"Do you remember a sermon you preached last fall about immigration? That inspired me to get involved with refugee resettlement, through Lutheran Family Services, in Raleigh. Well, I'm sitting next to a woman from Somalia whom I brought to the health department for her initial health screening. A good reminder that there are battles being fought beyond a basketball game, and that your words from the pulpit have power!"
I thanked her -- told her she made my day, in fact. Then she went on to say,
"I took a different Somalian woman to the doctor last week and she didn't speak much English. When she first got in the car, there wasn't much to say. I asked where she was from, and if her family is here with her. And she said 'my family is no more.'
"Where do you go from there? I mean, really. But when she got out of the car, she said, 'Thank you America. You save me.' And to think my biggest worry of that day was getting my daughter a spot in Lego camp. I feel deep joy in these relationships, and deep anger around the rhetoric of our potential leaders."
My response was, "I think the hope we have, when our culture shifts so radically and so fast, is to be subversives. We need to be members of a resistance movement."
"Yes," she said, "and for me that means entering into other people's suffering. And professionally, it means being a storyteller, like you did in your sermon."
The story-telling my friend is referring to is a bit of my own family history, the story of my grandfather and my mother, who immigrated to this country as refugees after World War II.
That storytelling -- that sermon -- is my best shot at addressing my friend's concern, and even anger, over the political rhetoric and demagoguery we've been hearing lately. I encourage you to read or re-read it, because it's important to address, and counter, demagoguery.
But because "it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness" it's even more important to be a subversive: like my friend, to actually DO something. To proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, and to respect, through our actions, the dignity of every human being.