or a whim

Divine stroke—and now three,
Made all in same fashion
A single voice cried out
Supremacy, its passion

The claim—a threat was made
To life, joy, position
The offender, now silenced
In fragile condition

The rebel Court of man
Has already spoken
Four decades of silenced
Testimony unbroken

The choice unnatural
To let live or make die
The Authority stolen,
The True Maker denied

March for all to have life
Call for weeping and prayer
For no law of mankind
Can grow love in fields bare

The One who fills with breath
Sight must give to blind eyes
To receive and rejoice
At this gift of small size

The Choice of the Father,
Christ, gave all to save man
Did He not choose mothers
To love the child unplanned?

Facing the Fight Ahead

Angela Chininin Buele

The presidential campaign of 2016 was a no-holds-barred down and dirty battle.  Then there were public outrage, organized protests, a wide range of threats, public appeals for upsetting the Electoral College, and just today vandalism in the streets of D.C. in protest of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

So who really won?  Maybe no one.  Those who believed that Democrats would offer hope might be disillusioned by the new makeup in the Executive and Legislative Branches.  Those who believed that Republicans (or Donald Trump specifically) would offer hope are seeing that these changes have already caused lots of conflict and complication.

I didn’t champion either of the final candidates in the race, and I imagine that the new administration will seek to accomplish some goals of which I approve and others of which I would not.  The good news is that my hope has never been tied to political leaders or action.  I know that the King of Kings is the Creator and rightful ruler of the whole world, not just this country, and He is coming to set all things right.

Though I am but one person, I have been convicted of my important role in this next political cycle.  I pledge to faithfully pray for the Lord God to plant His Word and His will deep in the hearts of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

I also want to make a specific impact on the general population.  I have come to see that the fog of social media has had an unsavory effect on our public use of free speech.  I want to commit to the standard of Ephesians 4:29, which says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  So when the fight gets feisty, I will refuse to pick up the weapon of insult and instead reach for the edifying tool of the Word and speak (or write) it in love.  Some still might not like it, but my goal will be to make sure you know that the Enemy against whom I fight is Satan, the one telling the lies, not the people who believe them.

You are all my neighbors, and I want my words to point you toward the One who is worthy of worship.  Because the way that God can truly bless America is by giving us the gift of Jesus’ victory over sin, not the victory of any movement of the moment.

Great Again

Victor Chininin Buele

I could use your time to parse the speech.  I could tell you why an America First ideology has great dangers, and why it is the opposite of the message of the carpenter of Nazareth, the Lord of All.  I could tell you why the voiceless matter.  I could tell you why it’s one thing to protest and another thing to break windows and hide your face and throw things at the police. I could tell you why boasting on either side is not appropriate today.

But instead of that, let’s cut through the distractions.

We all want something to be great again.

The phrase is nothing but pregnant with the kind of rhetoric that makes the mind wonder and go to that place where the psychologists want you to go when they make you close your eyes and think of the beach on a sunny day away from all of your sorrows, away from the rebellious children, the low paying job, the ungrateful spouse.  President Trump appropriated it from another time.  From a scary time in world history.  And while it makes a part of the population increasingly scared, it makes the other section of the population increasingly optimistic. And your perception of how large each population group is ends up depending on what you want it to be.

I would like to argue that everyone wants something to be great again:

President Obama and Mrs. Obama most likely want to see a continuation of President Obama’s work and ideas.  They would be longing for progress, for restoration.

President Trump claims to want to see America restored to a former glory, a time of children having a world-class education, manufacturing jobs abounding, a middle-class nirvana.

The man with the Bikers for Trump gear most likely wants to see his life restored to a former glory, the one he had when he didn’t have to be in debt and without meaningful and well-paying employment.  He longs for restoration.  He longs for opportunity.

The woman who fears the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and who opposes the defunding of Planned Parenthood claims to long for women to have a future and good healthcare, for sex to be fun and free.

The teacher protesting the nomination of Betsy DeVos longs for education to be great. Setting aside whether this teacher is numbed silly by having to teach students how to pass a state test in order for her school district to be accredited and for her to have a job, she longs in her heart to give another human being hope of a good future.  After all, why else would she choose a life that pays little for having to deal with people’s messes–buy school supplies while parents buy drugs, comfort children torn apart by divorce and bullying.

The nuclear scientist protesting the potential replacement of a genius running the Department of Energy with the Honorable Rick Perry is longing for a time where the person running an organization actually knows and understand what it is that is being placed under their care.

We all long for something to be great again.

But that something is most definitely not America.

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23)

We long for the garden.  We want all to be great again.

We long for a righteous ruler, just, loving, and fair.  Justice Himself.  Love Himself.  Mercy Himself.  Peace Himself.

We long for human beings to overcome the curse and be transformed into the image of Jesus–working fully and happily, feasting with the fruit of their labor, delighting in the fruit of their love, and knowing all is for the best cause in the world.  No fears or tensions.

We long for a time where the bonds of debt and poverty are no more.  Where we really live the world President Obama pointed to in The Audacity of Hope, an America, and a world without hyphens.  But that as we tragically saw still eludes us for we are without peace.

We long for a time where “every pleasure will be godly and all godliness will be pleasurable” as my pastor likes to say.  A time where sex and childbearing are truly enjoyable, godly, and free.

We long for not just our children but for ourselves to really have a challenging and fulfilling education and true enjoyment and excitement about knowing more and more and more.  A time where the wisdom of God fills the earth and everyone outdoes one another in applying the marvelous knowledge of the glory of God to all disciplines to bring about true fruitfulness.  You may not use those words.  But you do long for this.

We long for a time where we keep and tend the garden, as we once were created to do.  And so that nothing filthy or unrighteous would ever enter it.

Despite the fall of humanity, our world and our humanity can still be somewhat fruitful and beautiful and hopeful.  Multiplication is inescapable.  But it is hard because the world is also fallen and broken and filthy.  Multiplication is painful. So we groan together in pain, eagerly waiting for redemption.  As popular book on education is titled, we are Waiting for Superman.

Think about it.  If Trump disgusts you, that’s a great kindness of God to you, to remind you that you do long for the garden.  You long for restoration.

If Trump doesn’t disgust you, be careful, for a serial adulterer and immoral man is now the President.  And with all the respect due to the office and to his humanity, he is not Jesus. And all the ways in which he falls short must remind us that we also long for restoration.

And the only way to restoration, if Paul was right when writing to the Romans (which he is), is through adoption as sons.

Come, and welcome to Jesus Christ.

He paid the debt.  He calls you to be free.  He calls you to be great again.

Truly great again.

Every day.  One degree of glory to the next.  Into the image of Jesus Christ.

And I doubt it comes with a red or a blue hat, a pink shirt or a silent majority sticker.  Just saying.