Death by violence; it is the trademark of a culture predicated on consumption as arrival and competition for survival. The socioeconomic sausage grinder uses people like inanimate ingredients in a secret family recipe, where nothing matters but the finished product, and the only ones not on the menu are those who’ve schemed or entitled their way to a table for one. When you hear the engine groan for lack of fodder, and squeal for lack of lubricant, be sure to check the list of ingredients needed to satisfy the beast. No matter the euphemism behind which it's cloaked, if what's really called for are the bones and blood of human lives, maybe it's time to build a more just machine; time to confess that stockpiled weaponry, war’s machinery, tilted and justified incarceration, and border-based enslavement aren’t really meant to keep us safe or help the weak defend and provide for themselves, but to keep power mongers on top. Maybe it’s time to take this kind of sausage off the menu, and search our collective souls for more sustainable fare. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
They didn’t and don’t put their lives on the line to save a flag or to demand we all stand or revere a song; but to give citizens of their nation — all citizens — the chance to enjoy lives of dignity, respect, and opportunity. When forces within a national culture, economy, and infrastructure thwart such freedom for some, pushing them to call attention to such incongruity by the exercise of a first amendment right, it’s not flag or nation being disrespected, but the notion that one experience is the only one that’s normative. Waving patriotism, nationalism, or soldiers’ service and sacrifice as objection to the objection, are red herrings, as is the suggestion that there are less offensive methods, since acceptability is a big part of what renders outcry ineffective. Instead of attempting to to force all into lockstep, may our discomfort drive us toward the recognition of systemic injustice, and to a table where ears lean in to understand, rather than recoil to fashion argument and disagreement. Dismissing and refusing to listen to the stories of protesters is the surest way to escalate refraction of their experience while delegitimizing their lives. To object to dissent is to miss the whole point of freedom. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Throughout history, people have cordoned themselves off by self-identification in layers, climbing and clamoring to stand on top of something or someone – anyone or anything – just as long as they do not believe they are at the bottom. In so doing, the bodies beneath their feet are eventually construed to be less than human. The hardest lesson of all, and one that upends the whole fragile pile, unfolds when we wake up and realize that dehumanizing itself is what sentences dehumanizers to their own judgment; and those whose hope, no matter how fragile and compressed by the vitriol, has held through the storm, are the only ones who can lift us all toward the sacred purpose of our shared humanity. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Perhaps the human penchant for scapegoating, enemy-identifying, denial, and refusal to accept responsibility, would be a little less surprising if we were willing and able to admit the struggle between good and evil going on in each of our hearts all day long and most of the night. The more and longer we bifurcate reality, conveniently hopping just over the good/evil dividing line each time we redraw it, the deeper the chasm of separation we dig. If ever there was a time for etching lines – a season I cannot imagine – it is now long past. Hope calls us to be making circles, each one more expansive that the last, until all stories fit within the circumference. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
We live and breathe, O God, in a world increasingly beholden, not to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but rather to the gospels of division, fear, hatred, and violence. Remind us today, and each day of our earthly sojourn, that you did not create us for such divisive, loveless, hopeless, and destructive purposes. Give us courage to speak your truth to privilege and power – the privilege and power we've been granted, the privilege and power at the top of the constitutional and governmental food chain, and all privilege and power in-between. Give us compassion to feel the anxiety and hurt rising up from those who regularly find themselves at the short end of the stick and the end of the line, with targets on their backs, because of the practice of their faith, the color of their skin, the nation of their birth, or the configuration of their chromosomes. Give us wisdom to recognize the greed and indifference that turn a blind eye for profit's sake. Give us integrity to live into our created purpose, so we may speak justice, walk humility, and breathe hope. As followers of the resurrected one, we are called to be his voice, his hands, his feet. Show us how to live and love, so we and our broken world can find ourselves pieced together by and mortared with grace. So let it be spoken, so let it be lived, so let it be done. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Kally Thompson Elliott
In August of 2013, through the confluence of a number of circumstances and experiences, I was compelled to pull to the side of the highway one morning and record a new perspective on a portion Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus”.
Give me your tomatoes, your peppers, your hybrid melons, yearning to be consumed, but not so much your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of bowing to chemicals and corporations has our shores teeming with toxicity, and our hearts quivering with xenophobia. The tempest-tossed who dream of hope will not so much be met with lamp at golden door as laser sight and incarceration. All the while, our consumptive greed turns a blind eye to the duplicity of deportation and the rending of family's fabric, to which we claim undying allegiance. Who will resurrect liberty? © 2013 Todd Jenkins
When greed has run amuck, words are turned inside-out, like shirts that have missed a much-needed trip to the laundry, stinking to high heaven, and only discerned by those who are attentive to the seams. Those in whose favor everything's been tilted for generations, and in whose pockets piles of plunder reside, misconstrue language to attack others upon whose backs castles are built. "If they are without," the dictionary is rewritten to declare, "anything we allow them to have must be entitlement." And the one who created the universe, via a vocabulary with integrity, winces, as tears roll down like an ever-flowing stream, because those whose hubris is actually entitlement have abandoned their own kin. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
To the person for whom there's never enough, there's always suspicion others want your stuff. The one who is consumed with greed, will never be touched by hunger and need. If comparison's the game by which you thrive, the train of joy will never arrive. Look at what you have, instead of what's lacking; it’s an important step to send discontent packing. Seeing the big picture is a form of art that fashions a glad and generous heart. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney
Fear divides, intent on conquering with its, “Vive la différence!” Love unites, earnestly calling us together, “Vive la similarité!” What matters is not the color of our skin, the roots of our faith, or the nation of our origin, but whether privilege can truly be acknowledged, voluntarily relinquished, and power bestowed with grace, so long-held shackles can be hammered into step-ladders of hope. It is past time for us to work better, together, nourishing and quenching a world hungry for dignity and thirsty for respect. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home, and ate their food with glad and generous hearts… (Acts 2:46)
This past Sunday’s sermon was from Acts 2:42-47. The sermon title was “Glad and Generous Hearts” (from 2:46). This week, after the sermon (of course!), I saw the sermon come to life.
Patrick (pictured above) is a 24 year old student in Malawi. He is studying to become a midwife, and dreams of opening an orphanage after he graduates, to care for the many parentless children in his country. Patrick is an orphan whose parents died years ago (dad in 1998, and mom in 2006). He is raising three younger siblings.
Here is a photo of his family: Patrick, his sister Thandie, brother Madziko, and sister Dorothy. A fifth sibling, a brother, died last year because there was no money to pay for medicine to treat his malaria.
A pastor friend of mine (who oversees a mission organization pairing US partners with orphans in nearby Rwanda) is paying Patrick’s tuition each semester, with whatever money he makes from part-time side-work reselling vintage items he finds in thrift stores, and other “found” money that materializes on occasion.
A few people in one of the small congregations I serve are pitching-in to provide educational uniforms and fees, as well as a small amount of money for food, for his two youngest siblings. Without funds for their education, they have been unable to attend school. Thandie, Patrick’s oldest sister, has finished secondary school and dreams of attending university to become a licensed caregiver for people with special needs (mentally and physically challenged), but there are no funds for her college education now.
This picture is of Patrick and two other orphans from his community. When he was home on break from school this week, he met these two, six year-old Innocent, and nine year-old Innocecia. He spent his own money to buy them clothes, shoes, books, school supplies, and food.
Whenever I imagine that I don’t have enough money to share with others, Patrick’s story helps me keep things in perspective. It reminds me that the human heart holds the world’s greatest treasures: love, compassion, and generosity.
© 2017 Todd Jenkins